Who are the “real Christians?”

On Wednesday, a coalition of groups led by Linda Harvey, issued a press release titled, “Real Christians Say ‘No’ to Bullying and Homosexual Behavior.”

Clint McCance who thankfully will resign (click the link to read his remarks) from his post as the Vice President of the Midland, AR school district said that his views were based on his Christianity. Tonight, he apologized for his remarks on Anderson Cooper’s AC 360 news hour.

After the McCance interview, I saw the parents of Asher Brown interviewed who in their grief said they were praying for Clint McCance. They were devastated again by the remarks of McCance which were directed at the recent suicide victims on his Facebook page. Brown’s parents said they knew Asher believed he was gay and demonstrated unconditional love toward him.

Read the news release and note the attitude of the writer toward GLBT people. How does it come across to you?

Now consider people watching and reading and looking for some evidence of Jesus in the positions taken and the rhetoric offered by McCance, Asher’s parents and the “real Christians.”

It is actually offensive to me when a group suggests they are the “real Christians” so I will not engage in the same kind of rhetoric. My point is to wonder aloud what a watching world thinks about “real Christians” and if they are seeing Christ in any of us.

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  • Jayhuck

    I only hope that some people see the light of Christ in some of us. The unfortunate Truth is that too often, people probably don’t see that light in any of us.

  • Lynn David

    Well, if Peter LaBarbera says a person is not a ‘real Christian’ then who is anyone to say otherwise.

  • Avi

    “It is actually offensive to me when a group suggests they are the “real Christians” so I will not engage in the same kind of rhetoric.”

    Warren, you don’t bring flowers to a knife fight. You are a quickly becoming this year’s anti-christ for these people and your conciliatory posture as expressed above only encourages more attacks.

    You may not be aware of this, but they attack you and your status as a Christian gratuitously. In fact, just today on Peter LaBarbera’s site, LaBarbera attacks you in a post about a “study” on gay parenting by Walter Schumm. As far as I know, you have not said anything about this study and are in no way involved in the story. But LaBarbera drags you in:

    “Now we anticipate a coming attempt to discredit Schumm from “authentically Christian” Grove City College’s Special Professor for the Advancement of Ugandan Homosexual Rights Warren Throckmorton (see our posts HERE and HERE, and Lifesite’s post HERE). The latter is vying with Jim Wallis and Andy Marin (Marin Foundation) for the dubious distinction of being the Homosexuality Lobby’s leading evangelical Useful Idiot.”

    Note the scare quotes around “authentically Christian,” a suggestion that your very presence at GCC renders it inauthentically Christian. Like it or not, you are now a prime target of Christian love. And as any gay American and many Jewish Americans could tell you, few things in this world are more obnoxious and dehumanizing than Christian love. So may God help you, but may you also help yourself by countering these love attacks with a little love of your own.

  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    Very interesting in a way.

    Flowers to a knife fight. But then, it was Jesus who was the proponent of turning the other cheek, yes?

    Speaking as a person who was first disillusioned by my religion [which happened to be Christian, Anglican], I must confess that I still have a sneaking interest in the Jesus’ love philosophy. Quite a fascinating thing.

    But, that is countered by the very unchristian lives of so many of today’s Christians. Frankly, idealist as I am, I find all falling short of Jesus’ teaching.

    But, how can I judge? I am a man with no religion. Why should I judge who and what Christians are? Some of the ‘real’ Christians are hate filled, hate mongering persons, using the Sunday appointment to justify all the week’s hate. Reminds me of Hitler’s general who used to go for confession after killing people. But, in this day and age, those are the ‘real’ Christians.

    Warren may not be ‘Christian enough’. Ssempa in Uganda is the epitome, the outstanding example of Christianity. Love is not the signature stamp of christianity, but ‘anti-gay’ credentials speak louder than words. That seems the new definition… Archbishop Orombi disguises the politics and power grabbing as an ‘anti-gay crusade’ taken to the west.

    And, I am still an outsider looking in.

    And, I still prefer the teaching of Jesus…. love the love, than the hate, even when clothed in the purple and red of religion.

  • ken

    Avi,

    I would say people, like LaBarbera, who make comments about who is or isn’t a “real christian”, end up hurting themselves more than the people they are attacking. I suspect the majority of christians would read comments like that and think: “who are you to decide who is or isn’t a christian?”

  • ken

    As to your question Warren:

    “Read the news release and note the attitude of the writer toward GLBT people. How does it come across to you?”

    I would say it comes across as desperate. It seems Ms. Harvey can’t accept the inevitable advancement of gay rights and general acceptance of gays as equal to straights. She has believed her anti-gay ideas for so long she can’t accept the thought that she might be wrong, and she fights (oblivious of any potential harm it might cause) against anything that threatens those beliefs.

    Frankly, I pity her a bit (but not too much, I’m well aware of the damage people like Harvey have caused).

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Avi – I can’t add much except to say, Gug is close to my belief about turning the other cheek. My inclination is to give as good as I get, but instead, that might just perpetuate the problems I want to solve. I want to keep talking about what we need to do and to look for ways to help be a part of the solution.

  • Michael Bussee

    Religious leaders speak on bullying, McCance resignation

    “Retired minister Kenneth Hicks, who served as Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Arkansas from 1976 to 1984, said that if reports are true that McCance was threatened by those advocating for his resignation, it was inappropriate. Asked what he hopes for McCance going forward from his resignation, Hicks said:

    “I would hope that someday he would come to appreciate that religion isn’t a bunch of fences and walls, but that it’s more of a gate through which we proceed in our lives as we learn to live with one another… If you’re not experiencing well-being, then my well-being is cut short too. If you’re insecure, then my security is incomplete. We’re all a part of the outcome for each other, so my heart goes out to him. I hope that he can grow.” — David Coon.

    http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2010/10/29/religious-leaders-speak-on-bullying-mccance-resignation

  • Bobaati

    I am a Christian and a graduate student pursuing my Ph.D. in psychology. Luckily my school is very open and accepting of all people, including those of us with more traditional religious beliefs. A professor of mine is openly gay, but we get along because we respect each others freedom. Christians must remember that God has given each of us freedom, and that He respects that freedom. Our business is to live our lives for Him, and care about others – including those with different beliefs or lifestyles – the way He cares for all of us. That means immediately taking a stand against this kind of bullying, without qualification. We should be a light, showing love and helping those who need it without expecting anything in return.

    This does not mean we change our beliefs about the morality or goodness of homosexual behavior. It does, however, mean that we respect others’ God-given freedom to reject what God has said, and we love them anyway. Jesus reacted to everyone around him, especially “sinners”, with this unconditional love – and that is the basis of REAL Christianity.

  • Jayhuck

    This does not mean we change our beliefs about the morality or goodness of homosexual behavior. It does, however, mean that we respect others’ God-given freedom to reject what God has said, and we love them anyway. Jesus reacted to everyone around him, especially “sinners”, with this unconditional love – and that is the basis of REAL Christianity.

    You know bobaati – Statements like “We respect others’ God-given freedom to reject what God has said” come across as, well, somewhat offensive. There are Christians who don’t believe as you do regarding what God has said about these issues.

    However, I don’t want to detract from your overall message of love and respect for All :)

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    The most interesting thing about that commandment is that Jesus did not leave the definition of “love” up to those who were commanded to practice it. Rather, he assigned the identification of what is or is not love to outsiders, those who were looking to see if they were his disciples.

    What the “real Christians” fail to realize is that it is not up to them to announce their authenticity, but rather it is the right of non-Christians to identify who is a disciple of Jesus based on what they see as the presence or absence of love.

  • Debbie Thurman

    An interesting and useful discussion. Thanks for the post, Warren. I appreciate all the perspectives here, and hope that civility is the order of the day.

    I wonder at the need, even, for conjuring up the term “real Christians.” The one and only Christ knows who his sheep are. The rest of us have to guess at it from the fruit we see, and we’d better be looking first to our own houses.

    Fortunately, we are under no obligation to decide who is for real. We are only under compulsion, if we are followers of Christ, to obey his commandments, the chief of which are to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (i.e., value our own lives as image bearers of God). Do those two, and the rest of life tends to fall into place.

    Unfortunately, we the created nitpick about how to love our Creator and who our “neighbor” is. Quibbling and backbiting always seem to reach a crescendo prior to an election. No doubt, we’ve all about had our fill of that for 2010.

    I mentioned in one of my last comments here before taking a beak that I had high hopes for a book I had just then started reading. City of Man: Politics and Religion in a New Era by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner is the (fairly short) book. I had the chance to read it during my recent travels. It lived up to my expectations, and then some. Highly recommend it for those who want to grasp what conservative Christianity best looks like and how it most effectively engages a culture.

    What LaBarbera et al (fill in the names that fit) are doing and saying is off the reservation in many ways. Such rhetoric alienates rather than heals and certainly does not draw anyone to Christ. And I understand well why someone like gug would have his misgivings about the Christian faith when some of the loudest examples are also some of the poorest.

    The perennially illusive “truth-in-love” message is something we ever strive for, but seldom get right. When it happens, it is a precious moment in time, one that is never to be squandered.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Invariably, when I hear a Christian claiming to bring the truth in love, I find that neither is present. It’s an easy short-cut for me. Whenever I see that phrase, I know who I’m dealing with.

  • Debbie Thurman

    It can be a trite phrase to toss out there, Timothy. I’ll grant you that. But there is truth and there is love, so it fits together somehow in God’s economy. When I hear a sermon (or sit before God in prayer), I want both. Even if it hurts. The hope is that I will be the better for it, chiseled and molded into a shape that God has ordained. In counseling, helping others and parenting (to name a few instances), both are needed. Love first, unconditionally, and over all.

  • Michael Bussee

    What the “real Christians” fail to realize is that it is not up to them to announce their authenticity, but rather it is the right of non-Christians to identify who is a disciple of Jesus based on what they see as the presence or absence of love.

    Very well said, Timothy. Love is the litmus test.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie,

    I agree that there is truth and there is love. But I’ve not seen much of either from those who come claiming that phrase.

    It’s like “love the sinner, hate the sin”. Those who profess such love seem to think that the only evidence of it need be in the professing. Once having announce that they “love”, they are then free to treat others as horribly as they wish.

    In my observation, those who actually operate out of love are seldom required to announce it.

  • Jayhuck

    Love first, unconditionally, and over all.

    Easy to say, and somewhat trite, but what does it mean in practice?

  • Jayhuck

    Rather, what does it look like? I too, Tim, have been witness to too many Christians spouting the phrase, Love the sinner, but…, only to find that the phrase was the true extent of the love. There can be no love without respect!

  • Richard Willmer

    The only ‘real’ Christians are Christ and his mum (the first, and most perfect, follower of her Son). The rest of us? Well, we can only do our best.

  • Debbie Thurman

    Love first, unconditionally, and over all.

    Easy to say, and somewhat trite, but what does it mean in practice?

    It means what it says. It’s as simple and as profound as that. 1 Corinthians 13. Folks can nitpick and posture all they want. It does not change the facts. We’ve all witnessed it done the wrong way, from so-called Christians of every ideological bent under the sun. I, myself, have done it wrong. I can and only will speak for myself. The rest of you are free to examine yourselves, honestly, if you will. God judges us all.

  • Jayhuck

    It means what it says.

    As simple and as profound as it may be, this was not an answer to What does it look like in practice!

  • Debbie Thurman

    You will know it when you see it. It looks like 1 Cor. 13.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Debbie,

    I agree that in practice, love is patient, kind, does not envy or boast, and is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Which are the attributes one seldom sees from those coming to declare “the truth in love.”

    Personally, I’ve been treated to unkindness, arrogance and demands. I’ve been subject to dishonor and anger and a recitation of every flaw that has ever been experienced by gay people. I’ve seen rejoicing at the sadness of gay people, I’ve seen rejection of those in need, betrayal and condescension. I’ve been told that this is “the truth in love.” That all the viciousness and harm were out of “love for my soul” and that present persecution was justified by a desire to protect me from eternal damnation.

    So now when I see those coming with “truth in love” I know what they bring will have nothing of what Corinthians 13 declares to be love. Oh but when you do see those attributes – and at times you most certainly do from those who show rather than declare their love – then you know that you have found a disciple of Christ.

  • Jayhuck

    I have seen it Debbie, so I do understand what you are talking about. That verse from 1 Corinthians 13 is one I am very familiar with, and one that I love. The problem is that some people who talk about Loving the sinner but hating…, also use this quote from the Bible, while never living out its message.

    Tim,

    Condescension is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves of some conservative Christians. When they deny people equal rights, their message comes across as one of; we are better than you and therefore deserve these rights, but you don’t. Its offensive and patronizing. They act as if they know what’s best for others. Its incredibly off-putting

  • Debbie Thurman

    All condescension is off-putting and unloving, Jayhuck. You are right. And it comes from all quarters.

    You haven’t said, so I cannot infer, whether or not either you or Timothy or anyone else reading this who may have been hurt or symbolically spat upon by an unloving person has been able to find it in your heart to forgive. Our example here, of course, is Christ himself.

    I, too, have had much to forgive in others. And much to forgive in myself. It was, after doing it so wrong for so many years and nearly dying (literally) from anger turned inward, along with self-hatred, that I finally learned what forgiveness really meant.

    We will never find the more peaceable middle ground — whatever that looks like — in these ongoing discussions and debates, unless we can find that place of forgiveness and we can let go of self-destructive (and others-destructive) anger and bitterness.

    And yes, Timothy. We should all be showing it and not merely hypocritically declaring it. That doesn’t mean we will have to agree on everything. It means interacting respectfully. Virtually every moment of every day, we get to make the choice of acting and speaking out of love or some other motive.

  • Jayhuck

    Debbie,

    I have been able to forgive Debbie, but my experiences, which are probably mild compared to some others, have left me twice shy and not just a little dubious of some people who throw out phrases like Love the sinner, but hate the sin, etc..

    I understand what you mean. Forgiveness is not easy and its not something most of us come by naturally, but it is something we all have to do to move forward spiritually and in our relationships with others


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