Earlier this morning I got into a small facebook argument about conservative Christians and sexuality when one of the people involved said:
“it’s important not to confuse these people with their religion.”
I can provide the full discussion for anyone who wants to make sure I’m not taking this out of context, but the way I understood what he was saying was that an individual (or group of individuals) who claim to be X should not be confused with X when they don’t actually follow X.
For example earlier this week a crazy lady tried to attack a painting saying that it was homosexual and evil for showing two women with their breasts exposed. Now this lady is crazy, there’s no doubt, but she claims her motivation is her religious views. There are plenty of conservative religious people (across all faiths, but primarily Christianity and Islam) who view the human body and any form of sexuality as evil.
When the person in the afore mentioned facebook argument said not to confuse people for their religion, he was saying that although these people claim their views on sexuality are Christian and are rooted in the bible, they’re not, and as such we should not confuse these “Christians” for being “Christians.”
But that just begs the question: What is a person’s religion if not the sum of their personal beliefs?
A group of “Christians” who would ascribe to said crazy lady’s views on the human body would undoubtedly say that they were Christians and that anyone who did not view the body as evil were not “true” Christians. The term Christian is essentially a useless term as it means whatever anyone wants it to mean. (Which royally pisses me off because any attempt at making words useless and thus making it harder to communicate concepts/ideas just reeks of 1984 style new-speak; but I digress)
If group X claims they belong to religion Y, and that their beliefs come from religion Y’s holy book, book Z, but nobody in group X has read or cares to read book Z, then isn’t their religion just whatever group X wants it to be?
Sure, their sexually oppressive version of Christianity might not be what Christianity is to you, but it is their version of Christianity and they’re going to call themselves Christians. Are they wrong? They sure as hell think you are. Who’s right? Well nobody since it’s all “just a matter of faith and interpretation.”
In reality you can’t “confuse people for their religion;” whatever they say their religion is, that’s their religion. The 9/11 hijackers were Muslims, so too are the Muslims who say what the 9/11 hijackers did was despicable and un-Islamic. Abortion clinic bombers and the Westboro Baptist Church are Christians, so too are the liberal, gay-friendly, pro-choice Catholics. They all claim the same meaningless title to describe their radically different faiths. This in turn just inhibits our ability to discuss them and the views they have because the moment you use the term “Christian” to talk about the Westboro Baptist Church, another “Christian” with a different definition will jump up and scream that you’re generalizing and mis-representing the “true” Christians like them. (But I guess for some people muddying the water and making it harder for us to express ideas by requiring extremely specific, legalistic language is a good thing. Personally, whenever someone tries to inhibit the discussion of ideas, that’s a sign that they’re automatically wrong.)
How else are we to discuss these people if not by the meaningless title they choose to call themselves? Should we adopt an ever expanding system of Christian 1, Christian 1a, Christian 1b, etc? That would be impossible to keep track of, and yet again everyone would argue about what classification they get. Perhaps if we copied how we classified various animals by Life-Domain-Kingdom-Phylum-Class-Order-Family-Genus-Species and created a similar system for religious belief? Maybe then we can stop confusing lions for mammals and Christians for Christians.