I've been watching/catching up with "The Tudors" lately (highly recommended) and taking issue with characters in the show who claim to know God's will. How can they decide, and how can we say they are wrong if we, too, claim to have our own version (as believers or agnostics)?
Regarding an alleged (by the show) Papal-authorized plot to kill Anne Boleyn, from a representative of the Pope to the assassin: "Angels will praise you as you enter heaven if you kill this whore."
Christian? They would certainly think so. And who would we be to question that in a religiously motivated sense--they were protecting the Church and its people. This powerful woman to-be threatened the church. Others rebelled, sure, but Henry's royal move would be too influential, too revolutionary, take too many from the flock. To kill Anne would be no different than God telling Nephi to kill Laban because "it's best that one dies to spare many." Every denomination has its own rationalizations that it would make.
See also: Abraham and Isaac.
I'm loathe to judge who is and who is not Christian because it really does depend on one's definition of "Christian" and I think it's a bit more complex than "A follower of Jesus" let alone "duh his name is included in the name of our church" or even "duh we include the Bible in our canon."
I know few people I'd consider "Christian" but again it's subjective to what I consider Christian. I like quiet people who live their faith and don't shove it in my face and who follow the more difficult examples of Christ as written in the Bible. Then again, some very close people to me to not do this, and I would never take their self-description of "Christian" away from them.
That said, their actions bug the shit out of me and I'm not entirely comfortable with their method of worship and active fear-mongering, all in the name of saving the otherwise damned. All in the name of being Christian.
But that's how they interpret the Bible. This is how they define "Christian."
The Mormons: genuinely nice people but incredibly, as Cognitive Dissenter put it, ethnocentric. Some of you will O_o at our use of the word, but it really is descriptive enough.
Unlike mainstream Christianity which effectively separates spirituality and reality of how one conducts their behavior and lives, Mormons are more active, assuring themselves and others that they are followers of Christ--faith, yes, but works are required to prove that faith.
It doesn't necessarily work, but this is how they interpret scripture. This is how they define (true) "Christian."
Back in the days when King Henry VIII broke off with the Catholic church the Catholics decided who was Christian and who was not. Even Henry did--and both by the sword. And what authority did they have? The authority they and tradition gave them, an authority they abused to absurd lengths and continue to abuse. But they believed it with all their hearts. It was genuine. They had the truth, it was irrefutable (though one could also argue it was a matter of power making for quite the insatiable hunger)
This is how they interpreted the faith. This is how they defined "Christian."
Some churches accept gay parishioners and even openly gay clergy, saying God would accept, that it's totally okay while others demand it's an abomination--against God, nature, and scripture.
Others disagree on women in the church by way of participation and leadership. Women will be in submission, they will be silent. Until 30 or so years ago women were not allowed to give a public prayer in an LDS service. You think other churches even today don't disagree with that? Speak with a Jehovah's Witness. Find an especially conservative or orthodox church.
This is how they interpret scripture. This is how they define "Christian."
There are various versions of the Bible floating around--even the Book of Mormon (see Reformed LDS). They act accordingly. This is what they believe. They is how they honestly define "Christian."
Are they any different than those cults with leaders who literally get their followers to live on communes and drink the kool-aid (that's not just a saying, in case you didn't know)? Any different than Westboro Baptist Church? Of course they're evil bastards, but they read scripture differently and interpret "Christian" another way.
I could go on, but in the end here is my point:
Anyone and everyone has and will say they have whatever authority to determine who is a "real" Christian and who is not and what actions prove such an affiliation. The interpretation is based on individual and collective experience and knowledge--even personality and culture. History.
Too many factors make deciding who is right and who is Christian far too beyond our reach, yet we insist upon it. We insist upon it, also, given only what we know: a book of scripture canonized by a circle of men with their own perceptions and motivations, including political ones. We insist upon it even though what we have is minimal. We insist upon it even though much of what is in the Bible is hearsay. We act as mind-readers. We accept and reject--all of us. We know nothing except what we have, and I don't think this is wrong because we cannot help what we do not know (to a certain degree) by way of Biblical history--we can only act on what we know, but we cannot act as if it is all we need to know. We should at least qualify it, which some do! but not nearly enough.
I just read a quote on my reader that resonated with me with regard to this post. The speaker is Jack Pryor (random dude on FB quoted by my feed):
Taking a set of facts and forming an opinion is alright; taking a set of opinions and forming a fact is dishonest...
Who is and who is not Christian strikes me as more opinion than fact. Is it analogous to who is a "Real" American and who is not? It gets dicey because it becomes and is a matter of condemning or condoning ones morality, and being a good person shouldn't be and isn't an exclusive trait of Christianity.