Friday, March 1, 2013

Never a Christian to begin with?

So... John Shore, a liberal Christian whose writing I usually admire, has expressed a belief that ex-Christians were never really Christians to begin with. (Here's the money quote: "As much ire as I know this will bring me [and it did: see below], my vote is that such a person was never really a Christian in the first place—by which I mean that their Christianity was always immature.")

Now, I can't really take this personally. I don't find it hurtful or insulting, at least not directly. In fact, I think a pretty good argument can be made that in my case it's even true. Still, I'm disappointed. I generally expect more empathy from John Shore. Why?

Because while it might arguably true of me, I'm very much an exception among the unbelievers I know. Most former Christians were faithful, devout, and absolutely sincere in their belief. Bruce Gerencser was a pastor for thirty-six years. If he wasn't a Christian, or if his Christianity was somehow "immature" - whatever that means - you'd think that somebody might have noticed. And, as Libby Anne pointed out, for someone whose Christianity was once a central piece of their life and self-image, such an accusation is deeply hurtful.

"You were never really a Christian" is one of those things that you should simply never say. Under what bizarre circumstances could that ever possibly be helpful or constructive? When did you suddenly acquire the mystical insight to judge whether or not someone's faith is valid? And if people can go around for years believing that they're saved when in truth they're still unsaved, what does that say about God?

Addendum: Mr. Shore has updated his post with the following:
[Update: I've shut down comments to this post because ... well, because how many times can I say that I didn't say what I'm being accused of having said?]
And, no. Just, no. That doesn't work. Because people are responding to what you did say. They may not be responding to what you meant, or how you meant what you said, but they are definitely and absolutely responding to what you said. How do I know? Because I'm reading what you wrote, and that is what it says.

Again, I'm disappointed.

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