No true Christians

I was an opinion columnist for University of Maryland’s student newspaper The Diamondback for three semesters before I graduated. The columns I wrote are still up on the web archive, but I’d rather not depend on The Diamondback to host them indefinitely. Thus, I have decided to repost them on this blog, not only to archive them in a place under my control, but also so you readers here can have an idea of my writing in college. Here is the tenth of my opinion columns, No true Christians, originally published November 3, 2006.

Last week, Donnie Morris, a traveling Christian evangelist with the Word of Truth campus ministry, demonstrated at the Nyumburu Cultural Center against all the sorts of people he considers to be sinners – pretty much everyone but him. He was obnoxious, vicious, hypocritical, racist, sexist and homophobic. Most of the people in the crowd were there to either laugh at or yell at him or to simply enjoy the circus-like atmosphere. He certainly didn’t seem to win any hearts or minds.

It was during this spectacle that I found myself turning my back to the preacher and helping to hold up a “Hate is not a UMD value” banner provided by the Pride Alliance. I had many deep discussions with other students on the various topics brought up by the preacher, and at least in this way, the preacher’s visit to the campus did serve a purpose, even if that mainly involved students finding common ground on how much they disagreed with him.

One event in particular stuck out in my mind. As I was holding the banner, a student who identified herself as a member of the Campus Crusade for Christ came around and said something to the effect of, “I just want to apologize to you guys about this; his views don’t reflect real Christian values. He’s not a true Christian.”

I had to wonder about the absurdity of this statement. Why was she apologizing on his behalf? She didn’t appear to be affiliated with him in any way. We all know that there are many branches, flavors, denominations and kinds of Christians, and it’s really not necessary for one kind to apologize for outlandish statements made by another. If she feels an urge to apologize any time any Christian represents the religion in a way that she disagrees with, she’s never going to have time to do anything else. She could spend hours every day just apologizing for the likes of Pat Robertson and James Dobson.

Her apology gave the (presumably false) impression that maybe she shares many of Morris’ views and only felt obliged to apologize because she disagrees with the abrasive manner in which he presented them. Apologizing implies that one is associated with the thing being apologized for. If you truly don’t agree with what someone says, why would you ever apologize for it? Wouldn’t it have made a lot more sense for her to just explain how she disagrees with Morris’ interpretations?

As for the other part of her statement, why do Christians go around claiming other Christians aren’t “true” Christians? Why does each branch think it is the ultimate authority in deciding what Christianity is and isn’t? There are some Catholics saying Protestants aren’t true Christians and vice versa, and meanwhile both are saying Mormons aren’t true Christians either. As far as I know, the definition of “Christian” is “one who self-identifies as following Christ,” so knock off all of the exclusionism, OK?

There was one other thing I heard that disturbed me aside from everything the preacher said. Someone asked why this preacher was granted a protest permit at all. First of all, there is the First Amendment; the permits exist simply to organize protests into one place rather than discriminate based on the views of the protester. But more importantly, our society functions best when all views, no matter how crazy they are, are allowed to be aired in the open. If he had been denied the opportunity to speak his mind, then he would rightfully be able to say his views were being censored. This would give him the appearance of more legitimacy than the circus his visit turned into, during which he was denounced by just about everyone.

I loved writing this opinion column, and the event described was the only time I’ve ever run into so much hate in real life. Yeah, I’d seen them on the news and such (Fred Phelps comes to mind), but never up close and personal. But it wasn’t scary in person; it was actually quite funny. The title “No true Christians” comes from a phrase frequently seen on the newsgroup It is a variation of the No true Scotsman logical fallacy.

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