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We have recently received a few questions that were not on doctrine, per se, but actually reflected a curiosity about current Christian culture in a specific geographic area.

Here are some examples:

  1. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16849/are-christians-in-the-north-usa-less-likely-to-be-republican
  2. What Doctrine Supports The Christian Gun Culture?
  3. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/16883/what-christian-doctrine-supports-being-ultra-patriotic-in-america (My answer in the second one led the op to ask this one)

They are all closed right now. There is a reason given by Caleb on all of them going something like "This is more of a discussion starter for a forum." There also seems to be a sentiment in the comments that thinks these are better on Politics.SE. I kind of agree, but I ultimately think these kinds of questions can work well here on Christianity.SE and can lend a lot of good posts and make the internet a better place.

Here is a brief analysis of the three questions to support why I think they can be or are good for the site:

  1. Well, I think this question brings up a very real issue. Most Christians are in fact politically conservative. This is currently outside of the site's scope (doctrine and history), however, I argue that this is culture, which is modern history. In a hundred years this question suddenly becomes on-topic: "Why were so many 21st century American Christians Republicans?" The asker only wants to see if things are roughly the same in northern churches as it is in his southern churches.

  2. There is an obvious merging of patriotism and religion (Christianity specifically) in the USA today. The OP even showed a likely quote seen: "All I need is my Bible and a gun." Just today I saw a bumper sticker that said "I'm Catholic and I vote." I can't really say what this means, why it is happening, nor what it might mean for the future of the Christian church in the USA, but I can say assuredly that the merger of politics/patriotism and Christianity is very clearly evident for anyone living in that sub-culture. And the OP was asking about a doctrine that supports this culture, if one exists.

    In my own answer to this question I was praised as having "hit it on the head" by a self proclaimed "gun-toting, right-wing, ultra-conservative, Christian patriot." I think that is clear evidence that there is an actual answer to the question that is useful.

    Now we should look closely at caseyr547's answer. He illuminates a verse that some churches use to say that Christians should, not may, but should be armed in some manner. That is incredible! I think we are witnessing the birth of what might become a common doctrine in a few decades.

  3. The OP was apparently ignorant about this sub-culture of "ultra-patriotic Christians" that I reflected on in my answer to question 2, thus, he made this question. Again, he did stick to the site guidelines and asked for relevant doctrine that supports this behavior.

    Again, caseyr547 brings up that the church he actually attends preach what his answer gave, which is a version of "honor the king" applied to democracy. I can't speak about it, but I would guess that this doctrine would not call a person "King", but rather the law of the land, that is, the Constitution (this kind of thought is certainly in line with my personal knowledge of this sub-culture). I say again: I think we are witnessing the birth of what might become a common doctrine in a few decades. That is so exciting and I don't see how the community in general does not want the facts about this phenomenon posted on this site.

Summary:

I think two of the three were on-topic as originally posted because they request specific doctrine that might support observed behavior. All three of the questions hint on something that I think the site is missing: the fact that Christianity is a living religion and is evolving daily. As conjecture and speculation become proven fact, questions like these become relevant and on-topic to this site.


EDIT:

Just so it is clear, because there seems to be concern over what I am saying, I do not in any way want to forge new theologies. As the site's purpose says, I want to see academic posts about extant Christianity only. I don't want to talk about what might be I want to talk about what is. Christian culture of various sub-cultures like the one mentioned in these posts is making doctrines about these issues. I only want to see posts that discuss those doctrine and can prove that they are indeed doctrines of a Christian organization.

  • Sure, there are socially liberal Christians. – Double U Jun 24 '13 at 13:52
  • I believe this answer shows that these kinds of questions can be managed and answered really well. – 3961 May 27 '15 at 20:03
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I think wax_eagle covered a lot of the major concerns I have with these points. However one thing you said in particular stood out to me. Please understand this isn't going to be a personal attack on you. I assume you didn't even intend to trigger this issue, but since it's come up in my mind I'm going to air it out here.

I think we are witnessing the birth of what might become a common doctrine in a few decades.

Early on in the history of this site, before we even figured out we had a problem with truth questions, before, I think, I was even nominated as a pro temore moderator this was a big issue for me. It still is and as far as this site is concerned, this is a hill I will die on.1

Speaking as a user voicing my opinion: The scope of this site should be extant Christianity, we should never be the ones going out on a limb to scope out a next step for Christianity or forge anything new in theology or practice. Individuals who participate may well discover things new to them; Christianity has a wealth of history in both doctrine and practice that few people are aware of. While these personal discoveries may play a role in individuals lives, the scope of our questions should never be the future. We shouldn't be the ones trying to decide what the next step to take is.

Doing so would be to invade on the role of the church. You probably all know what I have to say about that. Not to mention the ecclesiastical implications, I think it would ruin the academic atmosphere here and attract an entirely different kind of expert.

One could draw an analogy from journalism. In today's media world the lines have gotten blurred almost beyond recognition, but a newspaper should have two basic kinds of content. There is reporting and their is commentary (or maybe "everything else" is a better label). The reporting should stick to the facts. It shouldn't try to convince people of a cause2, it should give people the relevant pieces of the puzzle so that they can then apply their own world view to the facts and come to a conclusion. Everything else - your commentary, advice columns, talk shows, etc can argue for or against various causes. These should purpose themselves to sway people. But the bits that give the facts should be as unadulterated as possible. As a site, our scope should be that bit. The raw data. The nuts and bolts of current and historical Christianity. "How does X perspective justify Y?". "How did Y come to believe Z?". "What makes Z different than Q?". What sets this sort of question apart from "What should we do about B?" is that they can be given verifiable answers by experts orthogonal to the church.

This may or may not be what's going on in the questions you use as a case study. I'm ranting about principle of the matter here. If the end product of a question and answer thread is newly developed theology, we need to fend it off with a barge pole.

I am also not the only voice to say this. I'll let Affable have the last word here:

Additionally, this site is not a place for working out theology - it is for the examination of extant theology. In the same way that lawyers have a "discovery phase," in which evidence is considered before introduction, so too new theology may not be simply introduced whenever one feels like it. This site is for critiquing and understanding existing theology, not introducing theology that would be called "peculiar," "novel," or "innovative."


1. Of course in my roll of a moderator I am here to act on behalf of the community, enforcing community policy. Already that includes policies I didn't personally sign off on or even like. I do promise to keep serving the community in this manner and not to abuse my mod powers to make my version of things happen. But I am also a community member and I'm speaking out here because meta is the right place to win friends and influence people make my opinion known and hope enough people catch the same vision. If it ever does come down to a clear community consensus to make this a place to forge new theology, I will respectfully turn in my badge.

2. This is mostly a lost art today's media. Even the most basic "reporting" of events you read about is done in such a way that events are already interpreted for us. Rather than having to examine an issue based on the facts, we are left with nothing to do but "catch up on the news". Rather than being more informed on the world, most people only end up more indoctrinated by whatever perspective they choose to get their "news" from.

  • 2
    Maybe you missed my last sentence: As conjecture and speculation become proven fact, questions like these become relevant and on-topic to this site. I don't want to forge anything. I want to encourage that reporting you are talking about. I don't want to talk about what might be I want to talk about what is. I made an edit to the post. These things are becoming doctrine for churches today, not decades from now. – 3961 Jun 20 '13 at 21:29
  • @fredsbend: I didn't say you were advocating for this. However you are advocating for a question being in scope for our site that you then commented on as being "might become a common doctrine in a few decades". Just because you ended on a different note doesn't really mitigate my objection on this point. I don't care about "becoming doctrine today", I don't think we can pick up the tune until at least "became doctrine yesterday". The kind of reporting I am suggesting is rather opposite of what the case study questions in your post do: open an ongoing current localized topic for discussion. – Caleb Jun 20 '13 at 21:42
  • Today and yesterday I think are the same thing in the way we used them. I meant to say "really quite new, but now extant." caseyr547 claims that it is taught in his church. All he really needs is a link to prove that it is a doctrine. I see your concern, because the only thing causing more fights than religion is politics and we are talking about doctrine that exists because of current politics. It is a thin piece of ice that would require close moderation if we were to walk out on it, but it is still real, extant, and questions on it can have factual, academic answers. – 3961 Jun 20 '13 at 21:47
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This assumes something major:

that there is such a thing as "Christian culture"

Christians come in all shapes, sizes and political leanings. Identifying a pervasive "Christian Culture" is kind of ridiculous. The scope of this site precludes any such demarcation in my mind.

Let's go through each of these questions and see if we can find some constructive things and pull about part why they aren't constructive:

  1. Are Christians in the North Less likely to be Republican. I don't see any potential for constructive discussion here unless it's on the politics site. 1. It's not related to Christian doctrine at all. 2. it's tangentially related to Christian culture, but it's making broad generlizations. 3. It's looking for speculation rather than fact which makes it a discussion starter rather than a good SE question. Lastly, the idea that most Christians are politically conservative is both over generalized and only true in the US. There are plenty of both liberal and conservative Christians and I would hesitate to make that judgement without real facts in front of me (and remember for the purpose for this site, anyone who claims to be a Christian is one).

  2. What doctrines support the Christian gun culture? This one actually might be relevant. Specially in light of casey's answer. The original form of this question was rather NC, but as it stands now it's probably OK. I'd rather see some community support behind reopening it, but I won't be opposed to get getting reopened if it swings that direction. However, it's still worded in a way to be politically charged rather than motivated to learn about doctrines and beliefs so I'm not inclined to reopen in it's current form via a binding vote.

  3. This is broad. Oh so broad. I'd rather the OP do some significant research and try to narrow things down. a lot. Because patriotism is a spectrum and ultra-patriotism is essentially undefined. He would have to identify an ultrapatriotic group or subgroup even and ask what doctrines they use to support their patriotism. As it is there are (or could be quite easily) books written on the subject.

In general, I'm likely to close anything that starts "why do Christians" because I'm of the mind that we're not a generalizeable group, especially those of us on this site who hail from a wide wide swath of both US and international Christian groups. There are too many minority groups that will get marginalized when we deal with macro ideas like this.

Asking why Christians Do X or Believe X is not constructive because "Christians" is not a meaningful people group in the context of this site.

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    How could there not be a christian culture? And I am specifically referring to a sub-culture that you would be hard pressed to deny the existence of. I don't feel like there are any concrete answers in this post. – 3961 Jun 20 '13 at 19:17
  • I'm not denying the existence of a so called "Christian culture" I'm mostly just saying that I think the concept is meaningless because Christians don't agree on anything substantial enough to build a culture out of and identifying such a culture is counter productive. – wax eagle Jun 20 '13 at 23:20
  • Well, I think your post makes a terrible case for that assertion. I wholly disagree. – 3961 Jun 21 '13 at 22:09
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Those questions ought to have been left open if they were asked in about there connection to such and such a heretical doctrine such as Americanism.

But since they were just off the cuff discussion starters with no theological framework to back them up, they were closed, as well they should be.

  • I suppose if you wanted only Catholic doctrine that rejects this behavior. The questions, however, requested doctrines that support this behavior. Some of the answers showed that such doctrines do exist (I would bet in non-denominational churches). – 3961 Jun 20 '13 at 19:29

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