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I'd like to start out by pointing out that I'm usually one of the first to vote to close a question almost across the board. I'm downright militant when it comes to voting to close questions that I think are argumentative or otherwise not constructive.

I'm also a big supporter of the "We're not here to argue who's right" guidelines, and I'm absolutely in full support of the site's prohibition on arguing who are "real" Christians. As the FAQ states, for the purpose of Christianity.StackExchange.com any group that self-identifies as a Christian is one.

That said, I am in complete disagreement with the reasons for closing How does mainstream Christianity justify labeling groups like the Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses as Non Christians? and I feel strongly enough that it sets a bad precedent to make a case here for re-opening it. I'm going to make my case as an answer, and I invite others to address opposing opinions, looking for honest discussion and a consensus on questions like this.

So the question is, should this question and others like it be allowed to stand?

  • I have had many similarly vague questions closed. Allowing this question to exist is not consistent with what I have seen on this site before. I'm pretty sure that in the comments that Caleb deleted, there was an agreement that this question was bad. I do not understand the randomness of keeping it. – The Freemason Jan 3 '14 at 13:47
  • @thefreemason It sounds like your reason for closing is different than what I perceived it to be. Can you expand in an answer to this? I may have missed something. Was it just not focused enough? Was there more? – David Stratton Jan 3 '14 at 14:03
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After reviewing that entire series, I have to agree with you. The question might stand fire some fine tuning but the core of our is fine.

The major problem I see is that answers took a wrong turn. Rather than stick to answering the question a whole bunch of them for into an opinion/truth debate over whether the action being questioned was right or not and what mainstream Christianity should do instead. Some don't even attempt to address the question, others get sidetracked having started to, but they don't finish.

I think the solution is to make any edits to the question to alleviate any valid concerns from the contents, then clean out the comments, delete half the answers as NAA, and reopen with a cleaner slate. In the future we should be stricter about answers having to address the actual question.

Note: It would help if more people from the community got on board with their votes site-wide such that they didn't upvote anything just because they agreed with it but because it answered the question and vise versa for downvotes. Also don't be afraid to flag comment threads that become about theological discussions rather that about the merits of posts.


Edit: I have gone ahead and acted on my instincts above. Feel free to lambaste and rail against me in comments detail how you think this should have been handled in your own post here if you think there was a better way to deal with this for the community and other mods to review.

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I read through the comment threads multiple times, and there are some that make a point... And I'm sorry to pick out individual posts that I disagree with, but there are some that are, in my opinion, a bad precedent.

This one for example:

The more I think about this, the more I think it is not a good question for this site. "How do you justify...?" is accusatory in tone. It implicitly assumes that everyone is morally bound to accept any other person's position, which is an invalid and unsubstantiated assumption. As noted by others, JW and LDS each are guilty of the same thing. So, no position can ever be considered invalid or heretical? Why not?

This whole point of the question sounding accusatory could have been handled by just editing the title to say "What is the basis for..." instead of "How do they justify..." If you read the body question itself, it doesn't sound accusatory, it sounds bewildered. The "What is the basis for" is certainly allowable.

With that edit, the next comment also becomes moot:

This is a bad question for this site. Specifically the OP's assertion that mainstream Christianity is united and speaks with one voice.

Those of us that have been on the site already know that "mainstream Christianity" doesn't speak as one voice on a lot of things. Heck, it's the basis for my meta post [Is it valid to ask if “Christianity” teaches anything?][2]. SO I somewhat understand where this post is coming from, but you'd be hard pressed to find any group - Catholic, protestant, Orthodox, etc. that doesn't cite the same objection to each of the two groups listed.

Also, DJ Clayworth's excellent answer on that question addresses the basis without partiality of condemnation, much better than my own answer on that question. The correctness of his answer is self-evident to LDS, JW, and pretty much any "mainstream" Christian out there. So this question passes the "[real questions have answers not opinions][3]" test for StackExchange sites as well.

Finally... And this is the one where I think the precedent is dangerous. The first sentence in TheFreeemason's comment:

I believe this question is a question asking to define what it is to be Christian (proof by contraposition) which is against the FAQ.

I don't see that anywhere in the question at all. What I see is someone asking what the basis is for something that's controversial. There's nothing in the question that is asking whether or not the basis is true, it's just asking what the basis is.

In my opinion, we cannot allow ourselves to close questions just because we think someone will get offended. There's a difference between asking if Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians or not, and asking what the basis is for not accepting them as Christians. it's not just semantics, there is a qualitative, difference between the two.

One is asking for opinion, and one is asking what's the basis for the opinion.

The difference between the two is that the one asking for the basis of the opinion is already implicitly acknowledging that there is disagreement, that this is just an opinion, and not a fact, and it's asking "Why do people with this opinion think that way?"

The reason the precedent is dangerous is that if we're ruling out questions about what the basis is for a controversial belief, what else is there to ask h everyone is Calvinistic in their beliefs... Do we outlaw questions like "What's the basis for Calvinism?" Where does it end?

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    What's the basis is fine IMO (and I agree with Caleb's assessment). My only 2 caveats are the following: tone must be minded, we need to be fair, respectful and the question should assume validity (this is an editing issue and is not the basis of a closure for anything more than a few moments while it's work shopped). Second is that if a user asks a whole series of these directed at a specific group, they should be told to slow down and reminded that we're not here to debunk each others' beliefs. The second bit is to keep specific groups from finding themselves continuously on the defensive. – wax eagle Jan 3 '14 at 15:50

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