"What’s happened in American Christianity is that the ethics of how we hold our beliefs becomes eclipsed in a triumphalism of identities competing for claims over the socially acceptable ethic. “So should people be allowed to self-identify?” This is troubling for Americans in general because we like to believe that you get to say what you are. Self-determination is the idolatry of American culture. Are there markers in your life where I can judge whether or not you’re a Christian based on your actions and relationships? The response is always “well, God knows my heart, not you.”
So the idea that I can say to you, “I’m not sure what you call yourself but Christian is probably not the right designation” is offensive. And this became tremendously important after 9/11. When people fly planes into buildings and call themselves Muslim, we have to be able to sort out whether or not my self-declaration is an accurate depiction of what I actually am as a person. Because you would never with a serious face in Oklahoma say the word “Christian terrorist.” But these people say all the time “Muslim terrorist.” So should we trust people at their word when they say, “I’m a Christian,” “I’m a Buddhist,” “I’m a Jew?” Or should we look at their lives and at what they do?
In other words, if you’re not going to practice the ethic that lines up with your system of beliefs, are you not obligated to practice remotely what you say that you are? Americans have a weird relationship with worldviews. “What is it about this particular tribe that makes them this tribe?” In American culture, the marker is the idea of choosing. Choice becomes the dominant way that I exist. This is sacred for us; it’s integral to who we are. So when I’m subjected to scrutiny or criticism that’s going to nullify the choice that I’ve made to self-declare, that runs counter to what we believe is the American experience—the human experience. Suddenly I get to say what I am and only God knows my heart… well that’s not very helpful for trying to relate to people. Do Muslims really fly into buildings and kill innocent people? If you can’t insist on some fundamental level of behavior, then why even call yourself anything at all?
The point is that if everything that matters is internal, and I can’t ever know what you actually are or pretend to be, then calling yourself something isn’t defining anything at all. We should be much more comfortable in a world where we know what to expect from people based on how they act towards others rather than letting people dictate our expectations. Look at how conservative Christians treat Obama’s Christianity. “He’s not Christian, he’s a Muslim!” What people wants to say is, when it’s necessary, I can Other other people. But when it’s me, or when it’s my tribe, I’m going to expect as much grace and leeway as possible."
Greg Horton and Tripp Fuller, “10 Not-So-Shocking Things You Learn in Religion 101,” Homebrewed Christianity, 11:25-29:40 (via lukexvx)