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Renunciation by Association

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This article is another appeal to clear thinking and discernment among Christians. I get to doing that on occasion, you see. There's a fallacy of guilt by association where a person receives condemnation because of who they run with or what they believe in. Sometimes it results in a witch hunt mentality, possibly utilizing the ancient proverb, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend". (Although attributed to Arabs, it's actually traced back to Hindu writings of Arthashastra.) Such a concept can be very detrimental for Christians.

Should Christians dislike other Christians because one likes a teacher that the other one dislikes? Let's cut each other some slack, Jack!

It's bothersome enough to upset someone you love because you give a warning about false doctrine or other dangerous territory in spiritual subjects. On a related matter, it hurts when someone will get a burr under his saddle against some teacher or writer, and then get irritated at you because you like a person that they dislike.

Now, hold off on drawing that shootin' iron and let me explain. There are people who are fans of heretics like Rob Bell, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Brian Houston, and so on, and I don't cotton to associating with them. If an associate of mine wants to friend up a supporter of heretics and I stop associating with him or her, I may be doing the guilt by association thing. On the other hand, that person may be doing a form of missionary work on the heretic supporter.

There are people who are theologically sound. Sure, there will be disagreements on side issues, that's not the point. (This is getting more difficult to explain than I thought.) I'll put myself in the middle of this. Suppose I promote something I think is really great by Pastor Whatzit. But my friend Jedediah can't stand Pastor Whatzit because that pastor trounced Hezekiah Howzit in a debate, and Jedediah really likes Howzit. (Are you with me so far?) So, because I posted something by someone Jedediah dislikes, then Jedediah does a kind of guilt by association thing on an emotional level and dislikes me as well. I don't cotton to being disliked because I like something or someone, especially when both Whatzit and Howzit are brothers in Christ but have differing views.

There are Pages on Facebook that post things I don't like, but they are generally on solid theological ground. (Others are off the rails, and good material from them is a rarity, so I distance myself.) Similarly, I don't agree with everything that every creationist posts, whether scientifically or theologically, but there's no reason to reject an entire ministry.

Now, if I'm promoting heresy, it may very well be right and proper to drop me on the trail and ride on. Before doing that, a Christian should pray for me and approach me about it. But if I say that I've renounced orthodox Christian teachings in favor of Petey Pelagian's views and won't repent, move on. Otherwise, cut me some slack, Jack! I'd be much obliged if you'd grant people the courtesy of being wrong on occasion.

There are time when someone will read something they disagree with (or by someone they don't care for), and then realize that there was something worthwhile there after all. I've come around to a different way of thinking on some things, and known of others who have done the same. It may not be right away, but it can happen.

Looks like my main point is that Christians cannot divide over personal preferences, emotional reactions, and maybe traditions. Things can be overlooked, others need to be prayed about and maybe even discussed before stopping an association.

I've really struggled with the wording on this, but I hope you get what I'm trying to say.