There is a story circulating today about a Pennsylvania-based religious group whose founder, Chris McCann, has proclaimed that the world will end today.
Nothing particularly new or noteworthy about the story except that the media reporting it are consistently characterizing the group, eBibleFellowship, as “Christian”. But even a cursory reading of the group’s Web site reveals that this group is a singularly focused End Times cult. The Bible passages they rely on for predicting the end of the world aren’t even from Jesus’ teachings as presented in the Gospels.
This got me to thinking. I consider myself a progressive metaphysical Christian mystic, but I have almost zero in common with this group which also claims the label “Christian.” Similarly, the so-called Mormon Church — properly the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — claims for itself the label “Christian” even though most Evangelical Christians consider them a cult. (My church home at Unity of Monterey Bay is also so labeled by those folks.)
So who gets to decide who “deserves” to be called “Christian”? Any group or individual who wishes to do so. Which led me to the understanding that the same is true of other labels. I know several very moderate — even progressive and mystic — Muslims who abhor the idea that the violent jihadists in their religious group get to call themselves Muslims. But that’s how things are.
Which means it’s important to recognize that these labels are self-claimed and therefore have very limited (if any) value when assessing the beliefs and practices of adherents. In other words, we need to move beyond such artificial boundaries.
For me, anyone who believes in a Deity characterized by unconditional love is in my spiritual family, regardless of labels.
(BTW, I noticed this tiny group’s Web site has quite a number of things marked “In Progress,” which sort of gives the lie to the idea that they believe the world is about to end. Irony rears its beautiful head again!)