Last year, my wife and I stopped by one of Bend, OR's numerous breweries for a pint or three and a bit of food. Bend, being a wilderness colony of Portland, is trendy. Super trendy. You either have no idea what the menu items actually are, or, if you do, they're Food Network-worthy revisions. You'd be hard pressed not to spam your friends with filtered Instagram photos of your meals. This restaurant, sadly shuttered some months ago, had an appetizer (please never say "app") that we were both frightened and excited to try: the scotch egg.
What is a scotch egg, you ask? It's a hardboiled egg, wrapped in sausage, yolked and floured up, and fried. There's multiple ways to screw up the cooking process, and eating more than one in a single sitting will likely stop your heart, causing you to drop dead like Ananias and Sapphira right then and there. It goes without saying that it is very, very delicious. So delicious, in fact, that my wife and I have schemed to make our own sometime in the future.
There are many modern takes on the scotch egg. Pork sausage is the standard edition of the classic dish, but some substitute different sorts of sausage (e.g., turkey) or different meats altogether. Some roll in bacon during the process. Some villains even make vegetarian scotch eggs! The variants are many, but all (excepting some prideful argumentation) are scotch eggs.
Let's imagine that on the day we decide to make our scotch eggs, I get creative. So creative, in fact, I decide I'm going to subvert the scotch egg genre. I take a Cadbury egg, coat it with melted Peeps, and roll the thing in ground graham cracker crust. My wife then walks in and says, "Wait, I thought we were having scotch eggs for breakfast?"
"This is a scotch egg, manzana of my ojo," I say.
She shakes her head. "No true scotch egg is made of Easter candy."
No true scotch egg, huh? I've heard this fallacious argument before. If she plays that card, I'll have her cornered. Or will I?
The internet rabble (counting myself among them) is quite proud of its ability to identify things that sound like textbook fallacies, or logically invalid arguments. We do so with the gusto of one whose passing letter grade of their freshman logic class is entirely dependent on it. "Hah! Poisoning the well, I see." "You won't slip that equivocation past me, sir!" "Argumentum ad hominem? More like argumentum BAD hominem, am I right?" It's a sound mental exercise, I suppose, though often "THAT LOOKS LIKE A FALLACY" tends to be the trump card that ends the discussion rather than helpfully correcting its course. It's popular to accuse others of one particular fallacy in discussions of religion: the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.
In the No True Scotsman fallacy, the arguer attempts to weasel his or her way out a refuted premise by excluding counterexamples for no good reason whatsoever.
Me: "All Scotsmen store their porridge in a sheep's bladder."
You: "Mack MacDonald is a Scotsman and he stores his porridge in a set of old bagpipes."
Me: "Well, that just goes to show that Mack MacDonald is no true Scotsman."
Rather than accept or even bother to investigate the evidence against my claim, I batten down the hatches and reject it altogether. This sort of thing crops up in religion all the time. "No true Muslim would do a suicide bombing." "No true Christian would perform a same-sex marriage." "No true atheist would admit any uncertainty about God's nonexistence." The argument isn't so much as to prove a point but to deny affiliation with persons or factions with whom you disagree.
Still, not all arguments with such a structure are invalid. For example, I couldn't get away with accusing my wife of the No True Scotch Egg fallacy. Why? Because "scotch egg" is a phrase with a specific and commonly understood meaning. It's the term for a particular food item with particular ingredients made in a particular way. When I hand my wife my Cadbury sugar grenade and say "This is a scotch egg," I am basically lying. We both know the definition of a scotch egg, and we both know that my monstrosity does not fit that definition.
I mention all of this for two reasons. The first is that we should not try to win ethical or theological (or even political) arguments by evicting our opponents from the religion. The second reason is that I sometimes come across individuals outside the religion, individuals who have a barely-functioning knowledge of Christianity, crying "No True Scotsman!" when believers have the gall to suggest that not everyone who dons the label "Christian" is actually a Christian. As impolite as it may be to say this in our current culture, adopting a word as your label does not mean you fit the long-accepted definition of that word. I don't become a wolverine simply by calling myself one. And yes, religion operates the same way. I can't claim to be a Muslim and at the same time deny Muhammad, shahada, haj, zakat, Ramadan, and prayer.
Christianity is a religion with its own curious but specific set of core beliefs. If someone believes such things without also confessing a contradictory creed, they're a Christian, even if they did vote for Obama. Christianity also has its own ethics, though those ethics can vary somewhat across traditions. Adhering to these ethics, or failure to do so, does not automatically disqualify a person from Christianity! Nor does it make them a hypocrite. It just makes them, for at least a moment, a failure, something from which we may recover by the grace of God. Still, we also believe that faith modifies behavior throughout our lifetime, and it's reasonable to eventually question where the tree is rooted if it fails to produce expected fruit. It's also reasonable to cast doubt on a tree that looks nothing like the trees that have grown for the past two thousand years, or if they're facsimiles made of stone. (Granted, these questions should mostly arise from pastoral sources, not the average Joe on Twitter with too much free time on his hands.)
It may seem undemocratic to say that it takes more than wishful thinking to qualify for a category. However, not everyone who speaks favorably about a dude named Jesus is a Christian. My Cadbury carb disaster is certainly no true scotch egg. Sometimes, the shoe just doesn't fit.