Thursday, March 18, 2010

Christianity. The religion named after Jesus Christ that professes to follow His teachings. If Christians really do follow the teachings of Christ, why has the Christian Church been responsible for so much injustice over the centuries? If Christianity really represents Jesus, then where did the Crusades come from? The Inquisition? The deaths associated with the Salem Witch Trials? How come there’s been exploitation of natives by Christian missionaries? What about rampant Anti-Semitism throughout the history of Christian Europe that culminated last century? Or what about a closer and more personal look—why are there so many self-righteous, bigoted dangerous fanatics from a religion that claims something radically different?
These facts bother so many people, both Christian and non-Christian, and this issue of blatant hypocrisy is something that needs to be addressed. While all these questions are grouped together and interrelated, I think all of this breaks down into one of two answers—one related to the Church as a whole, and the other related to individual Christians.
First, let’s take a look at the Church as a whole and the violence and atrocities committed in the name of the Christian God. Is it just Christians, or do all religions give rise to hatred and oppression? The despotic regime of 20th Century Japan grew primarily out of the influences of Buddhism and Shintoism. Hindu nationalists, in the name of their religion, have carried out bloody attacks on both Christian churches and Muslim mosques. Islam is the soil in which much of today’s terrorism comes from, and Israeli forces have been equally brutal and violent in their responses. Looking at all this, wouldn’t it make sense to claim that religion is the source of so much of the evil and oppression around us today?
I don’t think so. Millions died in the communist Russian, Chinese and Cambodian regimes, regimes that denounced the existence of any theistic deity. The forbearer of the secular state was the French Revolution, which rejected God and any sort of religion in favor of human reason, yet how many were killed? Madame Roland, before she beheaded on trumped up charges said “Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name.”
When God is taken out of the equation, a society will choose some other idea by which to judge others by in order to assert their own superiority. Isn’t that what the Marxist did in its loyalty to the state or the Nazi did to race and blood?
Violence done in the name of God is an important issue that needs to be addressed. There is no rationalizing it or excusing it. But it is equally necessary to realize that in the last few centuries, violence and oppression has been caused just as often by religious reasons as it has been by secular ones. Societies bereft of religion can be just as oppressive as religious ones are. The conclusion from this is that there is some innate, deep-seated impulse for violence that is part of the human condition that will take on whatever form it can.
That makes a perfect transition into the personal issue of many Christians; why so many are so self-righteous, smug, and lead less ethical lives than many non-Christians do. Why is that?
James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift comes from God. He wrote it into our genetic code. Wisdom, justice, goodness—God gave them to all of humanity and He does not discriminate because of race, gender, religion or any other affiliation. Christians do not monopolize the market on them. It’s a part of who God created us to be.
So shouldn’t Christians have a better grasp on these gifts and put them into practice more often and more effectively? Yes. Why don’t they? Because we’re sinners. Jesus said that He wasn’t here for the healthy; He was here for the sick. He didn’t come for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32). Because of this, it should come to us as no surprise that Christians can be hurtful and petty just like everyone else because the Church is a hospital. It’s rare that people go to a hospital unless they’re sick. Many people don’t come to truly know God and experience Him for who He truly is until some calamity in their life makes them seek out the hospital. The Church, if it’s doing its job effectively, will be full of hurt, broken, messed up sinners.
What about the intolerant, self-righteous fanatics? If that’s the extreme of loving Jesus, why would I want to be like that? Well, you shouldn’t. I know I don’t. I think the problem with “fanatics” isn’t that they’re too in love and too devoted to God, but that they aren’t devoted enough! Think about it, the humility, sensitivity, forgiveness and love that Jesus talks about are absent in their lives. These overbearing insensitive jerks (I have a lot more names running through my mind for them that aren’t as nice) aren’t fanatically loving, forgiving or humble. They aren’t Christian enough
When someone’s truly devoted to Jesus Christ, there still will be problems in their life because, let’s face it, we’re sinners. But if we’re truly devoted to our Creator, then these issues will dwindle down until they’re barely recognizable as anything other than a small incontinence. I believe this is what we all should strive for.