The famed Catholic mathematician Blaise Pascal once said: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” While many of us who are religious may frown at this remark, we have to admit it is not a baseless comment.
The history of religion, particularly Christianity, has been anything but peaceful. From the Crusades, to the Inquisition, to “The Troubles” in Ireland almost anyone with a background in history can enumerate a conflict with a Christian influence. Belligerent groups have also emerged using the name of Christianity to justify violent causes, examples which come to mind include Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army and the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.
While most of these groups are defunct today, there remains several infamous “hate groups” which still boast of a Christian influence: the Westboro Baptist Church, which pickets military funerals with signs that read, ‘God hates F-gs’ and the Army of God, a paramilitary organization in the United States which bombs abortion clinics.
The deceased journalist and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens made a point that religious people are “dangerous” because if they do immoral deeds they can claim to have been “forgiven by the divine” and that these people “do not fear death because they believe in an afterlife” which according to him gives them the courage to die for religious causes.
Bearing in mind that abominable track record, it is not hard to understand why the image of Christianity today is not as venerable as it used to be and also why churches of different denominations are shedding numbers according to census polling. It is not difficult to find an individual with a negative perspective of Christians nowadays.
However, conceding that does not mean that all these accusations are fair.
Central to the philosophy of Christianity is the concept of ‘free will’, that God has bestowed mankind the ability to make their own decisions based on their morals. Based on that concept, it is then impertinent to cast the faults of individual Christians on the entire religion.
Yet, there are Christians today who still cling on to a hostile or militant interpretation of Christianity. There are televangelists all over the world who spread hatred towards people of an unorthodox sexual orientation or an antagonistic view of other world religions.
There are still Christians today who act as if the main message of Christianity was to oppose same-sex marriage, suppress abortions and condemn those who fall short of the Bible’s teachings. They form huge protests, lobby politicians and treat others with less respect.
More than likely, this approach by fundamentalists is the biggest turn-off for outsiders. The negativity of the vocal few echoes throughout the Church and taints the image of the entire religion in the process.
Yes that is unfair, the vast majority of pious Christians are pacifists and identify with the main teachings of Jesus namely to love on another as He had loved us and to take care of the least of our brothers. I would like to believe that I belong to this fraction of Christ’s followers.
However, we do make it easy for the false accusations to seem true. Going back to the point made in a previous paragraph, the most vocal Christians are usually those with something negative to say about other people. Those who judge. Which is ironic because being judgmental is frowned upon by the Church and is against the teachings of Jesus.
Yet the Church seems like a flock of judgmental bigots waiting to pounce on people’s moral shortcomings. For every Christian that spreads messages of love and forgiveness comes a televangelist with a broad audience who calls for the shunning of homosexuals. For every nun that opens an orphanage there is a priest who denies a divorcee communion.
The reason for this is because we moderate, peace-loving Christians who want to spread the message of love and acceptance do not do enough to condemn our fellow believers who would prefer to talk about hatred and intolerance.
For every Christian who quotes Leviticus 20:13, there should be one who points to John 13:34. For every fundamentalist who calls for the condemning of divorcees, there should be a true follower of Christ who narrates the parable of Jesus and the adulterer. And when an extremist begins to talk about excommunication, someone should point to a cross and say, ‘that man died for me so that I may spend eternity with Him, and there’s nothing in this world that can ever take that away from me.’
The image of Christianity does not need to change, it is perfect the way it is. It only needs to be purified, to be weeded out of all the fundamentalism. Enough with all the knuckle-dragging, it’s time the world hears the true message of Christianity: that God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son and all that believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.