More and more, these days, we continue to hear skeptics deride Christianity for many reasons. Some of them are completely absurd and untrue. Sadly, quite a few of the complaints about Christians are true. At least, to the extent that they accurately depict a fairly large majority of professed Christians.
I believe, however, that Christianity is not the issue. While I do feel that others’ perceptions of Christianity is a contributing factor, I don’t see that as being the most critical factor. In reality, it’s not so much about the idea that “Christians” are “biased” or “condescending” to others. Rather, I think a large part of the issue is that “humans” tend to act this way to anything or anyone who falls outside of the current social norm.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. We’ll go back about 2,000 years ago. The Roman Empire dominated virtually the entire western world at that time. Rome was a pantheistic society. The same was true for the Greeks, who were considered the pinnacle of western thought during that period of history.
During this time, the Jews were about the only group of people, and note that they were a small and relatively weak (politically speaking) nation at that time, who held that there was only one True God. They were about the only nation who refused to accept the existence of any other gods. While other nations may have had their preferred gods that they worshiped, it generally didn’t bother them if another nation worshiped different gods. In fact, they believed that political/military power was an indication of which gods were more powerful.
By that standard, the Jewish god must not have been much as they were overtaken by several other nations throughout their history. At the time in questions, it was Rome. Yet, they still staunchly defended the “One True God” belief.
Out of this, of course, came Christ and the Christian church. In the area of Israel, Christians were not very welcome among most Jews. Why is that? That’s exactly my point…it went against the culture of that time and that society. For the same reason, Christians were persecuted throughout the other nations of the Roman empire, as well. Once again, it went against the social norm.
Fast-forward a couple few hundred years to the time of the Roman emperor, Constantine. It was during his reign that Christianity not only ceased to be openly persecuted, it became the official faith of the Roman empire! In fact, Constantine so desired that people would accept Christianity that material rewards were offered for those who confessed Christ.
What do you suppose something like that would to to a culture or a society? What sorts of people do you imagine this might attract? How different would the convictions be of someone who accepted Christ knowing that they could be laughed at, ostracized, rejected, beaten or even killed versus someone who accepted Christ because they would get a handsome reward for doing so?
In light of this, is it really any wonder how the history of the Church is so littered with crimes driven by power/wealth hungry “Church leaders?”
Besides all that, however, once this took place, suddenly Christianity became the new “norm” for society. Anyone outside the norm was looked down upon. Just as Christians were looked down upon for being outside the norm previously. The problem wasn’t the Roman gods, the problem was that it was just the culture.
Today, well over 75% of the people in the United States would call themselves “Christians.” I don’t know about you, but I’d say that probably constitutes a “societal norm.” So, when other religions or non-religions (atheism, for example) seem to be looked down upon by Christians, it’s not so much because Christianity is about doing that sort of thing (in fact, the exact opposite would be closer to the truth), but it’s the fact that humans tend to persecute things or people or activities that fall outside the current social norm.
If there is still any doubt about that, just look at what is acceptable today versus what was acceptable 50 years ago. If Christianity were to blame, the same things would be tabboo. However, what we see is that a few people tend to push the envelope of controversy and continue to push until people are desensitized to certain things that they would once have found appalling. The Bible hasn’t changed. So what has? I suggest that it’s the culture that has changed.
What about you? Do you think Christianity is directly responsible for this kind of persecution or is it the culture? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Grace, love and peace.