Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Christians can often be one-sided when it comes to controversial issues. We are not necessarily any better than others when it comes to ignoring important information when it may seem to weaken the arguments for our own conclusions. There is an excellent article about this that would probably be beneficial reading for Christians and skeptics alike.
That being said, since I’m on the Christian side of this everlasting debate, let me just take a moment to take a look at this from the “defending Christendom” side of things.
So often, when attempting to discredit the Church, skeptics will tend to bring up certain things to show how “evil” the Church is as an institution. They will bring up the Crusades or the Inquisition or maybe the Salem Witch Trials (which is kinda funny, really, since it was a Christian who ended the witch trial atrocities…but that fact seems to get largely overlooked). These and various other “crimes” are brought up to show how “bad” the Church is and why it is to be feared, avoided and (in their opinion) done away with.
It’s a bit sad to me that these are the only “contributions” to the world or society that is recognized any more. All of the good that has been done by the Church is summarily dismissed and almost never discussed. Never mind that most of the more prominent colleges and universities in the world (not just the U.S.) were started by the Church. Never mind the lives saved by honest, compassionate missionaries who readily give up the comforts of the life they could have had in order to minister to less fortunate communities, often helping to bring them cleaner drinking water or medical supplies or education (reading, writing, ‘rithmetic…not just “Christian” teaching and sometimes not even Christian teaching).
The contributions to science by Christians is hardly acknowledged. When people think about Copernicus, they think of the fact that the Church elders erroneously tried to get him to recant his theories, but they overlook the fact that Copernicus, himself, was a Christian. Was the church wrong? Yes. That is part of being human and people just don’t tend to easily change long-standing, widely-accepted beliefs regardless of the evidence. (And, yes, I know I’m opening myself up for comments there.)
The same is true of Galileo Galilei’s backing of the Copernican theories. Again, he was a Christian who contributed a great deal to science. Advances is telescopic technology, astronomy, tidal activity, etc. are attributed to this Christian scientist.
What about pre-Civil War slavery? American churches were instrumental in abolishing slavery. And, here’s one that’ll raise some eyebrows, human rights. While, certainly, some Christians are guilty of “hate crimes” and such, the influence that the Church has had in enforcing individual human rights gets largely overlooked as people focus on the far smaller number of Christians who trample those rights.
How about many of our laws? While there continues to be attempts to remove plaques containing the Ten Commandments from public buildings, it can hardly be denied that many of these laws are based on these Christian doctrines.
The Salvation Army, hospitals, food, shelter, clothing…Christians have made many and frequent contributions to the world. But, as we all know, good stuff doesn’t make it through the filter of mainstream media. If you really want to get the word out on something, it should be negative, hurtful, harmful, controversial or in some way destructive to at least one person’s life. (There is likely a correlation between the number of lives destroyed, the magnitude of such destruction and the popularity of those whom it affects, but I’m not a statistician.)
Aside from the fact that the Church has done far more good for the world than bad, another thing that gets conveniently ignored is the affect of those who do not hold to any sort of supernatural moral authority. Perhaps the most destructive force throughout history has been moral decay. In today’s terms, this could be called “moral relativism.” The more people are desensitized to things that should be morally abhorrent, the more acceptable these behaviors become.
From an atheistic perspective, moral relativism suits their world-view quite nicely. They call it “open-mindedness” or “tolerance.” Yet, without Christians (or other faiths…not to exclude them, but again, I’m a Christian so I can really only speak from that standpoint) help to stem the “slippery-slope” of moral relativism by trying to hold to an objective standard.
The whole idea of “tolerance” is actually somewhat amusing to me. Christians are cited as being “intolerant” when we disagree with an espoused moral value that violates the Judeo-Christian standards found in scripture. We need not be violent against such things to be deemed “intolerant.” We only need to state our disagreement and we are labeled “intolerant.” Obviously, many people do not seem to understand what tolerance is.
Let me clear that up right quick…
By definition, I cannot “tolerate” something that I agree with or it would not be “tolerance” but “acceptance.” The very definition of “tolerance” implies that one “tolerates” something with which one disagrees.
True, there are instances of actual intolerance, as mentioned regarding some of the hate crimes against homosexuals or people who have had abortions or other controversial political topics. But, in the same way Muslims probably wish the world would stop stereotyping Islam based on a small minority of extremists, Christians would prefer people make distinctions between those who commit these types of crimes and those Christians who actually spend their lives trying to live out Jesus’ command to “love one another.”
So, I guess the short version is…look at the whole picture. If you look at the Mona Lisa and only look at one square inch of the painting, you might wonder why people think it’s such a great work. You have to look at the entire painting to see the beauty of it.
There, I just summarized a 950+ word post in three short sentences and still didn’t delete all the previous content. How quirky is that?
Grace, love and peace.