Forget Capitol Hill, we change culture from the ground up

by Michael Frost | May 9, 2017 | Homepage | 0 comments

There has been a plethora of books in recent years about how Christians can change the world. Many of them urge us to engage society, mobilize our forces and win the culture wars.

But let’s face it — whenever the church tries to rule the world it never goes well for us. Indeed, most of the criticisms leveled at the church by its detractors relate to the church’s abuse of temporal power. It’s nice to imagine the church as an ancient remedy that brings healing and repair to a diseased system, but increasingly, people have spoken of the church more in terms of a virus than a tonic.

Journalist Christopher Hitchens wasn’t one to pull punches. In his 2007 book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he said, “Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”

Adopting this same line is John Loftus, a former Christian minister and now an atheist. In 2014, he published the anthology Christianity Is Not Great, in which a group of scholars focused on what they perceived to be the damage done by the church throughout history covering everything from the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and witch hunts to bogus faith healing.

Loftus concludes, “The Christian faith can be empirically tested by the amount of harm it has done and continues to do in our world. Jesus reportedly said: ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ (Matthew 7:20). When we evaluate the fruits of Christianity, the result is that it fails miserably.”

We’ve all had conversations with antagonistic non-Christians who remind us of the Inquisition, the number of incidents of sexual abuse by clergy, particularly in the Catholic Church, the belittling and condemnatory treatment of women and the LGBTQ community, and the offensive behavior and statements of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

And often all we can do is take it on the chin and admit that our brothers and sisters (though usually our brothers) have not represented the teachings of Jesus very well. If all this was the sum total of Christianity’s contribution to society, it would be reasonable to ask what Christianity ever did for us.

But, of course, that’s only half the story (maybe much less than half). Whenever we hear an atheist attacking the poisonous nature of Christianity we’re reminded of that scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where John Cleese asks the People’s Liberation Front of Judea, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” When the members of his audience start listing things like sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, public health and peace, he deadpans, “What have the Romans ever done for us except sanitation, medicine, education … ?”

The fact is that Christianity has altered European culture, indeed Western society as a whole, for the better in extraordinary ways . . .



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