Two recent happenings set off this blogpost. A good friend (Pastor Rajkumar) asked me to put together my major complaints about Christianity...
I couldn't do it right then, but it got me thinking. Then, a young friend questioned me about a facebook post I'd done that was critical of some modern atheists including Dawkins and Hitchens, and asked me to clarify where I stood on science and Christianity...
Well here I stand! I am a firm believer in Jesus. I think I know Jesus and I'm even more confident that Jesus knows me. But, I do not like much of the religion of Christianity. So, here are some rather randomly put together thoughts on some of the things that I don't like about Christianity:
- Youth are not encouraged to question their faith. When they meet serious questions they are unable to answer and get shaken. In fact to take this a bit further, the teaching of "no doubt" is ridiculous. We do live with and in doubt, and the less we teach our children about how to deal with reality the less good we do them.
- We teach theology and theory instead of Jesus. Paul says he preaches Christ and Him crucified. We should stick to that and strip off all speculation. I think the way to knowing Jesus should be through a deeper understanding of the gospels - which are our primary sources. Instead of immersing ourselves in Jesus and His words of life, we turn to the much misunderstood epistles and end up building our theologies and ethics from contexts that we have no way of understanding.
- Our basic understanding of concepts like sin and forgiveness, righteousness, justice, mercy, love, wrath, and indeed of God’s own nature and relation to us, and what the gospel is that Jesus taught, are based on selective readings and improper understanding of Jesus/Pauline teaching. We need to reexamine each of these in the light of the gospels.
- We have glorified the church; in fact we have created monsterous organizations that seriously detract from whatever would/should have been Christianity. It is without doubt that building the church has become the primary function of Christianity. The gospel has been subverted to that task and has suffered for this. In fact, our glorification of theology is primarily a church building activity, and creates an extrabiblical authority that has modified the gospel to suit the uplift of the church.
- All that is found evil in the world has been imported into churches, as is natural when groups of people get bound together by an organization rather than by true belief.
-We have glorified wealth/status as a sign of God’s blessings and favour.
-We reject the poor, the suffering, the disenfranchised, the despised, the sinner, the marginalized in society, and so we have left Jesus and his gospel far behind us.
-Hierarchies are all too common.
-Hierarchies are all too common.
-We make much of our liturgy and of our church buildings refusing to recognize that these are the trappings of idolatry.
- Bibliolatry also figures especially in conservative-evangelical circles. We have a view of the bible that is not supported by the bible itself and is detrimental to honest belief.
- Our interaction with science (broadly including social science, anthropology, history-archaeology, biology, and physics) has been ridiculous. We look at science as philosophical and therefore as a rival to Christian philosophy, whereas by doing this we have abandoned science to nonbelievers. We teach our children defensive ways of understanding science so that it is not allowed to conflict what the ‘church’ teaches as truth. God becomes a god of the gaps, and the gaps where we try to hide this god become ever smaller.
- Our ethics are based more on societal and cultural norms rather than on the gospel. I am not a Jesus vs Paul person, but again, I think we tend to misunderstand Paul’s epistles and build our ethics on principles that are not traceable back to Jesus’ gospel. We also ignore the fact that Jesus reframed OT teaching in a whole new way and ignoring our Lord, still try to bring long dead OT concepts into our ethics. On the whole, our failure to understand temporal concepts in the bible is a major stumbling block and we add insult to that with our habit of selective application of only those OT principles and practices that seem conducive to our concept of what Christian ethics is, as taught by the church.A case in point in South India is the support for casteism that is theologically derived from the tribalism of the OT!
- Any religion is supposed to help point the way to God. Yet all religions end up pointing the way into their own folds, and therefore end up obscuring the way to God. The servant becomes the master!
- Denominations are abominations.
- Pride! One would think that the discovery that we are desperate sinners, saved purely by God's grace, would leave us humbled. Yet, the opposite happens. I remember that humbling beginning, but it was all too soon replaced by a growing pride in my newfound theology... I went on to quietly believe that 'unbelievers' were missing something, and then went on to believe that because I was 'blessed' I was a complete human being - the corollary being that others were not. Of course, I don't believe this was a conscious progression, or let's say I hope it wasn't. But the result, eventually, was that the humility disappeared and was replaced by a very silent but real pride. Eventually, then, the world got divided into the blessed saved ones - and the unblessed (all the rest). The blessed ones are by definition those within the church, and perhaps more particularly, those who have protected their faith with the most correct theology.
-It took a very long time for me to realize that I was wrong.
-If loving others at least as much as oneself is the starting point to obedience to God, then in spite of my 'true-believer' status, my faith is suspect. By the same reasoning, those with better praxis, are better believers, even if they have nothing to do with church or Christianity. When Jesus demands action, then actions will always speak louder than words.
- Finally, to end my rant with a political question - where does the church stand on issues of human rights? The church has always been a political handmaiden to the powerful. The Reformation only realigned the church's political dealings, it did not eliminate it.
-The most glaring failure of today's Christian church has been its misinterpretation of the gospel to support oppressive, genocidal regimes. Dare we ask ourselves what Jesus would say if he saw how we deal with Israel & Palestine? Yes, there are a few professing Christians who are horrified by Israel's blatant racism and even more blatant Palestine bashing, but these Christians are a tiny minority. Most prefer to close their eyes and ears to the truth that stares at them every day in the news, on facebook, and on Twitter, and blithely stump the church's litany of so called 'biblical' support for the state of Israel.
More generally, what do we think a Christian foreign policy should be? What of Bahrain, what of Saudi Arabia, what of the various 'istans' who form the bulk of the friends of the "Christian nation" of America in the near East? Yes, this is not the church speaking, but neither does the church care to or dare to speak out!
Many a bewildered young (or sometimes even older) Christian is left to wonder at the huge gap between the gospel and the reality of Christianity - and not a few have decided that the gap is just too great!