Jesus knew all about being misunderstood, betrayed, forsaken by friends, hated, despised, slandered, lied about, persecuted, tortured, and murdered. The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
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I just wrote this to a friend here at Patheos, with whom I have significant differences. He was making the point that Christians do lots of bad things, too (who ever said they didn’t?); and perhaps Christianity is at least partially to blame for it.
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There are sinners in the Church. Why would anyone expect otherwise? After all, it’s Christianity that teaches original sin (a belief quite despised by non-believers), which holds that we are all fallen and in rebellion; we’re all sinners. This is presupposed in the notion that we all need to be saved by the blood of Jesus. Salvation requires a previous fallen state. So why would anyone be surprised that Christians sin like everyone else? It’s what we teach will always be the case!
But we also have plenty of examples of sanctity and holiness and heroism among our ranks. They’re just not talked about as much as the sinners, because the latter is very “sexy.” :-)
I recognize the hurt and emotions involved [i.e, of being on the receiving end of bad behavior done by professed Christians].
I also would like to highlight the distinction between having a belief that certain beliefs are in error (I’m an orthodox Catholic and hold to all that the Church teaches, just as Pope Francis does), and being intolerant or bigoted or hateful towards those who hold them. The latter doesn’t necessarily follow from the first at all. But we’re in a crazy “PC” culture now where seemingly any disagreement is automatically seen as equal to hatred.
Christianity (as an institution) teaches love, following the example and teachings of Jesus. He asked the Father to forgive the ones who were killing Him. He was compassionate to prostitutes and adulterers. He ate with the despised tax collectors and the almost-as-unpopular Pharisees. He told us to forgive people 70 x 7 and to love our enemies: even those who despise us and spitefully use us (Sermon on the Mount), and to love others as He loved us.
It doesn’t follow that He didn’t disagree with their sins. He told the woman in adultery, “go and sin no more.” He didn’t say, “hey, your morality is no better or worse than anyone else’s . . . “
We also need to distinguish between what individual Christians may do and what we [institutionlly / formally] actually teach. You can always find Christians that will fall short. I can find them on the block I live in an hour, if I were to go door-to-door and take a survey.
The Ku Klux Klan claims to be Christian. Anyone who knows anything about Christianity at all knows that they are not, and that it is a farce, but a dangerous one.
There are people who hate me, despise, detest me, simply because I am a Catholic (within the Christian community). I’ve had things said about me that would curl your hair (or straighten it if it’s curly). I’ve also been detested for being a pro-lifer, and a conservative (generally speaking).
I’m not saying that this opposition is anything like the horrors and hatred that homosexuals have historically experienced, but just noting that there are aspects of bigotry and hatred that we all have been subjected to, to some extent.
I’ve been slandered online for 19 years now. It’s virtually a weekly experience. This is public slander, in front of thousands of people (mostly coming from fellow Christians). I don’t lose a minute’s sleep or spend one hour anxious over it. It’s a joke to me; but I’m just saying that it’s there, and that all of us have some significant personal opposition from one group or another.
And in that sense we all have at least partially the same experience, and can empathize a bit.
The truly tolerant people are the ones who actually honestly disagree with a belief-system, yet treat the people who hold it lovingly and compassionately, and can be friends with them.
It’s quite easy, on the other hand, to have a view that there is no right and wrong, or that all moral systems are subjective and equally valid, and that no one can condemn any error whatsoever, and be “tolerant.” That’s easy as pie.
We’re truly “tolerant” only towards those with whom we disagree; folks different than we are.
But there’s the rub. All through human history we know that people badly treat anyone who is different from them. This is the tragedy of human history.
The solution to that is not to say that all views are equally valid and legitimate; but to say that we should love all people, regardless of any wrong views they hold or bad behavior that they have done. And that is, of course, what Christianity teaches.
And it’s very difficult to consistently and wholeheartedly apply; consequently we see wide violations of the high, noble ideal. Does that reflect on Christianity per se? No; it demonstrates that people are sinners! We all are. It’s only a matter of degree.