Christianity has fallen on hard times in popular western culture. I get it.
Christians are known more for what they are against and for having perfected culture war tactics–and the grotesquely fearful and hateful versions of Christianity peddled by ambitious politicians doesn’t help the Christian image one bit.
There is plenty of bad press out there about what Christianity is more the problem than the solution to world problems.
On Easter Sunday, however, I heard a sermon I was glad to hear–on what makes Christianity “good news.” Here is the gist of it.
Did you know:
- The Church is the largest single provider of healthcare in the world, and also the largest single provider of education in the world.
- The Early Church Fathers successfully campaigned against infanticide, and the same Church Fathers stood up for the rights of women by codifying marriage as a sacrament.
- The first orphanages were churches, and churches pioneered the first homes for the elderly and the first homes for the disabled.
- It was the evangelicals of the 19th century who led society to abolish the slave trade (Wilberforce), and those same evangelicals pioneered modern social work (Jane Adams), modern foster care (Charles L. Brace), modern nursing (F. Nightingale), and free health care for the terminally ill (Douglas Macmillan).
- 100 out of 110 US universities were church founded (including Yale, Princeton, and Harvard), and it was a missionary who pioneered the most successful world literacy effort in history (SIL and Frank Lauback). Christians were also pioneers of free schooling for poor young people (John Pounds), including slums (R. Raikes) and orphans (George Mueller).
- A minister spearheaded a campaign in the 19th century to protect children from abuse at home or in the workplace (Richard Oastler), and a Christian woman who campaigned for the age of consent to be set to 16 so children could not be abused (Josephine Butler).
- The Salvation Army pioneered radical care for the poor and disadvantaged in society, and the Quakers campaigned for prison reform.
- Christians were at the front end of promoting “fair trade” in the 20th century (Tearfund), as well as Microfinance for poor countries (D. Bussau).
- And it was the church who led the effort for the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
- And how about that Pope Francis – his latest ideas is to provide showers and free haircuts for the homeless in St Peter’s Square. And when a person goes in to take a shower they are met by an attendant who gives them a shower caddy will toiletries.
The source of this list (all but the last item) is a blogpost “Impact on Modern Society” at “Good things Christians have done in society,” which lists over 80 examples with links for further reading. And that is simply a partial list.
Just so we’re clear, I am not saying that only Christians do good in the world or that non-Christians aren’t involved in the some of the same humanitarian efforts. Nor am I in the least interested to paper over the harmful and unhelpful things done in the name of Christ through history ranging from the crazy to genocidal.
I’m just saying this is an impressive list of what Christians have felt compelled to do for society as they follow Jesus.
Here’s something I’d like to hear in election years: “I don’t believe as these Christians do, but I sure do want them running our government!”
Instead, the general public is skeptical, if not fearful, of politicians who parade their Christian faith, and I don’t blame them.
They are used to the usual fare of politicians claiming to uphold “Christian values” while in truth promoting the negative agendas of a small sliver of privileged western culture.
Well, politicians, I’ve got your “Christian values” right here in this list.
Show us how you follow Jesus by how you treat the marginalized, outliers, helpless, abused, poor, elderly, disabled, orphans, and persecuted. Pick one. Any one. There’s plenty to do.