Many times when we present the Christian faith to a crowd or individual, we will get a strong push back reminding us of the horrors committed by Christians throughout history. It seems that people use this tactic of reaching back into ‘stonehenge’ to justify a rejection of faith. What should we do when people view the atrocities committed years ago as a static issue as if it happened today? How should we respond?
Unfortunately, this is a common objection we encounter whenever we present the Chrstian Worldview in any type of forum, discussion, or Q & A session, especially if any are aware of ancient or medieval history. Time is static to so many, however, with wisdom our response should restore it to fluidity. I have found that the best response is not the ‘ostrich’ or ‘distancing’ moves that ease us from the brutal reality of past sins within Christendom. In order to demonstrate honesty and integrity, we must take the questions head on by stepping up and admitting the mistakes that are associated with Christianity. I emphasize “associated” for a reason. (See below – Our Reponse) If we fail to face the music about the issue of the crusades, scandals, or hypocrisies of the past, we will be demonstrating a slanted view of reality and therefore fail to live consistent with our own worldview. This would make us no different from those in Islam, Jehovah Witnesses or Mormons who refuse to answer the character issues of the history of their movements.
Having said that, if we face it head on, and take our own hits from them, it will give us the integrity to take on the other worldviews with the same investigation. The main question seems to be, “How do we take the hits about the crusades or scandals and then respond with wise answers?”
Take the hit:
We must acknowledge the truth of the devastating and painful history resulting from errors within the Christian movement. An “affirmative” and a “thank you for mentioning that” is important in our response. With heart felt angst we must not run. I can’t emphasize this enough. If we fail to ‘take our hit,’ we will lose the ear of the audience regardless whether it is one person or a crowd.
After admitting the horrific past of some of the pages of history by those who used the Name of Christ, we do have a recourse. The crusades, and much of what we have witnessed in America the past 40 years are the devastating result of the politicization of Christianity. Every time Christianity gets overly involved with politics, we not only lose our voice, but there is a type of “whoring away from the call” that takes place. We leave our post of calling humanity to personal relationship with Christ, and begin to slowly transform the gospel and church into some type of theocratic civil enforcer. I’ve lived through some of this and it is destructive to our faith, the message, the church and those outside the church.
Also, in our response we must offer the needed distinction that just because something happens in the Name of Christ, and by those claiming to be followers of Christ, does not mean they were of Christ. The standard is that we must never judge Jesus by how “Christians” act, but we should judge who is a “true Christian” by what Jesus taught.
Ghandi made the statement, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” We can turn this around and declare on the authority of God’s Word, that Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, you shall love one another.” (John 13:34-35) When men fail to demonstrate the supreme ethic of love, they are declaring they are not true followers of Jesus regardless of what they claim. This, by no means, should be construed to mean believers never fall short of God’s standard. For we are all sinners. However, as true followers of Christ, we are willing and eager to repent of our sin and failures.
By doing the two things above, we face the issue head on, and at the same time we bring clarity of distinction between what a true follower of Christ will look like! Integrity and clarity. I have seen this work out for good when I have faced questions about the past history of Christianity. We should not run from the past mistakes of Christianity. However, we should prayerfully and wisely move through the mistakes and with integrity and clarity as we seek to point them to the risen Savior!