Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Problem of Prejudice Within Christianity

In my opening post I asked

What are the biggest hurdles we as Christian's face? As I see it, prejudice is the greatest foe.

Merriam-Webster Online defines prejudice as:
1 : injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one's rights; especially : detriment to one's legal rights or claims
2 a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics

Christianity as a whole, doesn't have the A+ report card on its lack of prejudice. As evidence towards such prejudice, critics would point to some major events in Christian history such as the Spanish Inquisition, The Crusades and witch burnings. These three areas have combined death tolls estimated at over a quarter million and perhaps as much as a million.

Most Christians in response to such would say that these people who committed such atrocities were not acting in the interests of Christ, but were rather misappropriating the name of Christ for unrighteousness.

It is an obvious, and in my opinion correct attempt at dissociating Christ with much of the unrighteousness that his been done in falsely in his glorious name. However, it does little to nullify the argument that people can do some things that are just flat wrong and still manage to convince themselves and others that Christ should get credit for it.

It is fairly apparent that Christians have made much progress in the area. Events of such mass injustice as those I posited are literally unheard of in this day and age in association with Christianity. There are still instances that arise though. Seems at least a few times a year, we hear of a church being burned, some faiths missionaries being injured, imprisoned or murdered.

However, prejudice amongst differing Christian sects still occurs in typically a much more subtle fashion. Things like... Don't buy from Bob he is an Evangelical. Don't invite those children to the party they Mormons. Don't hire Johnny, he's a Catholic.... I could go on. But hopefully you understand where I am going.

It is quite possible you yourself have been in a conversation, where religious jokes were passed around. Perhaps told them yourself. Or you were witness to the derision or ostracism of a person because they were a part of a different sect of Christianity.

I think back to Christ's parable of the Good Samaritan.
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead with no clothes. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, and he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, he too passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and looked after him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." NIV

The tale itself speaks of how a Samaritan was kind Jew, though he had been passed over by to Jewish holy men. I won't bother with detailed outlay as the story speaks for itself and I think most of understand that the Samaritans were people that the Jews held great prejudiced towards. Now I emphasized did emphasize Christ's question and the lawyers response. It has been posited, that the lawyer held a similar contempt for Samaritans and was unwilling to even name a Samaritan directly, but rather preferred a more ambiguous response.

It seems evident to me that Christ was making an appeal to the audience, that it is possible for people to conquer such prejudice and truly be neighbors to their fellow man even when they have vastly different views.

Also, it seems that in fact that two Jews, for whatever reason, failed to help a fellow brother. There was a rather blatant verbal barb to his audience. I imagine we could likely identify with all of the characters at some point in our lives.

Like them, I feel there have been times when I have passed along the other side.

I daresay there have been moments where I was more like those robbers. My blows may have been verbal but I think we know what Scripture tells us of the wounds we can leave with our own words. I may not have taken their possessions, but if I denied someone patronage of a business, or work, or just plain civility and the right to exist am I actually any less a thief?

There have been times as well, that I have felt similarly to fellow who was robbed.

This is the problem of prejudice within Christianity.

But how is it resolved?

I think there are a few easy steps we can take.

The simplest and easiest to implement is to refrain from prejudice ourselves and teach our families this as well.

When we the Lord affords us the opportunity to be the good Samaritan do so.

The next two are a bit tougher to implement, as it takes a bit more courage.

Be prepared to approach this situation when we confront it in social situations and at work in the spirit of Christian love. I am asking us to be more proactive here. Rather than being the Samaritan or simply not being a robber, I am suggesting we actually try to be the policemen on patrol.

Also, carry this same attitude into our own respective churches. It is sad to say, but this is likely the place where we will see the most opportunity and the most repercussion.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Mudcat Stew

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How can we as Christians make steps towards at least a general sense of unification with those of other Christian faiths?


I am Mudcat Stew.

This is my first official blog post ever. I am very excited about that. To give you a little background, I am an Evangelical Christian and am a member of a local Southern Baptist church.

I have had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people in the course of my life. Some I have met through forums such as this one, others in my daily work and social life. Many claim Christ but their beliefs vary from mine on different points. Yet as I see it, every one I have talked of Christ with ... Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals and so forth. Seems all share a profound love and respect for their Savior. Yet despite this common love of Christ, our variant beliefs cordon us off from our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

I think the subject I am bringing up is a rather difficult one, but one that can hopefully be discussed. One general problem I see, is that nearly all faiths basic solution is for everyone to come round to what they believe. Hopefully you are as cognizant of the fact as I am, that this is an unlikely scenario in any temporal sense.

Recognizing that, I would posit Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1-7 that "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

This statement is a powerful one that I read quite often. Looking at the text, I think it is pretty obvious that Christianity as a whole has done a fairly poor job of it. Sometimes it just makes me want to curl up in my nice cozy ecclesiastical ball and pull the shutters closed on the rest of the world.

In fact many people do just that, however I think this sort of thinking seems to be a bit contrary to Paul's encouragement to be longsuffering and forbearing one another in love. Such language seem to imply the challenge of such unity.

Please note, I plan to give you my own thoughts about the questions I have asked below in future blog posts. Your comments on them, or anything I have said so far, are more than welcome.

  • Given the current state of things, how are we to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?
  • What are the biggest hurdles we as Christian's face?
  • What are some possible solutions to surmount them?


The Mudcat