It’s no secret that in our modern Western world, Christianity’s reputation as a faith that revolutionizes the world around it has diminished. As well-known authors and media personalities continue to criticize Christianity for its faith in that which cannot be seen and the hypocritical tendencies of its followers, it’s no surprise that much of society views Christians as blind and judgmental. But it’s not entirely the fault of these well known personalities, they are stating what they are seeing. This means that it is our fault as followers of Christ that we are not the Lighthouses we should be on this earth.
When asked what single individual has impacted history and humanity more than any other, many respected historians would say that Jesus of Nazareth (who Christians call Messiah, Christ, and Son of/God) has caused a greater impact than any other. It would be hard to deny this. Jesus single-handedly started a movement that has transcended geography and antiquity. For the past two millennia his teachings have affected the decisions of great rulers, inspired great missions, and shaped great empires.
So why has the reputation of his followers become weaker and weaker as time goes on? Why are Christians seen as judgmental fools and hypocrites? The answer is simple. It’s because many of us are. In fact, I’m willing to go so far as to say that a majority of those who call themselves Christians are doing so out of family tradition, not devotion to faith. These people are not practicing Christianity, but are claiming it as a culture. It’s the same attitude as that of a fifth or sixth generation German, or Italian (insert nationality here) living in America claiming to be German, Italian (also insert nationality here). Your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on may have kept certain traditions from that nation alive in you, but that doesn’t mean you have real, tangible ties to that nation or culture. That’s what many who claim to be Christians today are doing. Because their parents and grandparents went to Church and prayed to God in Christ’s name and dragged them to Church on the weekends as well, the tradition instilled in them a sense of belonging to a culture of Christianity. They may even continue to go to church in adulthood, but their system is less one of faith than it is of tradition.
In this way, a majority of those who claim our faith are practicing Cookie Cutter Complacent Christianity (or “Quadruple C” for short). They may go to Church every Sunday. They may pray before every meal. They may have memorized a few verses when they were kids and can still remember them… mostly. But they do not have an understanding of the weight of what they believe. They do not comprehend how to effectively apply our faith and be the lighthouses of Christ on the earth. This is why they have such problems with day-to-day interactions with people of other faiths, lifestyles, and opinions. They have a superficial knowledge of what they have been taught about Christ, and when they are challenged they can only give a surface answer. Thus the “The Bible says so!” answers.
Not that what the Bible says isn’t true or accurate, historians will also agree that despite the number of authors and the time span of the writing the Bible is remarkably accurate. But to simply say that you hold an opinion and that your opinion is correct because the Bible says so shows ignorance of the meaning behind the words. Ignorance of the meaning is caused by cookie cutter teaching in churches, and complacency of study on one’s own (see Quadruple C above). It is this ignorance that gives Christianity its bad name in our modern Western society. The lack of study and understanding causes a “cultural Christian” to give the superficial answers, and not give the empathy being a Christian requires. You cannot simply write off a person, lifestyle, political party or any other demographic because you don’t see things the same way. Even if you are correct that they are doing what is against Christ, you are in no position to treat that person with anything but Love. The same kind of Love you treat yourself with.
That’s what Christ taught. Love and empathy. And it was Love and empathy that drove the masses to him and his followers for centuries after his sacrifice. That Love and empathy won millions to his cause, and shaped history afterward. But that is what has been forgotten in the culture of Christianity. It has become a list of rules to live by instead of creating a joyful, more abundant life. Understanding what Christ wants us to be in this world gives us the ability to show his Love and act on his empathy. Then we will be seen as lighthouses in this world, guiding and attracting instead of deterring and hurting.
Christianity as a culture…I think you’ve stated the problem really well. It’s like having all of the outward form, but none of the inner substance. Very thoughtful post. Thanks!
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