On the supposed violence and hatred perpetrated by ChristianityJ. FRASER FIELD
Isn't it about time people began highlighting the violence and hatred that have been perpetrated by Christianity throughout the history of the Western world.
In response to Fr. Robert Barron's article, I applaud director Alejandro Amenabar's courageous movie Agora for highlighting the intolerance, violence and hatred that have been perpetrated by religions throughout the history of the Western world — and still plague us today. Far from being an anti-Christian ideologue, Amenabar to me is simply a clear-headed rationalist who's message applies equally to Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which continue to encourage ignorance and spawn fanaticism. It's about time that someone was brave enough to stand up and declare that this would be a much better world without these sanctimonious, hypocritical, and ultimately dangerous "faiths."
Dr. C. R.
First, let me say that although I cannot speak for other religions, the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, clearly taught that His followers must not only love their neighbour as themselves, but even their enemies, and that sacrificial love (charity) is a foundational attribute of the Christian disciple.
In fact, so forceful is this teaching, that charity toward one's neighbour (regardless of that neighbour's religion, hostility to religion, race, nationality, age, or gender) is a condition for a Catholic Christian to enter heaven.
There are thousands upon thousands of Catholic saints. Men and women who have been recognized as the very model of Christian life. Kindly name one, whose holy life was characterized in the remotest way by qualities of violence or hatred. The facts show them to have been the just opposite of that characterization.
With remarkably rare exception in its long 2,000 years, historical Christianity brought the witness of brotherhood and fraternal charity to a violent and ruthless pagan world and made love and care of neighbour, in the broadest sense, a new value for civilization.
Today, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. (Over half the AIDS patients in Africa are being cared for by Catholic charitable organizations, for example).
In addition, the Church educates more children than any other scholarly or religious institution.
It was the action of Christians, not secularists, that built the first hospitals, started the first schools and universities, inspired the West's greatest art and philosophy, and ended slavery in Europe and America. (go here)
Christians today give considerably more to charitable organizations in both money and in time than their secular counterparts. (go here)
Overall, is Christianity a societal good?
Absolutely! (go here)
How many secularists where killed by Church mandated persecution in the same period?
If you'd like to go back 500 or 1000 years, you can point to the Crusades and Inquisition, regularly used to beat the Church, but these are widely misunderstood and almost always cited with exaggeration and without context.
Have mistakes been made?
Undoubtably, both by the institutional Church and by individual Church members.
Why? Because the Church is run by people — and there will always be corrupt individuals who will try to use religion for their own ambitions or distorted understandings, just as there are in politics and any other institution, but that problem cannot be laid at the feet of Christianity.
It is the problem of evil and ignorance in the heart and in the mind of man, and the effects are witnessed in every institution.
Your position — that we must keep Christianity down or suffer terrible consequences of violence, hatred, and intolerance in our societies — is a popular, but utterly absurd and completely unsubstantiated one.
Catholic Christianity is precisely — and quite obviously even on the face of it — just the opposite, a great bulwark against hatred and violence in the world and a great protector of tolerance, rightly understood.
Respectfully, if you are going to extol the virtues of someone like Alejandro Amenabar, who, in order to make his case in his condemnation of Christianity, must invent a story (the Agora movie) and claim it is historically accurate when it is not, what can be said? Neither you nor he has made a case at all.
If you want to make a case that the Church has perpetrated "violence and hatred . . . throughout the history of the Western world", you will have to cite real abuses, not invented ones, and you must show the abuses to be not anomalous, but intentional, supported by Church teaching and a pattern of Christian action through the centuries, including our own.
At the same time, you must not ignore in your assessment the immense benefits that have come from Christianity socially, culturally, and personally, if you are to be fair in your evaluation.
I contend that it will be utterly impossible to make such a case if you base it on the historical record, and not on fables.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
J. Fraser Field
J. Fraser Field "On the violence and hatred perpetrated by Christianity." CERC (November 1, 2010).
J. Fraser Field is Managing Editor of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Copyright © 2010 J. Fraser Field
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.