A Good Word for Christianity

It’s getting harder to be a Christian, especially if you’re a white male. Everybody admires spirituality if it’s Buddhist, Muslim, indigenous or just plain save-the-planet Green. But Christian spirituality is viewed with distaste – too much guilt, too much suffering and, of course, too insincere. In the eyes of many we are the world’s hypocrites.

Now I say nothing against those other spiritualities. They have fine and admirable qualities and loyal, decent adherents. But let’s take stock of our own.

There is absolutely no evidence that anybody before St Paul had ever said anything like ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ Preferential option for the poor, public hospitals, pensions, free education, justice for prisoners and minorities, even feminism itself, and socialism too – all these things have taken root readily and abundantly in Christian societies. The fight against slavery (still being waged today) continues to be led by Christians. Amnesty International and the Red Cross were Christian foundations.

We now live in what many call a ‘post-Christian world’, and many now claim that these social goods have nothing to do with Christianity, or even that they took place in spite of Christianity. That amounts to a scandalous misreading of history. A Christian world view was fertile ground for the emergence of great and just social changes and the evidence for it is overwhelming. We can argue that socialism and feminism, for example, may have sometimes gone too far, but generous impulses lay at their roots.

Many of these reforms and developments took a long time to emerge. Too long. In every society there is corruption and self-interest and the fight against slavery, for example, was a protracted and terrible one. Long before Wilberforce the Church was deeply compromised on many occasions by financial interests, yet the work of men like Martin de Porres and Peter Claver eventually prevailed.

And it was the traditional Christian societies that led the way. It’s a strange anomaly that many of those who are most critical of Christianity are themselves obvious beneficiaries of those very same social goods that Christianity planted in the world. They share the values, though they may have forgotten the Faith.

This Christian contribution to the civilization of the world is not something we should actively take pride in, for we are told that we should glory only in the Cross of Christ. But it is consoling and inspiring nevertheless for us to remember and give thanks for the good that Christian men and women have done.

Dr David Daintree AM is the Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies in Hobart

6 thoughts on “A Good Word for Christianity

  • Stephen Due says:

    History is a perennial battleground, and the belligerents usually enter the fray heavily armed with ignorance and prejudice. The history of ‘civilisation’ is constantly being rewritten to suit the ideological flavour of the month. There are plenty of supposedly ‘educated’ people who will earnestly trace the history of the West from the ancient Greeks and Romans and on through the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, thus studiously omitting any mention of Christianity altogether. Others will make a list of all the bad things they think Christianity might be responsible for – the Crusades, obviously, then the Inquisition, the Divine Right of Kings, the imposition of homophobic laws, capitalism, colonialism, the deployment of missionaries in far-off lands to erase indigenous culture – and so on. There is even a prominent, strongly anti-Christian historian, a child of the vicarage of course, who blames the two World Wars on Christianity! There are scientists who seriously argue that Christianity, by teaching that mankind is superior to the rest of the natural world, is responsible for all the problems with the environment. The ever-popular atheist author Richard Dawkins attributes all the evil in the world to religion, especially Christianity. I can well recall the late Dr. Hugh Wirth, when President of the RSPCA, stating on air that the ‘Judaeo-Christian tradition’ (as he called it) was responsible for all the animal cruelty that he was trying to stamp out. All these people are deadly serious. The hostility to Christianity in our society is palpable. Which is a good thing in my view. Because I would hate think that people who exhibit such illogical thinking, misplaced zeal and ill-founded, worthless opinions were on my side.

  • whitelaughter says:

    Short and to the point; good article. Anyone who thinks that Christianity is the problem should try living outside the Christian world – better yet, try living there *poor*.

  • pgang says:

    “Now I say nothing against those other spiritualities”. I stopped reading there. Seemed pointless to go on reading someone who claims to be a Christian yet can write such a sentence.

  • Peter Sandery says:

    Are you saying then, pgang, that when you come across a sentence that is the antithesis of your way of thinking, you ignore the rest of the argument? Sounds like the attitude that many on this site have been, correctly, in my humble opinion, railing against for some time. Surely you can’t make a considered statement on the matter if you have not read it, or, perhaps, I am completely barking up the wrong tree, possibly because of the length of time I have spent outside Australia.

  • DG says:

    Christianity also gave rise to the environment where the individual could question authority (thanks Herr Luther), starting the modern world in many ways, and interrogate nature as an explainable thing, without recourse to the gods or the mysticism of Plato.

  • talldad says:

    We now live in what many call a ‘post-Christian world’, and many now claim that these social goods have nothing to do with Christianity, or even that they took place in spite of Christianity.

    Indeed, we are now seeing the consequences of trying to live contrary to the Christian world-view. The “climate change” religion worships Gaia and its devotees brook no contrary views.

    Culture or civilization is religion expressed in society/community. When a culture abandons its religious roots, it does not float in a vacuum, it replaces that world-view with another. We are now seeing the result of such a change from a world-view which was closest to the way the planet and its people operate ie. closest to the Truth of how things really are, to a world-view opposed to the way things really are.

    Any prizes for guessing how badly that may turn out?

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