Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up!: Part 4, All You Need Is Love

Summarizing the last two posts, I think there is a clear and strong case that "real" Christianity is separate from empire and war, separate from power and conquest. True, "Christianity" was used to sacralize all these things, but we stand on firm ground in condemning them as heresies, as perversions of the New Testament and the witness of the early church.

Still, a critic will retort, there are some pretty sketchy things within the Bible itself, in both the Old and New Testaments. The Bible is regularly scolded and criticized for its witness regarding slavery, gender roles, and sexuality. And it seems hard, our critics will point out, to avoid the conclusion that those morally dubious teachings are, well, actually in the Bible. So while it might be easy to separate empire and killing from the New Testament, it's harder to put daylight between the faith and the Bible's teachings about slavery, gender, and sexuality. Aren't seeds of intolerance found right there in the Bible?

Libraries of books have been written on all these subjects. And critics will vary to the degree to which they find any of these arguments persuasive. For this post, I just what to share three observations. 

First, let's play fair. It's stupid to blame Christianity for something like patriarchy, prejudices against gays, or slavery. Regarding gender roles, for example, rarely do you see ex-Christian podcasters and writers railing against the Jewish people or Muslims. Why? Because that's not politically correct. In addition, this isn't just about monotheism. Indigenous and pagan peoples throughout world history have been bastions of patriarchy, slavery and bias against sexual minorities. Indigenous people also built empires using slaves. Lastly, in the East, for example with Confucianism and Hinduism, we also see a history of patriarchy, slavery, and anti-homosexual sentiment. 

My point is that it's a regular move among ex-Christians to lay the blame for all these social ills at the feet of Christianity. But the truth of the matter is that these social ills are world-historical, they have a deep history and are found cross-culturally in pre-colonial pagan, Eastern, and Western religious traditions. 

Which brings me to a short second point. Why, then, do we see so many ex-Christians lay the sole blame for these social ills upon Christianity and Bible? The answer, by and large, is Oedipal, the child striking back at the parent. Ex-Christians see themselves as having undergone a journey from an intolerant, conservative, fundamentalist, judgmental Christian upbringing to a tolerant, inclusive, unjudgmental, progressive humanism. So they blame their formerly held views upon Christianity rather than upon world-historical forces. They mistake the personal and biographical for the global and historical, assuming that Christianity, since this was the case in their life, just has to be the source of patriarchy throughout all the world and history. Even though patriarchy pre-dated Christianity by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years.

Which brings me to my third point. 

If we face the deep and wide world-historical scope of things like slavery, patriarchy, and anti-gay prejudice, we can ask the question, "What has been responsible for our conversion here in the West to love, equality, and tolerance?" And the answer, in a case that has been repeatedly made by multiple historians, is clear: Christianity taught the West how to love. 

Read a book like Tom Holland's Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, and you can see the straight line that goes from the New Testament to John Lennon.  How did the West get the idea that "all you need is love"? We got that idea from Christianity, and we've been slowly working out the implications ever since. Modern liberal, woke, progressive, humanism is the child of Christianity. 

And here we find another interesting Oedipal dynamic, how the "woke child of humanism" seeks to kill the "Judeo-Christian father." Specifically, the moral vision bequeathed to us by Christianity (woke progressivism) is used to morally indict the foundation and source (Christianity) of that moral vision. The Oedipal child rises up and slays the parent. 

The point to be observed here should be obvious. The progressive who morally indicts Christianity is doing so with the moral code they inherited from Christianity. As Jesus taught John Lennon and the West, all we need is love. 

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