I keep hearing people – including people in the church – tell me that the church is responsible for pretty much every evil that exists in the world. It is the churches fault that the environment is a mess, the church defended apartheid, the church oppressed women, covered up child abuse and supported slavery.
Of course, in some simplistic way this is true. Christians have done all these things and worse in the past and said they did it in God’s name (they were wrong). And although I was not part of these things I beg the world’s forgiveness that this is true.
However, these statements are far too simplistic. The first thing is that this thing that people call “the church” does not exist and never did. There has never been a collective mind of the so many churches that exist through history. We have disagreed over various things since the first churches came into being. There is a central truth that holds us together (namely the gospel of Jesus Christ) – maybe we can say “the church” in this context but the rest of the time it is simply not true to refer to “the church” as if we are all responsible for these evil ways of thinking.
Within Christian thought is the idea of a remnant that remains faithful to God despite the pressure to conform or the threats of violence. Sometimes there is a smaller group within the larger that is in truth the remnant and that remains faithful to the teaching of Christ.
In every generation there have been those who have turned to the Bible and found that we should look after the environment, that women are equal to men, that abuse of anyone is wrong, that we all carry the image of God in equal measure regardless of a persons skin colour or ability or sexual expressions, etc. This remnant has kept the faith and over time influenced the world enough that we now live in an age where many of the wrongs of the past have been corrected. These things corrected because of the Bible and some of the Church – not despite it.
The suffragettes used the Bible to argue and inspire their cause. Those who opposed slavery used the Bible to show how we are all equal and worthy of dignity and respect. Those who opposed apartheid turned to the Bible to help them in their struggle. The Bible inspired so many of them in the early struggles but so many who struggle for a hearing in the world today forget so quickly where they came from that they accuse their revolutionary ancestors of crimes they are not guilty of. It is a shameful thing to abuse your ancestors. It is even more shameful when those accusations come from within the church itself.
Perhaps where we have failed is to stand up and be counted when we know something to be wrong – to be a sin.
Please stop twisting history and throwing mud instead of reasonable discussion and argument. If you really are searching for truth – and I hope you are – please be prepared to explore.