Christianity, Diversity, and Tolerance

A common myth surrounding Christianity, at least traditional Christianity, is that it is boring, monotonous, and composed of old white people. Even though Christianity is the most diverse faith in the world, somehow, it has gained the reputation of being ethnocentric; or to use a different phrase, Christianity (traditional Christianity) is intolerant.

However, as it is with most things in the modern world, perception does not match reality. Christianity, true Christianity, is and always has been a celebration of diversity, especially when compared to the modern secular system calling for “tolerance.” Christianity is special in that we are the united body of Christ, yet still diverse, which is a reflection of our God. The core of our faith, the Trinity, teaches that while God is one, God is many. God is one in essence, but three Persons. In turn, his Church is one unified body, but composed of different persons and nationalities. This is why there is no such thing as a Christian culture, because Christianity itself has no culture. Rather, just as Christ became incarnate within our world, so too do Christians become incarnate within their culture. Christ did not condemn human nature by taking it on, but instead He transformed it into something better. Likewise, Christians do not condemn culture, but instead transform it into something better.

Such a transformation requires true tolerance. True Christianity requires Christians to allow other ideas, other beliefs, and other religions to function within society. For one, we believe in significant human freedom, so we cannot restrict the choice of an individual (so long as the consequences of that choice don’t negatively impact the common good). If an individual chooses to engage in an illicit sexual activity with another consenting adult, while we can say it’s morally wrong, we cannot really do anything about it. While we disagree with Islam, we should allow Muslims to build their mosques because we support their right to be wrong. That is true tolerance; allowing beliefs and actions to occur even though you don’t necessarily agree with those beliefs and actions.

The modern secular world, however, is solely about unity and not diversity. While it may preach diversity, the reality is that all secular societies end up being monotone. The reason for this is that diversity is seen as disagreement, and disagreement is seen as intolerance. Take, for instance, Marilyn Sewell’s piece in the Huffington Post. In it she states that she cannot tolerate Christian fundamentalism because, “I believe those who teach it and preach it are doing great harm, and I in no way wish to be an ally.” In other words, because she cannot ally with the belief she therefore cannot tolerate it. That’s not tolerance, that’s bigotry. Yet, this is the direction of the modern world; if I don’t agree with you, then I can’t tolerate you. There is no allowance for differing opinions, not if we deem them to be dangerous even if we have no proof of the danger.

In considering how Christianity is truly multicultural, look to the teachings of V.S. Soloviev;

“Does Christianity abolish nationality? No, rather, it preserves it. Nationality is not abolished, but nationalism is. The bitter persecution and killing of Christ was the work not of the Hebrew nationality, for which Christ was its supreme flowering, but this was the work of a narrow and blind nationalism of such patriots as Caiaphas…The fruits of the English nationality we see in Shakespeare and Byron, in Berkely and in Newton; the fruits of English nationalism are worldwide robbery, the exploits of Warren Hastings and Lord Seymour, destruction and killing. The fruits of the great German nationality are Lessing and Goethe, Kant and Schelling, the fruit of German nationalism – is the forcible Germanization of neighbors from the times of the Teutonic knights right up to our own day. (Politics, Law, and Morality, p. 11)

Christianity recognizes the accomplishments of each nation (and race) and gives praise where praise is due. But it doesn’t seek the monotony of nationalism, the teaching that all groups should conform to one group.

The secular world is a new type of nationalism. When we think of nationalism we are tempted to think about Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. We think of fascism along with nationalism, of neo-Nazis and, to an extent, the modern preachers of American exceptionalism. But there is another type of nationalism in the materialistic world that has gone unnoticed, and that’s the nationalism of ideas. Karl Marx would have undoubtedly hated Hitler’s physical nationalism, yet still taught conformity to Communism. Whereas Hitler believed all nations should be conformed to the Germany way of life, eradicating all cultural differences, the Communists believed in a worldwide revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie and install a common culture around the world. Seeking a world without borders and a monolithic culture, is not a repudiation of nationalism, but a different type of nationalism.

This same type of nationalism is found within Sewell’s use of the word “tolerance” and even within secular society in general. Cultural differences and religious differences are hidden from the public view because they may be offensive to some. A Jew cannot place a menorah in the public square. A Christian cannot display the cross. A Muslim must fight to have a community center built in a major city. An atheist student struggles to form an atheist club at his high school. Black History Month is viewed as racist in and of itself for extolling what black people have contributed to society. Saying that people of European ancestry have helped progress the world is viewed as racist because it ignores all the harm Europeans have caused in the world. In the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, we have become intolerant of anything that offends us and anti-diversity in our practice. Christianity seeks to be tolerant – that is, we allow things to happen – of all things do not directly harm others. We may condemn the actions and beliefs, we may speak out against them, but when it comes to those who are not Christians, we simply let it occur (at least in traditional Christianity – historically some Christians have attempted to ruin human freedom and impose moral regulations, but this is in contradiction to the central Christian message).

True Christianity seeks out tolerance and diversity, but in the truest senses of the terms. We don’t seek to change one culture into another culture, but to redeem the culture through Christ. We don’t seek to eradicate beliefs and actions through legislation, but to tolerate them and let people make mistakes, so long as those mistakes don’t directly harm others. This runs in opposition to secularism, which ruins culture and removes all that makes us distinct and happy. True Christianity is not the lack of diversity, but the beginning of all that is diverse.

Is Abortion a Tragedy?

Christine Scheller over at the Huffington Post wrote an op-ed today on whether or not abortion is really a tragedy. She recounts her own unplanned pregnancy (that she did not terminate) and the pregnancies of her friends who did terminate. She expresses the thought that while her son’s suicide was a tragedy, it didn’t strike her that abortion was a tragedy; after all, while women express regret, the emotional burden a woman feels after an abortion – even if she regrets it – is nothing compared to the loss of a husband or a child.

But then Scheller makes an excellent point:

When I think about how tragic my son’s death is, I’m reminded that I would much rather live with the anguish it causes me than envision a life in which I never knew him. Abortion is a tragedy in and of itself, regardless of whether or not we, as individuals or as a society, feel that it is so.

This is an extremely potent statement, one that rings with quite a bit of truth. Too often the abortion debate is focused solely on the subjective elements of an abortion. We focus on the mother’s feelings, on the burden the child forces the mother to face, the emotional attachment of the mother, etc. Truthfully, it is time we ignore the mother’s emotional burdens or even fiscal burdens when discussing the morality of abortion.

The above sentence sound quite calloused and cold, but consider the following: Would we consider the mother’s emotional state and/or fiscal state if she chose to “humanely” end the life of her infant? What if her infant had a severe disability that would cause the infant to rely on perpetual aid? In such cases we wouldn’t consider the emotional or fiscal state of the mother. We’d still view what she did as wrong; even if we had sympathy we still wouldn’t condone her actions.

The fact is that abortion is a tragedy. It is the taking of an innocent human life. What makes it an even greater tragedy (other than the loss of life) is that humanity is trivialized in the act of abortion and that such trivialization is sanctioned by the government.

Abortion is a tragedy in every sense of the word, whether we acknowledge it or not. A human life is snuffed out for the sake of convenience; what worse oppression is there? Even those deeply oppressed and even tortured still have life. Only the greatest of tyrannies would wipe out innocent civilians for the sake of convenience. If such governments are tragic, then so much more is abortion.

We need an Athanasius; we need a William Wilberforce (Part 2)

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:39-40

William Wilberforce is known primarily for working to bring about an end to not only the slave trade in the British Empire, but slavery in general. In fact, a movie was recently done over his tireless effort to end slavery in the British Empire and her colonies. While the movie is excellent and if you get a chance, you should watch it, it still fails to capture both the opposition Wilberforce faced and why he chose to end slavery.

Wilberforce was born in 1759 in England and once he graduated school he decided to attend Cambridge. Upon graduating from Cambridge he ran for the British parliament as a Torie (Conservative Party) at the age of 21 and due to his quick wit and ability to woo crowds with his speech, he easily won.

Once Wilberforce entered London to take his seat in Parliament he quickly attempted to advance his life through both politics and social pleasures. It was customary for men in those days to gamble, and gamble Wilberforce did. The London Wilberforce moved to is one out of a Charles Dickens novel, where the rich lived a life of luxury while the poor were huddled into small and filthy homes, where children worked for little to nothing for 14-16 hours a day, where prisons were crammed with debtors and murderers. The seedier side of London, which did exist, was a few blocks from Wilberforce, but might as well have been another country in terms of how he lived.

It is during this time that the government – and society as a whole – abounded in corruption and this impacted the slave trade. The England’s high court, it had been ruled that slaves were simply goods, no different than cargo, so if slaves had to be thrown overboard in a storm in order to lighten the load then it was completely permissible and legal to do so. The Government wasn’t much better; the Parliament members were often bribed to vote a certain way. Anytime a group arose to challenge the slave trade, the companies that benefited from the trade would simply pay off the members of Parliament and the group would eventually dissipate while the slave trade remained.

The London that Wilberforce moved to when accepting his seat in Parliament was not a bastion for Christendom; instead, it was a city where passions ran wild. The rich did as they pleased, purchased what they wanted, and treated the poor as they desired. The poor worked long hours to scratch out a mere existence, one unfit for animals, much less humans. Christianity might have been the religion everyone grew up with, but it was hardly followed or recognized.

In 1784, Wilberforce’s life underwent quite a transformation. He elected to go on a tour of Continental Europe during a break in Parliament and asked his old schoolmaster Isaac Milner to come along. During this trip, Milner had Wilberforce read the Scriptures daily. Though Wilberforce had to take a break due to his need to return to Parliament, he continued his tour of Europe in 1785. After concluding the tour he was spiritually confused upon his return to London and that’s when he sought counsel from the famous John Newton (composer of Amazing Grace and a former slave boat captain turned abolitionist). Continue reading

The Apple has fallen far, far from the tree

For those who are familiar with Francis Schaeffer, you might be surprised to learn that his son Franky Schaeffer is a bit, well, liberal. By “a bit,” I mean that he refers to evangelical Christians as domestic terrorists, appears regularly on the Rachel Maddow show, and contributes to the Huffington Post.

However, recently Schaeffer decided to natural law proponents (a camp I fall into even though I am not Roman Catholic). He decried them, argued against them, and bashed them; the problem is, he never actually explained what natural law was according to advocates of natural law. Thankfully, Robert George (a major advocate for natural law) called him out in the following article: Continue reading

Is it time for a “New Kind of Eschatology”?

Recently, Brian McLaren wrote an article in the Huffington Post titled, “Needed: Christians Thinking Differently About the Future.” In it, he argues that because many evangelicals believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, or some type of end to the world, they have forgotten their current responsibilities. He argues that many evangelicals (and some Roman Catholics) argue that since the world is going to end and Christ will reign forever, does it really  matter how we treat creation, how we treat each other, or anything else? All that should matter under such a view, according to McLaren, is saving souls. McLaren argues that such a view does not benefit the world and, in his words, “If God has predetermined that the world will get worse and worse until it ends in a cosmic megaconflict between the forces of Light …and the forces of Darkness…why waste energy on peacemaking, diplomacy, and interreligious dialogue?”

While this might come as a surprise to some, I do agree somewhat with McLaren on this issue. For those who don’t know, my eschatological stance is best summed as, “Something is going to happen.” While I do have an eschatology that remains stable and absolute (i.e. that there will be a physical resurrection of the dead, there will be a judgment, Christ will reign over the world, there will be a new heaven and a new earth), the question of how this will all come about is a complete mystery to me. Likewise, it’s not all that important either.

Continue reading