One of my friends on facebook mentioned that she is "forced to "celebrate" Christmas" with her (converted) husbands still-Christian family. Jokingly, I suggested it's a mitzvah to celebrate the birth of a child. In the next few lines (as facebook conversations are wont to do) she managed to inspire me to write a paper.
Yes, Virginia, there are people that are that dorky.
Here's the final comment: Depends...is it still a mitzvah if one knows that millions will be cheerfully slaughtered in the name of that one single birth? Somehow I don't think "he who saves one life saves the world entire" applies here...
So we need tit-for-tat life justification? Done.
Several of my favorite authors from undergrad spend volumes discussing the capacity of religion to become or veer towards evil. Kimball and Armstrong were two of my favorites. From "Terror in the Mind of God" to "When Religion Turns Evil" in classes from "Religious Fundamentalism in the 21st Century" to "Militant Islam", I've spent my fair share of hours contemplating the disconnect between a loving God and wretched people created in his image.
But I still think that all religion gets a bad wrap. Christianity in particular is suffering from want of some positive PR in our country, which I think has something to do with currently being "top dog" in terms of numbers. It wasn't so long ago, compared to other faiths, that Christians were being fed to lions.
However, tabling the topic of Christianity's place in American society, let us consider, how many people Christianity (since this is the religion in question) has killed. Using data from the University of Hawaii , let's set the number killed by the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the burning of witches at 300,000, rounding up for error. None of these deaths are justifiable, however, I submit 1 John 4:20- "If anyone makes the statement "I love God" yet hates his brother, he is a liar", to say that these events should never have happened. However, since we use the claim that if we profess our positive actions to be done in the name of Christ, they are like Christ doing them, by the same logic, if we profess our negative actions to be done in the name of Christ, people will interpret them the same way. This is definitely one area where I'm sure Muslims and Christians feel a great deal of comraderie as Muslims try to make the world see a religion of peace in the face of images of planes crashing into buildings and Christians try to show a faith of love in the face of abortion clinic bombings.
Moving from the 300,000 people killed by the three largest instances of Christian atrocity, we could also include the 1,000,000 slaves in the United States between the colonial period to the civil war as those who were negatively impacted by Christianity. While these slaves can't be added to the number killed in the name of Christ, they certainly suffered by a systematic oppression that frequently attempted to use scripture to justify agony and mistreatment. These people were not specifically killed in the name of religion, however, as was the case during the crusades.
Some people would include the Holocaust as part of Christianity's violence. However, Nazism bastardized the Christian church, putting state officials in positions of power and jailing clergy that didn't follow the party line. Further, Hitler's alignment with Japan and study of the core of the Nazi party following the fall of the regime point to the fact that Nazism was, in its purest form, a pure-land cult, much like violent Shintoism and did not hold to Christian doctrine or even seek to pretend it did (quoting also from Professor Hebbar's Notes, Eastern Religions, 2007 GMU). While the actions of many churches in not doing more to stop the genocide taking place in Germany are abhorrent and an abomination in comparison to Christ's teachings, the violence perpetrated by the Nazi's was not a Christian movement. I recommend reading Hitler's Willing Executioners for more on the concept that German antisemitism was, by the time of the Holocaust, a secularized notion.
Next, we have the abortion clinic bombings and attacks. These have killed seven abortionists. Adding in any additional incidental murders claimed to be in the name of faith, from the 74 killed in Waco, Texas to attacks on Mormon settlers, to a crazy neighbor stabbing someone they claim to be apostate, the number of people killed directly by Christianity is far from "millions" as claimed by my friend.
I do not wish to turn this into a "who's religion is worse", so I am going to resist the temptation to point out numbers of people killed by Muslims, Jews, cult leaders, etc. People have, in the name of Christ, killed others in acts of senseless and unbiblical violence.
It's not okay.
* In 2009-2010 alone, Feed My Starving Children helped Jesus pack 97 million meals for starving children, whether or not they're Christians. That's 3 meals a day for some 88,000 people. While there distributing food, they also buy out local artisans to begin sustainability in the communities they serve.
* In 2011, Samaratin's Purse paid for 360 medical personnel to come to Africa, paid for 25 life-saving cardiac surgeries, and taught 40,000 people how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, which will help every sexual partner those 40,000 have in their lifetime.
* The United Methodist Church's Committee on Relief (UMCOR) sent $3,800,000 to Japan following the tsunami that helped with various relief efforts including emergency shelter, food, and safe drinking water.
* This church feeds 200 people once a month. And I don't even like their pastor. This church just fed 300 children for an entire year in 4 days of work.
What are we at? Definitely over a million. And that's 5 Christian organizations in one year's time each.
Christianity killed, and occasionally still does. I will not make excuses or say that "those people weren't real Christians" because if they claim Christ, then it is my responsibility as a fellow believer to rebuke them in wrong beliefs, and obviously there have been cases where we have failed in this endeavor. Miserably. However, I can assure you that while Christianity has to claim these people, Christ does not, and I fully believe that he mourned each of those occurrences as a tragedy in the same way God mourned the failures of the Israelites in the Torah. However, more than it fails, and it fails daily, even if it is in ways "smaller" to the world than murder, Christianity also succeeds in being what Christ called it to be- hands and feet in a hurting world. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, loving the orphaned, and more. If you're looking to point a finger of blame and say "Those murderers claimed Christ, so those are his murders", then you must also point a finger and say "Those who helped the world this year claimed Christ, so those are his successes."
Judaism kills. Islam kills. Hinduism kills. Religion kills. But it also heals and saves, espeically one that has called us, more than anything, to love because that is the nature of our God.
I John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.