Thursday, February 18, 2010

Christianity vs. What Jesus Started

There is a scene somewhere in the middle of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus” (a typically crazy but interesting film from Terry Gilliam, by the way) where the titular character describes a contest he had with the devil. The idea was that the winner would be the first one of them to obtain 12 disciples. The devil’s efforts are portrayed in a picture depicting what is very obviously the Catholic Church. The typical Christian’s reaction at this point is anger or at least annoyance. Why do Christians have to be portrayed in this way?

At second thought, the problem lies not always in how “Christianity” is portrayed in popular culture, but in how broad that term is. It is no wonder that so many people who believe in and follow the teachings of Jesus avoid the term Christian. Think of just some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity:

Multiple military campaigns were conducted against the Muslim world lasting hundreds of years and causing the death of over a million people.

Hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and even killed for suspicion of witchcraft or false teachings.

Native American populations were tortured, killed, or forced to convert at gunpoint by “Christian” European invaders.

Hitler at times used scripture and his “Christian” beliefs to justify the extermination of Jews and others, as other “Christians” had done before him.

As a religion, Christianity is not much different from other man-made religions. It competes, at times violently, for supremacy. However, close examination reveals that often what people see as “Christian” has little or nothing to do with what Jesus started. Many of his followers throughout history have criticized “Christianity” or the institutional church as being the exact opposite of what Jesus began in His ministry here on Earth.

So if you are a follower of Jesus, you should probably take no offense when institutional religion gets a bad rap in popular culture… unless you are the institutionally religious type. In that case, you might want to look into finding Jesus.

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