In my prior post I offered suggestions on the question of religious pluralism.
The present post is a short “notepad” response to the charge that Christianity is guilty of oppressing women and people of color for centuries.
1. Acknowledge wrong: When Western Christians have imposed themselves on native peoples, held slaves, or held women back from full exercise of their God-given rights, we should humbly acknowledge past mistakes. This is the body of Christ universal (for all times/places) holding itself accountable.
2. Mention positive contributions from Christians: Elsewhere I’ve written* how health care in the west arose from Christian activism, how universities such as Harvard and Yale were founded by Christians, and how contemporary service organizations such as Habitat for Humanity have contributed mightily to the good of society.
Dig into other topics such as the origins of science, western conceptions of legal justice, and the abolition of slavery and you’ll find Christians at the forefront.
3. Disobedient believers (or non-believers) brought harm: Past (and present) actions of faux followers or disobedient followers of Jesus don’t invalidate Christianity. Twisting the Bible into justifying slavery and other forms of oppression is “not okay.” But that’s what was done in the colonial period (and beyond). Visit Native American reservations and read literature written by Native theologians for a taste of what went wrong. **
But after acknowledging mistakes, we must still insist that the “misuse” of Christianity doesn’t make Christianity itself wrong or false.
* * *
Conclusion: There’s plenty to repent of in Christian history. But there’s also plenty of corrections to be made to the flat narrative that blames the ills of society on Christianity. In fact, we Christians should lead the way in uplifting the downtrodden of our world. Jesus did.
- * See my Faith is Like Skydiving, chapter 8, “Christians Behaving Badly.”
- ** I suggest works by Native authors Richard Twiss, Terry LeBlanc, and Randy Woodley. Honestly, I struggle with some of these writings but nevertheless find them extremely challenging and helpful.