Christians often ask me, “What’s the most common question or objection to Christianity you hear on college campuses?”
Fifteen years ago, I’d have mentioned the problem of suffering and evil, or the challenge of other religions.
These days, it’s probably “Christians behaving badly,” with creation/evolution a close second.
Christians behaving badly might include items such as
- The crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts
- Colonialism and slavery
- Oppression of gays, women and minorities
- Judgmentalism on the part of church-goers
So, can a religious tradition be “trustworthy” when saddled with so much baggage?
I have a standard four-step reply to this question, which can be summarized thusly:
- Acknowledge harm
- Don’t blame the hammer
- Reject impostors
- Remember the good
“Acknowledge harm” means that I take some level of responsibility for true Christians who’ve brought harm to others. We believers should be good at confessing the sins of the church, including sins committed hundreds of years ago.
“Don’t blame the hammer” is an image that reminds us of where to find true fault. If I pound dents in your car with a hammer, you rightly blame me — not the hammer — for damage done. In the same way, we rightly find fault with sinful human beings who misuse religion for their own ends, not religion itself.*
I’ll cover the final two items next week.
*The whole topic of hypocrisy in the church, including the hammer image, is covered more extensively in Faith is Like Skydiving. See sidebar to the right.