I’d really like to know what Christianity is, then


It’s become a common refrain that what modern evangelicals do is not true to the spirit of Christianity, that it’s somehow a betrayal of Jesus’s message. Here’s a fine example of that kind of apologetics.

We need to be really clear on something, because there seems to be confusion out there lately:

This isn’t Christianity.

They may use the word and steal the iconography and cop the aesthetic, but that is where the resemblance diverges and where the similarities end. There remain no other commonalities with which to rightly associate the two.

This isn’t Christianity.

It is spiritual misappropriation: the violent hijacking of something helpful and weaponizing it in order to do the greatest amount of damage in the shortest amount of time. It is a hostile takeover of something beautiful and grossly disfiguring it to terrorize people with.

Then there’s the usual quoting of the Beatitudes, yadda yadda yadda. Fine. I like the attitude. I too would like to see a Christianity that followed principles of love and charity, and sure, there is stuff written in the Bible that supports that view. Of course, there is also stuff in the Bible that advocates murder and war, tribalism, misogyny, homophobia, and all kinds of cultish behavior. Cherry-picking can be a good approach when you’ve got a contradictory mess like all these holy books, so keep it up, positive Christians! The cafeteria is open, you don’t need to eat everything that’s dished out!

But I would also point out that finding some nice words in a book is not sufficient to describe what people do. The KKK will kindly inform you that they’re just about securing the existence of their people and a future for white children, and isn’t that nice? The Nazis loved “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche“, good old fashioned values of home and hearth. If you just quote that, you could say they were good Volk, and the atrocities weren’t really representative.

The good Volk in that photo above can also quote the Bible and will eagerly profess their devotion to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and will take communion and pray regularly and sing Christian hymns and baptize their children and go to their grave confident that they will be resurrected in heaven. They are Christians. Definitely Christians. They sure as fuck aren’t atheists, and many of them hate Muslims and Hindus, so what else could they be? They are bad people with twisted values, but perfectly Christian all the same. Rebuke them for their betrayal of human decency, not for their flavor of Christianity.

By the way, speaking of hijackings…love and charity and cooperation and art and music and childhood and niceness are all entirely human properties, and I rather resent it when someone clasps their holy book to their bosom and suggests that these things come from their god…or at least, their version of a god as correctly interpreted by their version of a church.

Comments

  1. says

    The Nazis loved “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche“, good old fashioned values of home and hearth. If you just quote that, you could say they were good Volk, and the atrocities weren’t really representative.

    “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” isn’t about values of home and hearth. This slogan, translated as “children, kitchen, church,” is about telling women their place. It prescribes and antiquated and disgusting role for women. This phrase is vaguely equivalent to the American “barefoot and pregnant” or the Victorian “A woman’s place is in the home.” You cannot quote this and claim that it says anything good about the people who came up with this slogan.

  2. PaulBC says

    There’s certainly a long medieval tradition of regressive Christianity. I’m sure today’s evangelicals would fit in just fine. Christianity is whatever self-identified Christians want it to be. But it was possible to point out hypocrisy in the middle ages too. No reason to hold back now.

  3. Artor says

    I used to love the sound of bagpipes, but it gets to be trying when they are used to provide cover for bigots.

  4. JoeBuddha says

    Ah, bagpipes. The only instrument that sounds like it looks: A person holding a cat and chewing on its tail. ;)

  5. madtom1999 says

    Christianity was invented as a monopolistic state religion and adopted a small cult (easier to take over) and is designed to take money with menaces from those that can least afford it.

  6. Ridana says

    1) @ Andreas Avester:
    But that was his point. “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” by itself does not mention women. It could be interpreted in another context as “everyone should care for their children, have good food, and enjoy the fellowship of the church community.” While the latter is still a bit problematic, the words alone aren’t evil. Outside the Nazi context, they could even sound comforting. Evil was in the intent of those who took it as their view of women’s sphere.

    That photo is really disturbing. They’re fawning over him as if he were Jesus, while he stands like an idol soaking up their adoration. If he had any feelings of fellowship with his “Christian brethren,” he might lift at least one hand up to clasp one of his worshipers’ hands on his arm. They look like they really do expect him to heal their sick and walk on water for them, and he looks like he believes he could do it.

  7. davidc1 says

    Them nazis were in to blood and soil as well ,Blut und Boden ,himmler was a chicken farmer before he got into all that leather .
    And he believed in homeopathy and all that stuff ,and there was a strand of nazism that might at a stretch be called new ageism .

  8. PaulBC says

    Ridana@7

    That photo is really disturbing. They’re fawning over him as if he were Jesus, while he stands like an idol soaking up their adoration.

    I didn’t even look closely, but now that you mention it… What is that, some kind of faith healing? An exorcism? Or maybe Kanye got it right after all. It’s that “dragon energy.” They all want some of Trump’s dragon energy.

    It occurred to me recently that I have been working for decades, and I have never been at a meeting where we pray for stuff to happen. There’s a plan of some kind. It might be good or bad. It might succeed or fail. But we don’t wish for stuff. What is wrong with these people?

  9. PaulBC says

    davidc1@8 Well, they were into Alpine hiking and camping too, right? That doesn’t make hiking and camping bad. And Hitler’s favorite flower was edelweiss. Nazis liked some good things. They believed in many evil things too. And they believed in other things (“World Ice Theory”) that are crazy and stupid but not necessarily evil.

  10. Captain Kendrick says

    Tell me, how am I supposed to tell the difference between the cuddly, warm-fuzzy versions of Christianity, and the icky and horrible versions of Christianity? How am I supposed to know which one is the “true” version? It seems to me that they all have the same amount of evidence and support to back up their positions: i.e., zero. The cold hard reality is that Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church, Tony Perkins, Smiling A-hole Joel Osteen, Grayson Fritts (the pastor who advocates executing gays), and the F-wits who lay hands on Trump…they all have just as much right and justification to use the bible to back up their beliefs and statements as the happy, Mr. Rogers Christian who says Jesus is about loving one another. I don’t have any use for any of them. If you need a horrible instruction manual to tell you to nice and love one another, then I can’t see it as much of a stretch to lump you in with the horrible bunch.

  11. says

    This is a big problem with a term like “Christian”, which as a label is nearly so broad as to be meaningless (I remember reading about some attempt at cataloging all the different sects and denominations that identified as Christian: IIRC, the number reached was something north of 30,000 and the researcher estimated that a new Christian sect came into existence at a rate of something like one a week!) And because the label is largely self-selected, just because you think you’re a Christian doesn’t mean anyone else is likely to agree. I remember seeing this illustrated in a comment thread somewhere where someone posted along the lines of, “as a Mormon and a Christian…” and got piled on by others who were like, “Mormons aren’t Christians lol! You guys don’t even believe in the Trinity!”, to which the response was, “we are too Christians!” and descended rapidly from there…

    There is an old (probably apocryphal) quote assigned to various authors (when I heard it, it was George Bernard Shaw) who got brow-beaten into reviewing the manuscript of an aspiring author; he is supposed to have responded in a letter: “Dear Sir, your work is both original and good; unfortunately, the good parts aren’t original, and the original parts aren’t good”. This is how I feel about Christianity. That is, the good parts (a renunciation of violence– in theory anyway, compassion for the less fortunate– again in theory, etc.) aren’t original (they have been articulated before and better by other religious and philosophical systems). And the original parts (the endless pettifogging over the precise nature of God– quick! are you a Nestorian, a Monothelite, or a Monophysite?– the odious doctrine of “original sin”, the concept of divine grace, etc.) aren’t good; either because, at best, they have absolutely no bearing on how a person lives their life, and, at worst, have been used as an excuse by Christians to marginalise or even murder their alleged co-religionists… when they’re not marginalising and murdering those of different faiths.

  12. says

    oh this is little different from snipping at the regressive wing of atheism. I am perfectly fine with Christian criticizing other Christians as being heretics. Frankly I wish the religious left was listened too more.

  13. dangerousbeans says

    @Mike Smith
    Sure, if they direct it at those other christians. The stuff above just reads like ‘not all christians’

  14. wereatheist says

    But that was his point. “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” by itself does not mention women. It could be interpreted in another context as “everyone should care for their children

    Nope nopity no. It’s the Patriarchat speaking in German. Trust me , I’m a German :)

  15. davidc1 says

    @11 Don’t know what point you are trying to make ,blood and soil was was a racist concept used by the nazis ,while they didn’t invent it , they used it to justify their actions against the Jews and others they considered inferior ,also their attack on Russia .

  16. Snarki, child of Loki says

    “Kinder, Küche, Kirche”

    Kids, cooking, and cherries. Who could disagree with that?

  17. PaulBC says

    @18 I don’t know. What was your point in identifying Himmler’s beliefs as “new age”? I agree that “blood and soil” is a racist concept used by the Nazis. Did I say anything to suggest otherwise? Beyond that I didn’t have much of a point except to continue to list other things associated with Nazis.

  18. Ishikiri says

    It isn’t about any kind of morality, or moral purity. It’s about total devotion to the in-group. Trump is “their guy” and any failings he has are to be ignored or hand-waved away.

  19. Pierce R. Butler says

    … keep it up, positive Christians!

    If our esteemed host offered this as encouragement to progressive believers, a re-phrasing seems urgently needed.

    Though not so far addressed in the above Godwinian comments, “Positive Christianity” was a plank in the original (& following) Nazi party platform(s).

  20. fishy says

    Christian anagrams as rich stain.
    Not that it means anything. What moron seeks meaning out of nonsense?

  21. anchor says

    “This isn’t Christianity.”

    Yes it is. That is exactly what it is. What else would it be? Tired of all the equivocating booll$heet…also customary Christian behavior.

  22. KG says

    Christianity was invented as a monopolistic state religion and adopted a small cult – madtom1999@6

    This is a load of tosh. Christianity was well established, particularly in the eastern half of the empire, with millions of followers and an extensive administrative and informational network, before it was adopted as the state religion.

  23. davidc1 says

    @18 I did say there was a strand of nazism that at a stretch might be called new ageism .
    The original point i was trying was that while KKK was a German viewpoint ,blood and soil was all nazi.
    I mentioned himmler because he was one of the major advocates of blood and soil .
    Don’t know why you went on about hiking and camping .

  24. chrislawson says

    As KG says, Christianity did not become the state religion of the Roman Empire until the Edict of Thessalonica in 380 CE. That’s more than 3 centuries after the founding of the religion.

  25. Marissa van Eck says

    That…that is idolatry if there ever was an example of idolatry.

    I don’t know how else to phrase this: by the description in Revelation, Trump is the Antichrist. I know, 666 is “Neron Qaisar” and the book was coded anti-Roman polemic, but it’s spooky how much Trump fits the bill. He’s a walking avatar for the Seven Deadly Sins, and yet Christians are treating him like the second coming.

    Satire is dead. We have killed it, you and I, because it’s simply not possible to satirize something like the current political situation in the US. I have no idea how the hell we’re ever going to fix this.

  26. microraptor says

    It’s not really that spooky: petty tyrants like Rump have existed basically forever, he’s more or less copycatting the Roman dictators with his behavior because that’s his idea of Real Leadership.

  27. says

    Snarki, child of Loki @#19

    Kids, cooking, and cherries. Who could disagree with that?

    In German, “Kirsche” means “cherry,” but “Kirche” means “church.” Both words are pronounced differently in German.

  28. lumipuna says

    As for the example of “Kids, Kitchen and Kirk”,

    I think Christians aren’t above interpreting biblical phrases outside of historical/cultural/linguistic context, either due to ignorance or sheer personal preference/political expedience.

  29. Marissa van Eck says

    @29/Microraptor

    Yeah, and again…anti-Roman polemic. History might not repeat but it sure as hell does rhyme. I wish I knew what it is that makes people keep repeating the mistakes of the past. Can say this for sure though: this is the defining moment in which we witness the utter, utter bankruptcy of American Christianity. Not that the religion isn’t bankrupt on its own terms to begin with, mind, but this is a special kind of stupid.

  30. opie says

    I’m wholeheartedly and enthusiastically rooting for Trump’s hostile takeover of Evangelical Christianity. Cheeto Jesus has drawn the mindless sheep in by the millions and exposed them all as the willfully ignorant hypocrites they are. My absolute favorite picture of Trump is him and Jerry Falwell Jr. and Mrs. Falwell Jr. standing in Trump’s office all smiley and thumbs up while a framed cover of Playboy hangs in the background. The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few! Go get ’em Donnie! And lead them straight to hell.

  31. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @Pierce: The difference a capital letter makes. I prefer “liberal Christianity” though.

    @Kendrick: But evidence, or at least the kind of evidence one means elsewhere, isn’t really what determines your core values. What liberal Christians like this correctly identify is that Trump is an aberration even as far as evangelicals go in terms of his deviance from states values. What PZ points out is that religion ends up being a way to SAY you have nice values by kicking the can down the road to a Heaven and a God, so you don’t have to do all that “love thy neighbor” stuff for real. So it is never actually odd or a coincidence that the stated missions of Christians differ from their behavior. That’s a feature, not a bug.

  32. Ragutis says

    That photo is really disturbing. They’re fawning over him as if he were Jesus, while he stands like an idol soaking up their adoration.

    I think he looks like a doddering fool who’s found an opportune moment for a quick snooze, but he’s probably desperately hoping some aide will rush those nuts out and spray him down with Purell. I’d feel the same way, even though I’m not a germaphobe like Dump is. (I’d also like to point out that those folks are even bigger fools if they for a moment think that con-artist believes in a damn thing they do. Then again, I wonder if … Oh FFS who’s exploiting who here?

    If that criminal (and criminally ignorant) fraud wasn’t sitting in that damn office in that damn house wielding all that potential power, I’d say it’s a perfect marriage for those charlatans. But the crap he’s doing and will continue to do in order to desperately hang on to that 30-40% that those swindlers have helped brainwash into adoring him scares the #*%$ out of me.

    As for “What is Christianity?” I think that people’s faith forms their beliefs far less than their beliefs form their faith. Seems to me, good people tend to be all into the happy, hippie version of [insert deity here]. Shit people don’t know how to treat people as people. And they keep calling Home Depot looking for brimstone.

    Yeah. They’re all deluded. But I’d rather my neighbor was a devotee of Glinda than a Wicked Witch of the West fanatic.

  33. blf says

    Normally, the mildly deranged penguin points out, self-proclaimed xians fawn over images and models of a guy nailed to a tree. As such, she says, the only thing missing is the above picture is the tree and the nails…

  34. alkisvonidas says

    They are Christians. Definitely Christians. They sure as fuck aren’t atheists, and many of them hate Muslims and Hindus, so what else could they be?

    This… is nonsense logic. They could be sorely mistaken. They could profess to be Christian and yet be the antithesis of everything early Christianity would stand for. It’s exactly the kind of logic of the “Liar, Lord or Lunatic” apologetics. You’re oversimplifying the options.

    Trump is a Republican. So was Abraham Lincoln, no doubt whatsoever about it. Do you think Lincoln would approve of Trump?

  35. call me mark says

    If someone tells us, in apparent sincerity, that they are a Christian, then who are we to argue? I’m not interested in doctrinal differences between rival sects; Christians have been killing each other over who is and isn’t a Real Christian™ since shortly after the religion’s beginnings. It’s not really up to us to act as umpires.

    They could profess to be Christian and yet be the antithesis of everything early Christianity would stand for.

    I very much doubt that any contemporary Christian would pass as a true believer with a group of second century Christians. What’s your point?

  36. Saad says

    alkisvonidas,

    Nobody is saying they’re “early Christians” or that Trump is a Lincoln Republican.

  37. alkisvonidas says

    @call me mark

    It’s not really up to us to act as umpires.

    We’re not acting as umpires, and this is not about doctrinal differences. Christianity, as organized religion, has existed for two millennia now; I’ve every right to an opinion whether one is or isn’t a Christian based on their words and actions. I know it when I see it. There’s a great deal of wiggle room for interpretation, but not infinite.

    By your logic, you could be claiming to be a law-abiding citizen while at the same time picking my pocket, and who am I to argue?

    I very much doubt that any contemporary Christian would pass as a true believer with a group of second century Christians. What’s your point?

    I’ve illustrated my point with the Trump/Lincoln analogy. The question here is whether Christianity is a brand name or a category of some substance. If it’s a brand name, like Republican/Democrat seems to have become for many people, then anyone can proudly wear it, and no-one can object. But if it actually stands for something – some principles, ideas, beliefs, practices – then obviously there can be true and fake Christians. Total conformity is not to be expected, but some consistent core to the thing is.

    If my mentioning early Christianity bothers you, then think of Scripture; Christian sects, like Protestants, who emphasize the importance of Scripture over tradition or Church hierarchy, are really saying nothing more than that they want to fall back to the authority of early Christian authors, the ones who created the Biblical Canon in the first place. So it clearly matters, to all Christian sects, what early Christians believed was Christianity. Why shouldn’t it matter to us on the outside, when discussing who is or isn’t a Christian?

  38. alkisvonidas says

    Nobody is saying they’re “early Christians” or that Trump is a Lincoln Republican.

    The article PZ quotes says that the Evangelicals depicted with Trump aren’t true Christians, because their actions are antithetical to what Christianity stands for, and offers as evidence the words of Jesus, or at least the words no Christian sect I know of has denied belong to Jesus.

    PZ says, “nuh-uh! They’re as much Christian as the next person!”

    So, my question is, if I say I follow John Doe, and John Doe has pretty much outright condemned the things I say and do, should people call me out on my BS? Or should I be called out only by other people who DO follow John Doe, while the rest of the world happily plays along and claims to see no difference?

  39. Saad says

    They believe in God, Jesus, heaven, hell, homosexuality is wrong, etc. They’re Christians.

    If a Christian commits adultery, are they no longer a Christian? If a Christian doesn’t give to the poor, are they no longer a Christian?

  40. alkisvonidas says

    @47. If a Christian commits adultery and they feel they’ve done nothing wrong, then at the very least I’d say they’re confused as to what their faith requires. And if another person promotes such a “Christian” as a role model, they’re distorting Christianity.

    They believe in God, Jesus, heaven, hell, homosexuality is wrong, etc. They’re Christians.

    That may be all that is needed for academic, dry belief, but definitely not for religion. Religion requires a certain amount of commitment and devotion. If I believe that Satan exists, does that make me a Satanist? If I believe Jesus was God, but ignore his teachings, in what sense am I a Christian?

  41. call me mark says

    OK so is your point that none of them are Real Christians™ then? The Jesus I remember reading about said quite a lot about giving all your possessions to the poor and following him. I don’t see many of today’s Christians wandering around begging.

  42. KG says

    Early Christians thought Jesus’ return was imminent. By that token, the Evangelical right are surely closer to early Christian belief than the Christohippies!

  43. Saad says

    And if another person promotes such a “Christian” as a role model, they’re distorting Christianity.

    I said nothing about them being a role model.

    If I believe Jesus was God, but ignore his teachings, in what sense am I a Christian?

    Which teachings is that group ignoring and which teachings are they following?

  44. blf says

    I don’t see many of today’s Christians wandering around begging.

    Only, perhaps, in the “classic” sense (and then also, perhaps, in the so-called “first world”?).

    I see them all the time — demanding bigger and moar tax cuts; demanding that all lives matter; demanding that Muslims and immigration be banned; demanding that they need not serve, or rent or sell to LGBTQ+ people or blacks; demanding that if one doesn’t listen to them, or publish them, or ridicules or criticises their statements and beliefs, that one is violating their rights and engaging in censorship and has a hatred of free peaches; demanding that Muslims and blacks and atheists and others not be allowed to speak and should not be published, and, sometimes, be jailed; demanding that women carry babies to term always; demanding that women cannot be or do this or that, including doing any of the demanding; demanding…

    With regional and cultist variations; e.g., in the States, insisting the States is a xian nation (commonly put as a judeo-christian beliefs, which rather notably is not abrahamic beliefs — gotta exclude those nasty moolsins! — which would still be incorrect); in some parts of the world, demanding that LGBTQ+ people be executed; in some parts of the world, demanding or have ensured that that women who have abortions be jailed; in some parts of the world, demanding that a comment like this one you are now reading is blasphemous; in some cults, insisting if the cult doesn’t buy the leader a new private jet or whatever, then then then… well, something nasty; and demanding / insisting / ensuring so on & on…

    With, sometimes, cross-regional interference; e.g., in some parts of the world where they demand LGBTQ+ people be executed, fellow self-identified xians from the States are trying to assist / ensure executions do indeed happen (are / become / remain the law); similarly for places which allow — or there is even talk about allowing — abortions in some (limited or not) circumstances; and so on. And, of course, they lie about it (perhaps another characteristic or even defining feature of xians?).

    Technically, the demanding / insisting / ensuring isn’t begging, but it can be and sometimes is phrased in such a way some might construe it as begging. A seemingly heartfelt and craftily presentation is an effective tool; lying isn’t much of a problem for xians (especially about xanity’s demands and beliefs?), so disguising the demanding / insisting / ensuring as begging has been going on almost since the family of cults started — even when they really did have armies at their command. (Arm-twisting is easier & less-expensive, perhaps especially if one is mostly after the money, with the demands & beliefs a convenient & profitable distraction — gotta keep those tithes, etc., following in.)

  45. call me mark says

    @blf: yes, I concede all that. Not what I was really getting at, but it does quite handily illustrate the notion that 2nd and 3rd Century Christians would be appalled at what their current co-religionists get up to.

Leave a Reply