Another reader comment from my friend Xerxes. A reader writes:
“As a minister I no longer call myself Christian because of its association with the unChrist-like behaviour and declarations over the centuries. It is too loaded with baggage. If I have to make a declaration of sorts I call myself a Christ-follower, which I know is not perfect but at least for the time being it's not yet porting the same amount of baggage.”
This comment strikes me as troublesome on several levels. To begin with, Jesus himself said:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
There are always bad people, and, as the New Testament warns, hypocrites. But really, if on balance you believe Christianity has produced bad people, so that saying you are Christian looks worse to you than saying you are non-Christian, that to you Christians are such bad people that you do not want to be associated with them, should you be a Christian? Or, for that matter, a “Christ-follower”; this being, after all, simply a euphemism for something too awful to mention?
Isn’t this, by its own standard, proof that Christianity is false?
And then, what about the idea that Christianity, the church, is the “communion of saints”? It says so right there in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds. If you reject the communion of saints—that is, other Christians, living and dead, as a community—are you not, in fact, separating yourself from the church? Are you not, in fact, by definition, not a Christian?
I think one of the strongest arguments for the truth of Christianity is in fact its objective fruits in great art and good works. Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Gaudi, Warhol, Dali, Hitchcock, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Shakespeare, Dante, Cervantes, Blake, Donne, Milton, Coleridge, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, T.S. Eliot, Descartes, Berkeley, Edmund Burke, Lord Acton, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King, Albert Schweitzer, Oskar Schindler. Democracy, human rights, the equality of man, the end of slavery, the preferential option for the poor, Catholic Charities, empirical science and all that has ensued.
Not good enough for him? To be renounced? He, on his own, is so much better than this?
Is there not a whiff of sulphur in this air? Is there not the smell of the sin of Lucifer?