Christianity: China’s best bet?

From Aljazeera:
“As more Chinese turn to Christianity, the state is torn between embracing its benefits and the desire to assert control. […] the attitude of Chinese leaders towards the growing number of Christians can be best described as a ‘confluence of seemingly contradictory attitudes’.

“While embracing Christianity for its supposed economic and social benefits, the Communist Party still wants to assert control over the country’s Christians – dictating where they worship and what is preached there.

“‘By building churches and requiring Protestants to worship inside registered churches, they can exert some control over the training and appointment of church staff, where churches are established, how many services are held, and in some cases even try to pressure church pastors in the content of their preaching,’ Vala says.” [Full article]

10 thoughts on “Christianity: China’s best bet?”

  1. I’m sorry but I don’t think embracing Christianty as it is practiced in the West, will bring any benefits to the Chinese people but just create further divisions. There have been Christians in China for around 2,000 years but they were Nestorians who had a different view of the trinity and were more accomodating in regard to other religions. Also, it is not quite correct to say and increasing number of Chinese are embracing Christianity as they are also embracing all religions and, especially, those that were part of Chinese culture for most of the past 2,5000 years: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.

    While I don’t support the government’s religious policies I can see why they are concerned about Christianity in the same way they are concerned about Islam. Both are monothesitic religions which make extreme distinctions between believers and non-believers which is socially and politically divisive.

    It used to be said during the Cold War that the countries that embraced communism were driven by ideology. In fact, this was the reason America involved itself in wars to Vietnam and the Korean peninsula. However, whatever was true then is the opposite now.

    The West and Americans in particular, won’t accept a country which doesn’t embrace their own values and political system. This seems to include not democracy as such, but the Political Party System, Human rights and Christianity.

    One of the great insights brought about by the environmental crises is that we humans recognise its best to live in a world with the maximum amount of biodiversity.
    I think the same applies to culture and religion. All religions fill a need in different kinds of people. There used to be a saying many Americans seem to have overlooked or ignored: ‘There’s different strokes for different folks.’

    By the way, the article is not so much about Christians but a certain kind of Christian: Protestants, as it does not mention Roman Catholics or any of the other smaller Asian Christian groups that have been in China for centuries

  2. I don’t think embracing Christianty as it is practiced in the West, will bring any benefits to the Chinese people but just create further divisions

    No kidding? ;) Just so you know, that wasn’t my title; it’s the article’s title.

    But of course, a lot of people disagree, including many Chinese atheists, who, lacking Anglo-American polarized political and cultural biases and the culturally dysfunctional compulsion to turn the Judeo-Christian aspect of their heritage into a scapegoat on which to hang all their shortcomings as a civilization (ok, I admit I have a bit of a soapbox here ;) ), aren’t as hindered in drawing (obvious) connections between good and successful aspects of Western societies and the historical influence of various Christianities. Even (wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles!) the opinion page of the NYT (though certainly not the comment section, where ignorance and prejudice reign on) gave evangelicals some love recently (apparently in the world of aid, charity and development, the front lines are full of evangelicals! Who knew?? Apparently some Christians are worth having around, though this was hotly protested in the comments ;) ). You really think Christianity won’t bring “any” benefits to Chinese people? Either way, the Chinese can decide for themselves what they want to think, assuming everyone stops trying to control their information.

    Last I read the so-called Nestorians have been largely rehabilitated, and apparently weren’t near as heretical as they’ve traditionally been made out to be. Anyway, if you’re into that aspect of Chinese history, it might be worth looking up.

    we humans recognise its best to live in a world with the maximum amount of biodiversity. I think the same applies to culture and religion.

    How do you imagine having less division, esp. considering your desire for a maximum amount of ideological ‘biodiversity’? It seems to me that human beings are going to be divisive and make distinctions between in-group and out-group whether they are monotheists, atheists, pantheists or not.

    The West and Americans in particular, won’t accept a country which doesn’t embrace their own values and political system.

    Doesn’t this pretty much apply to every major and minor power, ever, including China? It sure does to Canada. From what I can see loyalty to the reigning government is often more important than loyalty to the explicit, publicly touted ideology — except where the latter is a means to the former.

  3. Even if Christianity might bring some benefits to the Chinese, it will bring even more bad sides in my opinion. Imagine the Chinese all becoming anti-abortion in a country which has far too many people as it is.

    Remember also that Confucius once said “己所不欲,勿施于人” (don’t do to others what you would not like yourself), so clearly such values are not the sole preserve of Christianity.

  4. @jixiang,

    Interesting comment. My short reply is: I think the Golden Rules of Confucius and Jesus are miles apart, both in their content and in their respective results. And Christianity supplies the specific and crucial values that Chinese society is so painfully lacking. Longer reply below.

    1. Potential influence of Christianity.
    I suppose we could spend all day tallying up examples of good and bad from the last 2000 years of historical Christianities. But I think your example of a ‘bad’ aspect – anti-abortion – is an interesting choice for several reasons (but I’ll only touch on one here). Christians are (usually) uncompromisingly anti-abortion because they believe every single human being has intrinsic value, regardless of their race, gender, station, size, level of development, physical location (inside or outside the womb) or degree of dependency. Maybe you disagree with a majority of evangelicals on the humanity of the unborn, but surely you see the benefit of an absolute belief in the inherent value of every individual that can staunchly withstand the influence of political and mainstream cultural pressure. I doubt that’s something a Confucian or atheistic worldview can provide.

    You are aware that a disproportionate number of those persecuted for promoting human rights in China are in fact Christians, and are fighting for the rights of others as an expression of their Christian beliefs, right? That’s underreported, and I think the Christians are happy to have it that way, as highlighting that connection would just bring down more harassment. But that connection is no random coincidence. As with the abortion issue, these activists are convinced that even the people at the bottom of Chinese society whom you don’t have guanxi with matter and have value and that justice matters and is worth sacrificing for. That is obviously not normal in Chinese society.

    This first point is echoed in the next one.

    2. The “Golden Rule”
    I think it only takes a moment’s consideration to see that the “Golden Rules” of Jesus and Confucius are not near the same things. Confucius’ is passive; Jesus’ is active and far more demanding. The expectations of the two rules are miles apart. And the results, I think, speak for themselves. Around the world, the front lines of charity, aid, development and social justice work are populated by Christians motivated by their Christianity. Being a “Good Samaritan” (a related teaching of Jesus) is an idiom for going out of your way to help others (and in the original story, to help someone you despise, an enemy outsider, not merely a ‘stranger’). And being a Good Samaritan is (or was) generally expected of all decent people in Christian-heritage/Christianity-influenced cultures (I definitely wouldn’t call them ‘Christian cultures’ or nations). In China, even before Liberation and all the ravages of the Mao years, going significantly out of your way to help someone you don’t have (or want) guanxi with just wasn’t ‘Chinese’, despite the Confucian teaching of reciprocity. And I’m sure you’re aware of the recent infamous anecdotes in China where Good Samaritans were conspicuously absent. This circles back to the deeper influences of Christianity, which provides the foundational rationale for the intrinsic value of every individual human being and justice as absolute moral values (and therefore, human rights and rule of law), regardless of race, gender, age, or station: every person is made in and bears the image of God and “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female“.

    That’s obviously over-simplifying many things, but I think the general point still works.

  5. Right.

    Well, my main reply is that the idea that “every human being has intrinsic value” is now a universal modern value which comes with the French revolution and the universal declaration of human rights, and any modern society should share it at some level.

    I am not sure if the prior existence of Christianity in the West might have helped this development, but I doubt it: after all before the French revolution, for centures and centuries Europe was made up of totally Christian societies where it very definitely wasn’t the case that people were all given intrinsic value any more than it was the case in Confucian China at the time (or anywhere else in the world). Somehow, for almost two thousand years people who read almost nothing but the bible were quite happy to rule over feudalistic systems were a serf would get one penalty for killing a noble, and a noble a very different penalty for killing a serf an so on, just because of their different birth. They were also happy to burn anyone who disagreed at the stake, kill infidels, persecute Jews etc…

    In any case, even if Christianity might have had some useful role to play in the development and improvement of human consciousness at some point in time, I am pretty sure it has nothing useful or valuable left to offer now. Any modern society based along the principal of every man being equal in front of the law, and being entitled to the same rights and duties as a citizen (and even in China this is officially the situation by the way, since China has also accepted this universal modern ideology in principle) already accepts in principle that all people are equally valuable. This world view sits perfectly well with atheism.

    As for phoetuses which are just a few months old, I simply don’t agree that they are already human, which is another matter.

    China certainly has its problems and needs something new, but I really don’t see how starting to believe in mass in a bunch of frankly improbable tales from two or three thousand years ago is the answer. But I can see that you are a Christian and you’re not going to change your mind by talking to me, and so be it.

    By the way, NGOs and organizations working for social justice are packed full of people who are not practising Christians or even religious all over the world. And I am aware that Christians tend to be at the forefront of anti-government activity in China, and I just wish that some better political ideology which the Chinese could rally behind to express their grieviances came up, so that they did not have to turn to outdated religions.

  6. I see that there is a coordinated effort on these sinoblogs, Joel (or maybe its just because Easter is coming that there is convergence), so maybe the answer to this obvious question will come elsewhere. Is it going to be necessary to make Christianity the mother-father of humanism and liberalism to make fly this argument about Christianity and the success of the West? It also occurs to me that one would have to deal with critiques of the role of Christianity in colonialism. As a Canadian, you’ll know that missionaries were at the forefront of attempts to exterminate indigenous belief systems. People with a non-selective understanding of history are rightfully dubious and even outraged by the kinds of claims you’re making above. There is a possible (though inadequate) way out of this quandary, but I’m curious where all of this is going.

  7. @Lorin,

    I see that there is a coordinated effort on these sinoblogs, Joel (or maybe its just because Easter is coming that there is convergence), so maybe the answer to this obvious question will come elsewhere. . .but I’m curious where all of this is going.

    I have no idea what you’re talking about here. I linked this article last July.

    The story that some Chinese intellectuals have been studying the relationship between Christian ideas and the rise of the West has been around for a long time… late 80’s or early 90’s, I think. If the Party did decide to more aggressively co-opt Christianity rather than marginalize and persecute it, they certainly wouldn’t be the first government in history to do so.

    Is it going to be necessary to make Christianity the mother-father of humanism and liberalism to make fly this argument about Christianity and the success of the West?

    It’s no novel idea that Christianity, at a worldview level, contributed the aspects of the West’s cultural DNA that resulted in the development of science, equality, and human rights. Even atheist historians concede that general point (here’s one example off the top of my head).

    People with a non-selective understanding of history are rightfully dubious and even outraged by the kinds of claims you’re making above.

    Well, help me out here. Who are these unbiased historians, and which of my claims are the particularly outrageous ones? You haven’t given me much to respond to, being that vague.

    People with a non-selective understanding of history don’t demonize the Judeo-Christian heritage and make it a scapegoat on which to project all of their White Man’s Guilt.

    It also occurs to me that one would have to deal with critiques of the role of Christianity in colonialism. As a Canadian, you’ll know that missionaries were at the forefront of attempts to exterminate indigenous belief systems.

    You’re referring to Christianity as one or more institutions, but I’m not. I’m talking about Christianity in two senses of the term: the actual content and practice of broadly orthodox Christianity that is compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus, and Christianity as a worldview. Historically, much of what’s been done by so-called Christians or Christian institutions in the name of Christianity/God/Jesus blatantly contradicts the actual teachings of Jesus. I’m certainly not advocating we accept or excuse everything ever done in the name of Christianity; much of it wasn’t Christian, and I have no need of defending evil things done by so-called Christians in spite of the content of Christianity. That’s very different from the things people are inspired to do because of the content of Christianity.

    Anyway, I’m curious about this apparent conspiracy you alluded to at the beginning! Am I missing out on something? :) Whenever I think of ‘Easter conspiracies’ two things come to mind: the original Easter conspiracy theory that Jesus’ disciples stole his body and then ran around proclaiming his resurrection, and all the “news” articles, usually about “scientists” who “discover” something that supposedly explains away some claim of Christianity, that pop up around Easter in the msm (like here).

  8. @jixiang,

    Sorry my reply is so long; I tried to be brief but you’ve opened up several large topics and I just don’t have time to edit these days. I’ll be happy to elaborate or provide justification for any of these points you want to pursue. Don’t feel any rush to reply; I’ll see it whenever you get around to it.

    Abortion

    As for phoetuses which are just a few months old, I simply don’t agree that they are already human, which is another matter.

    I find this interesting, given your belief in universal human rights. If the unborn were human, would you conclude that universal human rights apply to them as well and reverse your opinion of abortion? Or are you really pro-abortion for other reasons and denying the humanity of the unborn is merely convenient?

    You are pro-abortion-rights, so it seems to me you are forced to deny one of the following: universal human rights or the humanity of the unborn. If you admit that the unborn are human but argue that for whatever reason they are not entitled to human rights (i.e. they are human but non-persons, like what was more-or-less done historically with slaves, blacks and women, and is continued today in the strongest pro-abortion arguments), then you don’t believe in universal human rights; you believe in selective and unequal human privilege. If you want to maintain your belief in the existence of universal human rights, then you must deny the humanity of the unborn, as you do. But the strongest arguments for abortion grant the humanity of the unborn because they know that denying the humanness of the unborn is scientifically impossible. Even zygotes are individual entities distinct from their mother (as opposed to a mere extension of the mother’s body, like if she spontaneously sprouted some extra cells). And if they aren’t human, when what are they — Canine? Vegetable? You’ve got to do one of two things: either contradict the basic scientific definitions in the majority of embryology textbooks by insisting that, somehow, the unborn aren’t human or distinct from their mothers, or claim that even though they are human it is moral to kill them anyway, and explain why by providing us criteria for deciding which humans get rights and which don’t. Personhood is determined by what? Size? Level of development? Physical location? Degree of dependency? None of these things are morally relevant differences.

    Universal values, Christianity, Atheism

    Well, my main reply is that the idea that “every human being has intrinsic value” is now a universal modern value which comes with the French revolution and the universal declaration of human rights, and any modern society should share it at some level.

    But in an atheistic worldview, I can’t think of any reason for believing in the existence of universal moral values or obligations. They’re just happy myths that don’t correspond to reality, and they certainly seem less universal once we step outside of the Western world. It seems to me that universal values — objective moral values and duties that exists and apply to all regardless of whether or not people are aware of or acknowledge them — don’t exist in an atheistic, naturalistic universe. In an atheistic worldview, there is no such thing as “good” and “evil”, nor are there moral obligations. Such ideas are simply incoherent in an atheistic universe.

    I am not sure if the prior existence of Christianity in the West might have helped this development, but I doubt it: after all before the French revolution, for centures and centuries Europe was made up of totally Christian societies where it very definitely wasn’t the case that people were all given intrinsic value any more than it was the case in Confucian China at the time (or anywhere else in the world). Somehow, for almost two thousand years people who read almost nothing but the bible were quite happy to rule over feudalistic systems were a serf would get one penalty for killing a noble, and a noble a very different penalty for killing a serf an so on, just because of their different birth. They were also happy to burn anyone who disagreed at the stake, kill infidels, persecute Jews etc…

    A couple different things here. First, the idea that the Judeo-Christian heritage is the aspect of Western civilization that provided the necessary foundations for the development of science, human rights and equality — the ‘cultural DNA’ — is not a novel concept. Even atheist historians concede this general point (though not the New Atheists, of course).

    The claim is that Christianity is a major influence and contributor at the worldview level in Western civilization, not that there was ever a truly ‘Christian nation’. Things done in the name of Christianity that blatantly contradict the actual content of Christianity are not expressions of Christianity. They’re examples of how Christianity has been hijacked, abused, and misused by people with other agendas. Rulers aren’t usually stupid; they know when it’s beneficial to stop persecuting and start co-opting popular ideas, titles, and labels.

    However, it’s impossible for atheism to demonstrate that the evils of 20th century Russia, China and Cambodia are incompatible with or contradictory to an atheistic worldview. I’d argue (1) that an atheistic worldview actually enables such abuses, and (2) it doesn’t make sense to call such things “evil” in an atheist worldview anyway. What’s the difference, morally, between me crushing anyone who gets in my way and slapping a mosquito?

    In any case, even if Christianity might have had some useful role to play in the development and improvement of human consciousness at some point in time, I am pretty sure it has nothing useful or valuable left to offer now.

    Except that it provides a worldview framework in which universal, objective moral values and duties actually exist. In an atheistic universe, these things are just happy thoughts that don’t correspond to reality — there’s no such thing as “good” or “evil”. It’s like we both agree that apples are good, but I’m saying Christianity is an apple tree and atheism doesn’t have one, and you’re saying apple trees don’t exist and we don’t need them to get apples anyway. So my question then is, how do you get apples without an apple tree? In an atheistic universe, where do we get the idea that universal moral values exist and that everyone is obligated to follow them?

    Any modern society based along the principal of every man being equal in front of the law, and being entitled to the same rights and duties as a citizen (and even in China this is officially the situation by the way, since China has also accepted this universal modern ideology in principle) already accepts in principle that all people are equally valuable. This world view sits perfectly well with atheism.

    Equality sits well with atheism? How so? How, from within an atheistic universe can you produce [a] the value of equality (“Equality is morally good”), and [b] the universal obligation we have to treat one another with equality (“Everyone should promote and behave according to the value of equality”)?

    I’m asking these question because I don’t think it’s possible for objective moral values and duties, including all the universal values you’ve mentioned, to exist in a naturalistic, atheistic universe. This is not a novel concept either. Some of the greatest atheists, like Nietzsche, also realized that when you jettison God, you destroy the foundation of objective moral values and duties. And the cases of atheist nations of the 20th century certainly seem to support this idea.

    China certainly has its problems and needs something new, but I really don’t see how starting to believe in mass in a bunch of frankly improbable tales from two or three thousand years ago is the answer. But I can see that you are a Christian and you’re not going to change your mind by talking to me, and so be it.

    Well, I’m not going to change my mind about anything without good reasons, but you’re welcome to provide some. From your comment, though, it seems like you’ve not encountered or seriously considered any of the real evidence for Christian theism and the claims of Jesus.

  9. Let’s not worry about my coordinated effort comment. There were a couple of very similar pieces on Seeing Red and Sinostand. I’m not sure how I suddenly ended up on this older post of yours.

    My comment on the link between Christianity-Humanism-Liberalism was in response to your “This circles back to the deeper influences of Christianity, which provides the foundational rationale for the intrinsic value of every individual human being and justice as absolute moral values (and therefore, human rights and rule of law), regardless of race, gender, age, or station” above. It seems to me that you’re going to have to reclaim liberalism (and even capitalism, not to mention socialism) as part of a longer Christian tradition. Now, I’m not trying to suggest radical discontinuity, because I, for one, would like to reclaim Jesus as a radical socialist, and I wouldn’t be the first to try to do so. But it seems to me that the logic of the argument is, essentially, this: Christianity came first, so these other things owe their goodness to it. It’s the same kind of argument that results in the claim that Christianity provided the “cultural DNA” for the endless list of good things you list above. Very, very generously, the most you can say with this argument is, in the manner of Weber, that Christianity provided some kind of dispositional or institutional context in which science thrived in a particular place and time. Neither Christianity nor the West created science, for example. Neither the West nor Christianity can be said to provide the origin of the ideas of freedom or equality. These claims are very simply the result of a teleological view of history.

    Finally, on your last point about “un-biased” historians and “White Man’s Guilt,” unbiased is your word. The kind of selective reading of history is in evidence in this part of your response. I think you’re a very knowledgable and intelligent fellow, so I’m going to assume I’ve misread. While other historical incidents could be discussed, what I was mainly referring to was the attempted destruction of the Indigenous peoples of Canada through residential schools. I accept that you sincerely believe in the “in spite” vs “because” defence you’re putting forward. But participants in this project of cultural genocide were highly devout people (let’s leave the pedophiles aside for the moment) who genuinely thought they were doing the right thing, saving souls, as it were. They were bringing the light to the earth’s darkened corners. Of course most of what they did would actually appear quite benign viewed in contemporary context. And it is less necessary to engage in abduction. Let’s face it: having schooled much of the “indian out of the indian” and having seen most indigenous people be absorbed into the dominant institutions, it’s not so obvious that what went on was and remains an absolute horror.

    Setting this aside for the moment, the residential school “religionists” were doing so in much the same spirit that modern day evangelists and Christians. Those darkened corners of the world are still the target. The missionary needs that sense of cultural superiority, that sense of them needing something we have.

  10. @Lorin,
    I think you must have misread, or I was unclear. It seems you’re assuming that I’m saying more than I am, or maybe you’re writing here in reaction to some other discussion. Either way, I’ll try to clear things up as briefly (ha!) as possible.

    The ideas and values I’ve mentioned, plus others, are explicit, basic elements of Christian teaching (including a respect for other cultures – more on this below), regardless of whether they were ignored or obeyed in any given historical instance. If you put my quote in context, it’s saying that within a Christian worldview, these values and duties exist and are coherent (in contrast to an atheistic worldview, in with I don’t think objective, i.e. ‘universal’, moral values and obligations can exist). The implication being that Christianity potentially has much to offer a society whose current worldview provides no ontological grounding for such values and whose society clearly demonstrates the lack of it.

    It’s important to put my replies in context. jixiang was basically suggesting that Christianity was and is good for nothing. I’m replying that it’s generally agreed by historians, even atheist ones, that our Judeo-Christian heritage did make some significant positive contributions to the rise of Western civilization, in more ways than one. The particular contribution I’ve mentioned is that this heritage provided certain elements at the worldview level relating to values and science – not just particular ideas, but the ontological grounding for them as well. And with those ideas among its cultural resources, the West was enabled to develop its values and science in the ways it did, and in ways other civilizations lacking those specific elements did not. I’m not saying Christianity is the only major influence in the development of Western civilization or that it deserves all the credit for every good or major aspect developed within Western civilization (obviously!). But I do think it made a major, positive impact at the ‘DNA level’ of Western civilization in the ways it shaped the general worldview. We can quibble pedantically forever about the degree of positive contribution or the particular mechanisms by which the influence occurred or how mixed the overall influence is, but I think the idea that Judeo-Christianity made significant positive contributions to Western civilization in certain areas is a general historical fact, which I see contested only by dogmatic neo-atheistic fundamentalism that seems to be coming straight out of the 19th century. I’m not really interested in a pedantic argument over exactly how much or little good Christianity contributed to Western civilization; I haven’t made any extraordinary claims here. And atheists who aren’t fundamentalist extremists (a la the New Atheists) know this. I linked to an academic example before, here’s another in layman’s terms:

    Secular world has a Christian foundation
    The contemporary atheist movement has a scorched earth strategy – chop down Christianity, root and branch. I don’t believe in God either, but this strategy is entirely counterproductive.

    …virtually all the secular ideas that non-believers value have Christian origins. To pretend otherwise is to toss the substance of those ideas away. It was theologians and religiously minded philosophers who developed the concepts of individual and human rights. Same with progress, reason, and equality before the law: it is fantasy to suggest these values emerged out of thin air once people started questioning God.

    Take the separation of church and state – a foundation of the modern secular world, and a core of the political philosophy that atheists should favour above all else. It was, simply, a Christian idea…

    Yet many modern human rights activists seem to believe that human rights sprang forth, full-bodied and with a virgin birth, in United Nations treaties in the mid-20th century.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The idea of human rights was founded centuries ago on Christian assumptions, advanced by Biblical argument, and advocated by theologians. Modern supporters of human rights have merely picked up a set of well-refined ethical and moral arguments.

    … For most of our history, all the great thinkers have been religious. So our secular liberalism will inevitably owe a huge amount to its Christian origins.

    Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. … So why are modern atheist agitators so eager to shed Western civilisation’s Christian legacy? Their reasoning – that atheism is attractive not only because it’s accurate but because religion is morally bad – ironically resembles the simplistic good-versus-evil propaganda of history’s most dangerous religious fanatics…

    If atheists feel they must rip up everything that came before them, they will destroy the very foundations of that secularism.

    Re: motives. Whether people or institutions acting in the name of Christianity are deliberately co-opting the influential terminology, thought categories and motifs of the day for their own purposes or sincerely but mistakenly believing that their actions faithfully express the life and teachings of Jesus is beside the point. An even sharper case than the residential schools would be some of the crusaders — not the mere plunderers, but the ones who actually believed they were doing the Lord’s work with their swords. Regardless of what they were thinking, the ‘Christianity’ they were following and the actions it provoked are blatantly contradictory to the life and teachings of Jesus. I don’t see how we can blame Christianity for people’s unChristian ideas and actions, especially when similar ideas and actions readily pop up in other contexts not influenced by any forms of Christianity.

    Coercion is not compatible with Christian teaching and practice, so to the degree there were unChristian methods, the actions were unChristian. Trying to convince people of certain ideas by legitimate means is of course part of Christianity. But it’s also a part of almost everything else; propagating ideas is hardly wrong in and of itself. The reason people object to Christians doing it is not because of what the Christians are doing (spreading ideas), it’s because the ideas they want to propagate are in competition with those of the Christians.

    Re: culture. Christianity doesn’t mandate cultural eradication. Quite the opposite: the first major controversy in Christianity was over the relationship of Christianity and culture, and whether Christianity would be tied to one single culture or transcend cultures and be potentially legitimately expressed within various cultural contexts. A sense of cultural superiority, and that Christianity necessarily means accepting Western culture, is foreign to Christianity. (The China tie-in to this point: the origin of the “Three-Self” principles currently co-opted by the CCP via the TSPM.)

    Western nations domesticated Christianity and syncretized it with their culture, so that Christianizing and Westernizing were two sides of the same coin. Some of them (not all) failed to differentiate between their culture and Christianity. This is in direct contradiction to the legitimate relationship between Christianity and culture. Their sense of cultural superiority was from their culture, not Christianity (though of course many were employing a domesticated, culturally subjugated and subservient form of ‘Christianity’ as an extension of their culture). Primarily blaming Christianity for white people’s colonial and culturally superior attitudes is, I think, a case of scapegoating the Christians with White Man’s Guilt. Interesting how we’re quick to associate Christianity with colonialism and imperialism, but not major Western corporations or entertainment, as if the primary drivers of colonialism were beliefs about Jesus, rather than political and economic.

    If you want to indict particular ‘Christian’ institutions, or specific historical Christian traditions that imperfectly embodied the life and teachings of Jesus, be my guest. I’ll likely join you. And I don’t think it would be inappropriate for individual Christians to make some sort of apologetic gesture themselves, for whatever degree they also perpetuate these shortcomings or represent those that did (perhaps similar to this example), and for the general historical and very mixed legacy of Christianity. But I could say the same for almost any group. I think specific institutions should answer for their crimes, like the Anglican church and the Canadian government. But it’s not an indictment of the actual content of Christianity or the life, teachings, and claims of Jesus, but rather of the people and institutions imperfectly bearing (or deliberately hijacking) his name.

    P.S. – Couldn’t resist adding this to something I said in an earlier comment:

    …all the “news” articles, usually about “scientists” who “discover” something that supposedly explains away some claim of Christianity, that pop up around Easter in the msm (like here).

    This year they almost outdid the “Jesus actually walked on ice floes!” “discovery”: Holy Shroud! Was resurrection story inspired by the cloth?

    P.P.S. – Before you respond, if you respond, notice that I’ve added some things to this response since first posting it. (April 16)

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