Sometimes, one comes across new articles that show mounting anger against a certain kind of religion associated with American neo-conservative politics, bigotry and the many evils that put many people off Christianity altogether. Christianity is like the Titanic is an example.
Of course, this month, we have had the centenary of the Titanic. What was so special about the Titanic in a century when many ships sank after having been torpedoed by enemy submarines, having hit extremely bad weather or through navigation errors – and many human lives were tragically lost? The Titanic was claimed to be unsinkable, and her designer claimed that not even God could sink her! She was not sunk by God but by human foolishness.
This article compares Christianity to the ill-fated liner of 1912 by its lack of viability. It is reminiscent of the arguments of Nietzsche. Christianity is distinctive through its weakness, not its strength or viability. Jesus was crucified, and his mission was absolutely misunderstood by his disciples, by the Jewish clerical establishment and by Pontius Pilate. “My Kingdom is not of this world” – one of the most ignored utterances of Christ.
I don’t see all Christianity failing and foundering, but I do see our time as one where bad Christianity is being discredited. The movement began in the middle ages, but was the very soul of modernity, through Protestantism, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the various late nineteenth-century anti-clerical movements in Europe and Latin America and finally a movement of secularism brewing in America.
Scorn is heaped on both conservatism and liberalism as being movements to maintain a religion lacking truth and viability. There is a claim that there are one billion atheists in the world, about the same number as practising and nominal Roman Catholics. The article does not hide the fact that it is an apologia for atheism.
The arguments are not new. Atheists are rational and religious people are irrational. The Old Testament is full of a bloodthirsty and vengeful God. The biblical accounts of creation do not tally with modern science. Christianity has not changed the evil in the world. The doctrine of eternal hell is preposterous. Prophecies of the end of the world and the second coming of Christ have all failed. There are no miracles like those Jesus performed in the Gospels. Hypocrisy and moral double-standards of church ministers and priests are also an obstacle to faith. Christians hate each other and ecumenism has not resulted in the reunion of churches. Atheists also argue that the message of Christianity was plagiarised from the old Egyptian, Hellenic, Roman and middle-eastern Mystery religions.
How do we react to all this, by more hatred and sales pitch? For me, the way is inwards. The Church has come to a time when inspiration should be taken from the monasteries and the way of the desert. There are many who say that the Church must maintain the same pitch in the market place of ideas and maintain moral and social teaching – but the Church will lose. I have commented on this theme before as I find in the writings of Berdyaev and other Russians at about the time of the fall of the Czars and Lenin’s Revolution. We go into the darkness, but the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.
The Christian Gospel and even the sacramental presence of Christ will abide with those who treasure spiritual life, peace and goodness – but the big sort-out is happening. Bad Christianity and ideology are on their way to the bottom of the sea! It happened before in some places and it can happen again.