Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Christianity

There’s little question that Christianity is a religion in retreat. Even in the United States practising Christians are today a minority, and a steadily dwindling minority.

While I am not myself a Christian I feel that the decline of Christianity is, on balance, a bad thing.

But how did it happen? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because something has happened it must have been inevitable. I don’t buy that. There is no particular reason why religion cannot survive and even thrive in a modern society. As recently as thirty years ago Christianity was still in a fairly healthy state, in terms of numbers at least, in the US.

I do not think Christianity has died a natural death, nor do I think it has been murdered. I do not believe that the vicious attacks of bigoted atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins could ever have done any serious harm to Christianity. I think Christianity has to a large extent committed suicide.

There has always been a potential weakness in Christianity. The emphasis on turning the other cheek has always carried with it the danger that Christianity could become an excessively passive religion. Combined with an excessive zeal for the weak and downtrodden it could, to put it crudely, become a religion for losers. Until fairly recent times this danger has been kept in check.

Compassion has been a strength for Christianity but it is important to understand that there  are different types of compassion. One type of compassion can lift people up while the other kind can keep people in misery. Compassion can lead us to show people how they can turn their lives around, or it can encourage them to continue in the behaviours that got them into trouble in the first place. Compassion for sinners is fine but it’s supposed to go hand in glove with encouragement to change their ways. Jesus didn’t tell the woman taken in adultery to go on merrily committing adultery - he told her to “go, and sin no more.”

In the past century Christianity has tended more and more to favour the negative kind of compassion.

And while it’s all well and good to reach out to those in need it would be nice if occasionally Christian churches reached out to those people who are doing the right thing, who are making a success of their lives and are living by their faith. It would also be nice if the churches occasionally reached out to white people, other than homosexuals, drug users and criminals.

The strength of Islam is that it rewards those who play by the rules and live according to their faith, whereas those who live by Christian principles have been increasingly marginalised by modern Christianity. Not surprisingly Islam thrives today while Christianity is a dying religion.

There’s also little doubt that the Anglican and Catholic churches have been to a disturbing extent infiltrated by homosexuals. As Christianity has seemed to have less and less to offer to healthy heterosexual men the ranks of the priesthood were increasingly filled with homosexuals and assorted sexual misfits, with tragic but predictable results.

It was not always this way. In the 19th century, the era of so-called “muscular Christianity,” healthy heterosexual men were highly likely to be devout Christians.

The Anglican and Catholic churches in particular have been feminised to a degree that leaves them with little appeal for heterosexual men.

Christianity has become wishy-washy mealy-mouthed do-gooder socialism with a very thin spiritual veneer. Sometimes without even the spiritual veneer. As such it has no future. Time is running out for the churches to change direction and to make Christianity once again a religion that appeals to decent ordinary people.

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