Sunday, December 06, 2009

Two Faces of Christianity

There are two conflicting sides of Christianity that I see in our culture. Let me call these the Utopian side and the Militant side. Both of these are found and justified in many passages of the New Testament. And yet they present divergent, if not diametrically opposite, views of what Christianity means.

The Utopian Christian loves his neighbor (and everyone in the world) as much as himself. He has compassion on the poor and downtrodden and sacrifices his well-being for theirs. He rejoices in affliction and even afflicts himself with fasting and other hardships. He does not judge or condemn others. He gives to whoever asks from him. He is a pacifist who will not strike back or retaliate when slapped on the face. He loves his enemy, will not speak evil of him behind his back, and prays for his well-being.

The Militant Christian, on the other hand, sees this world as a spiritual battle ground. What is important is whether people are going to heaven or hell, not their physical condition or whether they are fed or content. Evil spiritual forces are impinging on good and must be fought. People must be pulled out of the jaws of hell. Whatever means that accomplish this are justified even if they harm people. Evil is defined as what contravenes the revealed will of God (i.e. Bible). Condemnation of immorality is a staple, especially anything to do with sex or sexual orientation that isn't sanctioned in the Bible.

If something saves lives or pulls people out of poverty or helps the downtrodden or leads to greater happiness, the utopian Christian is likely to support it. These factors, however, are not particularly relevant to the militant Christian. Things for him are judged on an absolute moral scale, rather than on a harm/benefit scale. The militant Christian attacks policies that could be seen as condoning immoral behavior, even if they could literally save thousands of lives. This includes attacking sex education and providing condoms to poor nations to protect them from the spread of HIV. A similar reasoning leads to attacking same-sex marriages -- it doesn't matter whether or not it could lead to happier people. All that matters is that it contravenes what they see as God's ideal for the world. Other similar ideals by some Christians include banning contraception use including condoms, (even though contraception undoubtedly protects millions of unwanted children from coming into the world), and banning suicide and euthanasia even for terminally ill people in great pain. The merits of each of these could be debated on a harm/help basis, but this is irrelevant to the militant Christian who sees everything through a black-white, moral-immoral lens.

Freedom of belief and religion are certainly not ideals of the militant Christian. If a belief system (or religion) is going to lead people astray and into eternal torture in hell, why should that be legal or tolerated? The militant Christian has few qualms in leveraging the state's powers to further the spread of the gospel and halt the spread of other "nefarious" beliefs.

I have just described the extremes of these views. Both can surely find plenty of support in the Bible. And Christians hold a whole spectrum of beliefs spanning these two extremes. But what I find sad is that the second of these faces seems to be winning. While modern Christians still pay lip service to the utopian ideals espoused by Jesus, in practice they have ditched them as ineffective. I presume they judge it less effective to live a selfless life, than to rail judgments against all the evils they see and lobby politicians to fight their cause. Turning on the radio or scanning the blogsphere or listening to sermons, it is the shouts of Christian soldiers that are drowning out the quiet voices of their utopian brethren.

3 comments:

  1. I read your post about militant vs utopian christians. I've been a christian for 25 years, but I'm beginning to lose faith, maybe not in God, but definately in 'christians'. You are right, the militant christians seem to be winning, and they don't look anything like Jesus. This saddens me, makes me angry, and causes me to lose faith. I don't know what to do. I try to be a 'utopian' christian. but there seem to be more of "them"

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  2. I thought of something else to add. the militant 'christians' are most concerned with always being 'right' and being 100% sure of everything. They are , in effect, modern day pharisees. These were the arch-enemies of Jesus.

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