What Cynics Get Right About Christianity: and what they get wrong.

It’s been a little over a year since I lost a good deal of my eyesight and the learning curve is a long one. I remain grateful for peripheral vision good enough to allow me to “see” sidewalks and nearby objects.  I also have a variety of gadgets that read things out loud. It means listening is the main way I keep up with things.

I’ve discovered a hoard of university lectures available on the internet and have the pleasure listening to some for an entire semester, and some for a few lectures only.  Among the them have been a handful of religion cynics in general and Christianity specifically.  For them, Christianity is fanciful, superstitious, magical thinking.  If you strip the Christian story of all its supernatural silliness, they say, what’s left is a bunch of nothing built around an itinerant teacher no different than any other, and an institutional church interested only in power and money milked from the gullible.  Their understanding of Christian theology appears to be based on paintings in the Sistine Chapel and televangelist sales pitches..

In a sense, they are right.  If you strip away all that is supernatural, there isn’t much left, leaving too many believers with childish ideas about who and what God is.  Sadly, too many self proclaimed christians also tend toward magical  thinking. But, and it’s a huge but, the supernatural cannot be stripped away from Christianity.  God is supernatural.  The Word of God made flesh in Jesus is supernatural. The kingdom of God that is near is supernatural. The supernatural presence of God in the natural world of creation is the unshakable reality in which Christians live.  There is nothing magical about it. Anyone can deny there is such a thing as the supernatural and are free to do so.  Yet, we have three thousand years of testimony of those who experienced it first hand.   

What about all the religious wars waged in God’s name?, the cynics demand to know.  They are an abomination to God and one of the great sins of the church that belie the central teachings of the law, prophets, and our Lord Jesus Christ.  The same goes for the various forms of oppression, subjugation, and racism that have plagued the nations, often in God’s name. Our sins, individual and collective, may demean the faith in the eyes of others, but they don’t abrogate it. 

Some cynics express real animus toward Christianity, blaming it for every evil perpetrated on the people of Europe and indigenous people of the “New World”.  The institutional church bears some culpability but these evils were driven more by ordinary greed and lust for power of monarchs and adventurers. .  To the contrary, Christianity’s  central theme about life on earth is that we can choose to live in peace, reasonable harmony, and a general degree of prosperity by following God’s way of love articulated clearly in the prophets and confirmed by Christ himself.  What’s to object? It’s true that we are inclined to look over God’s ways, declare that they sound good in theory, and go about making our own way.  We are free to do so, but the unhappy results are predictable. Humans have proven it again and again with the same results.  Followers in the way of love, commanded by Jesus, have contributed much to the moral advancement of humanity. Christian cynics endorse for themselves, ad which have indeed made life progressively better for humanity despite humanity’s error prone stumbling forward.

The cynics can’t seem to tell the difference between what it means to follow Jesus, and sinful behavior sometimes perpetrated in the name of the church.  It’s nothing new.  It’s been going on for a long, long time.   Just keep following Jesus as best you can.

© Steven E. Woolley

Leave a Reply