Any college student that has taken an America Studies class will probably hear this line in the first week of class, “Early Christianity was oppressive and cruel.” In a much quieter way, the student may also learn, but only by reading between the lines, that early Christianity in America was also one of the fundamental guiding forces which made us a City Upon a Hill.
The strict rules of the Christian faith explicitly forbid many things, but those restrictions also protect a greater number of freedoms which subsequently create the peace and civility which any society must have to succeed.
The trouble with Christianity is the commonest type of trouble, according to Christian writer G.K. Chesterton.
“The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one,” Chesterton said. “The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians.”
The rationalist that tries to put Christianity into neat and tidy categories will find himself caught in a web of seemingly contradictory rules, a veritable “Kesselschlacht,” an annihilating battle of encirclement. They fear it, and they almost always do it to themselves. The end result is that the rationalist’s mind becomes frustrated and he decides that it is better to deride Christianity than to accept it.
That’s how we end up with the kind of people that are upset about Christianity’s weaknesses, and yet others that find themselves upset about is strengths.
“A is for Atheist” purports to have taught Christianity for 14 years at the college level. The writer spent a career studying and teaching Christianity and arrived at the conclusion that the core of the Christian faith is a “convoluted version of ‘love.'” One in which Christians excuse and ignore spousal abuse by virtue of simply forgiving each other. On the other side is feminist writer and blogger Pam Hogeweide saying that any woman who buys into a traditional Christian lifestyle is an oppressed Christian woman.
If Christianity is only ever bound to make men beat their wives, it doesn’t seem to be working too well with more than 830,000 men being abused by their wives each year. Since we can all agree that domestic violence is wrong, you can step off if you think I’m defending it as being a justified part of a Christian lifestyle.
As Chesterton observed, “… if this mass of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty, too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge, a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed, then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique.”
Of course, Christianity appears as irrational to a rationalist, but if Christianity was truly irrational and nonsensical, then how could it be the ruination of women, yet also their shelter? Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is almost 100 years old now, but his observations of rationalist critics transcend time.
Despite the fact that Chesterton sufficiently ran down that argument more than 100 years ago, we continue to have this debate today. The criticism of Christianity comes loudly from those that cry out about it’s inconsistencies, irregularities, and the worst one of all– inequalities.
The secular and modern pagan isn’t upset that Christianity exists, he’s upset that it doesn’t exist in the same way for everyone.
“The instinct of the Pagan empire would have said, ‘You shall all be Roman citizens, and grow alike; let the German grow less slow and reverent; the Frenchmen less experimental and swift,'” Chesterton said “But the instinct of Christian Europe says, let the German remain slow and reverent, that the Frenchman may the more safely be swift and experimental. We will make an equipoise out of these excesses. the absurdity called Germany shall correct the insanity called France.”
Those are the glorious inconsistencies of Christianity, and, no, it won’t fit into your secular and post-modern world of reason and rationality.