In a recent broadcast of "Let My People Think," Ravi Zacharias asked the important question, "Why is it that when people want to reject Christianity they present the abuses of Christianity while painting (their views) in a pristine way, ignoring the abuses?"
Great question. Let's address the issue.
English historian Arnold Toynbee, as quoted by Andre Kole in "God Loves Atheists Too! The Christian Conjurer," wrote, "Most people have not rejected Christianity but rather a caricature of it. They have created a straw man, called that 'Christianity' and decided against it."
I find that observation all too true. So often what people reject of Christianity is not true Christianity but a perversion of it.
For example, often people point to the various Crusades (there were seven beginning in 1096 and going through 1248), and use that, claiming that Christianity is a religion of bloody conquest.
First, as an aside, let me remind the reader that, right or wrong, the early Crusades at least were a response to a bloody Muslim aggression in the Middle East, a defensive war, not a war of aggression.
Why is it that we condemn Christianity for their reaction while saying nothing of the bloody slaughter at the hands of Muslims of millions of Jews and Christians who lived in the area at that time? There is a flawed inconsistency in our thought processes regarding our judgment on this period of history.
The above aside, whether or not one subscribes to St. Augustine's theory of "Just war," one has to realize that when the church initiated her response to the barbarity which was in keeping with the writings of Mohammad she was acting in direct opposition to the teachings of the Savior she claimed to serve.
Yet today, thousands reject the message of Christ because of the abuse of the church at this point, while ignoring totally the barbarity that was in keeping with Islamic doctrine.
A young lady told a Christian evangelist that on the basis of the fact that Christians told others they were wrong, she didn't want to be immoral like Christians were, and that's why she was a Buddhist. The evangelist asked her, "Tell me, didn't the Buddha say that Hinduism was wrong? Didn't he say that the caste system was evil?"
"Yes," the young lady replied excitedly, "I read that in my devotions today!"
"Why is it that you are willing to accept what the Buddha said when he obviously said others were wrong, but are unwilling to consider the claims of Jesus because He said others were wrong?"
The young lady responded, "I don't like where this is going."
Years ago J.B. Phillips wrote a book titled, "Your God is Too Small." In that book, Phillips pointed out that the God most people rejected was, in fact, a misperception and misrepresentation of God rather than an accurate view of Him.
Phillips said in that book that he too rejected the common misconceptions of God because they were in fact unworthy of worship and acceptance.
Perhaps you are guilty today of rejecting a caricature of Christianity. There is a simple way of determining what is true Christianity and what is an abuse of Christianity; it is called reading.
Don't listen to what others are saying about Christianity or the God of Scripture; read it for yourself. Go to the pages of the Bible and see what it says about itself, and make your decision from there.
You may still reject the message, but at least at that point you are rejecting the message itself and not some miscommunication of that message.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.