By George Mitrakos| “Jesus? Peace? Well, how about all those crimes committed in his name? I guess he is not as peaceful as you Christians make him out to be!” Oh boy! I can hear the sighs right now! You see, there exists a seldom number of those within the Christian community who have not come across such statements as the one just brought forth. And who can really be so surprised?
I mean, some of the most horrendous crimes in history have been perpetrated in the name of the Messiah, successfully blemishing the image of his being among the realm of nonbelievers and skeptics around the world. But is this our Jesus? Is this the Christ of the New Testament? It seems as if humanity’s reasoning has fallen so short to the point of permitting the actions of fallible human beings to demonstrate the nature of an infallible God.
So, since I have yet to see an article which successfully tackles each of these crimes by bringing the teachings and actions of Christ within its light, this is exactly what I am going to do.
Within this article, we are going to be looking at the following points:
- Not everything done in the name of Christianity is representative of Christianity.
- The inquisitions (Torture)
- The KKK (Racism)
- Burning witches (Murder)
- The good ship Jesus (Slavery)
- Catholic priests (Child abuse)
1. Not everything done in the name of Christianity is representative of Christianity.
Although it was over 2000 years ago since Christ came to earth, it is quite evident that not a lot has changed. At least in terms of the topic at hand. You see, even during the time of Christ, his disciples took part in the performance of certain actions which Christ immediately rebuked or amended.
For example: In the garden of gethsemane, whilst the mob was preparing to seize Jesus, Peter pulled out a sword from its sheath and struck off a man’s ear. Jesus then healed the victim and told Simon to put the sword away, for whoever lives by the sword shall die by it as well. Luke 22:51, Matthew 26:50-52.
Herein is a perfect illustration of what is going on in our time. In fact, probably even more so seeing as this was not an ordinary follower of the Messiah. This was one of the traveling twelve. An apostle. An eyewitness to the life and ministry of Christ. Yet, what we see is that he also managed to lose control and resort to violence.
But despite these doings, they were not in accordance with the teachings of the Lord. And he was sure to call him out on it, just like he calls his people out by means of his written word. So if an apostle and eyewitness to the workings of Christ was capable of falling short, then it should come to no surprise that modern day, so called “Christians” have the potential to do so as well, either knowingly or unknowingly.
2. The Inquisitions (torture)
The inquisitions were established by the Roman Catholic Church to serve the purpose of seeking out, trying and sentencing people who were found guilty of heresy. The purpose of the inquisitions was to secure and maintain religious and doctrinal unity in the Roman Catholic Church and throughout the Holy Roman Empire, through either the conversion or persecution of alleged heretics.
The 4 inquisitions were as followers:
– The Medieval Inquisition
– The Spanish Inquisition
– The Portuguese Inquisition
– The Roman Inquisition
Now the inquisitors used many methods of torture on the accused heretics for the purpose of acquiring a confession. Some of these methods included:
Stropaddo: Where the hands of the accused were tied behind his back and bound to the ceiling. The subject was then raised, hanging from his arms. Sometimes the tormenters would jerk the body, add weights to the ankles and even employ some heavy drops. All this permitted for his shoulders to pull out from their sockets.
Rack: During the rack, the subject had his hands and feet tied or chained to rollers at one or both ends of a wooden frame. The torturer turned the rollers with a handle, which pulled the chains or ropes in and stretched the subject’s joints. If the torturer continued, the accused’s arms and legs could be torn off.
But what about the Messiah? Did Jesus ever take part or sanction the torturing of heretics?
The word torture in the gospels: First and foremost, the word torture or torment is found no more than 10 times in the gospels. None of them, however, serve as commands for Christians to employ against other people.
Jesus did not torture or kill heretics: During Christ’s 3 year ministry, he spent a lot of time discussing and debating a people called the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Now many people may ask what this has to do with the inquisitions?
Well, when you further examine the practices and notions of these Jewish groups, you will see that they too, would have fallen under the category of “heretics” as well:
The Sadducees were a very logical and legalistic people. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, the afterlife, spirit realms and angels or demons.
The Pharisees did not adhere to the practice of “sola scriptora”. They were the possessors of other books and doctrines which were forged by men. So much so that many a times these man made traditions would OVERRIDE the word of God. One of its consequences can be found in the gospel of Matthew, where these people would create a hierarchical system of oaths which would justify and permit lying! Matthew 23:16-22.
Yet despite these heretical views and practices, Jesus did not command them to be tortured or killed. Read the gospels, you will not find it anywhere. Rather, when they tortured and killed Jesus, he told the Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34) Jesus did not hang them (stropaddo), yet he hung on the cross. Jesus did not tear off their limbs, he commanded us cut off whatever causes us to sin (Matthew 5:30).
Jesus says love heretics
Jesus commands us to love all people, brothers and enemies alike (Matthew 5:44). He commands us to be good to all people, the good and the evil. (Matthew 5:44-45). And he commands us to love him by keeping his commandments. (John 14:15).
3. The KKK (racism)
Although this may have come to be a surprise a few decades ago, there is now little to no doubt that the KKK, one of the most prominent racist groups in the United States of America is rooted in Christian ideology. Or so they claim. Their symbols of flaming crosses are believed and held to represent faith in the Messiah, so much so that a recent KKK leader out of the state of Virginia claimed that they are a “Christian organization”. Now of course, these are all just words flowing right out of the mouths of Klan members.
But do their statements really hold any water?
The Jewish and Samaritan conflict:
During the time of Christ, there was also a great schism between 2 kinds of people: The Samaritans and the Jews. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. The invaders then brought in Gentiles to resettle the land. And during this time, intermarriages took place between the Jews and the Pagans. This served as a point of contention between them and the pure blooded Jews.
For the Samaritans, in their eyes, represented all the worst of the Jews in that they opposed God’s choice of David, Jerusalem and polluted their bloodlines which forever disqualified them from producing the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In fact, the hate between both of these people was so strong that they did not even converse with each other in private or in public.
Jesus breaks the barriers:
But let us now see how Jesus dealt with this situation:
- Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman at a well in John 4 while offering her eternal life. The woman went on to ask him “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for water?”
- Jesus makes a Samaritan a HERO in one of his parables. Luke 10:30-37.
So although the Jewish people established a great racist schism between them and the Samaritans, Christ went beyond that and treated them like his very own.
Jesus opposed racism:
Furthermore, If Jesus endorsed such a belief in superior and inferior races, then he would have never commanded us to make disciples of ALL nations (Matthew 28:19). And likewise he would have never told Nicodemus that God so loved the world (John 3:16).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
4. Burning witches (murder)
Witch hunting is another one of those crimes which Christianity is receiving the blame for. During the medieval time period, it was believed that certain diseases and bad weather was caused by witches found within the land’s populace, hence an order was issued by the church to have them all killed. Many people think 1 million innocents were killed by the witch-hunters, though Rudolph J. Rummel thinks 100,000 is a more accurate figure.
Medieval law codes such as the Holy Roman Empire’s “Constitutio Criminalis Carolina” stated that malevolent witchcraft should be punished by fire, and church leaders and local governments oversaw the burning of witches. Although this was the church’s issued order, Jesus had a completely different approach.
Jesus is against destroying people (ironically, by fire):
While Jesus was entering a Samaritan village, the people there were very reluctant to receive him. As a result, the disciples wanted to send down fire from heaven to burn them. (Luke 9:54). Yet, Jesus rebuked them while stating “You don’t know what manner of spirit you are off”.
Jesus is against murder:
And not only that, but Jesus condemns murder altogether in Matthew 19:18, not specifying anyone in particular, implying that murder in regards to ALL people is against the Lord’s precepts.
Jesus and his disciples did not kill witches
In Acts 8:1-24, there was a sorcerer named Simon who resided in the area of Samaria, fooling people with his witchcraft. When Philip came unto him, he did not take part in any sort of witch burning or murder.
In Mark 7:24-30, Jesus is described as going into the regions of Tyre and Sidon. Now tyre and Sidon were largely pagan territories, where he healed a Syro-Phoenician woman. Ancient Phoenician religion was largely pagan which involved gods and goddesses as well as divination and sorcery/witchcraft. So the odds are extremely high that witches and sorcerers did in fact live in these areas.
Yet Christ did not issue for a witch hunt. He healed and preached.
5. The good ship Jesus (slavery)
And last not but not least, slavery in the New the world. When Europe initially began its settlement in the Americas, the very first slave ship which brought African slaves to that region was called “the good ship Jesus”. Now this was indeed the first, but definitely not the last. Countless of black slaves were shipped to the Americas whilst the Catholic church would subject them to hard labor, rape and torture. Many times this was perpetrated as a mere example to those who were thinking of fighting back.
Paul endorses slavery?
Now of course, many people like to quote the Pauline epistles which orders slaves to obey their earthly masters as substantiation of the bible’s permission for slavery. Ephesians 6:5. However, slavery in the 1st century Roman Empire was quite different to our view of slavery:
– Slaves were not distinguishable from others by race, speech, or clothing. They looked and lived like everyone else
– Slaves were not segregated from the rest of society
– Slaves made the same wages as free laborers, and therefore were not usually poor
– Slaves could accumulate enough personal capital to buy themselves
– Most slaves were NOT slaves for life.
Notice also that the masters must treat their slaves in the same way their slaves treat them without threatening them (Ephesians 6:9). He reminds them that they are no better than those they oversee, and God will not show favoritism. So, on a sarcastic note “What kind of slavery is this?”
The master-slave relationship clearly parallels the employer-employee relationship in our day. It is the kind of relationship a person would have with their maid or their butler. Furthermore, Paul often sought freedom for slaves (Philemon 1:15–16). But let us now hit the nail on the coffin.
Jesus and slavery:
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here are a few things that we have to notice about this passage:
- The Greek word for “Lord it over” is katakyrieuousin which means to exercise lordship over, to bring under one’s power, to subject to oneself, to subdue, master and to hold in subjection, to be master of. Jesus tells us NOT to be like that.
- If we are to be great, then we must be slaves (servants) of other people. Mark 10:44 specifically says “slave of everyone”.
So the question arises: Does this sound like a people who can take upon themselves the role of a haughty and aggressive slave driver? Does this sound like a people who would subject those of another race under their power, demonstrating superiority and mastery?
What kind of slave master is one who is not permitted to Lord it over his slaves while being commanded to serve and be a slave to others?
6. Catholic priests (child abuse)
Now this should come as no surprise. Whenever it comes to the atrocities of religion, the raping of children immediately finds its way into the conversation, seeing as many of these instances were performed by catholic priests. As a matter of fact, according to the antlantic.com, the Catholic Church defrocked over 800 rapist priests in the last 10 years for child abuse.
But can such crimes really be used against the validity of Christianity? The answer is no. And here are 2 reasons why:
1) First and foremost, them sexually abusing the children forced them to commit either one or both of the following sins: Fornication and adultery, which Jesus clearly spoke out against. Mark 7:20-23, Matthew 5:27-28.
2) Jesus valued children tremendously. Jesus said that it would be better off to drown yourself than to cause children to sin (Matthew 18:6). Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children (Matthew 19:14). Jesus used a child as a standard for greatness (Matthew 18:3). Jesus used a child as a standard for admission into heaven (Matthew 18:3). Jesus healed children (Mark 5:41-42), (Matthew 17:18) and more.
Or how about this heavy-hitter:
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” – Mark 9:43
So, as we come to the end of this article, you may be asking “what does all this really mean? Does this really make Christianity any truer than it was 5 minutes ago?” And the answer is no. What it does do, however, is attempt to make Christianity more accurate than it was 5 minutes ago.
Christianity is defined by the doctrines and teachings of the New Testament, not the behaviours of people who call themselves “Christians” 1000 years later. And we must remember that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is actually a Christian:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” – Matthew 7:21-23
Just because people call themselves followers of Christ doesn’t mean they are actually saved. These horrors committed in Jesus’ name do not reflect him, the teachings of the New Testament, or Christians at large. We have to go back to the text and analyze the person of Jesus, not the behaviour of people who claim to follow him. You can’t judge the truth of a worldview by pointing to it’s abuse.
He is not that individual whom some Christians make him out to be. He is not a reflection of the disobedience that has been performed throughout human history.
Take him or leave him, he was a person filled with compassion, love and forgiveness. He is not the Jesus of the inquisitions and neither was he the Messiah of African slavery. He is the Jesus of the New Testament.