by ProfDave, ©2021 

St. John of Nepomuk, 14th-century Christian martyr,
WikimediaImages, Pixabay, License

(Mar. 11, 2021) — Why people hate Christians so much: 1. Because Christianity is universal – offered to all irrespective of preexisting creeds. 2. Christians call everyone sinners. Hmmh. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Do Christians do that? 3. Christians raise an inflexible standard of righteousness and 4. Christians warn of judgment to come. Hmmh. Are Christians guilty of all that?

People will die for their faith.  I was living in the 16th and 17th centuries that week in January – the Reformation and the European wars of religion.  Back then no one could imagine people of different beliefs living together in peace and rulers didn’t know the difference between conscience and treason.  An oath regulated society was dependent on shared faith.  Catholics were released from their allegiance to Queen Elizabeth, for example, because she had been an illegitimate child.  So they fought each other to parade rest to maintain the “right” state church.  Lesson learned: it is just too costly to force your neighbors to violate their conscience/religion.  Too bad some people in the USA still haven’t learned, not to mention the middle east.

People still die for their faith, not just in the 16th century or the third century.  There has been an awful lot of that lately.  Suicide bombers of Islam target Christians, Shi’ites and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria.  Millions of believers died under Lenin, Stalin and Mao.  Six million Jews died under Hitler (not really for their religion, but for their ethnicity).  There have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than the previous 19 combined.  In the news is the persecution of Christians by Hindu nationalists in India and by Buddhists in Myanmar.  Then there are the Rohingya in the same land and the Uyghurs in China – or is it ethnic cleansing?

Why?  Because nothing means more to a human being than his faith.  It is a higher authority than the state and a challenge to any totalitarianism.  By definition, religion is the core of our identity, relating to our ultimate concerns.  It is who we are and the definition of our moral integrity.  Faith is our hope of eternal life.  Often it is easier to die for one’s faith than to live for it, to be sure.  We waver and compromise in our daily behavior.  Would we answer “yes” in the ultimate moment with a gun to our head of sword to our neck?  You might be surprised at how many would.  But in any case, religion defines us and sometimes our ethnic identity, too.  Are Rohingya hated because of their beliefs or because of their tribe?  Both.

People will die for their faith.  These days, it is mostly Christians.  Why?  Sometimes it is an ethnic and cultural thing.  In some parts of the world some tribes or castes are Christians in a sea of another faith.  Like the Jews in Nazi Germany, conversion is no escape for them.  They are hated for who they are, not just what they believe.  Likewise, Westerners in a night club bombing certainly do not die for anything religious except by association with the “Christian” West.

But 1) Christianity is a universal faith, not limited to race or tongue.  That is one reason it is hated so much.  The presence of real Jesus-followers is a challenge to tribal faith and solidarity, whether in a jungle village or a university campus or “the House of Islam.”  It is not that Jesus is The Way for a particular people, but that He is The Way for everybody. The invitation is universal, and the light cannot be hidden under a basket. 

People will die for their faith.  Notice the partisan objection, during the last administration, to the nomination of a religious freedom advocate on the grounds that religious freedom favors Christianity.  There will be no such nominations under Biden – count upon it.  Hmmh.  Christians are the most frequently victims of religious discrimination, persecution and martyrdom worldwide.  Leave them out, and Brownback would not have had much to do!  But separation of church and state did not block him from protecting Moslems. 

Why do people hate Christians so much?  As noted above, there is the matter of turf.  Jesus offers himself to all mankind everywhere, challenging the truth and goodness of our favorite gods.  Not by force, of course. When was the last time a Christian held a knife to anyone’s throat demanding they give their hearts to Jesus?  Not by force but by conviction, by love, and by reason.  The cross draws all men and women to Him – and there is something in us that hates that.

2) Christians are hated because they shine a light on wickedness in two ways.  Confession time: many “Christians” are self-righteous, holier-than-thou, folks who try to fix everybody else.  We all hate that, except in ourselves.  We call them hypocrites – and they are!  They are self-ians, not Christ-ians.  Real Christians are not righteous in themselves, but in Christ.

But even true Jesus-followers go around saying we are all sinners.  And we take it as a personal insult, even if we secretly know it is true.  Especially if it is true.  And by Jesus-standards it is true.  The whole premise of Jesus dying on the cross is that the whole world is lost, guilty, alienated from the Almighty and in need of salvation, reconciliation, redemption and healing.  So, no matter how Jesus-followers sugar-coat the medicine they are, in fact, saying you are wrong.  So we want to shoot the messenger!

3)  Christians raise an inflexible standard of righteousness, beyond human capability.  Christians do not live up to their own standards, but real Jesus-followers stand in the way of moral compromise.  They will suffer (but not in silence!) and die rather than violate their consciences.  Today we see them standing in the way of “progress” and the spirit of the times.  We celebrate those who stood against the sin of slavery in the 19th century, but the sins of the 21st century are “the right side of history.”  This embarrasses and infuriates progressives – and sometimes the general public.  It is divisive.

The standard of Jesus is impossible.  Loving my wife as Christ loved the church would mean dying on the cross, for goodness sakes!  That is not cool!  Altruism is counter-evolutionary.  Impossible.  I am not going to kill anybody, but not even hating my enemies?  Love my enemies?  Not cheating on my wife is OK, but whadaya mean I can’t even look?  Think about it?  Impossible!  And you want to raise your kids that way, too?  Countercultural!  Unreasonable.

4) Perhaps worst of all, Christians warn of judgment to come.  The thought that we might be responsible for our thoughts, words and deeds to a Higher Power is most disturbing.  He is watching all the time?  Our lives and motives, secret and not-secret, are literally naked before a holy God?  Now that is real hate speech.  Most offensive!  No wonder the Sanhedrin rushed screaming on St. Steven, with their fingers in their ears!  Take a hammer to the smoke alarm!

If we would take our fingers out of our ears, however, we would hear the siren song of grace – the costly gift of redemption and reconciliation that wipes away all our sin and welcomes us Home.  Unfortunately, to listen to this would require us to admit that Jesus is right, falling into the arms of a loving Heavenly Father in unconditional surrender.

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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