Deciphering the meaning of ‘Christianity’

SUSAN K. SMITH | 1/28/2019, 3:11 p.m.
Following the announcement that his wife would be working at a school that bans homosexual teachers and students

Crazy Faith Ministries

Following the announcement that his wife would be working at a school that bans homosexual teachers and students, Vice President Mike Pence said that he found the resulting criticism “deeply offensive.”

In an interview that aired on NBC, the vice president said, “To see major news organizations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us. … This criticism of Christian education in America should stop.”

Pence’s remarks are a reminder that there apparently is no standard definition of what Christianity is and what Christians should do.

While Christians throw around the words “love” and “mercy,” claiming them as the nucleus of what Jesus the Christ taught, in reality, many Christians practice neither – at least not in an undiscriminating manner.

Some of the most devout Christians are also the most rabid racists, sexists, homophobes and xenophobes. In spite of there being one Bible, in which the Gospels are fairly clear about the requirement that those who follow Jesus the Christ treat all people with dignity and love them as siblings, many Christians ignore that requirement and defend their right to do so.

In her book Mississippi Praying, author Carolyn Renee Dupont concludes, “The racial crisis precipitated conflict of the meaning of Christianity.”

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted over 50 years ago, the “most segregated hour of the week” happens on Sunday mornings. Christians are known to exclude people of different races, colors and ethnicities.

In Mississippi and all over the South during the ‘60s, activists sought to integrate worship services at White churches, only to be turned away at the doors. Mahatma Gandhi tells the story of how he was once carried down the stairs of a Christian church he tried to enter.

“Were it not for Christians, I might have become Christian,” he is reported to have said, according to the Kansas City Star.

Racism sparked bitter debate about what Christians should do and how they should act, with Christian ministers preaching the “rightness” of racism from their pulpits. The records of what they preached is troubling.

One pastor preached that “Liberals delight in talk about making God relevant for our day, and his idea of making the Gospel relevant is finding in it the social messages for the issues of the day.”

It is clear that people read the same words read by “Christians” in entirely different ways, depending on one’s race, culture and political proclivity.

To some, a Christian teaching in a school that openly discriminates on the basis of one’s sexuality is a bold obfuscation of the meaning of Christianity. Some believe Jesus said to love everyone; others believe that the Gospel gives Christians the right to practice bigotry. There is still, as Dupont noted, “a crisis in the meaning of Christianity.”

There is likewise no agreement about the meaning of the cross. For many Black people, the cross is the symbol of victory over death and injustice, but for many Whites, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, the cross is a symbol of hatred.