I grew up in South Carolina, USA, and I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am well versed in religion, various cultures, and world politics.
History of Christianity and Culture
Historically, Christianity was often the supporter of science, the arts, and the progressive state of mind.
Often in areas of hostility, sacrificial religious practices, and stubborn ways of thinking, Christianity would provide outlets of real medical attention to those that were ill, hurt, or dying. They would display beautiful messages through song, dance, and theater. And they would love the least, care for the broken, and offer resources to those unable to afford.
In a time where many people were struggling to make ends meet, Christianity truly provided a light in a dark world. It became the standard-bearer for medical advancement, philosophical thinking, scientific progression, art and music, and especially humanitarianism.
In so many ways, Christianity valued these outlets and saw the importance of their role in culture, and it truly changed the world.
Of course, Christianity during this time was not without its flaws, but what happened to this fervor? What happened to Christianity's desire for progression and growth? Why are many Christians today obsessed with returning to the past instead of striving towards the future like generations prior?
To be perfectly honest, modern day Christianity needs to grow up. It has seemed stagnant for too long, and it is falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to relevance within the culture.
Christianity has sadly become the brunt of many jokes the past century, especially because of this unwillingness to understand what is happening around them. Many non-Christians see the religion as judgemental, hypocritical, misogynistic, cash-grabbing, hate-filled, untrustworthy, and lacking an ability to progress, among other things.
Modern day Christian influence in medicine and science is lot higher than most Christians are even aware, but many Christians today view certain sciences and medicinal practices as blasphemous, unbiblical, or even evil.
Today's views on things like global warming, abortion, vaccines, psychology, flat earth, space exploration, nutrition, sexuality, birth control, stem cell research, and many other things show just how little the religion has grown over the past century. It is lacking a serious understanding of the world around them, and it is hurting the message of the Gospel more than most are willing to admit.
Becoming All Things to Everyone
As the world continues to move forward, God and the Christian message become more and more irrelevant. This neglects the teaching Paul gave in 1 Corinthians 9;
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Instead of becoming all things to all people, most Christians today require outsiders to become Christian or else. The heart of the Gospel message has gotten lost in the desire to fight the world. It is no longer an image of the Church plus Science. It has sadly become an image of the Church versus Science.
Empathy: A Way to a Better Understanding
Something that should come very natural to the Christian message is empathy. However, most people confuse empathy with sympathy, but they could not be more different.
Sympathy is feeling bad for someone going through a hard time, while empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. For example, you encounter a woman who just had a miscarriage. Sympathy would feel sorry for her and her problem. Empathy would sit down, listen to her, ask her questions to better understand, share the feeling to show the depth of understanding, and comfort her how she needs to be comforted.
Empathy requires a lot more work, but it is the right path for strengthening the relationship and learning what it is like to be in the other person's shoes.
How Christians Act and How They Should Act
Empathy is not about being on the defensive. Many Christians put their hands on their hip ready to pull the gun out in self defense when the sight of something offensive comes up. The smallest hint of questioning their faith can cause a wave of poor apologetic reasoning at a time that it is completely irrelevant.
This is often the case when Christians interact with the scientific community, the atheistic community, the feminist community, the liberal community, and others regarding the presentation of opposing views.
Instead, it would be incredibly more effective if Christians learned to listen to and understand their audience. A dose of empathy could help Christians a long way, as it would help them to connect more with the people around them and know the struggles of those outside of their context.
This creates a much deeper community of love, grace, and understanding, and that is exactly what the Christian message desperately needs right now.
The Road Ahead
In my own experience, I have felt the long-lasting sting of a violent Christian strike.
As an advocate for women to lead, I have received unmerited insults more times than I can count.
As a husband to a wife who has mental issues, I have seen the Christian body lose their cool and overreact to something they have little knowledge of.
As a person who studies Christian history and ancient language, the amount of times I have been called heretic for sharing certain learnings has been unbelievable.
As a supporter of freedom, it is amazing how many times my job was threatened at a Christian organization for holding people accountable and sharing the truth.
This is not how we get the Gospel message across. We need to uplift our women, we need to care for those with mental illnesses and learn how to best care for them, we need to be intellects of the faith and know Christian history for our own sake, and we need to value integrity.
Get To Know Your People and Love Them Right
But the truth is, my own experience is limited. You have certain people in your life to teach you important things. I grew up with a strong mother to teach me how powerful women can be. I married a woman with Bipolar II, and that has taught me so much about how to care for people like her, understand deep down what is actually happening, and be aware of trigger points and how to handle them lovingly.
You have these people in your life too, and they are incredibly valuable. Instead of trying to defend your faith, become the person in front of you. Learn as much as it takes to love that person unconditionally. Connect with them in a way that breaks down walls and allows for embrace. Forget yourself and get to know them.
This is what Paul was teaching in 1 Corinthians 9, and this is honestly what Jesus expects of you.
© 2019 Jason Reid Capp
Jason Reid Capp (author) from Myrtle Beach, SC USA on July 27, 2019:
I have lived in Japan for over 10 years now, so my experience of Christianity is heavily colored from numerous different Christian cultures around the world. The Christian organization I mentioned in the article is actually a Japanese one that is led by Japanese people. I just talked to a Japanese Christian this past Thursday that told me bluntly how evolution and psychology are lies of the world trying to ruin the Gospel message.
I have done service projects in places like the Philippines and Thailand where the Christianity is about as ignorant as it can possibly be.
I have seen and experienced plenty of versions of Christianity, and although I realize not all of them are "hate-filled, cash-grabbing" people, we must recognize that a lot of the judgments from the world about Christianity ring a lot truer for the group as a whole than they do false. Judgmental and hypocritical, especially, are defining words of the modern day church, and that applies heavily to both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church.
Consider a topic like homosexuality. Although it is getting better within Christianity as a whole, it is still way too far behind the rest of the world. The amount of vitriol towards homosexuals and the LGBTTQQIAAP communities is still way too aggressive and not empathetic in the slightest.
When I used all of those descriptors in the second paragraph of "Christianity Today", I was simply referring to how the world views Christians. You can simply type "Christians are..." in a Google search to find many of the adjectives I used.
And although you may believe that the UK is better off than the US regarding such styles of Christianity, might I remind you that the UK, especially England, influenced Christianity in America heavily. I'm not saying the UK is responsible for American Christianity, but it would be ignorant to neglect all of the corruption that preceded Christianity entering America.
My point was simply this; Christians just lack a real desire to grow nowadays, and yes, that includes a lot more places than America.
John Welford from Barlestone, Leicestershire on July 26, 2019:
I see that you are an American - although not now living there - and this must mean that your experience of Christianity is coloured by what you witnessed when growing up in the US.
Had you grown up somewhere else - say in the UK - you would have been exposed to many different varieties and seen that hate-filled, cash-grabbing Christians were a tiny minority of those that professed to follow the religion.