Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Christianity on Trial" (Book)

TITLE: Christianity on Trial
Authors: Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett
Published: San Franciscon: Encounter Books, 2002 (244pp).

Our modern culture in the West seems to be increasingly anti-religious, especially anti-Christian judging from the anti-religious rhetoric thrown around like verbal graffiti. As much as accusers can come up with all kinds of rhetoric and anti-religious bigotry, if they close their minds to seeing the other point of view, they become the very bigots they try to accuse in the first place. The authors listed 8 major objections commonly thrown at Christianity. These 8 deals with complaints with regards to the negative roles the Church has played in:
- Development of the modern Western culture
- Introducing and Enforcing slavery;
- Attacking and Limiting Science;
- Slaughtering innocents
- Third Reich, Nazism
- Charity
- Environment
- American Democracy.

With each point, the authors helpfully state the initial stumbling block, and then proceeds to dismantle them by showing the other side of the picture, that apart from the accusations of bad things the Church has done, the Church too has been credited with lots of virtuous deeds. Unfortunately, these good deeds are either not remembered or largely unknown to the majority of the public at large. Without the knowledge of facts, it is easy to go with the flow. After all, social acceptance can be won through criticizing the Church or Christianity at large. Modern culture seems to issue extra brownie points for every tomato thrown at the face of the church.

It is indeed unfortunate that some people tend to readily criticize or condemn the church while conveniently ignoring its good works. The authors of this book do society a good service by providing more of the other side of the story. I hope more people, especially the anti-religious will come to learn of the good side of the story, that much of Western civilization and progress have been due to the merits of Christian people in the past. For example, while people can easily criticize 300 years of horrible wars, they forget that for the first 1000 years, Christianity has been the victim. They remember the small things but fail to acknowledge the contributions of big things. How many of us know that hospitals and universities were first started by the Church? What about the abolition of slavery was spearheaded by a staunch Christian believer, William Wilberforce? For every mention of the Church mistreatment of Galileo, what about the technological advancement made by the monasteries during the middle ages? Farming technology, iron making in France and England, establishment of medical facilities by Emperor Constantine who became a Christian, the memory of a monk trying to fly a plane even before the Wright brothers were born. The authors conclude with a powerful demonstration of Christian virtue in action through the Polish revolution in 1983. At that time, the harsh dictatorship of Yugoslavia's General Jaruzelski were oppressing the people of Poland, sending them deeper into economic ruins. There were bloody rebellions at least thrice against the Communist leaders in 1956, 1970 and 1976. However, in 1979, the pope visited Poland and preached a gospel of peace. From then on, the struggle for freedom and peace became a determined but peaceful one. Led by Lech Walesa who describes his Christian faith as his 'peace and strength,' the evil regime fell to peaceful demonstrations. Didn't faith matters play a positive part in Poland then?

Let me suggest that in order to get our perspectives right, our starting point is to be able to see both sides of any picture. The biggest service the authors have done is to supply the public another perspective to counter the increasingly negative and anti-Christian perceptions. Let us all be fair in all our interpretations. See both sides of any story. For those who like to bash Christainity, may I urge adopting a fair and rational view. Do away with bashing Christianity for the sake of bashing. This book can provide helpful ways to be thankful rather than vengeful.

Rating - 4 stars out of 5.


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