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When talking about a religion or belief system, please be particularly careful to ensure that any comments are fair and helpful.
Christianity, as it is commonly practiced, can appear to be very odd to the ordinary person. But then, the Christianity we see today is two thousand years old, and a lot can happen in that time.
Many people have the impression that Christianity has moved a long way from its roots: almost everybody likes Jesus, but hardly anybody likes the Church. It seems that, to those looking in, the Church does not look very much like Jesus. And, to be honest, it often doesn't look very much like Jesus to those inside the Church, either.
Christians often seem to be very concerned about things which don't matter to most people (one of the important historic conflicts was about the date on which Easter should be celebrated...); they often have strict rules about who is allowed to officiate at a communion service; they worry about which colour robes the Priest should wear at which time of the year, and a lot of other things which are only important (if at all) from a very specific perspective - and seem very unimportant to most other people.
Sometimes Christians appear to be (and sometimes, like many people, they really are) closed-minded, dogmatic, intolerant and bigoted. The Church has often been - officially, at least - on the side of the rich and powerful, keeping the unwashed masses in their place.
But Christians have also been on the forefront of much social change, they have created most of the best organizations and structures within our society (such as hospitals, schools, universities and charities) and today they are also very often involved in running and volunteering for projects which support social change, which care for the environment, and which help poor, vulnerable and excluded people. It's a mixed story. The Church and Christian people have often been pulling in different directions.
At least part of the difficulty people have with Christianity does not come from the reality on the ground. Some of the difficulty comes from history and culture, from what is assumed about Christianity, and from memories of pictures and fantasies created in the Middle Ages.
Some of the difficulty comes from the social reality that many children attend Sunday School and then drop out of church when they become teenagers, so their understanding of the Christian faith is shaped by messages produced for children, and this understanding is then passed on to others.
But some of the difficulty comes from what is actively communicated by the Church. And a large part of the communication problem comes about simply because Christianity has this long and complicated history stretching back two thousand years: inevitably, a great deal of teaching, language, customs and culture have accumulated over that time. Much of the variety in doctrine and practice come about because of the different priorities and pressures experienced at different times and places, the many different perspectives on the events of those two thousand years, and the ideas surrounding those events.
All of which means there is actually a lot more agreement between the various parts of the Christian faith than you can see from the outside - it is there 'behind the scenes' - and most of the disagreement is about issues which the Bible says little or nothing about. Most of the odd things make much more sense when you understand how we got here ... but, apart from satisfying our intellectual curiosity, there is very little benefit to be gained from understanding such details.
We are aiming to focus mainly on the Christian faith from the perspective of Jesus, using only language which makes sense to people outside the church. As we do this, we can attempt to imagine what the Church might look like if it concentrated on following Jesus in the modern world; we will be putting less emphasis on the details which only Christians are interested in,
As always, if anyone wants to offer a different framework or strategy, please let us know.
The Message of Jesus
Here is one way of summarizing the message of Jesus.
- You can choose to live in a world where people pursue their own selfish interests through power, or you can choose to live in a world in which people pursue the interests of others through love - but you can't do both.
And here is a slightly longer way.
- The kingdoms of this world rule by power, but your Heavenly Father is building a kingdom ruled by love, and invites you to be a part of this kingdom: He invites you both to live as a citizen and to make it real for other people. Because He is inviting you, you have the power to make a choice about which kingdom you want to live in - whether to accept or reject His invitation: one choice leads to a full, abundantly experienced life; the other choice leads to conflict, isolation and death.
(If you think you have a better summary of Jesus' message, please let us have it!)
Christianity - for Everyone
Here we are attempting to use only language and terminology which makes sense to people outside the church.
The 'Ground Up' project articles:
- Christianity: From the Ground Up
- Christianity: the Basics
- I Will Build My Church
- The Bible - a Short Background
- What the Bible Says
- The Life and Teaching of Jesus
Older articles from the previous site, which will probably need to be re-worked at some point:
Christianity - for Christians
Here we are writing for Christians, and for anyone interested in Christian thought and practice.
Here are some other articles we think are helpful.
- What’s a Christian? A short article by a friend, Daryl Martin
- Christians Have to Do Something About Injustice in the World
- My Problem with the Bible, by Brian Zahnd