When people try to dismiss Christianity or belief in God by asking, “What about the Crusades?!” (or some other bad thing), this is my first reaction:
- You don’t judge an ideology by those who violate its tenets.
- I make it a habit not to apologize for things that a) happened 1,000 years ago and b) I didn’t do.
- If there is no God then there is no moral grounding to criticize the Crusades or anything else.
- None of those things disprove the central claims of Christianity, such as the physical resurrection of Jesus, his divinity, etc.
Many critics try to use issues such as the Crusades, the Inquisition or just run of the mill hypocrisy as trump cards against Christianity. If people did the opposite of what the Bible teaches then at worst they were not Christians and at best they were, at least temporarily, bad ambassadors for Christ. Those issues are serious, of course, but they have zero impact on whether the Bible is true and whether Jesus is the the only way to forgiveness of your sins, reconciliation with God and to eternal life.
The same goes for other religions and worldviews: We need to understand what they really teach to judge them properly.
Another possible response is to say that you’ll take responsibility for the thousands of people killed by “Christians” provided that the atheists take responsibility for the one-hundred million plus killed by Lenin, Mao Tse-Tung, Pol Pot and others. The Salem Witch trials killed 18 people. The Inquisition killed about 2,000. That is 2,018 too many, to be sure, but keep in mind two things: The perpetrators did the opposite of what Jesus commanded and 2,018 murders was a slow afternoon for atheists like Stalin and Mao. And keep in mind that the Crusades were not what you see in the pro-Muslim politically correct version you hear about today. They were largely a defensive maneuver. Here are 4 myths about them:
- Myth #1: The crusades represented an unprovoked attack by Western Christians on the Muslim world.
- Myth #2: Western Christians went on crusade because their greed led them to plunder Muslims in order to get rich.
- Myth #3: Crusaders were a cynical lot who did not really believe their own religious propaganda; rather, they had ulterior, materialistic motives.
- Myth #4: The crusades taught Muslims to hate and attack Christians.
Also, if someone wants to claim that Christianity isn’t true because of bad things done in Jesus’ name, then they would need to concede that the vast number of good things done in his name would be evidence for Christianity.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should gloss over bad things done in Jesus’ name. Those are serious issues and an embarrassment to Christianity. We can respond to them and use them to express Biblical truths.
Was the Inquisition wrong? Of course! It is completely un-Biblical to think you can or should force someone to believe something. When the rich young ruler walked away sadly after being told he must give up everything to follow Jesus (Matthew 19), Jesus didn’t run and tackle him. He didn’t even offer to negotiate and take half. The text says that Jesus loved the young man, but He didn’t force him to believe. You come to him on his terms or not at all.
Mainline Christian denominations have caved on important Biblical concepts regarding sexuality – easy divorce, promiscuity, abortion and various perversions. These false teachers abandoned essentials of the faith such as the deity, exclusivity and sufficiency of Christ as well. They have grossly misinterpreted the Bible, but that doesn’t mean Christianity isn’t true. It means people have drifted from or abandoned Biblical teachings. Ideally, people wouldn’t judge Christianity based on what those people do and say.
Some “Christians” abused scriptures to justify slavery (maybe they were really Christians, and maybe not . . . that was between them and God). But what critics typically forget is that Christians who properly interpreted scriptures, such as heroes like William Wilberforce, were the ones who helped end that type of slavery.
Yes, self-proclaimed Christians have done many bad things. But what is the answer – that Christianity is false? Of course not. The answer is more Christianity, or more specifically, more authentic Christianity.
Biblical illiteracy is part of the problem. The more people know about what the Bible really says, the more quickly they can stop heretical movements.
Are bad actions done in the name of Christ a problem for Christianity even if the perpetrators may not have been true Christians and the acts were un-Biblical? In a moral sense, no. Again, you don’t judge an ideology based on the actions of those who violate its tenets.
But in a practical sense it is a problem for Christianity, because these issues can be a stumbling block for non-believers. We need to be sensitive to those who were wounded by Christians (real and fake) and be prepared to explain the truth in love.