After our December issue one reader wrote to complain about that month’s backchat. We published her letter and my response but sadly there was not space for the full correspondence.
Here it is.
Well done on another great issue. As ever, loads of great articles and features. However, I found my enjoyment somewhat marred by the backchat feature. Normally I really enjoy this section of the magazine, so I flicked to it fairly early on. I’ll say at this point that I am a Christian. While the article was hardly cheery or generous about Christmas, that was not what really bothered me. After all, the views expressed are shared by many, and while Christmas is for me a wonderful time and a very important focus for my faith, if Jesus isn’t the focus for you then Christmas inevitably will have very little/no meaning.
I am (and you’ll have to take my word for it) a very hard person to offend, but I read the line “the children who suffer at the hands of Christianity” with alarm- hence this letter. I would like to know exactly what Huw Green meant by that line, and what information he is working from. If this statement is true, it is something for us all (especially Christians) to be very concerned about. I am woefully ignorant on many important matters- but I may be able to shed some light on a particular situation that Huw Green had in mind. If, however, this statement is false then it could be construed as very offensive as it claims that Christianity/Christians are immoral and are going against their own principle of love (among other things).
I know backchat is meant to be a more light-hearted feature, but that should not be used as an excuse to express sweeping, unsubstantiated and defamatory opinions such as that statement. Would it be acceptable for any other religious belief to be substituted for Christianity?
I am quite open to having the meaning more fully explained, and am keen to know if Huw Green had any particular examples of “children suffering at the hands of Christianity” so I can find out more about them myself.
-The Christian (missionary)justification of colonialism throughout the spread of the British Empire
-The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq driven by Christian fundamentalism in The White House (cf most US foreign policy from the 80s on though admittedly the White House has manipulated Christianity’s message in much the same way as Muslim fundamentalists distort that of Islam)
-The Pope discouraging the use of contraception and resultant spread of HIV and AIDS through Africa
-The staggeringly high proportion of children who are made to feel as if they are morally inferior for being gay because of the teachings of orthodox Christians
This is not the opnion of Impact, we have practicing members of Christianity on the team, but I do stand by the statement that the church as an institution is an incredibly morally dubious enterprise. Personally the kind of blind faith that I see in many Christians operates as a barrier to sensible argument, especially with regard to morality.I would like to concede that equating you and your personal faith with the corruption of an ancient institution is not really fair. I should perhaps have spoken of The Church rather than Christianity.
I hope that the drift of the article didn’t cause any further offence. You will appreciate that the feature is always, by its nature, a hyberbolic rant rather than a balanced comment. Perhaps it is the fact that I was born into Christianity that I felt I could safely attack it without being unfair.
We will print your letter and I hope this is a satisfactory response. I am sorry to have caused offence but as this is the result of your association with an institution and set of beliefs I hope that the article won’t be percieved as a personal attack on you or other members of your faith.
Thank you for your reply. Permit me to respond on a couple of points. As you may anticipate I still do not agree entirely with your examples, but I understand to an extent where you are coming from. The Church has not done itself many favours in many areas of life, but it is important to remember that the Church is made up of fallen humans- we screw things up, and we are not always an accurate reflection of what our faith believes, which is a deep shame.
Thank you for conceding that US foreign policy if it is religiously motivated at all is a warped version of Christianity (conveniently forgetting at least one commandment among other things). The number of Christians (and other faith groups) involved in the anti-war protests surely highlights a discrepancy (I know of no Christians who agreed with going to war).
Too often things are perceived to have religious motivations, or religion is blamed for people’s actions, when actually the blame lies elsewhere. The Pope’s comments on contraception I would agree are not the wisest, or most helpful. However, that by no means can take the sole blame. A far greater problem is sexual promiscuity (WHO-an entirely secular organisation- has stated that the spread of STIs would stop virtually overnight if people had just one sexual partner). In certain areas there are also the added complications of witchdoctors giving the advice that sleeping with a virgin cures AIDS, which is leading to the rape of very young girls.
I do not believe that our faith should be blind, though for many people it is. Personally I think people should question what they are told, and weigh it up for themselves. Apart from anything else, if you have thought about what you believe and why, you have a lot more confidence and motivation in it.
Thankyou for your measured response. I have to say that I agree that the distinction between church politics and Christianity as a movement is a necessary one to make. Additionally, you are right, it is people who screw up and secular leaders have done things that are too mutitudinous and gruesome to list here. Maybe it is safe to say that conviction about binary moral values is dangerous in policy. This way of thinking is certainly not confined to Chritsianity. furthermore, not all Christians are governed by strict and non-negotiable codes of ethics.