Ugly Christianity

This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on February 7 2016.

I recently watched a film adaptation of Jane Eyre (don’t tell anyone). At the beginning of it a ten year old Jane is sent to live at an orphanage school. There the harsh director of the school accuses Jane of being a liar and that she must stand on a stool until midnight and tells her that she must “not eat or drink but bow, to beg God’s forgiveness for your sin.” The director is portrayed as an mean and abusive man and gives an impression of Christianity that is far from reality.

How often have you seen or heard of Christianity being portrayed in a way that does not reflect Christ? Historically we might consider the crusades, the inquisition or the Salem witch trials. Many of us will know of people who were treated poorly at church schools (Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was in the news a few weeks ago for saying she was beaten by nuns as a child). Maybe you have a personal experience that can relate to this. Unfortunately, these things are taken as representative of Christianity.

It shouldn’t take too much intelligence to realise that there is a difference between ‘Christianity’ and ‘Christians-behaving-badly’, but unfortunately it very often does. That’s why it is important that we endeavour to present ourselves as Christ’s people in the best way we can, even if it means we sacrifice what we might think we have a right to (cf. 1Corinthians 9). It also means we must be ready and able to set the record straight where Christians – even if they are ‘Christian’ only in name – have made Christianity to look ugly.