One of the great myths that has become ever more prevalent recently is the idea that Christianity is the world’s most violent and oppressive religion. It is a notion that can be found almost everywhere on the internet these days. However, the truth of the matter is that Christianity is not a violent religion and has never been one.
When Our Lord came to the world, He did not come as a political or a conqueror. He was the reputed son of a carpenter from a small village in Galilee who was, in fact, the Son of God. In the Gospel of John, there are numerous times when the apostles ask him about the Kingdom of Heaven and Pilate does the same thing shortly before Jesus is scourged. Every time, Jesus replies that His kingdom is not of this world. in other words, it is not a political entity. The kingdom which He is speaking is the kingdom of heaven where He reigns, has reigned, and will always reign as king.
In the New Testament, politics is not something that is discussed fairly frequently. Christians are enjoined to obey the lawful authorities under whom they find themselves. They are told to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. When it comes to the actual preaching of the Gospel, we see that the apostles went out two by two into various distant lands. St. Paul did not carry a sword with him when he entered Athens and St. Peter didn’t bring a cohort with him when he went to Rome. They did not slaughter the unbelievers, but preached the Gospel to them. If they didn’t believe, then they shook the dust from their feet and moved on to some other area.
As the centuries have passed, Christianity grew. However, it must be stated here that there is a great difference between what people believe and what they do in the name of their religion. For example, a great deal has been written about anti-Semitism. Most Christians are not anti-Semites and the writings that are frequently cited as being anti-Semitic have absolutely nothing to do with that word in its modern sense. For example, St. John Chrysostom authored a series of sermons against the Jews. However, the translation here is inaccurate. St. John Chrysostom didn’t preach against the Jewish people, he was preaching against a group of Judaizers within the early Church who wanted to bring Christianity into line with Judaism.
Another frequently cited proof text for modern anti-Semitism is The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. This little pamphlet has been reprinted thousands of times and many people have claimed that it is a road map towards domination of the world by the Jews. The work itself was authored by a man named Sergei Nilus, a religious fanatic who was in the pay of the Tsar’s secret police. If looked at in the context of Nilus’s other works, which are also apocalyptic and laced with similar conspiracy theories, then it becomes clear that The Protocols are just another crackpot book among many and simply cannot be taken seriously by anyone.
Of course, there have been many wars that have been fought in the name of Christianity. There was the Thirty Years’ War which was fought between Catholic and Protestant nations and caused an untold amount of suffering in central Europe. Among others, there have also been the Wars of Religion in France and the Fourth Crusade that ended up sacking Constantinople. In all of these cases, the wars were conducted in the name of Christianity. However, and this cannot be stated enough, the core of Christianity has never incited people to fight one another, hate each other, or kill each other.
Perhaps, the greatest proof against Christianity being a religion of violence can be found in the lives of the martyrs and the lives of other Christians who have lived under various hostile regimes. The martyrs were killed for their Christian belief. They were beheaded, they were sawn in two, they were shot to death, or they were buried alive and tortured inhumanely. The martyrs did not fight back even when they were in positions of power. They knew that a greater reward awaited them in the next life rather than in this one and that was why they were so willing to cast aside their earthly bodies.
In various Middle Eastern countries, Christians have lived under a dhimmi status. This means that they are a tolerated minority, but toleration does not necessarily mean that they will not be slaughtered at the whim or behest of the local ruler. In 1915, for example, 1.5 million Armenians were butchered by the Ottoman Turks because they were Christians. They had done nothing to cause this calamity to fall on their heads, but they were slaughtered regardless or left to die in the Syrian desert. These men, women, and children had lived peacefully under the Ottomans until the Ottomans decided that they should be murdered because they were potential saboteurs.
As I have sought to point out, Christianity teaches meekness, love of enemies, and turning the other cheek. Violence has never been a part of the Christian and message and never will be. St. Paul wrote in one of his great epistles that “in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female.” Christianity has always been a great unifier rather than a divider. Let us remember that before we throw out the lie that Christianity is the most violent religion in the world.