Christianity: The world’s most misunderstood religion.
Sitting in Religious Education classes at school left me wondering if the people teaching the class actually knew what Christianity was about. We’d learn about Christmas and Easter and the Church, but I don’t once remember being taught about the heart of Christianity: the very concept that made it spread so much. The concept that made it so subversive, that Communist governments in Russia and China felt they had to forbid it and persecute its followers.
Russia and China weren’t alone. In England, when Christianity escaped out of its religious box, the Parliament banned people from practicing any version that wasn’t linked to the national church. People preferred prison to worshipping in an Anglican Church! Even now there are a long list of countries where practicing Christianity may cost you your life.
We were never told about that in Religious Education classes. Why did Moravians Christians attempt to sell themselves into slavery to reach slaves with their precious Christianity? Isn’t that taking religion far too seriously?
As religions go, Christianity is pretty megalithic. It’s currently the largest religion in the world, and has been for some time. If the references on its wikipedia page are to be believed, it has 2.4 billion adherents (with an expectation of 3 billion by 2050). With there only being 7.4 billion people on this planet, it means that Christianity reportedly represents 1 out of every 3 people.
This is a strange result. Because it started out as an offshoot of Judaism, originally named as ‘The Way’. It’s founder was a Jewish Rabbi, who taught only Jewish people. Did he ever envision it spreading to every country in the world, and becoming so huge?
The simple answer is that his disciples report that he did. And because of that, whether you agree with him or not, Jesus was probably the biggest visionary that ever lived. Steve Jobs famously stated that his life’s ambition was to ‘make a dent in the Universe’ and from that created the world’s most valuable company. Jesus, instead, foresaw a brand new Universe, and started by founding the world’s biggest religion. His last instructions to his disciples was to take his message to the corners of the earth.
But what has made his message so successful? What has made it so palatable to almost every human culture? Why did Vikings give up their raping and pillaging and settle down in family units. Why have a 100 million Chinese switched from centuries of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism? Why do Africans flock in their millions when Evangelists such as Reinhard Bonnke, hold Christian campaigns? Why does a Jewish offshoot religion have adherents in every country in the world?
Given all this, why do so many of us, certainly the writers of school curriculums, fail to articulate this message in the compelling form that makes it so subversive?
It frustrates me no end.
Why? Because the message has subverted me. I cannot go back. The message has captured me in a way that I can now understand that Moravian zeal — if not balk at the cost to their freedom.
And having experienced its subverting power in me, I now know why it has spread so rapidly, and so pervasively.
At it’s heart is hope. Real, true, authentic hope.
It’s not a politician’s hope that seems to quickly fade, or even a human hope that eventually lets you down. It’s subversive power is it that it proves genuine time and time again. The more oppressive the environment, the more it seems to be proven true and spread the more rapidly. When American teenagers instructed at gunpoint to renounce Christianity, and they don’t something is going on. When North Koreans hold on to their Christian hope — despite seeing many others executed for their faith, something is going on.
Why is this hope so genuine to so many people?
This is the truly incredible thing: Christianity teaches that it gets divinely placed inside of you. That’s the whole ‘born again’ thing that gets so badly misconstrued. A spiritual regeneration occurs that there’s no going back from. It’s no mistake that the writers of the Matrix trilogy came from a Christian worldview. The whole red pill — blue pill concept was an analogy of Jesus’ offer of spiritual rebirth. Everything changes if you go through with it.
That’s why Christianity has exploded throughout the world. Christianity offers a chance to be cleansed from our pasts and start again — but this time in partnership with, and under submission to, God. This is the message that wasn’t once articulated to me in hours of Religious Education classes. It’s the message that few outside of Christianity really comprehend.
You know if this message has taken root inside of you, because you feel a cleansing from guilt, and pain and shame, that you have never known before. It’s difficult to articulate it, because it is something that happens to you.
But I know one thing, it’s a message that really is effectual, and it’s one that is going to continue to turn the world upside down - one person at a time.