Is Christianity good–or bad? There was a time in the not-too-distant past that such a question would have been absolutely ludicrous–everyone understood it is good to reverence God and trust in Jesus Christ! Yet today, with a sufficient passage of time since most children were routinely exposed to the teachings of the Bible in school and society, there is an increasing lack of even a basic cultural knowledge as to what, exactly, is taught in the Bible–and yes, as to whether it is even good.
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith…the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning…” (John 16:1-4 NLT)
A time may be coming when those who identify as Christians will suffer for their belief, even here in the West–to a great degree, I suspect, because the average person will no longer have a clue as to what Christianity really teaches, rendering them susceptible to every bit of disinformation out there, and eventually to prejudice against Christianity, and even hostility towards it.
Even the online description of a program called The Handmaid’s Tale, reads:
“In a dystopian near-future, the totalitarian and Christian-fundamentalist government of Gilead rules the former United States amidst an ongoing civil war and subjugates women, who are not allowed to work, control money, or even read. Widespread infertility due to environmental contamination has resulted in the conscription of young fertile women–called Handmaids, according to biblical precedent–who are assigned to the homes of the elite, where they must have ritualized sex with the men in order to become pregnant and bear children for those men and their wives.”
I understand that this is fiction, but did you catch the misleading comment that there is a biblical precedent for women called handmaids, who must bear children for infertile couples? The “precedent” referred to is clearly the story of Abraham, Sarah and Haggai, but what the description fails to explain is that this “precedent” was a pagan near eastern cultural practice of the time that Sarah, in her disbelief of God’s promise, succumbed to and goaded Abraham (and forced Haggai) into. But referring to it as a “biblical precedent” implies that the Bible either teaches or condones this practice, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth! Yet someone who doesn’t know the Bible will subsequently now associate Christianity with this ancient pagan practice!
What about the fact that this dystopian government that “subjugates women, not allowing them to work, control money, or even read,” is identified as Christian fundamentalist? Sects and cults which veer away from what God really says, perhaps, but Christian fundamentalists who cling to the truth of the Bible? No; God’s heart is not the subjugation of anyone, including women. To the contrary, Jesus “…came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NASB)
In fact, two thousand years ago when the New Testament was written, God named women in the New Testament fellow inheritors of eternal life alongside of men (a radical concept for that time), empowering them and giving them a status they never had before. God certainly does not subjugate or enslave women; He emancipates them! Yet not only women–He frees everyone who comes to Him. Jesus famously said, “…If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32 NCV)
Getting to know what God says in the Bible frees us from wrong thinking and artificial barriers and prejudices, and aligns our thinking with that which right and good and empowering; it helps us be the best people we can be, the people God planned for us to become! Yet this description of The Handmaid’s Tale misleadingly associates Christianity in the minds of the biblically uneducated with small-mindedness and subjugation of women.
What should we do? How should we respond? Clearly, by praying and continuing in God’s Word, because we can’t be effective in any way that counts without Christ working in and through us. But also by knowing and speaking truth to the culture at large as the opportunity presents itself in our daily lives. First Peter 3:15 tells us to “Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. [And] Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope [in Christ].” (1 Peter 3:15 CEV)
Jesus said that everyone would know we are His followers by the love we have for each other, so they will see Him when we are loving and selfless. And Galatians teaches that, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. [That] There is no law against things like this. [And that] Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24 CEB)
We may not keep bad things from happening in the future, but if we live holy, selfless lives and remain faithful to the real teaching of God and our Lord Jesus, He may use us to help correct at least some misunderstanding of what Christianity is, and perhaps even help someone see and know Christ!
Dear Lord Jesus,
Please use me to help others get to know the Father and You through me! Amen.