Q: Isn’t Christianity just something people use to control others?
A: I find it interesting that in most states in America, this article will publish on September 11th; the infamous “911” of our history. And it was all regarding the religious domination you’re asking about. Believe it or not, there is now a whole generation who have no idea what happened on that fateful day. They don’t remember because they weren’t born yet. In short: Islam decided their god was superior, and that flying airplanes into buildings built by a nation of Jews and Christians would somehow prove their religious power and control over the United States. Certainly, the terrorists did indeed control a few planes. True also, their news-story, much like today’s terrorist rhetoric, controlled the media for weeks and months. Even today, there isn’t a news-cycle that goes by we are not inundated with national terrorism and their riotous destruction of our cities, towns, schools and local governments. What God intended to expose as a national sin (racism), has become the weapon of choice for a political party and its diabolical special interest groups. It seems we are never far from the Devil’s attempts to invade and ruin.
Likewise the Christian Church is not immune to the Devil’s reach. On occasion, he has even infused it with evil and used it as a weapon: Hitler grew up in a Catholic home, for example. Jim Jones was well on his way to becoming a United Methodist Pastor when he failed a required psych-evaluation and was refused a license to preach. From the beginning, Adam and Eve defied God’s parameters regarding their behavior in the Garden and decided they wanted to alter his protective rules. What they discovered after ignoring God’s decree to avoid certain fruit, was a life of bondage that had its effect on the whole globe and every citizen upon it. They found out that the Christian God sets guidelines, not to control, but to love and protect his people.
What is often misunderstood, and is at the root of your question, is when Christians appear to be governed. While this may look to an unbeliever like a form of oppression, it isn’t. For the Christian there occurs a voluntary slavery. “Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God’s slaves. This will make you holy and will lead you to eternal life. Sin pays off with death. But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22, 23, CEV.) Certainly, there are evil people who use their religion to control others in a cult-like grip; Jim Jones being a prime example. But the heart of Christ...and the heart of authentic Christianity...is as far from bondage as East to West. Christ gave his life for all people. When folks cultivate a true relationship with Jesus in kind, they discover the desire to serve him. Service to their God always looks like serving other people, because that’s what Jesus did. And he is extremely persuasive in demonstrating love.
Unfortunately there are bad-apples that spoil the bushel; a wounded parishioner suddenly becomes a spokesperson against Christianity, pastors, certain denominations or organized religion altogether. It’s like saying, “The hot water in my tub burned me once, so I won’t ever bathe again.” Wisdom, intelligence and even caution, are gifts from God to be used in our daily discernment on life’s journey. Some churches and church-people are toxic with religious ritual and rigid rule-following. Yet others save our lives and change our family trees into a sprawling legacy of freedom, joy, unity and success. God allows us to decide between right and wrong as we are guided by the Holy Spirit.
A true worshiper of Jesus Christ grieves over the sins of the Church and the sinful people inside it. We wince when Christianity gets a bad name at the hands of a lawless person. Yet we also know that Jesus changed the world. He saved it and offered it eternity, in spite of the human race and what it deserved. So we Christians believe it’s worth shouldering-on, ignoring the judgment of a few lost souls who carry a grudge. I pray you meet the Lord and very soon. He loves you unconditionally.