Christianity – its historic and moral significance

This 1300 word post constitutes the third section of seven for the Pamphlet, 21st Century Tract

Christianity was once the dominant religious culture of the European nations. It distinguished the identity of European nations from those in other continents. Today, however, we detect mere traces of Christianity’s historical influence in Europe and its former colonies.

The landscape of Europe is littered with Christian church buildings. Some church buildings are still used, but their congregations are usually small and elderly; many church buildings are either empty or sold off to be used for other purposes. While the Anglican Church in Britain remains the Established Church, its membership and its influence are both now much diminished.

The English monarch remains the supreme governor of the Anglican Church, and Elizabeth II is herself devout. But such are vestiges of a former pre-eminence. There are constitutionally 26 bishops sitting in the United Kingdom House of Lords, but their influence is minimal in a chamber with 800 members.

For centuries, the clergy had a disproportionate presence in the upper chamber of the English parliament. No more.

Today, the moral climate prevailing in the European and English speaking countries of the world is atheist and materialist. Consumption, acquisition and possession are the key indicators of social values and ambitions.

In this post I want to point out the critical importance of Christianity.

Christianity provided us with the idea that we owe a duty beyond ourselves, and beyond each other. We owe a duty to God our creator. God as our Creator, has proprietory rights over us; he will therefore assess and judge all that we do during our earthly lives.

That is a powerful check upon the human conscience and behaviour. It means that whatever others may do, indeed whatever governments or any organisation may do, we are obliged to regard what God requires above all else.

It means we police ourselves according to God’s standards first and foremost, not according to the whims and changing standards of human society at large, or the particular company we may each keep.

It means, too, that all forms of human authority are in turn answerable to God. They do not exist for themselves; they have obligations under God. They have obligations to God. They have an obligation to do justice, according to God’s rules; to ensure fairness; to protect people in their person and in their property.

High or low, we are therefore obliged to respect others in their person and their property as the Ten Commandments and the Christian message teach – not because of modern ideas of social contract or Rights.

Modern notions start with self, and with our personal expectations. By contrast, Christianity taught obligation to others: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. The psychology required and the psychology framed in us is not just fundamentally different – it is opposite. It demands responsibility and it teaches duty.

Christianity is the ultimate leveller and the ultimate tutor. It tells us we are all sinners before the one perfect God who made us – and who loves us. We are all equal, whatever our material or social differences; we all have equal value in God’s eyes. Which is why God requires that every one obey the same moral standards set out in the Ten Commandments. No matter what your station in life or your wealth, or your influence,  all are subject in their every day relations and attitudes to the Ultimate Authority above.

But in today’s world, the moral reference point is SELF – not God, nor the good of others: just SELF. My views; my wants; my ambitions; my possessions; my future.

And to be brutally pertinent, let me cite Abortion. I stated in a previous post for this Tract that legalisation to allow induced abortion represents the critical turning point between the former culture and values, and today’s materialist mentality.

Sex is no longer considered within a social or family context – a context of responsibility for bringing another life into the world and taking care of that life. A man and a woman committing to each in marriage before God and before their fellow human beings, their families and communities.

Sex is now a purely private and individual matter of pleasure and indulgence. It is concerned with self first and last. And if a child results, that child can be eliminated when its existence is inconvenient to the inclinations or circumstances of the mother or father.

To put that in religious terms, it is sacrifice of a human life on the altar of Materialism.

This attitude and behaviour is the ultimate in self centredness; it is the ultimate in rejection of all social meaning and moral constraint; there is no consideration of wider society or of the particular child. There is no regard for the normal and natural constraints of who we are , nor for our God given roles as mother and father.

Materialism has stripped us of our humanity, and mocks God our Maker as superstition. Yet God provides us with the most pertinent moral code to live our own life successfully – and to live for the fundamental welfare of everyone else.

Christianity, of course, is centred on the historic person of Jesus Christ. Christ claimed to be God come in the flesh. Whether you accept Christ’s claim or not, the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ supply the supreme example of civilised behaviour. He is the ultimate role model. Christ’s self sacrifice stands as the ultimate reference for each of us, not just morally but – more critically – psychologically. Our duty to others; our respect for others, before selfish interest.

I can think of no better example to achieve a harmonious society where everyone is valued and their intrinsic dignity upheld.

Regardless of what wrong Christ’s faithless followers have done, and regardless of what the institutionalisation of Christianity has also sometimes done – the founder figure Jesus Christ remains a remarkable role model. Jesus has inspired so many lives, and so much good. The propagation of Christ’s creed around the globe made Christianity the foremost religion in the world.

Christian influence decisively formed laws and informed the exercise of authority. Christianity taught the fundamental notion that we are each made in the image of God, yet each of us can also fail. We are all sinners in need of Christ’s love and forgiveness. And forgiving, not hating, is of the essence.

This conception of ourselves and how we should behave stands in stark contrast with today’s materialistic conception of the human being. In this conception, we have evolved; we are not created, and we have no dependence on God or any accountability to God. There being no God beyond us, we have become our own god, determining good and bad for ourselves; we now determine our destiny and even our identity. We answer to ourselves –  to our own needs and appetites. We are beholden to no-one else, except as we choose, and only as long as that is convenient to us.

The psychological outcome is that we are becoming socially irresponsible and increasingly selfish. Having become rebels against our Creator, we become rebellious against social order and the norms of civilised society.

Abortion, divorce, family breakdown, drug dependency, pornography, prostitution and untouchable organised crime are but symptoms of the prevalence of this new creed and of the utter rejection of Christianity.

In this climate, it becomes feasible for governments to take draconian measures to control ordinary, everday life in the most intrusive ways.

The State takes the place of God and begins to act like God.  That not only becomes normal, it becomes desirable. Although the concept of God is rejected, the subconscious instinct remains and must find an outlet, an Object to take God’s place.

Invariably, an authoritarian human Hero with often horrific results.