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A CASE FOR CHRISTIANITY


INTRODUCTION

I can't quote Scripture.  I don't know much theology, and I can't speak for all the divisions of Christendom.  But, as a practicing Christian, I do know a bit about my religion—enough to get annoyed when ignorant people (I'm looking at you, Angry Forum Posters) consider Christianity to be hateful and Christians to be naïve.  

I'm Orthodox Christian.  The Orthodox Church is regarded as the original Christian church, dating back to the time of Christ.  (No, the Catholic Church isn't the first—they split from the Orthodox in 1054 over many issues.)  I won't go into those details here, but if you are curious to know more, a fantastic article which explains the differences between the Orthodoxy and Catholicism can be found in the authour's comments.  
Anyway, since I'm Orthodox Christian, many beliefs shared by the Orthodox will show up in the following essay.  I realize that some Christians may not completely agree with what I write; however, I think that the original form of Christianity will support my points better than later Christian denominations.  

I'm not looking to convert anyone.  After all, part of Christianity is having respect for all humans, even those who possess different beliefs and lead different lifestyles.  I simply want people to fully realize what Christianity—in its truest, purest form—is about.  I want people to know that it's a religion full of love, mystery, and acceptance—not hatred and bigotry.  And, maybe more than anything else, I want people to respect both the religion and its followers.  

CASE I: BUT IT'S SO FULL OF HATRED!

Oh, yeah—wars were fought over Christianity.  You hear stories of missionaries and "old-fashioned" characters who force their religion onto others.  Even today—especially today—some Christians judge others, hurt others, disrespect others, so on et cetera and so forth.  After all, humans are imperfect by nature.  We lie, cheat, steal, lust, sink ships and sleep with the boss's wife.  We wage war.  We're prejudiced, we're judgmental, we're cruel.
Remember this, though: of every religion, race, and culture, there are people who mess things up.  People who are misinformed.   People who don't know what the hell they're talking about.  And yeah, sadly, sometimes people come along who really aren't very nice.
What happens if those misinformed, ignorant, cruel, or crazy people claim to belong to a certain religion?  Sometimes nothing happens.  But sometimes, their antics give said religion a bad reputation.  For instance, according to Angry Forum Posters, all Christians are Bible-thumping homophobic anti-science ignorant racist hick-town-dwelling fools.
Oh, right.  I forgot that, as a Christian, I love going out every day and finding people whom God allegedly hates, and letting them know.  Preferably with a megaphone and grammatically incorrect signs.  Right.  I love doing that.  

Except not really.  

The thing is, an important belief in Christianity is that God is the final judge.  Which means that—guess what—we humans have no right to judge each other.  Which in turn means that prejudice, racism, and general hatin' are all against Christian values.  Really.  Christ Himself helped and respected those that others despised (prostitutes, thieves, tax collectors, the like) as an example to us.  And many Christians do follow that example as best they can.  I know I try my hardest to.  Sometimes I slip, yes, and judge another person's actions.  We all do.  But I sincerely try to treat my neighbor as I would like to be treated, and I'm certain that the majority of other Christians do, too.  
(No matter what you read about online.)

CASE II:  WELL, WHAT ABOUT FORGIVENESS?  AREN'T CHRISTIANS ALL INTO DAMNING OTHERS TO HELL?

Ah, I see you're referring to those fire-and-brimstone sermons of religious revivals.  Well.
As I said, I can't quote the Bible, but I know Christ once taught that in order to be forgiven yourself—whether by another person or by God—you must forgive others.  Forgiveness isn't just excusing the theft of that last piece of cake in the fridge that you really, really wanted.  No, forgiveness is about the big stuff, too—like cruelty.  Adultery.  Murder, even.

Yeah.  

It's difficult.  But it's necessary, and it's part of Christian teachings.  The Lord's Prayer itself entreats God to "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".
Deacon Nicholas Jannakos adds this to the subject of repentance and forgiveness:
"…Repentance is not an apology to God for breaking some rule or law with a promise to do better next time, as little children do when they meet 'Santa Claus' in the shopping malls before Christmas.  Orthodox Christian repentance is a clear understanding that we are "missing the mark" of growing in the image and likeness of God, which is the only reason that God created us in the first place…True repentance is a blessing from our all-good God who loves mankind, because it opens our hearts and minds to the healing power and the grace of God the Holy Spirit.  It is the cure for the terrible human sin of pride, 'which cannot bear to be subject to anyone.'  But here again personal freedom comes into play: people have to want to be cured."


CASE III:  BUT I HATE WHEN CHRISTIANS FORCE THEIR BELIEFS ON OTHERS!

Consider this: a severe alcoholic is putting his family, job, and health in danger because of his drinking habits.  His friends stage interventions, drag him to rehab, and plead with him to stop drinking.  But this guy doesn't recognize that he has a problem—and even if he did, he sure as hell doesn't want to give up his alcohol.  If someone forcibly removes the alcohol from him, he'll be angry.  He'll be angry at the person who took away the drink and at everyone who says he has a problem.  In fact, he might drink all the more just to prove that he's all right.  He hurts himself, alienates his family, and loses his job.
Now consider this:  our alcoholic guy realizes he's heading down the wrong path.  He strives to take steps to better his lifestyle.  He might seek out the help and support of family and friends, but ultimately, the decision to change is his and his alone.  And change he does—a change for the better.

The same goes for religion.  A parent might drag their unwilling child to church (or temple or wherever) and force them to sit down, stay quiet, pay attention, and pray.  But what good does this do the child?  Going to church to "put time in" does nothing for the soul, and praying without sincerity is pointless.  
People aren't always going to share beliefs—it's just the way things are.  It's the responsibility of a Christian—or anyone, really, who passionately believes in something—to share their ideals and to educate others about their ways of life.  Do you see the word force in that previous sentence?  No?  That's because there should be no forcing—only sharing, educating, and teaching.  A person will choose his or her path in life—and will often revolt if kept under the bonds of someone else's beliefs.
If they're willing to listen, I'll try to persuade said person that Christianity is the way to go.  But if they don't agree with the Christian teachings—or religion in general?  Well, that's okay, too.  We'll agree to disagree, because…

CASE IV:  …BECAUSE HERE IT GETS INTERESTING

Life is full of mysteries.  Religion, too, is full of mysteries—especially Christianity.  In the grand scheme of things, we know very little.  The Orthodox do not believe in predetermination or that only Orthodox go to Heaven.  For instance, a man once asked Christ what he needed to do to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And you know what Christ said?  He instructed the man to follow the Ten Commandments and to give his possessions to the poor.

Here's a rundown of the Ten Commandments for your reading pleasure:
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any grave images…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.

Note that the first four commandments deal with man's relation to God.  The final six, on the other hand, deal strictly with people.  Let's see, do any command Christians to hate anybody who's not of the Christian faith?  What?  No.  I thought not.
The thing is, nobody knows for certain what happens after death.  Christians believe that those who live a life according to the Ten Commandments, forgive others' transgressions, and possess humility and compassion have a pretty good chance of going to Heaven.  But we also believe that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and that all human beings have the chance for eternal life—and that we should spend our time on Earth striving for personal goals rather than condemning others.

CASE V:  OKAY, WHAT ABOUT EVOLUTION?

What about it?

CASE VI:  AND THE BIG BANG?

Yeah?

CASE VII:  WELL?!

Ah.  These kinds of questions come up a lot.  Deep breath, now.
As I mentioned before, both life and religion are full of mysteries.  I could rant on and on about how the Church deals with scientific discoveries and theories—believe me, I have before—but I quite like the way Father Michael Azkoul puts it:
"Following the Holy Fathers, Orthodoxy uses science and philosophy to defend and explain her Faith…she does not build on the results of philosophy and science. The Church does not seek to reconcile faith and reason. She makes no effort to prove by logic or science what Christ gave His followers to believe. If physics or biology or chemistry or philosophy lends support to the teachings of the Church, she does not refuse them. However, Orthodoxy is not intimidated by man's intellectual accomplishments. She does not bow to them and change the Christian Faith to make it consistent with the results of human thought and science."

Human ideas and philosophies are constantly changing, constantly evolving.  Yet the Church, throughout all this change, remains constant.  Some people very much disagree with Christian beliefs—but hey, so what?  Disagreement is natural and questioning is inevitable.  But let's try to have a calm and intelligent conversation without all the put-downs, shall we?  
(And who's to say God didn't create the big bang?  Or evolution?   And how long were days before we created calendars to measure them?  What?)

CASE VIII:  HOW CAN SOMEONE BELIEVE IN A GOD THAT LETS CUTE KIDS IN POVERTY DIE?

John Steinbeck once wrote a book called "East of Eden".  It's a fantastic book, I highly recommend it—yeah, you have to skip over some of the lengthy descriptions, but it's really wonderful overall.  
Anyway, "East of Eden" is, in part, a modern retelling of the fall of Adam and Eve from Paradise, a Biblical account which many have at least heard of.  And a very important theme of that book comes from a little Hebrew word—timshel, or, "thou mayest".  The word deals with a passage in the Biblical book of Genesis that had been mistranslated by various scribes.  In the passage, some translations state that Jehovah tells Adam, "thou shalt rule over him [sin]"—in other words, Jehovah's words are a promise that Adam would conquer sin.  In other translations, Jehovah tells Adam "do thou rule over him [sin]", implying that Adam is ordered to conquer sin.  A servant named Lee intends to discover the original translation of the verse—and a few elderly Chinese men, some Hebrew dictionaries, and a couple Rabbis later, the original form of the verse was found.  It said, "thou mayest rule over him [sin]", implying that Adam may conquer sin…or he may not.

So, what does this have to do with anything?  

Christians believe that God gave mankind the freedom of choice.  Prayer, either to God Himself or to the saints, often causes God to intervene in an otherwise horrible situation; however, God does let things happen.  Some of these things are good, while some are truly bad.  Now, Christians also believe that God is loving and kind, and no evil can come from Him.  So how can it be that a gentle God would not interfere with, say, the starvation of poverty-stricken children?  
Jason Misleh explored this very question, using the example of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, September 11, 2001.  I'll let the words of Jason Misleh explain:

"So why did God let this happen?  If he didn't, the freedom he has passed to us as human beings would not exist.  Before placing the blame of something evil and tragic on God, think about it.  Why would a loving God ever want to harm anyone?  And never forget, the most asked question in the universe is 'Why?'  The most unanswered question, unfortunately, is also 'Why?'  In this case, the answer may be our misuse of free will."
The ability to choose allows humans to act upon their wills and decisions—and, sadly, sometimes people (of all cultures, religions, and races) have cruel intentions.  Just one person with cruel intentions can cause horrific consequences to befall innocent people.  And an action without cruel intentions can result in unforeseen complications.  Even something established by people for millennia, such as a country's social class system, can produce devastating effects—effects such as children on the poor end of the social spectrum starving to death.  


CASE IX:  CHRISTIANS ARE STUIPD AND CLING TO AN IMAGINARY FRIEND TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS.

This is usually the one that gets me worked up.  All I can say is that, no, God is not a gray-bearded man hanging out in the sky.  Again, I'll use Father Michael Azkoul's wise words: "Following the Holy Fathers, Orthodoxy teaches that the knowledge of God is planted in human nature and that is how we know Him to exist. Otherwise, unless God speaks to us, human reason cannot know more".  
And God helps those who help themselves.  You don't sit there on a couch in a dark room and wait for the money to come pouring through the ceiling—it doesn't work that way.  (I desperately hope nobody believes it works that way.)

Christianity, furthermore, isn't reserved for Sundays.  I myself pray throughout the day—and not big kneel-down-bow-the-head prayers, either.  Just little ones, little thoughts, either in times of distress or times of joy.  Or in times that aren't particularly special at all.  I question certain aspects of my religion, yeah.  There are things that I don't understand.  I'm still learning, and I don't think I'll ever stop learning.  But I believe that my life is very much bettered because of my religion.  I have very deep values and, well, I like to think I have compassion for others.  Because of my religion, I try not to judge others and I try not to be cruel hearted.  I try to pardon and I try to be kind.  I rely on my faith to guide me through life, and I pray to God for forgiveness, assistance, and thanks.  
And I am not stupid, thank you very much.  I am not folksy and I am not ignorant.  In fact, Christianity inspires me to learn as much as I can about others, to have empathy for all, and to regard every human first and foremost as God's creation—a creation to be respected.

CONCLUSION

As I mentioned before, this little essay is not intended to convert or chastise anyone.  It is, however, intended to share a little bit about what Christianity is all about.  I realize that some people, although they call themselves Christians, do not follow the religion's original ideals.  I realize, too, that misinformed people occasionally lead others to believe Christianity is a hateful instead of a loving religion.  However, I really hope that this little essay changes some common misconceptions and opinions of Christianity.  

I am not asking anyone to believe what I believe—no.  I merely ask that people learn about the true intentions of the Christian religion before they send off an angry forum post.  I ask that they are not ignorant and hateful of Christianity.  And—maybe more than anything else—I ask that they both accept and respect people of all religions, cultures, races, orientations, situations, and lifestyles alike.
Hoo, boy, I can already feel the heated arguments coming on.

Please hold them in.

Seriously, this is a simple essay I wrote to try and educate others--be they religious or not--on the original intentions of Christianity (mainly Orthodox Christianity). As I stated in both my introduction and conclusion, I am not trying to chastise, convert, yell at, or offend anyone. In fact, my intention is quite the opposite: spread the love, people!

If anyone feels the need to give a mean retort to anything written above, please privately message me. Furthermore, if anyone finds fault with my reasoning and cases...you guessed it. Privately message me. Comments are welcomed, but please do not fling yourselves into heated religious arguments--after all, that's exactly what this essay is trying to absolve.

Essay (c) me.

SOURCES:
Differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism (and all quotes by Father Michael Azkoul): [link]

Deacon Nicholas Jannakos' letter: [link]

Jason Misleh's Article: [link]

Timshel and East of Eden: [link]

(Photograph is of the interior of a Russian Orthodox Church. It was found online from a source I can't recall; if anyone recognizes it, please let me know so I can credit it.)
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:iconwillthelombax:
WillTheLombax Featured By Owner Dec 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This actually makes a lot of sense...
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:iconbl0kus:
Bl0kus Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2013
I know that this comment is really late, but I have to say... Well done. This is brilliant, I couldn't have put it better myself. It's also funny, I went to a Roman Catholic school, and they said that the Orthodox Church split from us and that we followed the original teachings. Then again, my school wasn't the brightest out of all the schools in Ontario, so we were probably wrong about that too... Anyways, I can't stress enough how much I love this essay. Cheers!
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:iconemeraldcity411:
EmeraldCity411 Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013
As an atheist, i obviously find a lot of things about religion a tad flawed, but christianity is like the icing on the cake. For starters, i, like many other atheists, and as you stated above, think that christians 'cling to an imaginary friend to solve their problems'. Rather than confronting simple facts in front of them, they conclude that 'it happened for a reason' or 'It's all in Gods plan' - did anyone stop to think that maybe we're just not meant to 'know'? I think that christianity is based on a made up character - 'God' - and it's used to 'answer' questions that simply cannot be answered. One of my main points is that christianity uses a cult like influence upon its followers/believers from a young age to instil a sense of routine and control in ones' life. Here's my example:
Lets think waaaaay back in time. Things were a lot simpler, but they were also a lot more harsh than the environment we have now. People used to kill each other for simple things like food, and shelter (lets face it, theres still a fair bit of that going on), the people then not only had to fear each other, but they had to fear the animals and the elements much more than what they do now. People died from simple and treatable ailments such as diarrhoea, dehydration and heat exhaustion (also still happens today). They didn't have science. They didn't have proper doctors that could say 'just make sure you keep cool and drink plenty of water' or 'make sure you stay well rested' it was all a game of russian roulette. So lets pretend (if you can) that you're person A and i'm person B and religion doesn't exist. There has never been any talk of 'God' or 'Buddha' or 'Allah'. And you're the believer. How do you explain it? It's easier today because the idea has already been planted, making people much more susceptible to the tale.
Person A: 'There's a man in the sky'
Person B: 'Wow, really?' *looks up*
Person B: 'Hmm, theres not...'
Person A: 'Oh, that's 'cos he's invisible.'
Person A: 'and he made everything you see - even you.'
Person B: '...right.'
Person A: 'His name is God and we must worship him in order to gain entrance to 'heaven'.
Person B: '...so if i worship God, i can go to this 'heaven'?
Person A: 'yes, but you must follow the ten rules that he requires, and pray to him and then, you can bask in his light.'
***
Lets say person A converted person B, yada yada, churches came into existence, christianity became more popular, and people started making their children go to church. And then they made THEIR children go to church. Plain and simple, people needed something and someone to give them answers, and God was the best they could come up with. Being able to go to 'heaven' and be in 'God's light' when we die, and bonus points to you if you convert your family, 'cos then they get to live in eternal fluffy happiness up in Heaven with you. God and christianity gave answers to the main questions that couldn't (and still can't) be answered; 'Where will i go when i die?' -Heaven (only if you believe) 'What will happen to my family/loved ones?' -Heaven (only if they believe) 'Why am i here?' -Because God created you with a purpose. Bob dropping dead for no reason wasn't Bob dropping dead for no reason anymore - it was 'Oh, Bob went to Heaven because God needed him' (or Hell if Bob wasn't a believer).

Secondly, i find the fact that God had to state 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' particularly hilarious. Why, oh why has nobody ever used logic and said 'shit, wait. If God was the creator of the universe, ergo the creator of everything in existence, and all he wants is for his 'children' to believe, then why would he CREATE alternate paths of belief?' Did 'God' deliberately set out to sabotage himself by allowing his believers to believe in 'false' paths of faith? Why would God do that if he is the only 'true' path to enlightenment? Why would he allow other 'Gods' such as 'Allah' to steal his followers faith? Why would he allow them to believe in what He knows is a lie? Essentially that would be an act of Evil would it not? And i'll wait for the 'Free Will' arguments...

And as for what you said, that 'Because of my religion, I try not to judge others and I try not to be cruel hearted. I try to pardon and I try to be kind. I rely on my faith to guide me through life' - have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, you could do that ALL ON YOUR OWN? Wowee who on earth said that? You say you want to stand out but all you do is blend IN. Anybody can go 'well i guess i'll just believe in God and therefore i'll change myself to be a 'better' person because that's what he requires.' You all RELY on religion to guide you through life, and in doing so forget to think and question things like we are supposed to. All because it would be sinning to think of any other alternative than God. It's the easy way out. You do it because there's a reward at the end of your tunnel, i do the same thing just 'cos i can. I can be a good person just because i want to. And i can continue that way my whole life and die just as happy as you who have to remind yourself 'This is what people of my faith do.' Religion creates nothing but narrow minded sheep. The End.
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:iconarelia-dawn:
arelia-dawn Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
It's interesting that you're generalizing a vast group of people as "narrow minded sheep" using nothing but information from your own narrow mind. You know what would be really, really great? If religious people acknowledged their beliefs but did not force them upon others. And if atheistic people acknowledged their beliefs but did not force them upon others. And nobody condemned one another based simply on lifestyle differences. Some believe in a deity, others don’t. Why should that matter? Although morality is expressed in many religions, it is not exclusive to religion. Growing to become a better person emotionally, intellectually, professionally, socially, and morally are goals everyone should share and everyone should support, regardless of whether one reaches those goals through the help of a religious code or through his/her own conclusions.

Just as a side note: I and many--might I even say most--other Christians do not rely on a God to answer all problems. Faith in a god has nothing to do with shrinking from reality and ignoring complex issues. In fact, I find that belief in a God allows me to investigate countless pressing questions in my quest to reconcile faith and reason. In the future, I hope that you base your opinion of others not on their faith (which does not define them) but rather on their actions, decisions, questions, tolerance, and personality. Thanks!
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:iconmaroongoon:
MaroonGoon Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2012
My brother in Christ, this is excellent. I find that the West writes us Orthodox out of history altogether and simply focuses on it's own 'brands' of Christianity. Thank you for this wonderful explanation :) In Christ yours, Maroongoon.
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:iconarelia-dawn:
arelia-dawn Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much. I often found it frustrating in school when religious topics were covered--and Orthodoxy wasn't acknowledged at all (and if it was, it was the folksy Russian version of Catholicism). I never wanted to be "that girl" who raised her hand and corrected the teachers, but hopefully I can explain myself online. Thanks again!
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:iconmaroongoon:
MaroonGoon Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2012
Sorry, I mean Sister in Christ :P
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MissMisterious Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Church and god should not be about all those riches, that's why I find the pope not to be a true christian. Jesus said to give up riches and give to the poor, yet how rich are the magesterium? Check it up online folks.

Why should the pope be dressed in gold and own millions when their are starving, homeless people on every continent?
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:iconarelia-dawn:
arelia-dawn Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It's a pretty riveting question, I will admit--and one that I've considered before. I know that pious folk, especially monks, show their depth of worship through focusing on spiritual--instead of material--existence. The Orthodox Church doesn't have a pope, but the churches and garments used are very elaborate and gilded. Why? I can't answer that question properly without a little research, but when I read up on the subject, I'll try to explain it as best I can (even if your query was rhetorical).
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