If the reconciliation of my physical and spiritual health was not in itself a miracle, Ravi Zacharias’ invitation for me to train to become a member of one of their teams speaking on apologetics can be explained only in terms of God’s providence. (excerpt from the “Epilogue” in The Race Before Us)
I’ve mentioned here that I recently returned from India. There I was privileged to speak at RZIM’s “National Conference on Faith in the Public Square.” If I told who I was on the program with (Ravi Zacharias, Os Guinness, Ken Blanchard, Michael Ducker, and others), you simply would not believe it – my whole journey (captured in The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running & Faith) is pretty hard to believe. Over 1,200 people came from throughout India – a country where .9 % of the country is Christian – to grow in their commitment to share their faith “in the public square.” I had an opportunity to meet many of the attendees. One thing that stood out among them was their dedication to living out their faith in various ministries, whether it was service to the impoverished, the incarcerated, the marginalized, and others in need.
This is the first of what will be periodic posts highlighting the efforts and unselfish work of Christians and Christian organizations. I continue to be inspired and challenged – inspired by amazing, unselfish dedication and challenged because I fall so short of their example. If we’re going to hold up the extraordinary contributions by individuals and organizations in the name of the Christian faith, however, we are well served to admit that inexcusable (some outrageous) conduct – done in the name of “the church” or Christ – exists and has existed historically. In fact, hypocrisy by those allegedly proclaiming the gospel, but not acting in accordance it remains one of the major barriers for many seekers and non-believers. For many, they cannot “get over” what “the church” has done in history – supposedly in the name of God or Christ. By acknowledging this bad conduct, understanding that such behavior is inconsistent with Christianity, and celebrating (and gaining inspiration from) the commitment of Christians to serve others is a crucial apologetic**.
I will begin these posts, therefore, by recalling some of these specific instances where the church has failed to act in accordance with the teachings of the person whom they say they are following. When I refer to “the church” I will refer to any organization that believes it follows Jesus Christ. I will not be “picking on” any particular denomination, but acknowledging the errors of the past is important. And, just as I will address bad behavior by “the church” today as well as yesterday, I will also highlight historic and present-day achievements by Christians and Christian organizations.
This post introduces the series. In the interest of keeping posts relatively brief, I will not address in detail any example of either bad behavior or what makes Christianity great, but to complete the introduction and offer examples of what I hope to do, I have included very short samples of (1) the bad behavior (“What’s NOT so great”) and (2) the laudable conduct (What IS great about Christianity).
What’s NOT so great
To get started, perhaps we should acknowledge perhaps the most obvious problem still affecting the Roman Catholic Church – the long history of ignoring known sexual abuse of boys and young men by some of its priests.
The question is not whether there is any justification for the conduct or the church’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to the bad behavior – the questions should be (i) is such conduct consistent with – the logical outgrowth – of what Jesus did or Jesus taught and (ii) does such conduct undermine the truth and relevance of Christianity? (We will explore these questions in future posts.)
What IS GREAT about Christianity
Also, to get started, perhaps we acknowledge one of history’s best known examples of Christian faith worked out in selfless love – Mother Theresa’s work in the slums of Calcutta. One of the things I plan to do here is highlight many of the “unsung” heroes of the faith. Please share with me examples of Christians and Christian organizations that can be held up here as inspiration and challenge.
** “Apologetic” – used here not to refer to a feeling or showing regret, but defined as “a reasoned argument in justification of a theory or religious doctrine.” [“Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that aims to present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other worldviews.”]