The late great atheist, Christopher Hitchens, said that religion poisons everything (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) “…organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” (Wikipedia).
And, honestly, you can make a case for these accusations, even though it’s a bit overstated since almost all people in history held to some sort of religious belief, and still do. And atheism has had its own despots. Joseph Stalin deconverted from his Russian Orthodox upbringing while studying at a Georgian Orthodox seminary and became an atheist. And it’s estimated that Stalin slaughtered at least 60 million people and committed many other atrocities. So, if we were all honest, we would say it’s a human problem. But that’s not my point.
My question is…does Jesus poison everything?
We’ve been looking at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in my series, “Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom.” So…what if we actually followed Jesus and let Him deal with all our toxic issues: anger, sexual objectification, treachery, manipulation, revenge, enemy hatred, hypocrisy, greed, insecurity, judgmentalism, and self-centeredness… would the world be so poisoned?
Jesus was loved by sinners and hated by the religious. In fact, the religious colluded with the state to have Him crucified. His earliest followers were hunted down like wild animals, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for actually following Him.
Atheists and skeptics like to point to atrocities done in the name of Christ. But these actually come from a “Christianity” created after Roman Emperor Constantine turned it into a state religion, one that looked almost nothing like following Jesus.
Mahatma Gandhi identified the problem by his response to the “Christendom” he experienced under British rule: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
It’s really quite simple. Let’s think this through for a moment.
First, Jesus said this is how the world would know we’re following Him:
35 All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:35 ERV *)
But is this how the world sees us?
Second, Jesus said we can tell by the fruit (Matt.7:16-20). And what does this fruit look like?
22 But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. (Gal.5:22-23 ERV *)
Is this how people are experiencing us?
Do you see the problem yet?
Bill Johnson said, “Everyone wants a King like Jesus. And if we will represent Him well, they’ll want His body too.” This is both true and quite tragic when we realize there’s over 2 billion people in the world calling themselves Christians.
The bottom line is this: Jesus isn’t the one poisoning the world. As Robert Capon rightly said, “Christianity is not a religion; it is the announcement of the end of religion.” The problem isn’t with following Jesus, it’s with not following Him but claiming that we are.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt.7:21-23 NKJV *)