This guest post is written by Kate Harveston, a writer and political activist from Pennsylvania. She blogs about culture and politics, and the various ways that those elements act upon each other. For more of her work, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased.
Christians in today’s society have been given a bad name, often because the loudest, most judgmental ones are the people who capture the headlines and make others think that all people who subscribe to the faith are against entire demographic groups, such as the LGBT community, Muslims, or even women.
However, Christianity is a more diverse religion than you may realize, and it’s important not to become overly closed-minded and make assumptions by getting too focused on the downsides when examining the faith.
There are numerous admirable things associated with Christians, some of which are outlined below.
1. Christianity teaches that moral obligations are higher than laws
If you have ever participated in the act of civil disobedience, consider that the early Christians paved the way for your modern actions. The Bible includes mentions of how early followers of Jesus didn’t take part in rituals of sacrifice to the emperor, which was seen as shunning Roman leadership.
Later, Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a church leader during the Civil Rights Movement, recognized that if laws were not based on morality, they should be protested. It was that belief that propelled many of his sermons and subsequent actions in support of equality for African Americans. Also, U2, the Irish band that has members who follow the Christian faith, mentions that “love is a higher law” in one of its hit songs.
2. Christian movements and organizations have been instrumental for education
Historians agree the positive impact Christianity has had on promoting better access to education goes back to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation period. Later, societal groups urged reading the Bible frequently, which is widely believed to have furthered literacy on a mass scale.
Schools set up in the United States and run by branches of the Christian faith, such as Catholics and Quakers, have played a substantial role in educating people within the country, especially immigrants. Also, in less-developed areas, including sub-Saharan Africa, the missionaries who go there to share their faith often simultaneously increase educational opportunities for residents.
3. Many hospitals and health-promoting initiatives are Christian based
Think back to the name of the last hospital you received treatment from, and there’s a high likelihood it was set up by people or groups who followed Christianity. That’s especially true if the name includes the word “saint” or “mercy”.
Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross and a nurse who was instrumental in providing humanitarian aid during the Civil War, was influenced by the Christian faith because her family was heavily involved in it and known for their beliefs in the local community. Even before that, Christian organizations formed to help others by treating ailments such as the bubonic plague or serving on war-torn battlefields in earlier generations.
That health-related work is still happening today through dedicated Christian organizations that believe faith drives everything they do. Many boldly focus on underserved areas of desperate need in places like West Africa, South Asia, and South America. Short-term disaster relief efforts, crisis pregnancy centres, and health clinics are also organized through these faith-motivated groups.
4. Some Christians try to live their lives as Jesus did
While noticing a preacher with a megaphone standing on a busy city street and targeting certain groups of people, you might wonder how that person aligns personal beliefs with those that Jesus held. Although Jesus shook up society in his day and caused a stir among the population, it was largely because of how he stood up against the religious leaders for being too ritualistic.
He also encouraged people to love themselves and others. Notably, he mingled with society members who were seen as sinners or unclean people, such as lepers and prostitutes. Living as Jesus did is precisely what the Progressive Christianity or Christian Left movement tries to do.
Although there are substantial variations within the sector about specific beliefs, people try to conduct their lives similarly to how Jesus did during his time on Earth. That means they often focus on people who have otherwise been overlooked by wider society. Also, members of the Christian Left usually don’t rely on fear-based tactics to lure people into joining the movement.
As you can see from this list, thinking that all Christians are associated with only bad things in the world is grossly stereotypical. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to notice the goodness that people who aren’t of our own thinking can offer, but it is certainly present.