Christmas is approaching and multiple documentaries and films revolving around Jesus Christ’s teachings are already being broadcast across the world to remind both Christians and non-Christians of how the world’s most popular religion was founded. It is interesting how over the centuries, the Catholic Church has expressed bold opinions and even set rules concerning homosexuality, women’s duties and obligations, as well as many other themes which Jesus Christ did not really cover during his ministry. As reported in the four Gospels, God’s Son was born specifically to bridge the gap between mankind and God by preaching goodness, forgiveness, honesty, sincerity, respect for others and empathy.
While homosexuality is depicted as a terrible sin in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ never condemned or criticized homosexuals. Some believe that he may have used the word “fornication”, which appears several times in the New Testament, as a synonym for homosexuality, however there is no evidence supporting such bold claims. As for women, Jesus Christ never ordered women to stay at home and devote their entire lives to raising their children and honoring their husbands, nor did he treat them as second-class citizens. In fact, many of Jesus’ followers were women and some have even argued that Mary Magdalene may have played a much more important role in preaching God’s message than the Catholic Church will have us believe.
In his provocative article, Kristof observes that both Christianity and Islam have evolved in such a way to persuade believers across the world to forget or ignore their founders’ teachings. With regards to Islam, the author notes that even though Muhammed rose the status of women in the Arabian Peninsula, over the centuries Muslim societies have developed extremely repressive customs which have resulted in women being treated as inferior to men and being forbidden to perform a wide range of tasks and activities, including driving. As for homosexuality, despite Pope Francis’ attempts to bring gays closer to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church has always exhibited a remarkably negative perception of gays, to the extent that during the Middle Ages, thousands of them were tortured and killed just for being unable to change their sexual orientation.
Kristof quotes Brian D. McLaren, a former pastor, who feels as if Jesus Christ was being held hostage by religious extremists who refuse to stick to his teachings. Jesus Christ was a visionary who challenged the establishment and encouraged his followers to show courage and determination in the face of injustice. Nevertheless, Christianity itself has become a new establishment and anyone who dares challenge it will be promptly criticized, ostracized or even excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Why is it that Christianity – as well as other religions – is becoming increasingly anti-gay, anti-science, anti-immigration, anti-poor and anti-environment? According to Kristof, none of these definitions would suit the Jesus that we have met in the Gospels. In today’s fast-changing world, millennials are learning to appreciate the benefits of technological development, scientific innovation and diversity.
If Christianity keeps encouraging believers to follow strict, oppressive rules without accepting and embracing change, it is highly likely that more and more people will lose interest in the doctrine and look for alternative sources of inspiration and spiritual wisdom. Quoting Pastor McLaren, Kristof wonders what would happen if Christians rediscovered their faith as a peaceful, loving and generous way of life rather than a rigid system of beliefs. The author concludes by pointing out that a re-evaluation of the Christian faith would enable Christians to abandon religious bureaucracy once and for all and revive Jesus Christ’s true teachings, which prompted people to love each other, show compassion, improve themselves rather than judging other and keep an open mind.
- Kristof, Nicolas. “What Religion Would Jesus Belong To?” The New York Times. 3 Sept. 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/04/opinion/sunday/what-religion-would-jesus-belong-to.html. Accessed 16 Dec. 2016.