We live in a world that is choking under greed, corruption, and selfishness. It is brimming with all forms of injustices. In my country South Africa for example, we have a government where corruption and looting has been so normalized that it is those that refuse to cooperate with corrupt schemes that get persecuted, fired, or even killed. Professional thievery has become the main specialization in our government institutions and their private sector partners.
But that is not the cause for my doubt, but rather the context.
With about a third of the world’s population claiming to follow Christ, and three quarters in South Africa, according to our long-outdated statistics, it would not be unreasonable to think that Jesus’ teachings such as love your neighbour as yourself, the Church would quickly decimate these giant ills confronting humanity.
But alas for humanity, the Church has proven to be no less greedy or corrupt or unjust. On the contrary, if anything, the Church is giving politicians a run for their money in the stakes of lust for power. Since Constantine, Christianity grew leaps and bounds in being comfortable with greed, corruption, injustice, and abuse of power.
I once was one of those who endeavoured to strain at the gnat from Christianity’s unflattering history to show the good wrought by the Church; but increasingly it feels the same as trying to strain an ounce of good from the vile corruption and gross incompetence of my government in South Africa.
So, I’ve been seriously considering exiling myself from Christendom in the past few months, until I can figure out how I can be of some use than a whiner that I’m turning out to be. To me it seems the case of God loving humanity through the Church has almost completely dissipated. I have been wondering, what’s the point of associating myself with a perverted representation of God, unless I am capable of making a difference?
But still, as disconcerting as this may be, it is still not the cause of my doubt.
Rather, what really befuddles me is God’s seeming silence in all of this? How does God allow his name to be so colonized and mischaracterised by the very hegemonic powers that once persecuted his son and subsequently his disciples unto death?
Or when Christians, in his name, engaged in bloody crusades of vile hatred and triumphalism in 10th to the 13th centuries. To this day these crusades are still etched in reverence in Christianity’s institutional memory such that big evangelistic events are nostalgically referred to as crusades.
Or when the Church was abusing her very own flock through putting up God’s forgiveness for sale in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Or when the Church violently persecuted and terminated the lives of those who dared disagree with what was considered the orthodox doctrines in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Or when the Church blessed the institution of slavery in the 15th century and steadfastly provided its theological moral justification, even as millions of economically active Africans were forcibly removed from their lands to be subjugated to build other people’s economies in the Americas.
Or when the Church actively provided the moral justification of the imperialist agenda for looting Africa of her natural resources and committing our strongest men to a life of lowly‐paid servitude for the exclusive benefit of European nations, while displacing hundreds of millions of Africans from their lands and tearing asunder the moral fabric that held our peoples together.
Or when the Church blessed the vile Apartheid system and provided its moral justification, like she had expertly done so many times before with other evil human subjugation systems.
This list can be as long as the history of the Church itself.
Why did God not actively rebuke his representatives through all this vile mess, I often agonise?
Some may argue that it was not the whole Church that should be held responsible for these vile atrocities or even that it was those in the Church who stood in opposition to these evil systems.
To be fair there is truth in that. The core activism against slavery, apartheid and many other injustices was driven under Christian convictions. But truth be told, these were exceptions rather than the rule…and many paid a huge price for standing against what the Christianity had normalized.
Some may find opportunity to argue, as is quite trendy these days, that this is proof that Africans are worshipping a God of European making, if he exists at all.
On the contrary, if anything, Jesus’ life, and teachings are evidence that he couldn’t have been a figment of any man’s imagination, let alone exploitation‐hungry Europeans. Jesus towers magnanimously through history as judgement against Christianity’s forays into bed with money, power, and influence. Humankind is not in the habit of inventing moral frameworks and then invest all they can to escape from them.
One thing I do not doubt in my mind is that Jesus was sent from God. The evidence is incontrovertible to any objective mind.
It is my perceived silence of God that has been scratching my head. How does God allow all this sorry history in his name? This gets me stumped. Could I perhaps have misunderstood God and how he works. Could it be that God staked everything on the Church, including calling out these things?
Warren Buffet summed up the state of the reality of our times so succinctly this way; “There’s class warfare all right. But it is my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we are winning”. If you strained your ears to hear the voice of the Church in this reality, the strongest narrative you hear is about her own rights and freedoms, not the heart of God for all humanity.
And the God, who Jesus came to introduce, headlined his manifesto as the Good News to the poor, is seemingly silent amid even this warfare. Perhaps he is not, I’m just the one hard of hearing.