In a recent post, someone identifying himself as "a Thinking Man" discusses some of the reasons he has now grown skeptical about the whole God thing, having experienced a conversion earlier in life. He discusses two issues in the post which he apparently sees as part of the same narrative, but which in fact are strangely inconsistent--something you would think a "Thinking Man" would have thought about.
He says, first, that he began having doubts about Christianity through his counseling experience, which resulted, he says, in his coming into contact with the "Christian underbelly": Christians who do bad things:
From within the Christian community I have personally come across ’senior’ Christians involved in multiple affairs, anal rape, child sex abuse, cottaging in the local toilets, visiting male and female prostitutes, physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse, wife beating, and bullying.In other words, our "Thinking Man" apparently hit upon a great discovery: Christians sin--some pretty brazenly. One wonders: is this something that he did not know before? Or, more to the point, does he really think this is inconsistent with Christianity? Does Christianity proclaim that Christians do not sin, so that when we find they do we can press charges when we find out they do?
In fact, not only is the fact that Christians sin not inconsistent with Christianity, it is, in fact, a confirmation of it. The thought that "Thinking Man" had not apparently had before is one that is familiar to every Christian pastor with the least amount of counseling experience: Christians sin too. Had "Thinking Man" been paying attention on Sunday morning, he would have noticed that this is one of the reasons they get together every Sunday morning to confess and ask forgiveness.
To try to blame Christianity because some Christians do bad things is sort of like blaming the law for the fact that people violate it. We don't hold it against the laws on homicide that some people engage in murder; we don't blame the rules of accounting when some people engage in fraudulent business practices; and we don't fuss at the police officer who pulls us over for running a red light that the real problem is that there are laws against red lights. So why are we blaming Christianity for the fact that some Christians sin?
In fact, without Christianity, there is no such thing as sin at all. In his book, The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton points out that the next best thing to being completely inside Christianity is being completely outside of it. The problem that critics of Christianity have is that they are neither completely inside or completely outside of it. They criticize it from a philosophical position somewhere in between. They stay just close enough to it to trade upon the qualities they need to oppose it.
In trying to destroy something without being far enough away, you end up destroying yourself along with it. If you decided to blow up the Empire State Building, you better not be hanging around just outside the lobby when you do; otherwise, you're in for it. But this is exactly the position of someone like our "Thinking Man". If he were really outside Christianity, he would criticize it not because its adherents did bad things, but because there were no bad things for its adherents to do. He would criticize it not because it was wrong, but because there was no such thing as right or wrong.
But as it is, in criticizing Christianity, he is forced to borrow Christian ideas in order to accomplish his purpose, and as soon as he does that, he has undermined his own criticism. When he says that there is something wrong with Christianity because of sin, he is assuming the very notion of sin--something quite nonsensical outside the Christian view of the world.
And if his first point doesn't defeat itself, his second point will do the job quite nicely:
As part of my counsellor training I did a 3 year course that forced me to confront a very difficult issue that I had been wanting to avoid. Up until this point I had taken an evangelical view of homosexuality. Homosexuality was wrong because the Bible said so. I was to be compassionate towards gays, but not condone their practice. That was easy as I didn’t personally know any gays. On my course, two of the three tutors were gay. During the three years I got to know them, deeply respect them, and grew increasingly confused and ashamed as I listened to their stories of their inner struggles. I also started to read up-to-date research on homosexuality (Wilson, G. and Rahman, Q. (2005) Born Gay: The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. London: Peter Owen) and concluded that I could no longer toe the party line. And if my party line was wrong on this, it could no longer be trusted and was probably wrong on lots of other things as well.His first argument is that Christianity is bad because some Christians do bad things. His second argument is that Christianity is bad because it calls some of the things Christians do bad. In other words, his two arguments against Christianity are exactly opposite each other. He says on the one hand that Christianity allows too much, and on the other that it condemns too much: that it is wrong because some of its actions are evil and, at the same time, that it is wrong because some of the actions it calls evil are not wrong. It is at once too tolerant and too intolerant--sometimes about the same things.
When someone criticizes something because it does one thing, and also because it does the exact opposite, it is usually a sign, not that there is something wrong with the thing, but that there is something wrong with the critic.
His treatment of homosexuality is especially interesting. Somehow, despite the same experience with several different kinds of sin, his view of homosexuality changes, but his view of other sexual behavior does not. He comes to an acceptance of homosexuality when he gets to know homosexuals better, and finds out about their "inner struggles". Did he not get to know his heterosexual patients, and find out about their "inner struggles"? And if so, why does he come to accept homosexuality, but continue to reject heterosexual deviance?
I have gotten to know homosexuals as well. They've all been nice people. I've also met nice adulterers. I've probably even met nice child abusers and wife beaters for all I know. I'm sure many of them have inner struggles of which I am not aware. But what exactly does that have to do with whether the behavior is these nice people engage in is right or wrong?
The same experience with one behavior results in acceptance, and with another continued rejection. Why?
I don't begrudge our Thinking Man for rejecting Christianity. But if he's going to reject it, then he ought to reject it on some kind of consistent basis--and for reasons that don't assume the very position he is arguing against.