In my opinion, six mistaken beliefs among Christians cause incalculable pain, suffering, and lasting damage. I focus on these baggage issues on this blog, as summarized on my About page:
- The belief that the Father is an angry, capricious, vindictive God
- The concept of eternal punishment and torture in hell
- An insistence that the Bible is somehow inerrant in every word
- An over-emphasis on rules and doctrinal requirements
- Commitment to a literal approach to the creation stories in Genesis
- Disapproval and rejection of gay people
My good friend Christian Evolution created a graphic, based on my list, that captures these major issues very well. I feel so honored that he would do that.
Some Beliefs among Believers are more Harmful than Others
I know that followers of Jesus disagree on a host of issues, but I don’t think all issues are equally important. I talk about these six beliefs so energetically, not because I simply disagree with them, but because they are so extremely harmful. They are harmful to Christians who believe them, to those who are hurt by Christians who believe them, and to the church.
There are a few other very harmful beliefs I rarely address because they are outside my personal experience. Though I was raised in fundamentalism (and embraced it), developments within fundamentalism in the last few decades created abusive baggage that had little personal impact on me, such as systematic patriarchy and oppression of women; homeschooling; and purity/shame culture.
Though I cannot speak from experience on these problems, other bloggers do an excellent of exposing and dealing with them. Rachel Held Evans, for example, has a very nice list of resources for abuse at:
How These Six Beliefs Harm Victims, Believers, and the Church
At a later time, I will examine the harmfulness of each of these six beliefs in more detail, but they all cause general damage.
Embracing these beliefs produces a perspective in which believers see themselves in sharp distinction from those considered unbelievers or ‘sinners’, resulting in ostracization and arrogant, condescending, aggressive assault.
Often, opinions of one group about another have little significant impact other than irritation, but in other circumstances it destroys relationships, produces emotional distress, compromises civil rights and livelihood, and even leads to active oppression, injury, or death.
This is not the fruit of Jesus’ message for us to love others. Because of these beliefs, the integrity of Christian love is corrupted into ‘loving the sinner’ so much that believers condemn them, debase them, and badger them into conforming to their worldview in order to save them from hell.
Believers who embrace these teachings, and who should be living in happy reconciliation with the Father, themselves, and those around them, are instead burdened down with heavy baggage.
Jesus invites those who are weary and burdened down to come to him and receive rest, but how can one rest when they fear an angry God and eternal torment; when they are further burdened with innumerable religious rules; and when they must isolate themselves from people who don’t meet their judgmental standards?
This is not a life of truth, peace, or happiness; it is a life of burdens. Such believers, themselves, are victims of misguided beliefs.
With the good news of a loving Father, a message of peace and reconciliation, and hope for a happiness beyond death, the community of believers should be a beacon and a refuge. Those who feel alienated or who seek a better life should flock to the community that brings such good news. Instead, they discover condemnation, unreasonable burdens, and further alienation.
From extensive reading and hearing people’s stories, I suggest a number of significant reasons why people avoid the church or leave it. Perhaps you have identified some of these yourself.
- The angry, violent, vindictive God described by believers
- The incomprehensibly unjust teaching of eternal torture in hell
- The aggressive, but flimsy, arguments of young-earth creationists
- The legalistic and judgmental attitudes of church people
- The oppression of women, gays, and other minorities
- The political agenda of the Christian right
- The general arrogance and condescension of believers toward unbelievers
The church is no longer seen as a light on a hill—a beacon of hope. It is not a refuge of love and healing in a difficult world; rather it is a fortress of constant attack on those outside its gates. It is no wonder ‘sinners’ and those who think for themselves are gun-shy and defensive. For many, the church has lost its reputation, and the community of believers is, itself, a victim of this misguided and destructive baggage.
All six of these beliefs cause tremendous harm, but next time we will talk about the #1 most harmful belief among Christians.
In this series:
6 Religious Beliefs that Cause Tremendous Harm (Today’s post)
The #1 Most Harmful Belief Among Christians—Angry God
4 Ways that Believing God is Angry and Harsh Hurts People
The #2 Most Harmful Religious Belief—the Inerrant Bible
A More Realistic Alternative to Inerrancy of the Bible
4 Huge Ways Believing the Bible Inerrant is Tremendously Harmful
How Legalism Stunts Our Spiritual Growth
How Should We Respond to Those who Teach Harmful Beliefs?
Image credit 1: ChristianEvolution.com
Image credit 2: Henrique Vicente via Compfight cc
The purpose of this blog is to support those re-evaluating traditional religious beliefs.