Is Western Society Christian?
ROBERT E. L. STRIDER, president of Colby College in Maine, faced this probing question in his address to the college’s graduating class last June. His conclusion, that “ours is not a Christian society,” can be appreciated when one considers the unchristian conduct of those who make up the Western world. Firm faith in God is rare, and few follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
Danish clergyman Per Dolmer acknowledged that the vast majority of persons in his country belonged to the state church, but that this did not mean they were Christians. He said: “It must for the sake of the truth still be added that if 97% belong to the State Church, then the very greatest part live far away from faith in God, are entirely and absolutely indifferent toward Him, never think of Him, live contrary to the revealed will of God, and as for a great number of them they also die in this indifference and unbelief.”
Along the same line a conversation that newspaper columnist Sydney J. Harris reports that he had with a Hindu is of interest. In his column in the Detroit Free Press of September 21, 1961, Harris reports that the discussion went like this: “‘Since traveling in the Christian world of the West,’ he said at dinner, ‘I have been puzzled by my readings in the New Testament. How do you people interpret the words of Jesus?’
“‘What do you mean?’ I asked, afraid of what was coming.
“‘I mean,’ he said politely, ‘how do you reconcile His plain doctrine of nonresistance with your guns and your planes and your wars every few decades? Which Christian nation has ever turned the other cheek? Who among you is willing to return good for evil? How can people who share in the good news of His message continually kill one another, while both sides are praying to Him?’
“‘Well,’ I stammered, ‘after all, that’s a doctrine of perfection that Jesus preached. Ordinary mortal men can’t always live up to it.’
“‘That I understand,’ he nodded, ‘but it should be your goal—and I can only see that you go in the opposite direction. . . . ’
“‘Surely the mass of Indian people are no better, morally and spiritually, than Westerners are.’
“‘Perhaps not,’ he said. ‘All the same, we do not claim to have a special revelation from the Son of God. We do not insist that we follow the Prince of Peace, and then follow the Prince of War.’
“‘Not everybody agrees that Jesus was a pacifist,’ I objected. ‘Some people point to his scourging the money-changers out of the temple.’
“‘Ah, but there is a difference between scourging—as you might a disobedient child out of love for him—and wantonly killing millions of innocent men and women and children, all in the name of God. You are commanded to love your neighbors—and today, in this shrunken world, everybody is a neighbor.’
“I had one defense left: my Sunday punch, if you’ll pardon the expression. ‘Don’t we have a right, an obligation to fight against injustice and wickedness and tyranny?’ I demanded.
“‘Yes,’ he said, ‘you must fight against it—but in your own minds and souls, for that is where it begins, not in some foreign land. When you have purified yourselves, the example of your goodness will be the most effective weapon in the world—if not for now, then in the future.’”
Harris concluded with the confession: “Maybe you can answer the Hindu. I could not, in all honesty.” Regardless of how one may view the various arguments of the Hindu, it is evident that the Western nations are, in fact, defenseless against the charge that they have failed to follow the example set by Christ. In the true sense of the word, they are not Christian!
In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.—1 Pet. 2:21, 23.