Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Rockdale Citizen of Rockdale County, Georgia. It’s titled Where Christianity has held sway, freedom has reigned, and the newspaper has a comments section.
Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher. This is the fifth time we’ve featured a letter from John Pearrell, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, Georgia. The church’s website says they’re affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The first of the rev’s letters was here: #322: The Preacher, the second was #350: The Preacher Returns, this was the third: #402: The Preacher Again, and the fourth was #601: The Preacher Yet Again.
The rev’s newest letter isn’t as creationist as the earlier ones, but it’s interesting nevertheless. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:
In an interesting turn of events, the renowned atheist apologist, Sir Richard Dawkins [Sir Richard?], conceded that, “Christianity may actually be our best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.” Dawkins admitted that he has “mixed feelings” concerning the decline of Christianity, because this faith-based group might just be “a bulwark against something worse.” He said, “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.” Dawkins is onto something.
Let’s find out what the rev can do with Dawkins’ remark: He says:
In the first three centuries, Christianity was a movement persecuted by Rome. They had no real power or influence apart from a contagious, courageous love.
The rev recites some good deeds the church did in those days, Then things became different:
In the fourth century, that changed. The Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity. The movement Christ began suddenly became a monument in Rome. Constantine embraced Christianity because he believed he could conquer in the sign of the cross. It wasn’t long after that that the persecuted became the persecutors, and the church exchanged the power of love for the power of the sword.
Isn’t it odd how that always seems to happen when church and state are united? Let’s read on:
It is this distortion to which those who oppose the church today often point.
Distortion? It’s fulfillment! Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. But the rev looks on the bright side:
However, when one examines the truth of the church, one sees a movement that has accomplished great good in our world. Distorted Christianity supported slavery; true Christianity ended slavery.
Yes, “true” Christianity ended slavery — but it somehow took 18 long centuries before it happened — and it didn’t happen until after the Enlightenment. That’s not a coincidence. Slavery would be with us still — and justified by scripture as it always was in the past — were it not for the industrial revolution and the internal combustion engine that made slave labor economically obsolete.
The rev is probably thinking of the American Civil War — but there were devout people on both sides. It wasn’t prayer that won the war, it was the North’s superiority in population, industry, and firepower. Yet the rev gives Christianity all the credit. Hey — does he know that Charles Darwin was a big advocate of emancipation?
According to Wikipedia, the rev’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was “founded and rooted in the Southern United States, following a split from northern Baptists over the issue of whether slave owners could serve as missionaries.” They also say:
“Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery (see Slavery in the Bible) and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders. They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters.
Anyway, the rev’s very selective romp through history continues:
Science developed best in those places where Christian influence has been greatest. Indeed, scientist Johannes Kepler described science as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
[*Groan*] Religion is taking credit for science again. Centuries before Christianity, the Greeks were the first scientists, but the rev gives no credit to the Olympian gods. Greek philosophy wasn’t taught in Christian Europe for centuries, but when it was brought back after the Crusades, the results were the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment. That’s where science comes from.
As for Johannes Kepler, he did some interesting work in astronomy, but he was also a bit of an astrology buff. He died in 1630 — three years before the the climax of the Galileo affair. Those were perilous times, so if he said he was “thinking God’s thoughts,” he may have sincerely believed it, or maybe he was just being prudent. Anyway, the contents of the bible weren’t responsible for his work — or the work of any other scientist. Here’s more
And let’s not forget that the vast majority of education in Africa came as a result of Christian missionaries to that continent. (We are told that 2/3 of the schools south of the Sahara were established by Christian missionaries).
Uh huh — and now it’s wonderful in Africa as a result. Oh, wait — see Witchcraft accusations against children in Africa. As long as we’re discussing witchcraft, we note that the rev overlooks some rather embarrassing historical events — like the Salem witch trials. And take a look at this List of people executed for witchcraft. Ah well, moving along:
Dawkins is partially right. Partially because he doesn’t go quite far enough. As Christianity ebbs, the doors to all sorts of harmful vices and practices will open and it will come pouring out of closets everywhere.
Yes, they’re pouring out of the closet. And now we come to the end:
Where Christianity has held sway, freedom has reigned. As Christianity fades away, freedom will die.
When any religion has held sway — that is, wielded political power — priests rule, witches burn, thinking people tremble in silence, and society stagnates. Too bad the rev wasn’t born a few centuries ago. He missed the glory days. However, for his efforts in trying to claim the credit for science and freedom, we’ll award him this month’s Rosie Ruiz prize.
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