One of the purposes of these columns this past year was to emphasize the impact of Christianity and Christian ministries in our community. A recent poll stated that 60 percent of agnostics and atheists believe that the Christian church does little or nothing and is basically irrelevant. More disturbing has been the divide in our culture with often a hostility toward Christians and their influence.
When I was invited to participate in a webinar to interview Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, who recently released a new book entitled “Unimaginable: What Our World Would be like Without Christianity,” I immediately made sure I participated. Dr. Johnston stated that the idea for this book came as he and his wife watched the Amazon series, “The Man In High Castle,” which is typical of many movies made recently about alternative universes.
The film depicts an alternative 1962; the Nazis have won World War II and control the United States. This triggered the idea for his book — what would our world look like without Christianity?
As an Oxford scholar, Dr. Johnston took the project on and with the historical proof we have from Rome and Greece stated it is easy to see what the world was like before the impact of Christianity. Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Jesus Christ,” was contrary to the world at the time. The impact of this on women’s rights and a dramatic decline of slavery in the world was a shock wave in the Roman World. Forty percent of the population at the time of Jesus were slaves, and 200 years later it dropped to 15 percent. Women were an integral part of the church from the beginning of the church. They were regarded as second-class citizens in the ancient world.
But then Dr. Johnston points out we have other examples in the last century that are equally striking.
One half of the world rejected Christianity at different times over the last 70 years. Nazism and Marxism tried to outlaw Christianity and instituted an atheist philosophy that allowed mass murder. Christianity, with the emphasis on the individual made in the image of God, does not fit with racism or a collective society. Jeremiah told about visiting Cuba a dozen years ago, where they had outlawed the Bible. Here was a country bankrupt: socially, morally and financially. Contrast that with our own country.
In America, 90 million people live in areas with no qualified counselors available and from the 350,000 churches nationwide church ministers spend, on average, about 20 percent of their time counseling. With drug use growing and suicide and divorce growing problems, this is a needed service.
Of the 46,000 food banks in our country, 60 percent are operated by Christian ministries. There are 130,000 alcohol recovery programs operated by Christian churches and nearly 26,000 congregations are engaged in some form of active ministry to help people with HIV-Aids. That makes one HIV-Aids ministry for every 46 people who are HIV positive.
One in six people visiting a hospital in the U.S. is cared for in a Catholic facility. And it’s not just Catholics. Health care services, such as provided by the Adventist Health Systems, employ as many as 78,000 people in 46 hospitals. Seventy million Christians will donate $20 billion this year to ministry.
These examples are a small picture of the Christian influence in our country. This is clearly evident in our communities here; there are so many people laboring among the most needy and they are largely unsung. Their Christian faith is central to their work.
More important, the Christian church offers a redemptive message of hope to all people and we must never forget that as our primary mission. In the book of Judges 2:10 it is referring to the Israelites after coming into the promised land, “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, not yet the works which he had done for Israel.” This is a message to Americans today — don’t forget the blessings we have in this country and don’t turn our backs on our values.
If you want to know more I would commend the book “Unimaginable” to you. It’s divided into three sections: what the world was like before Christianity, what it would be like today without Christianity, and the world with Christianity today.
We need more defenders of the faith.
Bob Shillingstad is a Coeur d’Alene resident. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org