Why study the history of Christianity? (SB post #2)

It is important to know the history of Christianity so that we can better understand how the religion has developed and dispersed over the years. In the beginning, Christianity was a very vague religion; Jesus had a few, Jewish, followers who branched off and proclaimed that he was the Messiah who they had been waiting for and they formed what we now call Christianity today. As we learned in class, it was not until a few hundred years after Jesus’s death that some of the books of the Bible were constructed.  It is important to study the history so that we can understand who wrote the books of the Bible and their relationship, or lack of, to Jesus himself.  Knowing the time period in which the books of the Bible were written is essential to our understanding of the text, because the morals and norms of the time period are incorporated into the writings. For instance, the use of masculine words as opposed to feminine or broad terms displays that men dominated that part of history and females had little to no rights.

Understanding the history behind Christianity allows us to understand what has caused all of these diverse and quite unique denominations to form. Knowing the history behind each of these denominations helps us better understand their religious and moral beliefs. For example, the Quakers believe that each individual has part of “the light of God” in them.  Because of this religious belief, they strongly oppose war because they do not want to kill that special part of God that is held within the individual.

I think that knowing the background of Christianity is especially important for those who are living in America, which is a euro-centralized and Christian-centralized country.  If you notice, most public schools have their Spring Break and Winter Breaks scheduled perfectly to include days off for the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, whereas other religions, such as Judaism, are not so lucky and have to celebrate Hanukah on school nights.  The Christian symbol of the cross is well-known and has become incorporated into the “hip” and “cool” clothing of today’s teens, both believers and non-believers. Our Pledge of Allegiance recognizes that we are “one nation, under God”, so even if you are a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, etc., a basic knowledge of who this God is and understanding his characteristics is important to an American identity.

Christianity is not an easy religion to understand, as we have discovered in our class this semester. There are a lot of moral issues that can be debated, whether people are debating human rights or debating the way in which people construct their missions. Knowing about the history of missions and their successes and failures is really important when discussing the pros and cons of missionary tactics, whether they forceful with their words or helpful with their actions. By knowing the history of missionaries, particularly in America, one can see that the forceful missionaries that came to the New World were successful, but there were a large sum of ethical issues in the mix as well.  They did not treat the natives fairly and did not give them a choice of whether to convert; it was more like…”praise my God or die”.  More recently in history, we have seen Protestants helping improve the living conditions in poorer areas in the world and spreading the word of God by performing many Christian-like actions.

Overall, knowing the background of the Christian religion helps us understand many debates in social and political matters and allows us to better understand how the religion has developed and changed over time.

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