Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote the following in his autobiography:
“The fact is that so-called ‘Christianity’ at its worst has produced some of the most hideous persecutions, wars and fanaticisms in history, and that today it is sometimes bigoted, superstitious, and intolerant,” makes one wonder “How often must Jesus Christ have felt that he was not a Christian!”
Fosdick’s words have been extremely helpful to me since I first read them over fifty years ago. There have been many, many times when I have been embarrassed to be called a Christian! There have been many, many times when I have felt that if this so-called Christianity (at its worst) is what a Christian must be, then I am not a Christian.
Throughout its history, Christianity at its worst, through its representative churches, has often displayed monstrous ethical perversions, giving divine sanction to the evils of slavery, racial discrimination, war and religious persecution as being “the will of God.” It has often, at its worst, fallen into a moralistic and arrogant legalism. “Christianity at its worst, has exhibited the very evils against which in the religion of his time Jesus most vigorously protested.”
Christianity at its best has sought to enhance human life rather than diminish it. Christianity at its best has sought to dignify individual lives and to be inclusive of all humanity. Christianity at its best seeks to be a partner in the creative love at the heart of things. “Christianity at its best is incarnate in the personality of Jesus, and it means basic faith in God and in personality’s sacredness and possibilities, and the fundamental principle of life’s conduct which Jesus of Nazareth exhibited.”
In the midst of a Christianity at its worst, I am not a Christian. In the midst of a Christianity at its best, I am eager to be one.