Friedrich Nietszche accuses Christians of inventing suffering for themselves as part of the nature of their faith. In his most directly anti-Christian polemic book, The Anti-Christ, he writes of Christianity, “To make sick is the true, secret purpose of the whole system of redemptive procedures constructed by the church.” Indeed, I have to agree with him in part. What he said then in the 1800s remains a powerful critique even today if we examine some of the common rhetoric which Christians employ to win over the unbelievers.
Though it may sound like the plot of a horribly cliché conspiracy theory movie about Big Pharmaceutical Company X, what passes as Christianity oftentimes has to invent the sickness in order to provide the cure. I remember reading through some of the material provided by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron in their influential “Way of the Master” series on evangelism, and the suggested method of spreading the Gospel was to convince people that they had offended God by running through the 10 commandments and seeing if your friend/coworker/random person you just met had violated anything on that list. If so, well, they need Jesus. Of course, I’m sure others have criticized Ray Comfort well enough that I have no need to do so again. It is plainly evident that he is not preaching the Gospel.
Yet selling the sickness and the cure is not strictly within the purview of evangelists; it is the driving force for the Christian culture war. Culture warriors insists that we are doomed — unless, of course, we take part in the church. Specifically, we should take part in their churches. Everyone out there is out to destroy us. Evolution will destroy our children’s faith. Gay marriage will destroy society. And then the pastor channels the ghost of Billy Mays to say, “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!! Sign up today for True Christianity™ to receive the free gift of safety from all those terrible things out there trying to get you. All for the low, low cost of 10 percent of your income until you die.”
Stick with the True Christians™, and you’ll be okay. Society is sick — trust us. You’re part of society, so you’re sick, too. But we have the cure.
If this is Christianity, then Christianity is no more than a useless monument to a dead god, a cult of self-loathing and decay. Nietzsche’s words cut to the heart of that cult when he says that “the Christian church has left nothing untouched by its corruption; it has turned every value into an un-value, every truth into a lie, every integrity into a vileness of the soul.” If this is our church, peddling sickness and death, then let us renounce god, for he is no god; he is a lie.
This is truly the highest corruption: that which should bring life now brings death. It convinces us of our death and paralyzes us in fear. It kindles our fiercest xenophobia, labeling all others as “enemy” to protect the integrity of the cult. It is not about being true to Scripture; it is not about the love of God; it is about masking hatred and fear by calling it virtue.
Christianity does not have to be this way. Stay tuned for part 2, a living God and his Church for the suffering.