By: Gittan Alicia | Contributing AOJ Journalist
Christianity, one of the world’s largest religions, has a great impact on people’s morals. As discussed in the previous article, Christianity defines what is considered right and wrong through written scripture and by doing so, shapes peoples morals. The book of scripture for Christianity is called the bible, which uses stories of Jesus, and his disciples and their knowledge of God to create an outline of what people should and shouldn’t do and what will happen if people disobey. Unlike other religions, the punishments for disobedience aren’t severe and violence is not typically a recommended course of action. That being said, there have been some violent events promoted in the name of Christianity, and such events will be discussed later in this article.
Before discussing the ways Christianity shapes morals, it’s important one understands a brief outline and history of Christianity. Christianity dates back to between 2 and 7 BC at the birth of Christ (Jesus) from the virgin Mary, and evolved from the religion of Judaism. Jesus is considered the messiah and lord and savior in Christianity, who was the son of God raised by a Jewish family and sought to reform Christianity. He had 12 disciples and traveled performing miracles such as curing a blind man, and walking on water, and spread his teachings to people along the way. Jesus’s teachings were told in parables and had the main themes of loving God and others, forgiving everyone, asking God for forgiveness of sins, repenting sins, not judging or being hypocritical, etc. Eventually Jesus was arrested and crucified and it’s believed that his death cleansed all humanity of their sins. Shortly after Jesus’s death, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven. The first church was then organized 50 days after the death of Jesus, when the holy spirit is said to descend onto Jesus’s followers. Jesus’s followers then continued to spread and teach the Gospel, establishing many more churches throughout the Roman empire. Many Christians faced persecution for their beliefs in the Roman empire until 313 AD when Constantine lifted the ban on Christianity. That’s just a brief description of Christianity to help better understand what’s being discussed.
People of Christianity base their morals on how life should be with Jesus at the center. This means Christians try to lead a life and act like Jesus would. Because of this, Christianity is shaping Christians morals by defining right and wrong through what Jesus would and wouldn’t do in certain situations. According to The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission there are six principles on how Christians should live a life centered on Jesus. These six principles are to find oneself by discovering truth outside oneself and in Jesus, loving others doesn’t always mean staying silent, joy isn’t found in our own desires but giving of ourselves to bless others, life’s main goal is giving glory to God, God gives people the freedom to believe whatever they want and such beliefs always affect society, and God created boundaries for sexuality so humans could flourish. In essence, Christians believe in the greater good of glorifying God, instead of self-fulfillment.
When it comes to the idea of glorifying God instead of tending to one’s own self-fulfillment, an outsider to Christianity can be quite intimidated. But the reality is simply that Christians believe happiness doesn’t come focusing on one’s own well-being, but instead comes from working to glorify God so they can live in eternal well-being and happiness after death. So, if one really thinks about it, Christians are basically saying they’d rather spend an eternity in abounding happiness, than spend their entire lives chasing the things they want that may or may not actually make them happy at the expense of others and then spending an eternity in abounding misery. When put in this perspective, the idea of glorifying God over one’s self-fulfillment doesn’t sound all that crazy or bad. Christian beliefs on how to glorify God are also generally beneficial for all people, Christian and non-Christian. For example, Christians believe in loving their neighbors and enemies as their selves, and they believe in forgiveness for any wrongs anyone may have done. However, sometimes Christians can get the wrong idea of glorifying God, which ends up coming at the expense of other peoples well-being.
The Christian Crusades are one powerful example of how Christians attempted to glorify God in a rather counterproductive way. The Christian Crusades were a series of wars launched by the Christians against the Muslims to regain the holy land of Jerusalem. There are several reasons for which the Christian Crusades were unchristian like and didn’t glorify God. First of all, the participants were murdering civilians, conquering land, and destroying civilizations, which are all violent things Christians are supposed to be fighting against be setting an example of peace, as stated in Peter 3:9 from the bible, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing”. In the Crusades, Christians are obviously not doing this, rather they let their hearts become so filled with hate over the capture of their holy land that they turned to violence and claimed their actions were in the name of Jesus to get away with it. Hate and revenge is yet another thing that the religion of Christianity is against, as stated in Luke 6:27-28, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” So, The Christian Crusades are not really representative of the religion of Christianity, but they do represent a very important factor on the influence of religion on peoples morals.
The influence of Christianity on its followers’ morals is influenced by not just the principles of the religion, but the other people of the religion. Christianity is a religion that focuses largely on community and being in the presence of other Christians. Christians spend time every Sunday going to church together and organize a great number of events to help a community. This means that Christians in a community have a strong connection with one another and definitely have an influence on each other’s morals. This is likely why so many Christians participated in the Christian Crusades. Their fellow Christians were fighting for the holy land and they’re Christians, so it must be the right thing to do, or so they thought. It’s easy for people to think something is ok just because their friends are doing it and they trust their friends, even though what their friends are doing may not actually be right. This kind of thinking has a great impact on people and their morals.
To sum up the religion of Christianity and its morals, Christianity is a religion centered on living to glorify God. This means spreading goodness and serving people around oneself, instead of seeking one’s self-fulfillment. Christianity is also largely a community-based religion, meaning Christians participate in a lot of activities together and generally trust each other. The influences Christians have on one another help shape their morals. The shaping of a Christians morals based on the writings and people the Christian lives around, determine how good of a person a Christian really is. Just being Christian does not make someone a good person, or someone characterized by the actions that Christians in the past or Christians in other areas have taken.