How can I better prepare my daughter to handle hard questions about Christianity, like questions about the Crusades?

Hello Michelle,
Good morning! My daughter is in 10th grade and her class is focusing on the crusades and a discussion lead by the teacher focused on the brutality of the crusaders. The room immediately became negative toward Christians my daughter became mad and angry but said nothing due to the hostility of the room and her limited knowledge on these topics. All I could say to her this morning was that it’s true, what occurred during the crusades was horrible but you can’t judge a faith by its abuses! What would be a better response to help her understand how to handle these situation, and what could I read or provide her more skill in critical thinking around these discussions?

Best regards,
Mark Murphy

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Hi Mark,

It’s so good to hear from you on behalf of your daughter. Wow, I can only imagine how hard that class must have been for your daughter and for you listening to her replay it later. I remember many times in both high school and later in university when I either felt ostracized or misrepresented by a teacher who taught with a clear anti-Christian bias. It never got any easier, and unfortunately in today’s current climate towards Christianity, these kinds of situations are becoming more frequent. A few decades ago Christianity was viewed as a traditional or old-fashioned belief system. Although in the Academy and government publicly people were starting to move away from Christian ethics and morality, still a person’s personal faith in Christ was seen as harmless or neutral in the public square. Today in our highly polarize and individual-shaped society, Christianity which makes ultimate truth claims about morality, ethics, identity and destiny is actually viewed as harmful and intolerant. Even though there is a myriad of problems with these claims, it’s important to remember that this is the accepted and even championed worldview that our students and professionals interact with on a daily basis. Speaking up in situations like these requires courage, discernment, wisdom and gentleness-a tall order for any of us!

As much as you possibly can, take time to empathize with your daughter. I wonder if there are any times you have felt the same way in public? Praise her for the wisdom she showed in not letting her anger and frustration feed the hostility in the room. Encourage her that these are hard questions and she is not alone in feeling disarmed by them, but good research has been done on this topic and there are good answers that satisfy both our heads and our hearts on these questions.

Your answer is exactly how Ravi often starts in response to these questions. He says we should never judge a philosophy by its abuses. Here are a few important things to consider in taking the conversation and your research further. The central message of the Bible is that the way of the cross is self-sacrifice as evidenced by God coming to us through Jesus Christ. We receive salvation and inherit eternal life when we choose to sacrifice our wills and ways and surrender to the Lordship of Christ. As Paul says, It is by grace we have been saved through faith, lest any many should both. This is also a clear indication that salvation can never be attained, passed on or forced by violence or warfare. God himself never forces us to accept his ways, he humbly offers us his love and salvation through self-sacrifice. On these grounds alone, we can see that the violence of the crusades was way out of line with what the Bible teaches.

It’s also important to remember that in the reformation, our own Christian history, the crusades and other corruption of the church was specifically called out and challenged. So within our own Christian history, we have named the crusades specifically as wrong. The fact that in Christian history we are willing and ready to scrutinize past and present actions and teaching in the light of what the Bible has always taught is a huge strength. Many other worldviews, Atheism specifically, are happy to call out the flaws and failures of past Christians, but will not take into account the moral atrocities done by atheistic regimes. Here are a few links where Ravi has spoken on these topics. https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/in-the-name-of-atheism-1 and https://www.rzim.org/listen/just-a-thought/crimes-in-the-name-of-religion-part-1. We also have a recent thread on this subject right here in RZIM Connect, you may want to join the discussion on. Here is the link: How do we answer to nonbelievers the history of the Crusades and the repercussions on the Platinum Rule of Christ?

Another helpful line of thought is to consider how much good Christianity has brought to society both in history and in the present. The earliest hospitals, orphanages, and Universities were all started because of the Christian worldview. William Wilberforce was able to end slavery in the United Kingdom because of his Christian beliefs. Today, it is Christian organizations that on the forefront of fighting against human trafficking, there are currently more slaves than ever before many of them are women and children forced into sexual slavery. Not too long ago, Bethinking.org, a site that was originally started by Tom Price, one of our RZIM speakers, ran a review of a book called The Evil That Men Do: Faith, Injustice and the Church by Marcus K. Paul. The book is now on my reading list! Paul gives a history of the church, responds to common questions and critiques about violence done in the name of Christianity and then spends a great deal of time showing the glory of the church through to the present time. Here is the link for some further reading. https://www.bethinking.org/is-religion-harmful/the-evil-that-men-do-review.

In the meantime, keep talking to your daughter about how the class is going. Share with her some of these resources if you find them helpful and continue to invite her to talk about questions she finds difficult to answer about the faith. Also, every summer at the Zacharias institute we run a week called Refresh. It is designed specifically to help upperclassmen high school and early college students go deeper in their faith, engage with tough questions, and equip them to feel ready for these situations in life, particularly in the academy. You can visit the event section of the Zacharias Institute, through our main webpage RZIM.org, to find out when the next Refresh week will happen in 2020.

Thanks again for your question,
Michelle

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