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The True Church

By Pedro ~

June 14, 2019: many people in Brazil went to the streets to protest against several unpopular government proposals of cutting funds for education and privatize higher education, and so did I. In the city where I live, Maceió, during the protest, some people such as union leaders and the university dean from the Federal University of Alagoas gave speeches, and one of these people was a Christian religious leader (I do not know if he is catholic or protestant).

This Christian leader said something that always makes me angry. Something I have heard many other Christians saying in the last couple of years. He said: “Churches that are racist, sexist, misogynist and homophobic are not real churches, for Christ lived among the sinners and the minorities.” (I am paraphrasing, his exact words were similar to these, but I cannot remember every single word).

Well, he said that because Brazil current president, Jair Bolsonaro, is well known for being racist, sexist, misogynist and homophobic and the protest was against Bolsonaro’s political proposals to Brazil. Therefore, he, as a religious leader and a Christian, wanted to show that the church is not like the racist, sexist, misogynist and homophobic president. He said that so the people in that protest, many who are openly gay, feminist and from the black movement, would see the church as an ally in that battle for social justice, not an enemy. However, is that man’s claim legit? In my opinion, no it is not. I will explain myself giving two reasons.

Protest Barricade in Bebedouro neighborhood, in Maceió (AL)
First, it irritates me when Christian people make such claims because it seems like they are ignoring History and denying their responsibility as source of racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia. I will not make the case that without Christianity our society would not have these problems or that Christianity has to get all the blame for these negative aspects of western societies. However, it cannot be denied that the bible has many passages that encourage racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia and that those passages were used, and still are used, to perpetuate suffering among women, gays and black people. Besides, even the churches that try to be more inclusive to gays, more egalitarian in gender relations and more just to black people, often fail to recognize the historical role of Christianity in the development of a society that is unfair to these groups of people and its influence in keeping these people down.

He said homophobic churches are not real churches. Less than a century ago, it would be considered blasphemy to every Christian denomination in the world, and even today, his statement will be accused of being heretical by most of the Christians in the world.

Second, it irritates me when one Christian claims that there is a true church a false church. I know that the theme of the true people of god pervades the whole bible. Since the true faithful Israelites inside the untrue idolaters in Israel (preached by so many prophets of the Old Testament) until the admonitions of false Christians and false masters in the New Testament, there are many passages teaching that there are many who claim to be from god, but not all are true. Even though I know that, it still makes me angry every time that I hear this type of claim. “My church is the right one and theirs is not. The churches that teach/do so and so are wrong, but the ones that do the opposite are right.” It irritates me because even though we know that there has never been unity in Christianity, even from the first Century A.D. there were already Christians accusing other Christians of heresy, people still think they can make the claim that them, and only them, have the right interpretation of Christianity.

He said homophobic churches are not real churches. Well, less than a century ago, it would be considered blasphemy to every Christian denomination in the world, and even today, his statement will be accused of being heretical by most of the Christians in the world. So, doesn’t he realize that what he believes constitutes true Christianity is exactly what other Christians consider to be the opposite of the message of Christ? Maybe even a message from the devil? Doesn’t he know the history of Christianity, so full of ideological battles, contradictions and persecutions? Does he know these things (and many others) or he just ignores them? I do not know for sure.

In my view, Christianity is a discourse. There are many discourses about what we today call the Christian god, and these discourses are in conflict with each other. These discourses about Christ, about the bible, about god, about society, about women, about gender roles, about sex, about marriage, about family, these discourses are complex, dynamic, they diverge from each other in so many important issues, and they all can be backed up by the bible. In that context, who can argue to be the true church?