I. A Tale of Two Species
White Christian churches are not merely complicit, they are the architects of systemic racism, misogyny, and oppression. It goes without saying that their bigotry naturally extends to people of different faiths, cultures, and of course the LGBTQ community.
In the Judeo-Christian lineage of supernatural beliefs, white men have always been conveniently bestowed with God-ordained power over women and all other lesser, non-white beings. It didn’t take long for a new world order to be established in which Black, indigenous, and nearly all people of color were stripped of their humanity and given the shackles and chains of Christianity in return.
Their reward for submitting to their Christian masters, they were told, would come in the afterlife. In a cruelly ironic twist of fate, some in the BIPOC community now continue to be exploited by the same powers that led to their own culture’s demise.
It certainly has been convenient for men that Christian doctrine has been and still is widely interpreted to give them dominion over women in every aspect of life. It’s only been a little over 100 years since women were granted the right to vote and hold public office.
Women had no representation in government, no rights to property, no say in family decisions and not even a right to their own children – women did not exist as a separate legal entity after they were married. In addition to claims that women did not possess the intellect and were prone to hysteria, suffrage opponents interpreted the Bible to justify why women must remain subservient to men.
Christianity is the tale of two species: the white man and everyone else.
II. Beware of Those Bearing Gifts
In the mid-1200’s, the Catholic church went on a gift-giving colonizing campaign to the far corners of the world. The gift they were giving was of course sharing the Good News of Christianity and the promise of eternal life to the unenlightened.
The gift wasn’t entirely free, of course, but surely the indigenous peoples could understand that their natural resources and slave labor were a small price to pay for eternal life. With this in mind, the Catholic Church sanctioned slavery of anyone who was a non-believer.
By the 1400’s the Catholic church became the first global organization to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade and authorize permanent enslavement of Africans and indigenous peoples. As Christian countries competed to spread the Good News via conquest and colonization, the natural resources and slave labor they acquired along the way helped fuel the expansion of white European civilizations across the globe.
Judeo-Christian religions gave clear conscience to all those who waged war and enslaved non-believers. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that most of the world began divesting themselves from the slave trade, some willingly, some not so willingly.
In America, while some churches rebelled against traditional doctrine and joined the abolitionist movement, the majority of Southern white churches fought to maintain slavery as one of the pillars of the Confederacy. Theological arguments were used to actively endorse slavery, segregation, and voting restrictions that Black Americans are still fighting against today.
After the Civil War, those same churches vigorously opposed reconstruction. They continued to assure white southerners of their God-given superiority over Black people, free or not. From the Ku Klux Klan to the enshrinement of Jim Crow laws to their opposition of the Civil Rights Movement, white churches continued to provide the biblical justification for segregation and dehumanization of Black communities.
There was no day of reckoning for those churches and congregations that for hundreds of years sanctioned and sponsored some of the worst crimes against humanity. There was no accountability for the genocide, enslavement, and oppression endorsed by religious leaders who proclaimed God’s Will was clear, unchanging, and irrefutable on these matters.
Why would we expect things to be different today?
III. Fast Forward to the 21st Century
When Jason Berry of the National Catholic Reporter first reported on the systemic sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church and the coverup by church hierarchy, he anticipated the story would become international news and finally bring an end to the atrocities. He expected public outrage over the abhorrent nature and Watergate-esque scale of the crimes.
What he did not expect was the story to die on the vine. The abuse in fact was allowed to continue unabated until the Boston Globe Spotlight investigations finally got the world’s attention 15 years later. It is yet to be seen whether the church is even interested in holding itself accountable for the suicides, pain, and suffering of victims and their families – much less prevent them from happening again.
For a religion that self-identifies as family focused, Christianity has a long and sordid history of child abuse and cover-up by the church hierarchy. The church has an equally sordid history in separating children from their families.
This practice has been the political weapon of choice in destabilizing and disempowering families for centuries. From the slave auctions that separated black children from their parents, to the abusive Christian schools where kidnapped Native American children were either converted or killed. From the separation and caging of children who crossed the border with their parents, to the legislation that calls for separating trans kids from parents who support them with gender-affirming health care.
One of the most sobering realizations of the victims and the journalists investigating the Catholic church was how much power the church wields. There’s not a single branch of government at any level that is immune from that control. But that pales in comparison to the influence the church has over its members, regardless of how strongly they identify with their faith.
IV. But churches are a net positive to the community, right?
Churches and synagogues of course rely on donations, tithes, and offerings, and even non-believers likely assume a large percentage of church donations are used to help the needy. The numbers, however, tell a different story.
In 2016, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving at Indiana University initiated the National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices (NSCEP) with the goal of providing a “deeper understanding of how congregations’ receive, manage, and spend their financial resources.” The NSCEP team analyzed financial data and donor participation trends based on data provided by over 1200 Judeo-Christian congregations from 2014-2017.
The first report from the study was published in 2019 and provides the most comprehensive, nationally representative view into congregation finances to date. Results show that after salaries are paid, most of a congregation’s budget is spent on acquiring real estate and property development.
The least funded of its functions are its mission work (11%) and programs for the needy (10%). Essentially 90% of donations taken in by congregations go to supporting operating costs and investments, as opposed to charitable causes in the community.
The Catholic Church, no stranger to scandal and financial corruption, is facing increased scrutiny over its use of donations to cover budget deficits and controversial real estate transactions. As reported in a 2019 Wall Street Journal article, the bulk of the funds collected through the pope’s primary charitable appeal, called Peter’s Pence, were used to pay down the Vatican’s budget deficit.
Though promoted by the Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as largely a fundraising effort for the needy, church records indicate as little as 10% of the funds were used for charitable works. As charities go, congregations would be ranked among the most egregiously wasteful stewards of donations compared to secular non-profits. Worshippers have the right to know how their donations are used and may be shocked at the inconsistency between their organization’s stated priorities and the reality of where the money goes.
Today churches not only continue to reap the benefits of tax exemptions, but their lobbying is paying off and resulting in direct access to public funds. Entitlement, by any other name, and a blatant violation of our Constitution’s First Amendment.
Conservative judges have cleared the way for publicly-subsidized Christian schools that will further indoctrinate young people. Catholic hospital networks are squeezing out other networks and are free to discriminate, denying medical services based purely on religious reasons.
I say it’s time to end this 2000-year run of religious oppression. Want to be a part of it?
About the author: Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for all those who are persecuted for trying to live authentically. To learn more, check in with us at ScientificRebels.com, listen to our Podcast, or contact the author directly.