Via Elizabeth Breunig’s Twitter feed, I came across this fascinating profile of Dr. Paul Offit, who changed his opinion about Christianity and religion after reading the Bible:
When Offit began to read the Hebrew Bible/the Old Testament and the New Testament and look into the history of Christians’ work in the areas of child welfare and health care, he said he found himself largely embracing religious teachings.
Offit told me he was surprised by his reaction to faith. Asked what particularly changed his mind about religion, he said, “I read the New Testament!”
“Reading slowly and carefully, in context, I came to feel that independent of Jesus’ divinity, independent of questions about the Gospels’ accuracy, you have to be impressed by Jesus,” he said.
Offit said that Jesus’ advocacy on behalf of children, who were treated as property in the ancient Greco-Roman context, moved him “to the point of tears.” He referred to Christianity as “the single greatest breakthrough against child abuse” in history.
Offit highlights and praises the Christian tradition of caring for the sick and vulnerable. He notes, for example, that the first Christian emperor of Rome, Constantine, outlawed infanticide in 315 and provided a nascent form of welfare in 321 so families in poverty would not have to sell their children.
Historical expressions of care for the sick, Offit said, are aligned with “the religion of Jesus.” He has little patience for Christian practices (“religion about Jesus”) that place children in harm’s way by pitting modern medicine against faith.
You might go to my post “Reply to the Dancing Professor.” She is a literature professor who was seeking to understand how Christianity had survived in the Roman world. I gave her some ideas about the social values contained in Christian faith and practice.
Interesting post. I would observe that the form of Christianity that survived under Constantine was a Constantinian Christianity which had a lot of . . . problems as well. I don’t want to glorify a past when there a host of problems and inconsistencies with whom Jesus was and what he embodied.