“The ends justify the means.” Is a pretty scary line of thought. What’s scarier is that it explains Christianity’s historical power throughout Europe and well into early America. Before the Roman Empire collapsed, Christianity was made into the official religion and it’s capital was moved. The power of the Roman empire was broken, but their influence on their former empire did not entirely disappear. When the chaos finally came to an end, the church emerged as a stabilizing force that worked in tandem with the various nation states as they began carving out their territories for what would become Europe. Medieval knights were often baptized into Christianity, but they held their swords over their heads. In effect, God had cleaned souls, but they kept their swords unclean to do the dirty work of fighting for the nobles. This was seen in the Crusades, where the ends of rescuing Jerusalem justified the means of going to war for it time and and time again. In this way, church and state were a powerful ally, one in charge of the people physically, the other spiritually. We see the ends justify the means as African slaves were forcibly converted to Christianity before they boarded the slave trader’s ships. And the ends justified the means yet again as Native Americans were christianized. My question is, did that line of thinking disappear centuries ago, or does it persist?
I’ve been wondering what our culture might have turned out to be like had we not been Christianized from the start – what might we believe about the sciences, gender, sexuality, morality, and pretty much everything else. I think the mistaken approach of our predecessors was the idea that to be Christian, you had to give up certain aspects of your culture. Native Americans, for example, were made to wear normal clothing, cut the mens’ hair short, were given normal names. It was unfortunate that these Christians had not realized that the advice from the book of Acts still applied – it was not neccessary for the Gentiles to stop being Gentiles to be Christians, it was not neccessary for Native American to stop being Native Americans to be Christians.
I said this to say that ‘the ends justifies the means’ is a dangerous line of thinking that isn’t neccesarily true. Sometimes the means are just too cruel, too dangerous, and too destructive to justify any ends. Christians should not have been forcing the conversion of African slaves, they should have been setting them free. Christians should not have destroyed Native American culture, all they had to do was to tell them that God loved them as they are. Christians today should carefully study the mistakes of the past so that they do not relive them. We don’t have to give up what makes us ourselves to be Christians also. Let’s not perpetuate that myth upon those that are not like us.