Is Christianity a Western religion? How has the West treated Christianity?
Christianity was terribly persecuted by the West before it was accepted by the West. And even then, the West accepted and would continue to accept Christianity partially on its own terms.
Alongside and in cooperation with the Jews of the first century, the Roman empire was the first culture to persecute Christians. For 300 years, this was the norm. Only a minority of the time was the persecution a result of a single ruler’s orders—rather, most of the persecution was a response from the culture at large.
Christians refused to participate in pagan religion (when following their own religion, that is), and their religious ceremonies and practices were a source of ridicule from the majority of the Roman population. For the most part, it wasn’t so much the government of the West but the culture of the West that hated Christianity. Romans really thought that Christianity was corrosive, and sometimes the higher level government took action.
After the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 that Christianity grew politically in Rome and then traveled further West. Virtually all of the NT letters are dated before 90 AD. Churches multiplied, Rome could not ignore them, and eventually Rome made Christianity an official state religion by its own accord, causing a mingling of Christianity and Roman government that conflicted with the teachings of Christ. The development of the Roman Catholic Institution and Magisterium was a change that occurred well after the establishing of Christ’s church, and reflects a Western state structure and priesthood. Roman Catholicism may be called a Westernized religion, but Christianity as based on the New Testament record of Christ and his initial followers is not by nature Western.
When the Reformation of England in 1534, Christians who did not proclaim loyalty to the King of England were put to death. A Western power sought the death of a religious body, and merely hijacked religion as a motivation. This was one in a string of violent acts perpetrated by Christians against Christians due to the intrusion of Western power struggles in an otherwise peaceful faith. In the tradition of the Roman government it would be brute force, not reason and love, that would settle doctrinal differences.
By the 1600s, scores of Christians had fled further “West” to a land they believed to be the East (America now) in order to escape persecution in the West.
During the French Revolution, which inspired the birth of America, Robespierre’s France took great measures to murder Christian clergymen and efface Christian symbolism from public cultural artifacts, and banning worship. In its place, the “Goddess of Reason” was propped up at Notre Dame Cathedral. This goddess of reason, and her sister, liberty, would become two among many “deities” inspiring the founders of the United States. Liberty’s proud statue stands still today off the coast of Manhattan.
In the 1910s it was Benito Juarez, the President of the Western country of Mexico, who outlawed public worship and restricted property rights for Christians.
And as for the persecution of Christians by a Communist government—we would do well to remember that Communist governments multiplied in the East after the Soviet Union formed in 1922, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels were German economists. Their philosophical predecessor, Hegel, was also German. When Communist thought began to infiltrate Russia, the people saw it as a Western idea. Just as Christianity migrated from the Middle East to the West and became identified as Western, Communism migrated from the West to the East, and is often identified as Eastern. Neither identification is entirely accurate.
Nazi Germany also persecuted Christianity, hijacking Christianity earlier on in order to gain numbers, but later unmasking its anti-Gospel by superimposing Christian belief with a doctrine that Christ was not a Jew. Many Christians who dissented against Hitler were sent to concentration camps along with Jews. Germany is considered a Western country.
Although we have so far looked at persecution that has been a)in the past, and b)militant, we can also look at present anti-Christian sentiment. I don’t have to mention the many anti-Christian groups in both America and Europe. Sometimes these groups merely use propaganda, but occasionally they act out physically. In 1992 at least 9 church buildings were reportedly burned down by anti-Christian groups in Norway.
This post merely refers to elements of direct persecution in the West. I have not even begun to mention the ways in which Western ideas simply aren’t compatible with Christianity, even when persecution doesn’t come in to play.
Of course, the East is no stranger to persecution Christianity either, and neither is the Middle East. And although the Middle-East is currently the most dangerous geographic location for Christians, it is also the location where Christianity was born.