Falsely Accused: Christianity on Trial

Christianity has been much maligned and accused as a religion that has done harm to the world. But Vincent Carroll provides proof in his new book, Christianity on Trial, that Christianity has transformed the world for good. Pat Robertson spoke with him to discuss the true history and impact of Christianity.

PAT ROBERTSON: Joining us is Vincent Carroll, co-author of this very interesting book called Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry. Mr. Carroll is a very distinguished editor of the editorial pages at the Rocky Mountain News of Denver, which by the way is a very popular newspaper, and we appreciate him being with us. Welcome, glad to have you with us!


ROBERTSON: You have written a book to answer charges that you see in the media. I will never forget the Washington Post when we asked for calls on Judge Clarence Thomas' nomination and over 400,000 came in. And the Washington Post immediately responded and said: these are quote "followers of Pat Robertson" and they're poor, uneducated, and easy to command. And when they were challenged on that, the man who wrote it said everybody knows that is true. Is that the prevailing view in the liberal media, that those who are evangelical Christians or devout Roman Catholics are somehow a little kooky or not well-educated?

CARROLL: I think it is too common a view throughout the cultural elites of this country. All you have to do is think, "What is it that the average American knows about Christian history?" They know about the Inquisition, they know about the depredations of the Crusades, they know about the silencing of Galileo, the Salem witch trials. You can go through a whole list of very specific things. But if you ask those same people, "What's the other side of the ledger? What is Christianity responsible for that we all agree are good things in our civilization?" Most of them would be tongue-tied, I think.

ROBERTSON: You know, you see somebody like Gore Vidal, a noted homosexual, who's attacking, but he doesn't say, "I am a homosexual, therefore I don't like Christianity because it says what I am doing is sin." You wish people with that particular lifestyle will identify themselves of who they are before they attack. But they don't, they hide behind some august journal and write stories.

CARROLL: A lot of people have their own agendas for why they don't like Christianity, there's no doubt about it. But that specific statement that he made about more people having died in the name of Jesus Christ than any other cause in world history is simply false. You know, Christian ethics have prevented as much violence at least as it has caused. And I think the record in terms of Christianity toward violence is actually much better than a lot of other religions and other civilizations.

ROBERTSON: Christianity has been accused of misogyny, and the truth is the so-called liberation of women, the suffragette movement, arose out of the churches. And the child labor laws rose out of the evangelical pulpits. There's no question [Christians fought on their behalf], if you read the history of the United States and the world and way back to the days of the Roman Empire.

CARROLL: That's absolutely true. Most of the humane reform movements in the 19th century in this country were led by the evangelicals, abolitionism was, the suppression of the slave trade. But you're right, go all the way back to the beginning of the Roman Empire, women were much better off, their status was better off, in the Christian communities, they were not forced to marry and they were taken care of by the Christian community if their husband died. There is no question, their status was better and has been better throughout many Christian communities in history.

ROBERTSON: You know, I was looking yesterday at an atlas, a summary of the world religions, and Christianity has very close to two billion adherents right now, and is the largest religion and accounts to about 32 percent of the total world population. It has to have something good coming out of it, but the elites in America don't seem to want to acknowledge that.

CARROLL: One of the things that people don't realize is, the revolutionary nature of the belief in the moral equality of all individuals, Christianity was the principal instrument by which that spread throughout the world. And it had revolutionary implications in terms of humane treatment of everybody, in terms of abolition of slavery, in terms of a whole host of things, and even to this day, Christianity is one of the principal forces of democratization throughout the world, in places like South Korea and everywhere else.

ROBERTSON: The Bible says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." Did not the foundation - and everything I've read about the entire United States founding, this experiment of liberty - didn't that found out of the Christian churches?

CARROLL: There is no question that Christianity had a major impact on the founding of this nation. The spirit of '76 was suffused with Christian principles, Christian ethics. The Great Awakening of a few decades before was instrumental in that. And, indeed, the very founding of this nation, the Puritans, the covenant theology was important to many of the Founders in 1776.

ROBERTSON: Let's talk about this Nazi thing. From what I can gather, the whole concept of Aryanism came out of the Hindu faith, the Aryans. And the swastika was a symbol that was used by the Aryans, and I've seen it in India when I've been over there, and the Germans may have called it a broken cross, but that really was not what it was. Can you address that, that somehow Christianity was the root of Nazism?

CARROLL: It seems to me that Nazism clearly is a neo-pagan phenomenon. And it was a phenomenon that was not just anti -Semitic, it was anti-Christian. The Nazis wanted to suppress Christianity, they would have had they won the war, they did it in western Poland, and they extirpated, virtually, the Catholic church. They were explicitly anti-Christian as well as anti-Semitic.

ROBERTSON: I have been to Dachau and I have seen the barracks that were reserved for the evangelical pastors that stood up against Hitler. So it wasn't all Jewish, most of the people there were Jewish, but there were also plenty of Christians along with them.

CARROLL: There were a lot of Christian martyrs under the Nazis, even though obviously there was a context there in Germany of traditional Christian anti-Semitism, but Nazi anti-Semitism was something fundamentally different.

ROBERTSON: How do you see this going in America, especially in the media, because the so-called elites are - in your book Christianity on Trial you say it's bigotry. What can we do to combat it? Of course, the truth is the best weapon, but it seems to be having a hard time getting through the miasma.

CARROLL: The truth is the best weapon and that's one of the reasons why we wrote this book, because I think this conflict is going to continue and I think that people need to arm themselves with information. They can't just say, "Oh, yes, Christians have done all of these bad things." And some of these things Christians have done, but they need to know the other side of the ledger so they don't feel defensive and beleaguered by the militant secular forces in this society.

ROBERTSON: And they seem to amount to a small percentage. They may have a big megaphone but they're not that many in number.

CARROLL: It is not clear to me how large they are. But it is clear that still the vast majority of Americans consider themselves people of faith.

ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentlemen, Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, it's a tremendous book, Christianity on Trial. It is the kind of thing you need to get into, it takes some understanding. It goes all the way through the charges against Christianity and it's a good book on Christian apologetics. It is available I presume at Christian bookstores?

CARROLL: It is available at Christian bookstores, regular bookstores, Barnes & Noble,

ROBERTSON: And you can get it on our website, too - Christianity on Trial. Thank you very much.

CARROLL: Thank you, my pleasure.