At the risk of sounding like a contributor to Private Eye’s Pedants’ Corner, I’d suggest that Steuart Campbell (Letters, 13 May) is mixing up his Greek adjectives when he says that “Christian” is a pun on “chrestos”, meaning good or kind. In Greek, xreystos means useful or serviceable, but “christos” or Xristos in the original, simply means the anointed one – the Greek translation of the word “Messiah”.
So Christians were those who follow Christ’s teachings. And, within the limits of the culture of the time, Christ’s message was essentially the golden rule of all the great religions: “Love God and care for your fellow humans as you care for yourself.”
This may seem like hair-splitting, but if there is to be a genuine debate about the contribution of Christianity, it’s important to get the facts right. Steuart Campbell would have been on much surer ground if he had criticised Christians for frequently failing to live up to the tenets of their faith.
(Dr) Mary Brown
It is interesting that our national and local secular societies claim to oppose only “religious privilege” in the public square and not religious belief itself.
How very quickly they fall, however, into a stance that questions Christian belief itself.
Steuart Campbell’s letter is an example of this. Carrying out practical works (just to take one example, providing easier means of access to weather forecasts for farmers by mobile technology in Kenya nowadays) such as those of Christian Aid, are a direct product of the example of Christ in his life and teachings.
Why would anyone, even a secular activist, put pen to paper to question the Christian ideology of Christian Aid after half a century of its good works?
And what similar humanitarian work does the National Secular Society and its small coterie of local followers and Edinburgh off-shoot do for communities here or abroad? Strident secularists’ protests that they are opposed only to religious “privilege” in the UK ring hollow to me.
The range of their criticism of anything with the word Christian in it surely belies this. I am reminded inexorably of the development of the atheistic Soviet state, where, at first after 1917, the revolutionaries sought only to expel the Church from public life, education and the press, but churches and objects necessary for worship in a private sphere were left, precariously, in the possession of the faithful.
However, active persecution of Christians and Christian belief soon followed in the USSR’s secular state. We should learn from and fear a repetition of this history in our islands too.
Further to your article (13 May) I have no doubt that the beheading of 800 Christians by Ottoman solders in 1480 in Otranto in Italy was an appalling atrocity, but the Crusaders were guilty of similar barbaric atrocities in the Holy Land when they captured Jerusalem.
With all the problems facing the Catholic Church in this century, it seems unhelpful and pointless to drag up events from the Middle Ages which should be left there.
Relationships between Christians and Muslims in present times are difficult enough without rehashing events from the distant past, which I am sure we would all condemn outright, but if religions are to have any place in this modern world they must look to the future and not hark on about terrible events in the past. Otherwise, not without reason, many people may feel that the world might be a better place without any religions.
Hugh M Mackenzie