First of all I question the premise of the question. I’ve seen various figures around on the net and decided to dig a little. The figures depend much on how you define things and what you do or do not consider “Christian” nations. For instance some folks lump the neo-Pagan Nazis with their massacre of around 20,000,000 people into the “Christian” category simply to pad the case against Christianity because the nation they ruled was nominally Christian.
I finally decided to go with an essay by one Kirk Durston, National Director, New Scholars Society. He cites a figure put forward by a political scientist, Rudolph J. Rummel, who figures about 284,638,000 people were killed for either religious or ideological reasons throughout human history. Of that number 151,491,000 were killed in the last one-hundred years with Communism, Nazi Germany and Nationalist China accounting for 141,160,000, nearly 50%. Communism by itself accounts for about 110,000,000 of those deaths.
I can hear atheist readers rejoicing over that one. “That means that over half of those killed were killed by Christians.” Not so fast. The remaining people were killed by Christianity and all other religions and ideologies combined. The figures for how many deaths can be laid at Christendom’s feet vary from 2,000,000 up to 50,000,000. Even if I’m generous, that means that the violence and death toll for 2,000 years of Christian history is less than one-half the death toll of Communism in the last one-hundred years alone. There is no real comparison! So “Christianity” is nowhere near as deadly as modern atheist and secular ideologies.
Now that we’ve taken care of that, let me state for the record that I am not about to defend the horrible record of cruelties and abuse of their fellow man by people calling themselves Christian. It is horrible and all of those who are called by that name should be appalled at the abuse heaped on God’s name by such a terrible record. I condemn it from the deepest wellsprings of my heart. So how do I justify being a Christian with that record associated with the name?
It is simple; the religious/political nations we know today as Christian are Christian in name only. They represent a fallen Church which left the teachings of her founder and reached out to become a temporal power. And they pay lip-service to the teachings of the one they claim to represent. As such they bring reproach on the names of both their founder and his God and stand rightly condemned. I choose to follow the founder and his teachings with all my heart and thus am proud to be called Christian, or Christ like, the meaning of the name.
When Jesus founded the Church he didn’t found a nascent world ruler which was supposed to grow and take bloody rulership. He founded a movement. Those are two different things. Jesus intended the Church to declare the Gospel, or good News, to people of all nations as a witness and make disciples out of people from those nations (Matt. 28:18-20). That was not a mandate to go out and take over the whole world and force it into submission like the mandate Muhammad gave Islam. There is no permission in that command to take temporal power, for that temporal power will be taken once the true Church is empowered in heaven (Rom. 8:15-17; Rev. 20:1-6). As a movement it was to operate anywhere under any ruler during conditions both friendly and hostile. As a movement it couldn’t be stamped out and could go about its current mandate to make disciples out of people everywhere and did so to some extent or another throughout the Gospel age.
As a Christian I follow Jesus’ teachings to love God, my neighbor and my fellow Christians. That means I obey the laws of the land such much as is physically and spiritually possible and do my best to harm no other person except in self-defense. And I’ll try to avoid situations which make that necessary to the greatest extent possible. In doing so I am fulfilling God’s law, as Paul pointed out at Romans 13:10. Far from bathing in the blood of innocents true Christians have more often than not been among the victims. Instead they’ve been a movement for peace and love, however dimly their lights were able to shine through the obscurity of persecution.
That, my friends, is how I’m able to justify being called by the name Christian despite the bloody record charged against it.
Durston, Kirk; Retrieved at, http://www.newscholars.com/papers /Killing,%20Christianity,%20and%20Atheism.pdf