There is something that’s really beginning to bug me about some Christians. Namely the conflation of all types and flavors of Christianity as the same thing. I will eventually be reviewing a book that has been tending strongly towards this. Speaking broadly, all Christians only have one common feature: they all feel they are following Christ. Traditionally, most Christians have a number of other beliefs in common perhaps best demonstrated by the Nicean Creed. There are various iterations of this creed. Here is one I found from an Episcopal source:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Many churches use this or a variant of this to describe their beliefs. So all Christians are the same then, right? Sorry, no. Christianity extends beyond just these core beliefs. Take it from someone who’s seen 50+ churches- all the Christianites differ in ways that range from slight to major. Sometimes these additional beliefs remain unspoken, sometimes they are incorporated in the service each week. It’s been my experience that churches and denominations each have their own take on topics like; gay marriage, conversion and outreach, gender roles, environmentalism, the end times, prayer and more I haven’t encountered (or am forgetting). In short, although each church may have a very similar creed, they all have other beliefs too that differ from each other. What’s more, they all claim those other beliefs flow from their Christianity just as much as the creed does.
Because of these many differences, it is silly to make declarative statements like “Christianity promotes peace.” Which Christianity? Whose Christianity? Is that really Christianity’s focus as a whole? Is there anything that can be said to be Christianity’s focus as a whole? Even conversion to Christianity is not a focus for certain groups (in say, the Catholic Church for example). I contend that there is very little (if anything) that can be said of Chistianity as a whole. Anyone saying otherwise is either lying, being vague, or deceiving themselves.