One of the things that has become rather apparent to me over the years is the lengths that most people will go to, to avoid any thing even remotely resembling responsibility. In fact, most people will spend MORE effort avoiding responsibility, for anything, than they would actually taking responsibility. This is really apparent in the anti-Christian bias that is permeating our society, even within "Christian" churches.
I am a natural sceptic. It comes from my upbringing, and being raised to question authority...which was weird, because the authority who taught me that (my mother) didn't actually like it when I questioned HER authority...but, anyway, I was taught to look at WHY people did things, and to look for any inconsistencies. Now, I was also raised an atheist, becuase Religion was seen as an authority figure in my home. Once I actually accepted Jesus, though, I started applying my natural scepticism and questioning of authority, but this time, in defense of Christianity, rather than against it. And what I learned may not make any of y'all happy.
What I learned was that there aren't ANY denominations of Christianity that have the first clue about what it means to be a Christian. That doesn't mean that there aren't members of certain denominations who get it, but the leadership of the denominations are just using their authority to impose their version of Christianity on their members, regardless of what the Bible says. There is a lot of variation in this, since some denominations are better than others about it, but they all miss key points, and ignore points that they don't like. Which means that I actually agree with the rabid anti-Christians who abhor organised religion. Nothing has damaged the Gospel more than organised religion. Nothing. I'll give you some examples, just to prove my point. Roman Catholics, you may not want to read much further, but I will also skewer some Protestant denominations...some of them are just as bad as the Holy See.
First of all, just to get it out of the way, Roman Catholicism has only the loosest connection to Christianity. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine is about as far away from Jesus' teachings as one can get, while still remaining in the same religious grouping (Judeo-Christian). The biggest sticking point between the Roman Catholic (RCC, from here on out) church and the Protestants is the authority of the Pope. According to the Bible, the Pope has absolutely NO authority to interpret Scripture, since Scripture doesn't need interpreting. But the Pope (not this one, but previous ones...several Medici popes spring to mind...) has "usurped" that power from Scripture, in order to interpret Scripture in a way that allows more latitude for the Pope, and the heirarchy of the RCC, in actions and deeds, in order to better control the faithful. Don't believe me? Where in the Bible does it give a Pope the right to excommunicate, or sever ties from God, anyone? In fact, the Bible is quite clear that NO ONE has that right. Withholding of Communion? Improper doctrine, bordering on heresy. If Jesus Himself could hold Communion with Satan, where does the Pope get the right to withhold Communion from someone? (Judas, in case y'all don't know, was possessed by Satan at the Last Supper...or very near in time to the Last Supper.) If being cleansed of sin is the requirement, then Jesus couldn't hold Communion with the Disciples, since Jesus had not yet cleansed the world of the stigma of their sins. So, the Pope, nor any of his...minions can withhold Communion. Not even from Lurch Kerry. I'll stop with bashing the RCC for now, since I don't want to turn this into a RCC gripe-fest. Besides, I promised that I would get to skewering the Protestants.
The Baptists are another denomination that selectively interprets the Bible. Their injunctions against consuming adult beverages is Biblically based, according to them. But, actually asking a Baptist minister (which I have done) about it shows a rather flawed logic to their injunction. You see, they combine two passages, from two seperate books of the Bible (both from Paul, by the way) to get their Biblical basis for no consumption of alcohol. But, if drinking alcohol is a sin, then Jesus isn't who they say He his...since Jesus was supposed to be without sin, yet He drank alcohol. And Jesus wasn't all that enamored of hypocrisy, such as the logical assumption that the Baptists make, which is that it was okay for Jesus to drink alcohol, but not us. Look up "hypocrisy" sometime in a Concordance, and see what Jesus thought of hypocrisy. Wouldn't it be hypocritical, and therefore a sin, for Jesus to turn water into wine, and then tell us we couldn't drink it? Meaning that Jesus couldn't be the Lamb of God, since the Lamb had to be without sin in order for the sacrifice to work.
Another denomination that seems to be rather lacking in the teachings of Christ department is my old (very recently old) denomination, the Presbyterians. One of their central tenets is that there is no one true path to God. On the surface, this seems rather tolerant, and accepting. But, in reality, it isn't. What it means is that the Presbyterians have almost as many ways of interpreting the Bible as they have churches (Presbyterianism is based on local control of churches...the actual congregation determines almost everything about the church.). To give you an idea of what this can lead to, just realize that Mr. (Fred) Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, as was Paul Hill, the abortion doctor killer. Now, there are some subjects that aren't actually covered in the Bible, which leaves some room for Christians to disagree. But there aren't all that many of those. In fact, I can't actually name one, but I'm assuming there are a couple. In all other subjects, the Bible doesn't lend itself to interpretation, since the Bible tends to be quite clear about it's meanings. Actually, VERY clear.
While I am not all that conversant on the actual tenets of Methodists, I do know that Methodists and Presbyterians consider themselves interchangeable...to the point where a Methodist minister can be the pastor of a Presbyterian church, and vice versa. (It happened at my former church) So, I'm going to assume that the Methodists are just like the Presbyterians, only more liberal. (that's based on statements I've heard from Methodist leaders) And it's hard to get more liberal than the Presbyterians. Not impossible, mind you, but you do actually have to work at it.
At this point, I have to mis-quote the President, and say "A litany of complaints isn't a solution." So, if I have all these complaints about the Biblical errors that denominations make, do I have the answer to what true Christianity is? Glad you asked. Because, yes, I do. I'm no smarter than anyone else, but merely more sceptical than most. And what I found, at the heart of Christianity, and Jesus' teachings (just for the record, it drives me NUTS when people refer to Jesus as 'Christ'...Christ was a title, Jesus was his name) is the concept of absolute, total responsibility for one's own actions.
The first step to becoming a Christian is acknowledging one's sinful nature. Vocally. To God. Directly. Specifically. Not "Dear God, I'm a sinner. Please forgive me." Nope. It should be "Dear God (Father, Lord, whatever term of address you feel comfortable with), I have sinned in X way. I have sinned in Y fashion. I have done evil in Your eyes by doing Z. Please forgive me." Why do it that way? Because one actually takes responsibility for their sins. Trust me, if you acknowledge your specific sins, you ain't tellin' God something He doesn't already know. He just wants to see if you will be honest about it. By lying by ommission, all you are doing is committing yet another sin that God will need to forgive you for. And He won't until you actually acknowleged the sin. Don't believe me? Read the Bible sometime. Jesus actually says that there will be many people who will claim to be followers of His, but won't actually be followers, becuase they won't follow His teachings. And those people are just a damned as the unrepentant sinners. Just so y'all know, this is the one area that I've found where the RCC gets it right...but then swerves away from the Truth. The Sacrament of Confession is suppossed to be specific, and with pennance for each sin committed. Where the RCC gets it wrong is who you confess to, and whether there is any pennance required. There isn't. Look it up.
Jesus also taught us to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Nowhere did He say, "Demand that others treat you the way you want to be treated", or "Expect others to treat you the way you treat them", or any other such nonsense. Jesus taught us that we are each responsible for our own actions, and to not try and control the behaviour of others. The day-to-day applications of this are that there is NEVER any justification to treat another person badly. None. Whatsoever. Jesus doesn't care how badly they treated you, you still have to treat them the way you would want to be treated. Now, if you want to be treated like dirt, I doubt that you are a Christian, but, if you are, and do want to be treated that way, I suggest that you consult your Bible, and read up on how we are to treat ourselves... I, personally, am sick and tired of people, especially well-meaning Christians, getting all atwitter over being treated badly, and then trying to justify their (poor) responses by saying "Well, he did it first!"
Another thing we are taught is to help those less fortunate than us. The poor, the out-of-work, the widow, the down-on-their-luck. But, here's the interesting part. Nowhere does He say that we are to compel others to do it also. We are supposed to do, in secret, and with no fanfare. Personally. We aren't even supposed to tell others that we are doing it. Or, rather, we aren't supposed to brag about it. No, actually, I take that back. He didn't even want us to tell ourselves that we were doing it. He just wanted us to do it.
All of this, and other things to boot, add up to the central core of Christianity, which is being responsible for one's own actions, and taking charge of one's own life. Christianity is based completely on free will. Christians choose to be Christians. They can't be forced to be Christians. Christians choose to do God's Will. They can't be forced to do it. Christians choose to live lives with minimal sin (we are supposed to live our lives without sin, but even God knows that we won't). They aren't supposed to force others to do it.
If someone wants to practice another religion, Christians are bound by God's Will to let them. That doesn't mean we can't try and change their minds, but it does mean we can't force them to be Christians. If someone wants to cheat on their spouse, we, as Christians, have to let them. That doesn't mean we can't try and talk them out of it, or tell them that they are sinning, but it does mean that we can't compel them to behave properly. Christianity isn't based on compulsion. We leave that to the Muslims.