Christianity is an immensely positive force in our world

The events of September 11, 2001, raise many questions.
The events of September 11, 2001, raise many questions.

Last week marked the 19th anniversary of the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States. It was a day that was truly world changing.

Only a year earlier the Olympics had come to Sydney and brought with them a sense of joy and excitement.

My friends and I went into the city with no sense that something could go wrong.

Few of us would feel we could make that assumption post 2001.

The events of that day raise many questions. Not least of these is place of religion in our society given the claimed religious motivations of the perpetrators.

To some people September 11 served as proof that religion is poison.

Richard Dawkins argued that these attacks could only have been carried out by people of faith, and that "To fill a world with religion [...] is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used."

But that idea is simplistic. For a start, the governments of Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot were all avowedly atheist and were among the most evil and deadly in human history.

I also wonder whether anyone would seriously argue that the Korean war improved the lives of those in the atheist North in comparison to what it had been before the war.

Or indeed, compared to what the far more religious South Korea has since become.

I know where I would sooner visit!

More commonly people will say that the problem is fundamentalism.

After all most Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other religious people are perfectly peaceful and decent.

The real problems start when people start to take their faith too seriously or literally that we run into problems.

The real problems start when people start to take their faith too seriously or literally that we run into problems.

Again, I don't believe that the evidence supports this idea.

For instance, in Australia many of the biggest charities are Christian organisations. The Salvation Army, Compassion, World Vision,

Historically it was the seriousness with which Christians took reading the Bible which drove them to establish schools and universities.

It was their desire to obey the teachings of Jesus, even at great personal sacrifice, which led them to start hospitals and orphanages.

As a minister, I see daily the way that Christian faith drives many individuals to acts of love and service which they will tell you are motivated by their desire to take as seriously as possible, the commands of Jesus Christ.

The commands which motivate people to such actions are many, including words such as; "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. This is my command: Love each other."

It is a hard command to follow. Not because I fear that following it may be destructive to those around me.

Far from it! What makes it hard is that it challenges me to put the needs of others so far ahead of my own that I struggle to want to make the kind of sacrifices required.

Yet I look to the example of Jesus as one who not only sets the example of such self-sacrificial love on the cross, but gave his life to forgive my failures and transform my heart to better follow his example.

History is littered with countless examples of those who have shared this motivation.

Of course, none of this is to say that some people claiming the title of Christian have not done horrible things.

Nor would I claim that those of other faiths, or even of no faith, are incapable of good.

However it is to say that Christianity has been, and will continue to be, a hugely positive influence on our society.