Many of you who need to read this probably won’t because you’ve judged and labeled me as something that allows you to justify ignoring me, probably “liberal” or some other similar term. I’m not, but that’s what people do in order to avoid things they don’t understand, don’t agree with, or otherwise fail to properly categorize – label it so they can ignore it. I’m tired, angry, and exasperated. I normally write as if I’m entering into a dialogue with you the reader, but in this piece I’m going to preach.
I have absolutely zero authority to do so, but I’m going to anyway because I feel compelled by the dangerous ideas I see many otherwise good Christians espousing, because I love you and you need to hear this. There’s less than a week till an important presidential election, and a large portion of the American Church has completely lost the plot as Christians and as the Church.
Here’s the blunt truth: too many of us have subconsciously allowed our Americanism and American nationalism to completely color our Christianity. This is nothing I haven’t said before. I know this because I’ve come out of it myself. I’ve also said for far too long now I’ve felt largely alone in the American Church for this reason. When my brothers and sisters are worshiping a Jesus and practicing a Christianity that have succumbed to the ideals of the U.S.A. as if they’re equivalent to the Gospel itself – and, again, having done so without recognizing it – then I start asking myself where the line is drawn between my understanding of God and theirs. And I really, really hate asking that and feeling this way.
I love my country. But there is nothing about the ideas, ideals, and culture of America that ought to be influencing Jesus and Christianity. Too many Christians in America are allowing American and Constantinian principles to dictate how they view God and how they view the ideal government for America.
I’m going to center things on Christ himself, as we’re as Christians supposed to be emulating him in all that we do. I know that I’m not supposed to be trying to forcefully legislate Christian morals on the majority of Americans who are not Christian because of Jesus: if Jesus had been interested in “converting” others through force and government, he would have listened to the Zealots and started an earthly kingdom. He didn’t. Instead, he plainly told Pontius Pilate his kingdom isn’t of this world, and that if it were, his followers would be taking up arms. Jesus’ way is to love and serve others into his kingdom. Forcing moral laws on people who don’t agree with our morals is a form of oppression, not love, not service. We are supposed to be convincing them by showing them our better world as lived out within the loving community of the Church – instead, what they too frequently see is a community of zealots fomenting in anger and fear how to almost quite literally vanquish them. We’ve lost the plot.
You know why most Americans don’t agree with us on abortion? Because if you don’t believe in God, then it makes perfect sense to not think early-term abortions are immoral, because it is quite literally still an early-stage and non-viable life that hasn’t developed to a point that it can live on its own or biologically be considered a proper human – to be perfectly forthright, it wasn’t even considered a completely universal slam dunk for Christians to have a highly-formed opinion on abortion until the 1970s when the Religious Right decided to weaponize the issue to serve its political purposes. True, the majority of historical Christian tradition does agree that abortion is immoral, with mention of opposition dating back to The Didache in the late First Century, but there has been dissenting and varied opinions regarding it since that time, as well. To be clear, I am myself of the opinion that it is immoral, but I understand also why those who don’t believe in God view it as an issue of rights – if I didn’t think there was a God, then I would also think there isn’t a moral imperative to protect a zygote: it’s only when that zygote is believed to have an importance given to it by an all-powerful God that it becomes a massive moral problem. But if I’m to follow Jesus’ example, the answer is to through love, relationship and dialogue convince those who don’t believe in God to begin viewing reality the way I do – fighting them, screaming at them, and ultimately stripping away what they view to be their rights is only going to push them further away and, in fact, work against what God truly wants. That is why everything I’ve said in the past about abortion is the proper response (and, also, because pragmatically speaking, the abortion rate isn’t likely to drop just because it’s no longer federally recognized): its legality is beside the point, despite what Christians who want to fall on the sword of principle will tell you. What matters is both actually reducing the number of abortions as much as possible through the means that work (better education, better and cheaper healthcare, free contraceptives, and reform and incentives for adoption) while working to convince through love those who view reality differently than we do to see it like we do.
Christ also didn’t give a fig about his rights, and in fact commanded those who would follow after him to pick up their crosses like he did. That’s interesting, because I see many American Christians who are scared to death about losing all sorts of rights. I can’t say it more plainly than this: CHRISTIAN – YA DON’T HAVE ANY RIGHTS. They were nailed on the cross when you died to yourself. Remember that? When our old man was crucified, and Christ – the guy who willingly suffered and was silent before his accusers – came to life within us? And what of this fear? As I recall, the Christian is supposed to fight against fear; it’s an agent of our enemy. So why are you rolling all around in it? And using it to justify your beliefs? Hypocrite. You have nothing to fear. Stop fighting for your rights, which you gave up, and work to protect the rights of others who don’t have the freedom in Christ you do.
Ignorance comes into play most commonly regarding socialism. When capitalism became a part of scripture and socialism a work of the devil, I have no idea, but that’s how many American Christians are acting. There’s just a horrible amount of ignorance regarding what socialism actually is, and it’s absolutely nothing new. As Harry by-God Truman said in the 1950s, “Socialism is a scareword they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.” And, good God, are Christians scared of socialism. Those Democrats are socialists that are going to ruin America. I don’t have the patience to explain how the problems Venezuela had or Cuba had had zero to do with socialism, or how socialism isn’t the same as communism – you really ought to be able do your own research on this regard without being gaslit by Right-leaning media. Read this from the Washington Post. Or this from CBS News. Or this from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Or this from Brittanica. The bottom line is every other democratic form of government in the Western world is more “socialist” than the U.S. is, and several of them are in many ways functioning far more successfully than we are in different areas. To say otherwise is to display ignorance about what life outside of America is like, a problem way too many Americans have. I’m not going to debate the pros or cons of socialism – I’m just pointing out it’s dumb to let it be a something to be afraid of. Disagree with it all you want, but you shouldn’t fear it or think it’s going to destroy the country.
Lastly, I want to address the idea that voting for a political candidate represents voting for a platform and not for the actual person. That, again, is just ignorant. If the devil and Jesus were running for office and the devil represented all that you think is good about America and Jesus represented self sacrifice and giving to the poor in abundance as part of their platforms, would you vote for the devil because his politics aligned better with yours? Or transport yourself into 1932 Germany – there’s an ultra-conservative candidate who businesses support and whose platform is about making Germany great again and protecting it from communists and socialists; the media is just overblowing what he believes about Jews and misrepresenting him in general. Besides, you support Hitler’s platform, not the man himself. And you want to talk culpability regarding murder as part of politics? How about if we had a leader who wasn’t criminally negligent of his duties, 130 – 210,000 deaths (and counting) due to COVID could have been avoided? Or 36,000 could have been saved if social distancing started 1 week earlier than it did. Or 70,000 lives could be saved over the next three months if Americans were made to wear masks. I’d say the person elected to office regardless of his or her platforms is literally a matter of life or death – it matters damn well more than whatever supposed principles he or she purportedly stands for.
Alright, I’m done, y’all. Come on. Turn to Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Anytown, U.S.A. or Jesus of Wall Street or Jesus of Fill in the Blank. Analyze where your beliefs are coming from, why you’re viewing the world the way you do. Make sure it isn’t clouded by a strain of American Christianity that has emphasized the “American” part of its name far, far more than it was ever meant to.