Nothing to do with Jesus

cruxBy John D. Pierce

One significant revelation in this endless political season has been the clear disclosure of “the Christian right” as a political movement having nothing to do with Jesus.

Absolutely nothing. And it never has.

It’s always been about power, and political pushback rooted in a growing fear of diversity and overall change. Yet it gets bundled up and baptized in the language of faith.

It is more effective that way. Yet, in the final analysis, it is not and has never been about Jesus.

Political fundamentalism of religious-right leaders like Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and James Dobson offers a perverted gospel that exploits the anxieties of their gullible followers, seeks greater access to power and reduces the Christian message to mere politics of fear and exclusion.

“I told you so” is never well received. However, it can be noted that when the religious right’s influence grew in the early ’80s — swooping up loads of adulating believers willing to punch whatever ballot buttons their leaders claimed were divinely endorsed —there were thoughtful and vocal Christians unwilling to follow.

However, these needed critics were castigated as unbelievers, liberals or secular humanists — and dismissed along with their wise warnings that equating a narrow political ideology with Christian faithfulness was bad for politics and worse for the church.

Now that movement has proved beyond any doubt that it was an acquiescence of the church to political power rather than a Christian witness to the political arena. Alliances other than Jesus won out.

Easily. It always works that way due to the seduction of power.

In many circles this political identity fostered by the religious right has become the defining public image of the church in America. The self-indictment of politicized Christianity as something other than followers of Jesus will have to be dealt with for many years to come.

But don’t misplace the blame: This perception is not the fault of those who see it, but of those who created that image.

So let’s face it: the political shenanigans of these Christian fundamentalists are not about Jesus and never have been. That is a needed confession that should also become a lesson.

Whatever one’s political orientation, stop trying to recruit God to your preferred positions.

We may argue over what is best to call them — the religious right, Christian fundamentalists, or something else. But the media and pollsters deem them as “evangelicals” — much to the chagrin of some still clinging to the diminished identity that now means anything but “good news.”

What is abundantly clear, however, is that this politically-imbued religious movement — advanced decades ago by the Original Jerry Falwell and others — continues to have nothing to do with Jesus other than the language with which it is packaged and sold.

If these spotlight-seeking preachers and their political allies want to argue their positions on a wide range of issues — including masking their opposition to human rights as “religious liberty” — then fine. Just do it on political terms and stop pretending that Jesus somehow shares your perspective.

He doesn’t. Never has. Leave Jesus out of it.

If Christianity had anything to do with what often flows from heads and mouths of Franklin Graham, James Dobson and Pat Robertson, then I’d have no interest in being a Christian. Give me something else — something that has some semblance to Jesus.

An uncomfortable reality, which few are willing to admit, is that whenever the majority of conservative white Christians lose politically — from civil war to civil rights — America actually moves closer to its high claim of liberty and justice for all.

In fact, politicized Christian fundamentalism is a greater threat to freedom than the nation’s advancements in equality and justice are a threat to the freedom of Christians.

What threatens religious-right advocates, in reality, is the loss of favoritism and the comfort of homogeneity, and a desired blessing to discriminate.

Jesus has been sacrificed again — this time for mere political gain. But that gain is a tremendous loss.

Indeed religious/political fundamentalism is about something other than Jesus. Something far different — and significantly less.

 

 

 

27 Comments

  1. Great article John. I wished more of us understood that concept.

  2. Right on target, John. Fabulous article. You are courageous to say it out loud. I have been saying this same thing for quite awhile now. I will uphold anyone’s right and privilege to vote their own conscience in our political elections. Conservative, Republican, Moderate, Liberal, Democrat, Libertarian, or Independent… they have my blessing to vote as they feel best. But far too many evangelicals have been duped into equating conservatism with Christianity. Much of their fear-inducing, fundamentalist, hate-filled, isolationist rhetoric has almost nothing to do with the Jesus of the Gospels – where concern for and ministry to the poor, the least, the lost, the orphans, the widows, the strangers, and those on the margins of society is paramount. The world is watching and I’m afraid they “get it.” Our influence is being diminished. Many “Christian” voices channel anything BUT the good news. The gospel IS “Good News” – liberating GOOD NEWS – for all! Vote your conscience, YES! But live out the good news through Christ-like love and concern for “the least of these” each and every day. That will have a lasting impact on our world.

    • “Much of their fear-inducing, fundamentalist, hate-filled, isolationist rhetoric has almost nothing to do with the Jesus of the Gospels – ”

      My friend, I’ve dialogued with many who say this same thing. I’m curious to know if the “Jesus of the Gospels” reflects what many of them think.

      Can this “Jesus of the Gospels” be disconnected from the “Jesus of Acts” or the “Jesus of Peter’s epistles” or “Jesus of Paul’s writings”?

      What do you think?

  3. Great article John!

  4. Thank you for articulating what many of us are thinking and trying to say to our brothers and sisters.

  5. Fantastic article. I have had these same thoughts for years. You verbalized them much more eloquently.

  6. Thanks for the well-written post. I’m an 84 year old woman, and I moved to the Bible Belt six years ago. Raised a Christian, I’m now having my doubts as I live near my daughter’s family that is very involved with a wonderful church. They’re all great kids, but I’m just not connecting on some level and feel that I’m losing my faith. They will not vote for anyone who advocates a woman’s right to her own body, and they talk of a war on Christianity because they are not getting the right to discriminate against gays. Thanks for letting me vent…

    • I am 60, and my kids (and their friends) are leaving the church because they are so disappointed in these attitudes.

    • Joann your children are right the person that wrote this article is a heretic they obviously do not know scripture. God’s word is useful for teaching rebuking and training in righteousness. The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin read Romans chapter one especially pay attention to the last verse. And it is not okay to kill babies, that is created in the image of God Only God has the right to take life. The Bible says in the end times that people will not put up with truth. They want to go to a church that will tickle their ears. In the end times people will not want to realize nor obey the word of God which says they put them out for this people bring stuff repent and be saved

      • Oh please don’t pollute this beautiful space with your fundamentalist hatred. Just give those of us who try to follow Christ’s example of loving kindness this one place to dwell with one another. There are plenty of sites where you can spew hatred — way too many sites exist for that.

  7. I’m 79 and feel very much like Joanna Hill who wrote above. This article is needed wherever Baptists are reading.

  8. Fantastic article. It enumerates many of the thoughts that led to my dropping out of the culture wars over 30 years ago, almost as soon as I had entered them. The uncivil, uncharitable demeanor of Christians, no matter their convictions has been a blight on the cause of Christ. And shame on our so-called leaders who think power-grabbing and fear-mongering justify such foolish behavior.

  9. Terrible article with some of the most absurd comments. Prejudice against fellow Christians who support pro life,etc proves you are just a wolf in sheep’s clothing

    • Apparently this article flew right over your head.

      • Completely.

    • Move on, Deborah. You and Franklin Graham would make a great tag team known as the Phony Christians.

    • I totally agree with you I don’t believe this person is even a Christian that wrote this article. They obviously have not read Romans chapter 1 especially the last burst. Or do not understand the consequences of killing innocent children who are created in the image of God

      • Of course he has read it since he has his Masters of Divinity. He also knows the context in which the Bible was written. But Presidents don’t have anything to do with abortion. We have had 25 years of Republican presidents since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. We have also had more than 40 years of Conservative majority Supreme Courts. A Conservative majority Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade 7 to 2. If a president and a conservative majority court can stop abortion, why hasn’t it been stopped by now? The decision is not going to be overturned, so we must work in reality to reduce abortion as much as possible. The rate is way down from what it was in the 70’s, 80’s, & 90’s. Don’t misunderstand, we should always strive to make it lower, but we have to use realistic means, which are education and cheap or free birth control. While, in theory, I don’t feel that people are entitled to free birth control, I am willing to give it to them anyway,for free, in order to reduce abortion, because in reality, that’s what works. And, if Roe v. Wade were somehow overturned, that would just give each state the right to decide for themselves, so half the state, or more, would still have abortion. Anyone with any means at all can travel to a different state. It would just be the poorest minorities who would not be able to (and actually they are not able to pay for abortions now in their own states, so not much would change at all.)

  10. Nailed it. Evangelicals find themselves in a mess of their own creation. An astonishing parallel to that of the Republican Party. They can face the reality of where they are, admit it and then go forward. Or, they can remain in denial and be eaten by their ever-growing cancer. Fundamentalists have simply lost whatever moral authority they had even within their own ranks, let alone with the country at large. Sad; there is no instant cure.

    • It is not surprising that both the Republican Party and the Southern Baptist Convention are suffering a similar fate. The truth is that they joined forces in the late 1970s to steer both the Convention and the GOP to the far Right of Theology and Politics respectively. In doing so, they employed the same tactics. When Russel Dilday was forced out as the President of Southwestern Seminary, a Board member was asked something along the lines of would Jesus approve of their treatment of Dr. Dilday, his reply was that Jesus has nothing to do with this.

  11. Excellent thoughtful piece, I shared it on Facebook.

  12. Agree.

  13. Wow. I’ve been trying to understand / articulate this for most of my adult life. Give me Jesus!

    • Yes, Gwen, et al, “Give me Jesus”.

  14. This is a great article written by an author who obviously follows Christ and understands Christianity on a higher plane. I am pleasantly surprised to see that it was written by a Southern Baptist. I do wish the author had not allowed comments, though. I was so uplifted by the article, then made the mistake of reading some of the comments, which delve right back down into the hatred and misinformation which is rampant on facebook,and in politics. Sigh.

  15. My friend, may I ask a few questions?
    Please forgive me if at any time I’m being disrespectful.

    1) Where was the book of Romans written?
    2) When/where did Paul meet Luke for the first time?
    3) Who told Paul to stay in Corinth?
    4) In what order were the following books written? The Gospel of John, the Gospel of Luke, Galatians, Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, 1st Thessalonians, 2nd Thessalonians, 2nd Timothy. Jude, 2nd Peter. James.

  16. Some more questions…

    By “Growing fear of diversity”, you mean, inclusion of homosexuality as a protected minority, as in “Gay is the new Black”. Am I correct?
    =======
    “Political fundamentalism of religious-right leaders like Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and James Dobson offers a perverted gospel that exploits the anxieties of their gullible followers, seeks greater access to power and reduces the Christian message to mere politics of fear and exclusion.”

    You mentioned Graham, Robertson, and Dobson. But not Tony Evans. Not Bishop T.D. Jakes. And you didn’t mention Pope Francis.

    The issue you’re getting at is homosexuality, right? So you mention the white guys who still believe homosexual behavior to be sinful, but not the black pastors, or Catholic priests, or the Pope, who hold the same views from scripture. Why?
    ===============
    “If these spotlight-seeking preachers and their political allies want to argue their positions on a wide range of issues — including masking their opposition to human rights as “religious liberty” — then fine. Just do it on political terms and stop pretending that Jesus somehow shares your perspective.”

    “Masking their opposition to human rights.” You’re referring to the ‘gay identity’ as a human right, right?
    ===================
    “He doesn’t. Never has. Leave Jesus out of it.”

    Is what you’re saying, that Jesus is really for Same Sex Marriage? That he would support Obergefell v. Hodges? That he would have voted along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Kennedy, and Brewer? Do you believe Jesus would have chastised, frowned upon the dissenting four justices? Or wept at their ‘unenlightened intolerance’?

    What about Paul? How would he have voted? Peter? Luke? John?

    ==============
    A “desired blessing to discriminate”.

    Are you talking about photographers who are forced to photograph men kissing each other at same sex weddings? Cake decorators who are required by law to decorate cakes that celebrate sexual activity between two women or two men (as in a ‘same sex “wedding”‘)?
    ==============

    Would you call me a bigot for believing that homosexual behavior is a sin just like other sexual sins, that God loves the sinner, no matter what the temptation?

    If a man is ‘attracted to’ (in lust with) a younger woman, and not his aging wife, is that a good enough reason to divorce and remarry?

    I will say what I’ve said before. God will deal most severely with those who twist the words of Christ, but will show mountains of compassion to the repentant believer who, especially out of compulsion, falls into homosexual temptation again and again.

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