How Evangelicals Are Taking the “Christ” Out Of Christianity

How Evangelicals Are Taking the “Christ” Out Of Christianity December 13, 2017

American Christians have an unfortunate blind spot when it comes to politics. While they worry about how to put “Christ” back into Christmas, many of them are slowly but surely taking the “Christ” out of Christianity.

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

For example, for the last few weeks Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr.Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and others have vocally supported the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and last night 80% of White Evangelical Christians voted to place him in office. They failed. But that failure doesn’t change the fact that today there are still millions of Christians in Alabama who actually believe that Moore stands for “Christian Values”.

By “Christian Values,” they mean “Conservative Republican Values,” not the values of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels or in the Sermon on the Mount. To hear Roy Moore’s version of “Christian Values” simply look at what he has said throughout this campaign and over the last decade of his career as a politician and a judge. Very little of what he says is informed by anything taught by Jesus.

Moore has said he wants to eliminate every Amendment to the Constitution after the Tenth. This means he’s in favor of taking away voting rights for Black Americans and Women. He’s also said that America was “Great” when white families owned slaves.

None of this was objectionable to 80% of the White Christian voters in Alabama. And I haven’t even mentioned the 9 women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and trying to date several of them when they were underage. This apparently didn’t bother those Alabama Christians either. They were willing to overlook all of these infractions because there were more important things at stake. Like maintaining a Republican majority in the Senate, for example.

This is not Christianity. This, pure and simple, is Nationalism.

Specifically, this is Christian Nationalism and it’s slowly rotting the American Evangelical Church from the inside out.

This unholy entanglement of faith and politics has effectively manipulated a religious group that identifies with Jesus and twisted them into a voting block that is primarily driven more by political interests than the Sermon on the Mount.

As comedian Doug Stanhope has said, “Nationalism teaches you to hate people you’ve never met and to take pride in accomplishments you have no part in.”

For White Evangelical Christians, those “people (they’ve) never met” include Muslims, Immigrants and people in the LGBTQ community. Moore has gone out of his way to condemn all three of these people groups in his campaign for Senate. He said that a person of the Muslim faith shouldn’t be allowed to hold office, accused immigrants of taking our jobs, and argued that homosexuality should be illegal.

Again, none of these things are synonymous with anything Jesus ever said. To the contrary, Jesus famously taught his followers to love their neighbors – even if they were from another race or religious group (as famously portrayed in the Parable of the Good Samaritan) – and said nothing at all about homosexuality in any of the Gospels.

But for an overwhelming majority of white Christians in Alabama, this is irrelevant. Moore’s platform resonates emphatically with their Conservative Republican values and that is close enough.

However, it’s not just an Alabama problem. Many Christians in America are oblivious to the way their political entanglement and tribalism have led them away from the teachings of Jesus and into the heart of darkness.

It started a long time ago. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse details in his book, “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America,” our country’s religious prostitution began in the 1950’s. That was when, as Kruse explains, business leaders plotted to link Christianity, Republican politics, and libertarian economics tightly together.

Why? Simply to create a feeling of solidarity between Christians and Corporations who might both see “Big Government” as a common enemy.

This is where our national motto, “In God We Trust” (1956), and a new line in the Pledge of Allegiance was added: “One nation under God” (1954) came from.

Their goal was simple: To entangle Christianity with Republican politics in order to benefit big business.

The entanglement agenda reached a fever pitch when Christians in the Moral Majority registered thousands of voters to put Ronald Reagan into office on his promise to take a stand for Christian values. They rallied to vote Reagan into the oval office twice. But in the end they got nothing in return; no abortion repeal and no legislation on school prayer.

In spite of the fact that they supposedly had the ear of the American President (who many believed was a dedicated Christian), and a six-year Republican majority in the Senate, Christians were left holding the bag. The Republican party got what they wanted, but the Evangelical Christians in America got nothing.

As former Moral Majority leader Ed Dobson said about this in his book “Blinded By Might”:

“What did Reagan do for us in eight years of office? He gave us credibility, and he ultimately did nothing in terms of our long-term agendas.”  

Simply put: Entanglement works.

Today, many Christian leaders and pastors vocally support candidates that a few years ago would have been rebuked by the Church for their shameful behaviors. But today these politicians are unapologetically embraced so that the Republican party can gain power and maintain dominance in the House or the Senate.

The entanglement of the Christian faith with politics is now pervasive. It has saturated the Evangelical Christian identity.

Thankfully, many Christians are waking up to the dangers of entanglement, including conservative political columnist Dana Hall McCain who recently said:

“Here’s where we are: the GOP has come to understand that Evangelicals are trained seals. We show up and clap for any clown you can slap a Republican jersey on. It doesn’t even have to be a godly or wise person. Our votes are a sure thing, and we’ll turn out and vote for problematic or corrupt GOP candidates far more consistently than non-religious conservatives. So come to terms with the fact that the church isn’t influencing diddly squat, not even in our favorite party. To the contrary, the church is the one being influenced — and our credibility before a lost and dying world destroyed — because we have believed the great lie about political engagement.

We have all the power in the world, but we lack the faith to exercise it. They own us because we don’t trust God enough to call the bluff.”

She’s right: Christians already have “all the power in the world” and it’s called “The Gospel.” Unfortunately, American Christians have slowly abandoned all faith in that power to transform hearts and minds from the inside-out and they have traded it for legislative power to govern from the top-down.

The entanglement of Christianity and Conservative Politics is now fully realized. Many Christians in America cannot separate their faith from their politics. They are more American than Christian. They cannot imagine following Jesus apart from political action or influence via their political party.

Those on the outside of the Christian faith cannot see the difference between their faith and their politics either. This is probably one of the more damaging aspects of this entanglement. Christianity, to a non-Christian, looks more like a political party, not a way of loving our neighbors or following the teachings of Jesus.

Because American Christianity has become so completely entangled with Conservative Republican politics, the faith has become impotent and irrelevant for a growing number of people. Thousands of people are leaving the faith because they are sick of this political entanglement. The Evangelical Church in America is on the decline. They are slowly becoming older as younger members opt out of the movement and they have inevitably headed the way of the dinosaur as older members die out.

Even if the younger generations wanted to follow Jesus what they find when they enter most American Christian churches smell a lot more like politics than the aroma of Christ. Until Evangelicals abandon their lust for political power, they cannot fully embrace their faith. Or, as one wise man once put it: “You cannot serve two masters. You will hate one and love the other.”

The simple truth is this: Roy Moore may have lost the Senate race in Alabama, but Evangelical Christianity has lost far more than this by supporting such an un-Christ-like candidate.

To the Church in America I say, repent of your Nationalism and crucify your politics. It’s time to pledge allegiance to the Lamb while you still can.

**

Keith Giles is the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” available in print, ebook and audiobook formats.

 

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  • Rick Pryce

    First off, thank you Keith. This wonderfully articulates things I’ve been wanting/trying to say for a long time. Well done.

    Second, your quote of Jim Dobson is terribly poignant in its honesty. “What did Reagan do for us in eight years of office? He gave us credibility, and he ultimately did nothing in terms of our long-term agendas.”

    Dobson nails it, especially given the latest election in Alabama, and the previous presidential election, by highlighting a basic truth. What this brand of Christians want, above all, is credibility. They pretend they have other “long term agendas,” but those agendas are obviously expendable. Their actions say, “As long as we get noticed, as long as power people take us seriously, as long as the leaders of our society acknowledge that we are here, we are more than content to let the rest of the world rot. Someone ‘big’ noticed us. We’re good.”

    Wow, is this sad.

    Thirdly, your line, “They [conservative Republican Christians] cannot imagine following Jesus apart from political action or influence via their political party” is spot on. It’s all about power over others. It’s all about control of others. And, ultimately, it’s all about the lie of safety. Following Jesus (the one who was crucified for not playing by the empire’s rules or expectations) has never, ever been safe. Yet what we see in conservative Republican Christianity is an attempt to cut a deal with Caesar to gain safety for themselves at the expense of everyone, and virtually everything, else.

    More can always be said, but that’s sufficient for this time! Thanks again for your reflections.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “That was when, as Kruse explains, business
    leaders plotted to link Christianity, Republican politics, and
    libertarian economics tightly together.”

    Plotted ?
    Kruse sounds like a conspiracy theorist.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “This is where our national motto, “In God
    We Trust” (1956), and a new line in the Pledge of Allegiance was added:
    “One nation under God” (1954) came from.”

    The cold war and anti-Soviet sentiment was a big part of this.

  • There was a conspiracy and Kruse isn’t the only one who has written in depth about it.

    Other historians agree, including Kim Phillips-Fein whose book “Invisible Hands” also documents this unholy alliance between 1950’s Corporations and the Christian Church.

    Both Phillips-Fein and Kruse credit a pastor by the name of Reverend Fifield – whose large Los Angeles congregation was made up mostly of millionaires – as one of the most effective ministers in the Capitalistic Christian movement. “Fifield disregards all of Christ’s warnings about the dangers of wealth,” says Kruse. “He completely disregards the injunction to look out for one another. To love your neighbor, to be your brother’s keeper. He discards all of those messages. It becomes a faith of individualism.”

    In order to make it all work, the teachings of Jesus had to be downplayed. The Sermon on the Mount needed to be moth-balled in favor of more sermons about individual faith, civic duty, and paying taxes. Christianity began to slowly mirror the ideals of Capitalism, and soon enough Jesus was re-branded as the poster boy for the American Dream.

    Another minister, James Ingebretsen, President of a group known as Spiritual Mobilization (itself created by Revered Fifield to further this same cause) also admitted: “Fighting the forces that wanted to abolish the free enterprise system was my mission, not promoting Christ.”

    This well-funded crusade to entangle the Christian faith with Republican Conservatism gained momentum in the 1970’s and 1980’s as evangelical leaders like Robertson and Falwell took the wheel. As Phillips-Fein notes in her book, one of the leading fund raisers for this movement, Richard Viguerie, affirmed that “the next real major area of growth for the conservative ideology and philosophy is among evangelical people.”

    And what was the result? As Kruse explains: “[This movement] had been launched to roll back the New Deal and instead it helps inspire a new sort of religious nationalism.”

    Which is where we are today.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Your definition of conspiracy is different from mine.
    Your is different from the dictionary definition.

    My definition would define the Oklahoma City bombing and the Gunpowder Plot (Guy Fawkes) as conspiracies.

    The greed, financial manipulation, political manipulation, religious manipulation, etc. that you are talking about I would not consider to be a conspiracy.

    Those folks had stories they told themselves and told each other that characterizes their actions as legitimate, legal, moral, righteous, patriotic, etc.

    Those folks were similar to the slave owners in the antebellum South.
    Those slave owners did not need to engage in any sort of conspiracy to own slaves. It was legal, moral, and the right thing to do.
    The Southern Baptist Church was on hand to give slavery its blessings.

  • cken

    I don’t think there is a “Christ-like” politician who has ever run for federal office in the last 6 decades. Certainly in the last general election neither candidate for president was Christ-like. We were left with a choice of two evils. We managed to probably pick the lesser of the two evils. Try finding Christ-like Christians anywhere today in western culture. Good luck with that. Being Christ-like needs to start with each of us individually. Polycarp, an early christian writer, wrote, it does no good to profess Christ if you don’t live and act the life.

  • Not sure how they decided to vote for Moore over Johnson. One is an accused pedophile and the other believes in abortion up to the moment of birth.

  • Paula Thompson

    Bravo! Brilliant assessment! These entangled Christians are giving Jesus a bad name. They chase deep thinking young people away from him. One can’t help but wonder if they know him at all. As Jesus said, “In the great day of the kingdom judgment, many will say to me, ‘Did we not prophesy in your name and by your name do many wonderful works?’ But I will be compelled to say to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me you who are false teachers.’

  • “For example, for the last few weeks Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and others have vocally supported the Republican candidate for the US Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and last night 80% of White Evangelical Christians voted to place him in office. They failed. But that failure doesn’t change the fact that today there are still millions of Christians in Alabama who actually believe that Moore stands for ‘Christian Values'”. Or, is it possible that the thought of having another Progressive Democrat who believes in abortion without limits is so outrageous that the other choice (alleged past abuse) was the only choice?

    “This is not Christianity. This, pure and simple, is Nationalism.” Voting is our right. We vote for the best candidate not necessarily the best christian.

    “…voting block that is primarily driven more by political interests than the Sermon on the Mount” Voting is political. Christians are not voting block rather a voting statistic.

    “The Evangelical Church in America is on the decline. They are slowly becoming older as younger members opt out of the movement and they have inevitably headed the way of the dinosaur as older members die out.” Which Christian Church is not on the decline?

  • Delwyn Campbell

    Ok, I look forward to your discussion about the unholy relationship between the Black church and Progressivism!
    Umm… You are working on that, right? No? Not as much fun talking about infanticide, fornication and sodomy each off which are condemned by the Word BEFORE He took fresh and dwelt among us. Being the Bible scholar that you present yourself to be, in sure that you were just getting to that.

  • Jesusismyquarterback

    I’m 62. The year I was born 95% of Americans self identified as “christian”. That number is down to 70%. In 20 years it will be 50%.

  • Jesusismyquarterback

    Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
    Sincerely: Jesus

  • Jesusismyquarterback

    Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

  • Delwyn Campbell

    I did that yesterday morning at the beginning of Divine Service – it’s called Confession and Absolution. Now, about that mote in your eye, you ready to deal with those things that the Bible calls sin, but progressives call personal autonomy?

  • Alexis Dorf

    In the 1st Century, politics and religion were one and the same. Things haven’t changed a lot since then ! I think the worst thing that ever happened to Christianity was when the early church got into bed with Constantine.

  • William Akers

    The Cold war, we were taught, was between Capitalist Christian America & Godless Anti-Capitalist [Communist] USSR. I think that fits with ” To entangle Christianity with Republican politics in order to benefit big business.” The John Birch Society had a lot to do with that too.

  • Chuck Johnson

    In school, they didn’t mention Christian or Godless.
    We were the “free world”, and they lived behind the “iron curtain”.
    Or the “bamboo curtain”.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Arizona senator Barry Goldwater said:

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
    In his bid for the presidency.

  • William Akers

    I went to school from`60 on. I heard Freeworld & Iron curtain. I also heard about the “struggle between “Godless Communism & Christian Capitalism, & how they were slaves to their government being forced to work the Collectivist farms. We were taught that Vietnam was needed to “Stop the spread of Communism”. The whole narrative was Capitalism vs Communism [& look at Nam today]. Growing up in the Bible Belt, Christian was used freely… That was before & some after the Supreme Court ruling…

  • Chuck Johnson

    I was in school in the 50s and 60s in Connecticut and in Pennsylvania.
    I can’t remember any reference to “Godless” in the political lessons.

  • Obscurely

    A correction to the post’s claim that “millions of Christians in Alabama actually believe that Moore stands for ‘Christian values'”, suggesting perhaps that number voted for Moore — in fact Moore received only about 650,000 votes, not all of which were evangelical of course … (total population of Alabama is just under 5 million)

  • bj

    I don’t believe that Doug Jones supports fullterm abortion///but supports the right to choose!

  • sushisnake

    Doesn’t any politician in the US espouse Christian Values if he is anti-abortion regardless of how many pussies he’s groped?

  • sushisnake

    ” Which Christian Church is not on the decline?” The ones in the dirt poor, superstitious, unequal and inequitous Third World, in places like Africa. Christianity is growing in leaps and bounds in places like that. It’s a shame they hack witches to death, but at least Christianity will survive.

  • So you agree with our President who correctly pointed out that some of these countries are shit holes?

  • Delwyn Campbell

    Right – the right to CHOOSE to ABORT a baby right up to the moment of delivery. The KKK supported the RIGHT to “keep the nigras in their place.” Margaret Sanger supported the RIGHT to remove the “lesser beings from our human gene pool,” which, according to Adolf Hitler, included “Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Eastern Europeans, and, yes BLACKS. Just gotta love those “word games” that people play to hide the dirt that they want to do.