Evangelical Christianity has Become Alien to me

In the beginning wickedness did not exist. Nor indeed does it exist even now in those who are holy, nor does it in any way belong to their nature.

Athanasius, Against the Heathen

 

I’ve devoted much of the past 30 years as an evangelical Christian “layperson” to Christian studies to try and become an educated one. Greek, theology, patristic authors, and Christian history should be in the wheelhouse of every Christian, yet many never study their own religion. Sadly, it’s of little surprise that what Christianity has become in America is entirely alien to historical Christianity and lately, basic human decency. I don’t recognize the church in the midst of the racism, hostility, and lies that Christians proliferate today. I’m frankly ashamed and embarrassed to have to share the label. Last year brought some of the worst out in us. I’m referring to the mainstream evangelical church – relatives, friends, and people I’ve grown up with – who were once a much-needed example of Christianity to me – have severely disappointed in how they’ve conducted themselves, causing me to question if they ever truly understood their own faith.

In fact, many don’t. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops wasn’t wrong to observe that “evangelicals feel authorized to interpret the Bible in isolation from the Christian community extended both in space and time.” Even an evangelical believing in the inerrancy of scripture should be smart enough to see that doesn’t extend to their own understanding or interpretation. But in the evangelical church, private interpretation reigns, so the Bible can say anything … which reduces it to saying nothing.

Every Christian’s example par excellence – Jesus – was abundantly clear in having nothing to do with the wicked. He literally turned tables on those whose agenda didn’t align with his. Scripture is chock full of warnings about the dangers of aligning with wicked people, or compromising one’s values to an end. Christianity teaches of a savior who demonstrated sheer disinterest in politics, from “Render unto Caesar” to his markedly uninterested appearance before an irrelevant Pontius Pilate. Early Christians wielded no political clout for over three hundred years, and were still victims of massacre and martyrdom for centuries beyond that. Yet today, we’re obsessed with having power – even to the degree of aligning with white nationalists who condone hate and murder, or expressing blind, cult-like loyalty to demagogues. Many Christians have, in the short span of a few years, become enablers of hate, violence, racism, immorality, and division through their alliances, their crowd funding, and trafficking in misinformation to rationalize it into a manufactured “Christian” reality. The church sacrificed her reputation and laid in bed with the devils of our generation, all for the kind of influence and power that Jesus would yawn at.

This cannot be reconciled with Christianity, which celebrates a meek savior who saw intrinsic value in people regardless of their race, their past, or their status. He called for the lifting up of those who were downcast and mistreated by society. He called for sacrificial love of the disenfranchised. To reflect compassion. Generosity. Selflessness. He thought mankind was valuable enough to sacrifice for. Christianity should be, by definition, a mirror image of Christ’s sacrificial love for humanity, and an example of integrity and truth, even to one’s own detriment. I don’t see the character of Jesus Christ in today’s American Christians. Christians couldn’t even bother wearing a mask during the early stages of the pandemic to save the life of someone sitting next to them.

In retrospect, this has been a long time coming. It is of little surprise that Christians support racist leaders, as the church has become the most segregated institution in the country. White Christians have spent generations basking in the privilege of not having to think or preach about racism and inequality, while black and brown Christians in churches down the road are haunted by it daily. The ability to remain blissfully ignorant of racism has been the darling sin of every white suburban Christian church since history was first tormented to create a white Jesus. And is it any surprise that Christians have become extreme anti-science in the wake of infectious disease? The church’s historical inability to grasp our own God as chief architect with any tools other than magic has caused otherwise intelligent people to become modern-day imbeciles – even in the broad daylight of mass graves and outdoor crematoriums resembling hell on Earth. 

Christians, we are called to be innocent of evil, not to align ourselves with it. How can we support the immorality of those we elect to govern us, or crowd fund for murderers and white supremacists when it so clearly has borne the fruit of evil? As Christians and human beings, this should grieve us and drive us toward repentance – not excite us. This manufactured reality doesn’t represent the God that I worship, study, and aspire to be more like. If it resembles your god, I suggest you examine what you are worshipping.

I have come to better understand Romans 9:6 through this. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”  Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, and this is not a sign that God has failed – but people. While the behavior of much of the nation, and many Christians, truly disgusts me today, this is not cause for abandoning the faith, but rather distilling it.

Our actions are not without accountability in the next life, I fear, much to the pains of those who don’t care who they align themselves with, who they infect, or what atrocities they help fund. God knows every hair we’ve harmed through our indifference. Church leaders will be held to an even higher accounting when they face God. The behavior many Christians and Christian leaders today have exhibited more closely resembles mob rule under oppressive dictatorships than it does the meek and sacrificial historical Jesus. I do not believe most of the evangelical church could even recognize their own savior anymore. This grieves me immeasurably.