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, the patristics, and Christian history should be in the wheelhouse of every Christian, yet many never study their own religion, and merely live confined to the prison of their own prejudice. It is, therefore, of little surprise that what Christianity has become in America is more or less a product of a news cycle, and less about a gospel of a meek savior. Evangelical Christianity in America broke in 2020, though perhaps some would say it’s been broken longer.
Ever since, the church stopped being recognizable – even to many Christians – in her embrace of racism, hostility, and misinformation that many Christian believers proliferate. It often failed to resemble a church at all, but rather a counterfeit designed to resemble Christianity in name only, almost certainly alien to what was truly being worshipped. The year 2020 brought some of the worst out in 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’d 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.” A Christian should be well read enough to see the scriptures define the believer, and not the other way around. But in the evangelical church, private interpretation has become the only interpretation that matters, which reduces scripture to a mere mirror of our prejudices. The fruits of this practice are evident in scripture having devolved into the apologetic base of conspiracy theorists, racists, and sovereign citizens who have tortured the text to create the artificial realities their prejudices need to thrive in. Many everyday Christians are part of this practice and do the same to justify their bigotry, perceived moral superiority, and deep down to justify their own standing before God in hateful and wicked behavior that he would find repugnant.
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 power – even to the degree of aligning with white supremacists who condone racism, hate and murder, or expressing blind, cult-like loyalty to disgusting political leaders in exchange for judges to legislate our idea of morality. Many Christians have, in the short span of a few years, become enablers of the very same hate, violence, racism and division through their alliances, their crowd funding, and trafficking in misinformation to rationalize it into a manufactured “Christian” reality. The church sacrificed her testimony and laid in bed with the devils of our time, all for the kind of influence and power that Jesus would yawn at.
The American evangelical church of 2020 cannot be reconciled with Christianity, which celebrates a meek savior who saw intrinsic value in humanity 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. While morgues filled up in 2020, Christians were either too defiant or too stupid to even bother protecting the person next to them with a mask on their face.
In retrospect, the fraudulence of modern American Christianity has been a long time in the making. 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 so extremely 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 are called to be innocent of evil, not to align ourselves with it. How can we justify and enable 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? The mere fact that you are incapable of discerning between good and evil – a basic expectation of the faith – reveals your seared, dead conscience and your artificial conviction. 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. Many a Christian should examine what they are worshipping. Perhaps start with Psalm 26.
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… the evangelical church has lost her way. While the behavior of much of the nation, and many Christians, truly disturbs 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 made sick and to die during COVID, or what atrocities they help fund in the name of free speech. Let’s be clear: a platform that fund raises for Nazis is not a Christian platforn. God knows every hair we’ve harmed through our indifference and lack of conviction. The behavior many Christians and Christian leaders today have exhibited more closely resembles a cult than it does the meek and sacrificial historical Jesus. What grieves me most is the sheer apathy for repentance. Before the church can ever move on from this, a massive call for repentance must be answered. God forgives those who repent, yet much of the church seems to be content moving on, sweeping their sins under the rug. This will come back to haunt us all if we do not drop to our knees and repent before God and those we’ve harmed.