Nothing to do with Jesus
By: 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.
John D. Pierce is editor of Nurturing Faith Journal — the signature publication of Baptists Today, Inc. He is also publisher of Nurturing Faith Books and Resources. Previously he served as managing editor of The Christian Index and as Baptist campus minister at Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. A native of Ringgold, Ga., he is a graduate of Berry College (B.A.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He speaks frequently in churches, consults with congregations concerning communications and holds interim pastorates.
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