This column explores the themes in Jim Wallis’ new book Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus (HarperOne), available Sept. 24.
In the lead up to the 2020 election we’re being told that our primary choice is between different candidates and political parties. I believe the real choice is something deeper and more urgent.
I believe the real choice is between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics.
This choice came into clearer view in recent weeks as #antichrist trended on Twitter for nearly 24 hours in response to presidential tweets. And in response to the mass-shooting in El Paso, perpetuated by a white nationalist who invoked Christian theology, evangelical leader Beth Moore said in a tweet:
Any “Christ” that can be invoked in support of white nationalism is a false Christ of the highest, most hellish order. An anti-Christ. A wholly-opposite christ. No such christ is the Christ Jesus of Scripture who taught His followers a love that sacrifices life & limb for others.— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) August 6, 2019
So what is it about this concept of “anti-Christ” that has people reclaiming the language in this moment? Or, perhaps more importantly, what is it about this moment that has people invoking it once more?
The concept of “anti-Christ,” and its deeper biblical connotations, kept coming up for me in the writing of my new book Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus.
Anti-Christ is a very big word, very evocative of our deepest spiritual realties and feelings, and is seldom invoked without controversy. It’s been abused by those promoting bad “end times” and “left behind” theology. But it’s also a profoundly biblical concept, one we must take as seriously in our day as Jesus did in his. Jesus warned his followers to be on the lookout for “pseudo-christs,” those that claimed his name but were far from the true heart of God, and said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
In my research for Christ in Crisis I was delving into the gospels, the words and teachings of Jesus, the beatitudes of his new order, the reversal of priorities from the most important people to the “least of these,” and the love that can even overcome hate and includes all our neighbors — no exceptions. But then I began to apply those words and teachings and priorities of Jesus to the political moment and crisis that we are in. And everything Jesus said was exactly the opposite to the political environment in which we find ourselves — directly opposite. Almost everything we see and hear every day from our political leadership seems to be absolutely antithetical to what Jesus said and called us to.
There seems to be a clear choice, a real and stark choice, going on in this country and even in the churches, between the politics of Jesus and anti-Christ politics. I believe that the fear of the other, the hatred of the other, and violence against the other are the core of anti-Christ politics. And the love of the other, calling the other your neighbor, is at the heart of the politics of Jesus.
Jesus said eight different times, “Be not afraid ...” Anti-Christ politics says, “Be afraid. I'm going to make you more afraid.” Jesus says that leadership is about service. Anti-Christ politics says it’s about wealth and power — it's about winning and losing. The Bible says we are all made in the image of God, but anti-Christ politics says, “No, some people are more valuable than other people.” In Jesus politics, how we treat the “least of these” is the test of our politics. In anti-Christ politics, the “least of these” are the least important. So this isn’t about left or right, liberal or conservative, but goes deeper — this is about “What did Jesus say?” And I think to love our neighbor, the one who is different than us, is the most key question or choice for America's future; that will most determine the soul of this nation going forward.
But what we see from the White House now is merely the latest example of what has beset us as a country from the beginning. We must face the reality that anti-Christ politics have been used and manipulated by this president ever since he descended that escalator in Trump Tower, launching his presidential campaign by labeling “murderers and rapists” those who God calls “beloved.”
These anti-Christ politics are becoming more and more normalized with each passing week — part of a spirit of the age in the world today that sees autocrats and aspiring autocrats using fear and hate of “the other” for political gain everywhere they are ascendant — including the United States. Let’s be absolutely clear: All of these “others” who are being demonized by anti-Christ politics are children of God, and they are all our neighbors. Jesus teaches us that we are to love them as we love ourselves and treat them as we treat Jesus Christ himself.
I believe it is time to name this spirit of the age as an anti-Christ spirit — name it for what it is and repent of it. The growing white nationalism in America is not just racism; it is anti-Christ. The dehumanization and targeting of immigrants is not just a lack of compassion, it is anti-Christ. The mistreatment of women with sexual harassment, assault, and even trafficking isn’t just sexist, it is anti-Christ. And for churches not to name and say that clearly and boldly is evidence of their losing connection with Jesus Christ and his teachings. Worse yet, the churches’ silence and collaboration with these evils is nothing less than religious complicity with the anti-Christ spirit of the age — which is growing in America.
That’s what I have come to in the writing of this book Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus.
When presidential narcissism turns to blasphemy, it’s time to name that as #antiChrist. And when we decide to study the gospels again and learn the politics of Jesus, it’s time to speak out and stand up for that by #ReclaimingJesus. My prayer is that this book will help in that study of Jesus and our rejection of anti-Christ politics.