Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.
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Christian Nationalism Is Alive and Well in America
On Sunday, President Donald Trump joined a Las Vegas church service where a pastor pronounced that God told her Trump would receive a “second wind” and introduced the president against the backdrop of dancers waving American flags with the Statue of Liberty on them. On Tuesday, televangelist Pat Robertson said God told him Trump would win re-election, and it would set off a series of events ushering in the End Times.
The Illogical Love of Jesus
For American Christians, our neighbors include — but aren’t limited to—Immigrants, both undocumented and documented, refugees, the sick, the poor, the oppressed, Iranians, Syrians, Afghanis, Yemeni, and everyone else. These neighbors are Christian and non-Christian alike, American and non-American, and there’s no exceptions based on nationality, race, creed, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender expression.
Misusing Romans 13 to Embrace Theocracy
Partisans use Romans 13 to baptize their politics as being “ordained by God.” But Christians who reference Romans 13 typically do so using an us vs. government relationship. But unlike the first century when Roman rulers were mainly determined by heredity, lineage, or brute force, today we are the government. There is no us vs. them because we play an active role in how our government works and is run.
Christ-Like Love Is the Antidote to the Sins of Christendom
Jesus’ love in action is clearly documented in the New Testament, providing us with a clear script to follow. Unfortunately, his “love-your-neighbor-as-yourself” way of living is contradictory to the cultural norms of craving power and security above all else. To follow Jesus means making — and staying loyal to — an allegiance to the kingdom of God rather than the kingdoms of men.
Racism Isn't a Partisan Issue. It Is Sin
The president has used racism to spread his political agenda, and American Christendom has been an eager participant.
The False and Idolatrous Narrative of 'American Christianity'
Hate and racism were so embedded within this religion that the KKK was marketed as a Christian institution, and segregation was endorsed by countless white pastors and their congregations. It’s still so prevalent within white Christianity today that many still refuse to acknowledge systemic racism as a problem. They happily support a president who continually spews racist and xenophobic vitriol, and support policies that continue to be racist and evil.
Not Everything 'Biblical' Is Christlike
The semantics are important to understand because the different terms present two completely contrasting paradigms. One is based on textual interpretations and opinions, while the other is founded upon the words and actions of the living savior of the world. If you’re a Christian, you should always err on the side of Jesus. But if we’re not careful, it’s easy to idolize the bible while simultaneously ignoring the very message of Christ.
White Christian Nationalism — Not Secularism — Is Destroying America
American Christianity brought us to this point. It preached nationalism and sanctified American imperialism — promoting Manifest Destiny as ordained by God. The prosperity gospel baptized capitalistic greed, it’s preachers vilified the poor, and it’s theologians manipulated scripture to rationalize global colonialism. Salvation was no longer personified through Jesus, but was redesigned to be a political machine, fueled by its ability to control branches of government. This methodology was packaged as “Christianity,” and the gospel became a message of gaining social power and control rather than a call to follow Jesus’ life of selfless service and sacrifice.
Pursuing Justice as an Act of Worship
God's justice is divine, meant to benefit everyone created in God's divine image. It’s not dictated by man-made laws, branches of government, political parties, lobbyists, or authoritarian officials. It's not biased towards the wealthy or powerful, and cannot be bought by high-priced lawyers. It's not fueled by populist opinions or partisan rage, and isn’t facilitated through broken systems and institutions. Instead, God’s justice is holy and unblemished, eternally seeking to free the enslaved, empower the downtrodden, and bring judgement upon the oppressors.
Stop Glorifying Christendom and Follow Christ Instead
Anything can label itself as being “Christian,” so we must always look to the person of Christ to guide us, because he already laid out a life for us that perfectly reflects what it means to be God incarnate on earth. Christ is everything.
We Have Reached the Border, And There is No One To Help
Roaring lions that tear their prey, open their mouths wide against us. They beat us, arrest us, incarcerate us, shoot us, then blame us. We are poured out like water, and all our bones are out of joint. Our hearts have turned to wax; they have melted within us.
No, Christians Aren't Inherently 'Better.' Thinking So Is Downright Dangerous
As a religion consisting of millions of voters, venerable institutions, and large organizations, Christianity is often viewed by governments and politicians as a tool to influence and manipulate. Spiritual jargon is used to lobby segments of Christians to support various agendas, often under the pretense of being “Biblical” and “Godly.” This is how faith becomes co-opted to transform into something it was never meant to be: a way to obtain votes, a method for fueling populist rage, or grounds for implementing oppressive social structures.
The Bible's Purpose Is to Discover and Fall in Love with Jesus
Christians can overemphasize the importance of the Bible and underemphasize the life of Jesus. Thus, when people advocate for Christ-like things like helping immigrants, providing safety for refugees, empowering the oppressed, and loving others as we wish to be loved, Christians passionately refute such things — using the Bible. They spout verses and use pseudo theology to discredit the actions that are the most Christ-like —all under the guise of “Biblical Christianity.”
The White Church Has Been a Steady Oppressor
White Christians benefit the most by being nationalistic and patriotic, because to do so upholds the methods of “law” that keep their societal privileges in place. So while America — it’s governmental machinations and economy — serves to continually bless and protect white Americans, it hasn’t done so for others. Incarceration rates, a vast history of enforced racism by the legislative, judicial, and justice branches of government, the mistreatment of people of color within the military, and the brutalization by police show just how one-sided our country has benefited particular groups of people because of race. As white Christians blissfully sing ‘God Bless America’ in their sanctuaries adorned with American flags, they look upon their country — and its many structures — with nostalgic pride, while others see betrayal, hurt, and suffering.
I'm Ashamed of Christianity, But Never of Christ
Christianity transformed from a faith reliant on Jesus to a civic religion obsessed with obtaining partisan power. This co-opting of Jesus — manipulating His gospel of love and redemption to fit the narrative of an expanding American empire, specifically to maintain the colonial stronghold of white supremacy — fits a historical pattern.
The Church Must Listen to Women
Christian leaders, on the whole, have failed to address the abuse and assault experienced by more than half of all Christian believers. When was the last time your congregation dedicated a sermon or service to sexual harassment, assault, and abuse? If you are fortunate enough to have experienced such a service, you’re the exception to the rule. Despite attending all sorts of churches within a variety of denominations and despite sitting through countless sermons, I have not once heard violence against women addressed in any significant capacity. I’ve heard homilies on the Leviathan, the Nephilim, and the dimensions of Noah’s ark. I have not heard a single sermon confronting a problem that affects nearly every woman in every congregation, and around the world
Social Justice Is a Form of Worshipping God
Few things are more holy or worshipful than helping others and working towards providing humanity with justice, peace, reconciliation, equity, safety, and empowerment.
American Christianity Has Become an Institution of Intolerance
But once back in America, these very same Christians will adamantly oppose having “foreigners” as neighbors, loathing the idea that they could possibly be allowed to cross into the border of the United States seeking a better life. So while they post pictures on social media of themselves surrounded by poor children and holding babies they personally cared for, they’ll post nothing about the children and babies being separated from their parents at the border.
How We Treat Immigrants Is How We Treat God
Many of Christianity’s tenets are inherently illogical and absurd — a person being fully man and fully God; a person rising from the dead; miracles (like being swallowed alive by a fish); angels and supernatural beings; an afterlife … If Christians can accept these things as true, the basic themes of the gospel: love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness, and hope can hardly be questioned. Yet many Christians are failing to abide by these fundamental truths, refusing to follow God’s greatest command. For people claiming the faith of Christ, showing love and compassion to immigrants, no matter their status, is a requirement of following Jesus — there is no alternative.
Our Leader Is a Fool
Whatever your opinions of President Trump, his actions and words directly contradict what we are told constitutes wisdom, and fulfill the Bible’s definitions of folly. He seems to be lacking joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control — every fruit of the Spirit.