― Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology
The statistics don’t lie. The United States cannot and should not be considered a Christian nation and any sense of the definition. While many people, even a majority describe themselves as Christians the fact is that what is now believed is not a Christianity that is in any sense Biblical, Catholic or Orthodox but rather a packaging of certain “Biblical values” that happen to be great political wedge issues for Christian leaders seeking political and economic power. Nowhere is this shown more than the brazen flip-flopping of Christian leaders now support but who adamantly opposed the nomination of Mitt Romney on the basis of their understanding of Christianity and Mormonism so long as there was a chance that a non-Mormon had a chance at the Republican nomination. The theological gyrations made by the leaders of the Religious Right in this process have been fascinating to watch, much like a train wreck, but fascinating nonetheless.
A recent Barna survey noted that less than one half of one percent of people aged 18-23 hold what would be considered a “Biblical world view.” This is compared to about one of every nine other adults. Other surveys bear this out.
This should not be surprising to anyone that has watched the growth of what passes as Evangelical Christianity in the Mega-Church age and the retreat of conservative Catholics into the Church culture and theology of the 1400s, the same ideology that brought about the Reformation.
What has to be said is that the Church cannot really be considered Evangelical or Catholic but rather an Imperial Church that must throw itself at those that hold power in order to maintain their own power. While these leaders talk about and rail against things that they believe to be “sinful” such as homosexuality, abortion and birth control they willingly turn a blind eye to the treatment of the poor, advocate wars of aggression and bless cultural and economic norms that go entirely against the Christian tradition as they go about with a Bible in one hand and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the other.
One can have legitimate debates in the Church about what the Bible and Christian tradition define as sin and we should have those debates taking into consideration Scripture, Tradition as well as what we have learned from the Sciences and the Social Sciences. But the fact is that those in the Religious Right are terribly inconsistent in this, much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who he condemned for the same type of hypocrisy.
Think about it: The Barna Group in another survey of people 18-29 years old asked what phrases best described Christians: The top five answers “Anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical and too involved in politics.” This view was held by 91% of non-Christians and a staggering 80% of young churchgoers.
The fact is that young people are leaving the church in unheard of numbers and it is very evident to me why they are doing so. The Church has embraced the culture wars over preaching the Gospel, which if I recall correctly is based on loving people, even ones enemies. Jesus said it so well: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 NRSV.
The leaders of the Christian Right may be able to bring out enough culture warriors to win this election for the Republican Party, but at what cost? One can debate the merits of the Obama administration, its decisions and policies but to be Christian we cannot simply become the religious appendage of a political movement whose leaders hold the Church and religious people in general in distain even as they mobilize them to support policies that are in the long term detrimental to those who claim the name of Jesus.
In the 1920s and 1930s the Churches of Germany and many parts of Europe did the same thing. They felt that their values were under attack by Communists, Socialists, Jews and yes, even Homosexuals. In order to maintain their influence and power they willingly allied themselves with the Nazis. When they spoke up against the Nazis it was seldom because they were defending anyone but their own ecclesiastical power and place in society. When the war was over and young people began to question the actions of those that led the Church in Germany it began a process that has led to the de-Christianization of that country.
The constant hate filled attacks of Christian leaders on those that are not Christians will come back to bite them. This is not fantasy, it is reality. One only has to look at the history of the Church to see it played out time after time. But then, unless we decide to re-write history like David Barton does so well why bother reading it?
I will be writing more about this in the coming months in what will be a number of very well researched and documented articles. But figured that I would kick open the door today. the actions of many Christian leaders are dangerous to the faith as a whole. The political opportunism is short sighted and ultimately will hasten the decline and fall of what we know as Christianity in America.
Perhaps our Christian leaders should be asking these questions: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul and what does it profit the Church to wield political power but lose its soul?