As a Christian,
I want to say that I was FLABBERGASTED to see the Christian paraphernalia dotting the mobs that stormed the capitol…but really I was not. Here’s the thing. I am new to Christianity myself, and was only baptized five years ago.
Why so recently?
Because I grew up seeing, if not mobs of proclaimed Christians storming various capitols, indications of the type of Christianity in which such a thing could happen. The kind of Christianity that mixes up God and Country, the kind that declares Manifest Destiny, that rips Native children from their parents and sends them away to re-education schools in order to “save” them, that owns slaves, that starts Holy Wars and Spanish Inquisitions, the kind that burns women at the stake. And then there is the Christianity that says God Hates Fags and protests at the funerals of people they think are going to Hell.
Did I say think? Because they seem pretty certain they know.
And I realize they are extremists.
BUT…growing up, the milder, more “normal” Christians certainly didn’t display to me the kind of warm welcome to all that would disabuse me of the notion that Christianity was (to put it bluntly) a closeminded, bigoted, judgmental religion. They may not have been as extreme, but they certainly thought they knew the truth, that they were right and everyone else was wrong. They were saved, and the rest of the world was condemned to the fiery pits of Hell.
I grew up around a Christianity that had the One Truth, and that Truth was Jesus, and that Jesus was very picky about who he deigned to consort with.
Oh the irony! To come to Christianity later in life (through a job as a Sociologist of Religion, no less), and find that there is another kind of Christianity. One in which Jesus ate with sinners (Mark 2:15). One in which God was found in the margins (Luke 15:4). One which preached a gospel of welcome (Hebrews 13:2), of justice (Micah 6:8), of forgiveness (Matthew 6:14), and of nonviolence (Matthew 5:39). One which says that if your enemies are hungry, to feed them (Romans 12:20). One that calls us to loose the bonds of injustice (Isaiah 58:6) One in which God doesn’t hate anyone; in fact God loved humanity so much that God became humanity (John 3:16). A Jesus who declared that the path to salvation was one in which you treated the least of these as if they were God – because they are God (Matthew 25:40).
Every Christian I know condemns that first kind of Christianity.
(Why yes, I do live in a bubble.)
But here lately, some Christians I know have actually considered leaving the religion, handing it over to the Manifest Destiny, Christian Nationalist, God Hates Fags folk. They don’t want to be associated with that lot, and I don’t blame them. But I also don’t agree.
The way I see it, there are two responses for Christians to this public image problem.
The first is to leave the religion. Become a Buddhist perhaps. And that’s fine. But maybe it’s because I’m so new to this, because I chose this faith rather than having been born into it, that upon seeing such displays as what happened at the Capitol, I want to dig in my heels. To be a public display of the Jesus that welcomes all, that dines with sinners, and is found among the outcast. To be a counterexample, because as this country becomes increasingly secular, there are even more children growing up like I did, avoiding Christianity like the plague…
(incidentally, we might need to drop that phrase now that we know that in AN ACTUAL PLAGUE, as a country we don’t really avoid it)
…avoiding Christianity because what they see of it is not worth joining. And that’s a shame, because there is so much good to be found.
I was always a spiritual seeker, sifting through faith traditions, trying on practices. But it wasn’t until Christianity that I found a loving community rooted in a rich tradition, deep ritual, and a shared search for meaning. A community that gave me permission to still be a seeker, but now as one among many, walking alongside one another, with a firm path upon which to walk, and a bright guiding light to show our way.
- Do you identify as a Christian? If so, do you feel more or less connected to your religion right now? Do you ever find it hard to balance your faith and your politics?
- What should be the role of religion in public life? Should political issues be discussed by religious leaders? Should politicians ever publicly display their religion?
- Are you more interested in reaching across the divide and trying to reconcile with the “other side,” or cutting from your life anyone who is on that side? Why? What feelings and needs might that impulse be rooted in? Use the feelings wheel to examine your reactions.
- Are you interested in learning more about Christian Nationalism. We recommend Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.