William Wallace’s famous last line in the movie Braveheart often comes to mind when I listen to conservative Christians. In general, I’m struck by how legalistic most are. When I look back at my own life, I have to admit my adult children’s religious upbringing was steeped in religious legalism, and for this I am sad. As a parent, I wish I’d seen it sooner, taught them to question the information handed them. I wish I could have given them permission to step out of line without feel they might disappoint God.
As an adult looking back, I can see where and how I was taken in and why ultimately religious propaganda failed. Often set through the language of love, brainwashing in the fellowships I attended was accompanied by smiles and plenty of hugs. People desperate to fit in, longing for family, and/or geared to please authority became malleable. Specific displays of loving concern such as tears, hugs, praying for one another, and lots of smiles, overflowed during alter calls or small group meetings. Prophetic words prayed over people highlighting their destiny as leaders, roll as prayer warriors, and children of the King were intoxicating. We cheered: God is love. We’re the family of God. Bible up; Devil down. Even, freedom in Christ. But the tenants taught from the platform were never unconditional. And while we gave lip service to a God that loved the whole world, what loving God in return looked like, was made crystal clear. Ultimately, my own discernment was seen as divisive and my questions as proof of an un-submitted spirit. The Men of God in the House of the Lord (and they were all men) were not to be doubted, because the Bible (according to patriarchal Western interpretations of English translations) is very clear.
Fast forward 10 years to the 2016 presidential election. Evangelical leaders, like James Dobson and Franklin Graham, took on the arduous task of convincing their followers that the front runner for the GOP, the man who would (thanks in part to them) eventually be crowned President of the United States, is a Christian. Denying all evidence from his past and present behavior and ignoring his racist fear mongering throughout the campaign, these leaders not only proclaimed this man’s faith to the world but insisted he must be supported in order to save the nation from the anti-Christian likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Church, you have been brainwashed. You have been taught that anyone who does not believe exactly as you believe–about God, about the government, and about the foundation of the United States–is A). wrong, B). therefore the enemy, and C). as the enemy unworthy–unworthy of your trust, unworthy of your consideration, and unworthy of God’s love. As extreme as it might seem to those on the outside, the jump from point A to point C is not actually a big one. After all, your fight is against the spiritual forces of evil! And, God surly does not love evil. So, how could these men of God–Dobson, Graham, some of your own pastors–be wrong?!
The trouble is point A. This type of thinking creates enemies in every facet of life not overtly controlled by your particular belief system. For eight years the right painted Obama as anti-Christian, despite his history of church attendance and personal integrity. For over 20 years they painted Clinton as worse than anti-Christian, despite her knowledge of scripture, personal testimony, and years of civil service. For years, thousands, hundreds of thousands, believed that message. Then, in 2016 a racist, sexist, xenophobe rose to the top of the Republican Party. Some evangelicals tried to make excuses for their candidate’s vile rhetoric and ugly behavior saying things like, “He’s a baby Christian.” and “God’s ways aren’t always our ways–just look at King Saul.” (Saul who 1 Samuel 8 tells us was not actually chosen by God but was in fact a rejection of God by the people). Yet, while many stuck with the plan and voted for the GOP candidate, others experienced a crisis of faith, a moral conflict which continues to assault their minds and spirits today. They could see that the GOP’s King Saul was no more ordained by God than I Samuel’s King Saul.
You may not have been able to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I suspect, you were sickened by what you saw and were glad when the election was over. Now life could finally get back to normal if only those crazy protesters would quit…then maybe…
Yeah,…good luck with that. The Holy Spirit wants to waken you. And the Holy Spirit is not easily thwarted.
Christianity, (evangelicalism) has been split in two. Some may hear that as end times prophecy. Don’t go there. If you need to put it in a historical context, think of it as a different kind of Azusa Street. Matthew 7:2 tells us we will be judged in the ways we judge others. One side of this split reads the Bible like a book of law that allows them to treat humanity like a giant game of Wack-a-Mole. Christianity has become their prison. The other side chooses to leave judgment up to God. Their goal for the United States is to honor the separation of Church and State established by the Constitution. They are political only in so far as hate makes love political. Their moral imperative, as followers of Christ, is to treat all people with equal respect, equal value, and equal rights. In order to achieve this end, those who have been discriminated against, via our ignorance or our prejudices, must be protected. These individuals do not seek, or receive, extra consideration by gaining our protection, but rather they seek–and we must see they receive–equal consideration under the law.
I pray the Holy Spirit continues to work in our hearts. In the mean while, if you want the United States to reflect your religious views–practice them and it will.