In-Sight: The Death of Christianity

Okay…I admit it.  I entitled this post to get your attention.  I guess if you’ve read this far, it worked.  🙂

Now, to the point.  As the United States presidential-election process has moved along (for what seems longer than ever), something very disturbing to me is occurring.  Because it affects how some people view spirituality in general and Christianity in particular, I want to briefly describe my concern.

It is simply the tendency (among the popular media and some others in both the church and academy) to identify “true Christianity” with only one part of the political spectrum.  I could be more specific, but I’m going to guess you have seen at least one version of this tendency. It happens on the religious “left” as well as the “right.”

The truth is, Christianity (as it was intended to be) will die if it becomes a synonym for a single political and/or social perspective.  An example of this is the article written by Dan Cady last year entitled, “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.”  Unfortunately, professor Cady painted with too broad a brush in his use of the term “evangelical,”—-but—-he did capture what the rank-and-file general public tend to think about people who use that term to describe themselves.  And even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of what he said about some evangelicals is true.

And that’s the problem—things rise and fall more by the perceptions attached to them than the facts, which can only surface when people take the time to become part of a community and expose themselves to actual beliefs taught by people who have not caricatured the thing itself.

Jesus warned his disciples to beware the leaven of both Sadducees and Pharisees, and he was careful to keep separated what was “of God” and what was “of Caesar.”  We lose his way when we try to create another way that equates Christianity with politics, no matter what piece of it.

I’ve now voted in eleven presidential elections, and those elections have produced presidents from both major parties.  None of them (or their party) has solved the problems plaguing this nation.  Christians make a fundamental and serious mistake by identifying the faith with any person or party.

Christianity dies when this happens because it “humanizes” and “idolizes” what only God can do.  That’s why Jesus would not reduce what he was trying to do to partisanship of any kind.  Our way asks humans to be gods.  Christ’s way asks us to let God be God.

This does not eliminate the need for all people to vote as their minds, hearts, and consciences lead them to vote.  It does not mean that government is not used by God to improve life.   But it must mean that we don’t think the winner will now “bring in the Kingdom.”  Politicians come close enough to making us believe this will happen if they are elected.  At least, let’s remember Jesus didn’t tell us it would happen that way.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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5 Responses to In-Sight: The Death of Christianity

  1. Rhonda Stapleton says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Steve. Thank you!

  2. I agree with Steve…and respect him more than man of you could understand. And yet I can’t help but wonder where people get their “perspective” from…when they propose that party doesn’t matter…political stance doesn’t matter… While I agree that neither party (parties???) have been our salvation…I believe there will be a special accounting for those who will support a party that not only makes a part of their party planks that they are pro-abortion, pro-radical gay rights, pro EVERYTHING that is against what Scripture teaches as the “Christian” worldview. To say that Jesus would support that group just as much as he would support a group that at least has as a part of their public statement that they are pro-life, pro-family, pro one woman/one man for marriage…etc., is not only dangerous….but uninformed. I have yet to come across someone who made this claim, who when questioned further…didn’t finally come down to the fact they supported that party for a perceived monetary advantage. Money…what they could stand to gain…was what shaped their worldview. The false dichotomy of secular and sacred is what is truly killing the Church. To turn Jesus into a mealy-mouth, socialist ignores 20 centuries of history and makes evangelicals just as guilty of revisionist historians as we have accused others of being. Is Jesus a Republican or Democrat? Of course not….He’s King of King and Lord of Lords! However, we do live in this temporal world…and our stewardship of it MUST include being involved in the politics of it. Uninformed and uninvolved evangelical Christians handed our culture over to the purveyors of depravity in the 50’s and 60’s…and we are reaping the harvest of their un-involvement today. Let us not make the same mistake for our children and grandchildren.

  3. robgoodridge says:

    I am glad you unpacked this issue a bit. When I was at Asbury in 2006, I worked at a Christian mega-church. The senior pastor told the congregation that the coin with Caesar’s head on it was to be used to pay a pole tax. Therefore, Jesus would have voted. He added that because Jesus loved children, He would have voted for “the anti-abortion candidate.” He never said George Bush’s name, but there was no question about his intention.
    I wondered how many people heard his message and believed that Jesus was a Bush supporter and cast their votes accordingly.
    If we, as People of God, allow the world of politics to be our focus, instead of the One True Living God, then we are in for a very bumpy ride. If on the other hand, we encourage others to turn from the hateful rhetoric, and center our spirits with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then all things are possible.

  4. Margot R Thompson says:

    Hello Dr. Steve —
    It seems we agree that the entire primary and caucus process is mostly cruel and unusual! I do not believe political ads are good for us. I appreciate the questions Jesus asks the disciples: “Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:18) It seems to me his questions are in line with prophetic guidance. It is important to be awake to the issues in our community and in our nation — and to realize no candidate is going to perform a supernatural work. Mark also mentions “the yeast of Herod.” (v 15) Each (wo)man must vote conscience — without party sway.

  5. chericowell4 says:

    Amen! I never comment on politics via social media because I’m so worried that my witnessed will become tainted by the stain of vitriol from either the far left or right. But this post has such wisdom that I tweeted it and hope it gets a lot of reads. We do need to learn how to allow God to be God because we make such lousy gods.

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