Christianity or Christ-ain’t-in-it-anity?
So, I know I am not the judge of what is authentic Christianity, but, of late, I sure wonder about a version that seems to be circulating in the midst of this heated political divide we now have in our land. As I listen and read words offered by those who claim the title “Christian,” I wonder what those words have to do with the founder of the faith.
Many who wear the sweatshirt that says Christian seem to be espousing views that not only fail to reflect the message of Jesus but actually seem to be contrary to it. Jesus would not be convinced that just because our economy is doing “great,” we can make it a kind of idol that helps us forget the “least, the lost, and the forgotten.”
Jesus took his lessons on economic policy from prophets like Amos. Michael Barram in his book Missional Economics writes:
“Whatever we may want to say about capitalism or any other economic system, Christians should take Amos’s message seriously: If the poor are being mistreated, God is angry. Might God actually be angry with us and, if so, what might we need to do about it? Second, Amos reminds his audience what it looks like to remain faithful to God in a covenantal relationship, making it clear that authentic worship and religion must be paired with just economic behavior. Our economic conduct, and how it affects the poor and marginalized, is and will always be a matter of Christian faithfulness, theologically speaking. Have we effectively divorced our orthodox religious claims from our economic practices? To what extent might God be tired of our worship, of our religious rituals, given the ways the poor and marginalized are affected by our economic priorities and choices? Such questions point to the heart of the gospel, both for Amos and, as we shall see elsewhere in the Bible, for Jesus as well.
We have gotten use to the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” May I suggest that when it comes to the message of Jesus, to view everything through the economy may not be exactly stupid, but it leads to a kind of foolishness that waters down the gospel. What I hear from some who claim to “know” Jesus is a kind of soupy civil religion. The God of Jesus is the God of the nations not the God of the nation.
Words that demonize those who come seeking a new life in our country should not be on the same lips that proclaim Jesus as Lord. In shutting out the stranger, we just may be slamming the door on Jesus, who claimed to be seen in the faces of the “least of these.”
And by the way, I am not sure how Jesus would feel about the Second Amendment, but I think I can glean how he might feel about assault weapons. Jesus never spoke about “my rights.” He focused on the common good and talked in terms of community.
What I hear lately from some is not Christianity…it is more like Christ-ain’t-in-it-anity. The label on the front may read “Christian,” but upon listening to the values espoused, Christ is nowhere to be found. What is discovered when the veneer is pulled back is a form of narrow nationalism that has co-opted Jesus. He will have none of it.
The ethic of Jesus is based upon risky love. His kind of love knows no borders or labels. It is a love ethic that reaches out with open hands and hearts to those who differ from us. It is kind of love that does not condone much less absorb violence.
I am not sure Jesus would recognize what he left to us if he showed up to check out “his” faith. I know I sure fail him often but at least I know what failure looks like. I have trouble turning the other cheek, praying for those who despitefully use me, taking the last place instead of the first, and getting the log out of my eye before I criticize the speck in someone else’s eye.
But then maybe on that last one I am guilty of doing just that. I am simply offering a word of caution to those of us who claim the name of Jesus to check out how close our economics and politics are to the actual message of Jesus.
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.