In the last 50 years a “brand” of Christianity has grown up that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, yet has come, for many in America, to be the icon of the Christian faith — Evangelical Christianity. As a committed Orthodox Christian and a Spiritual Person, I have some very real problems with the identification of Christianity with Evangelicals, mostly because Evangelicals are not teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or anything close to it.
There are many areas in which Evangelicals betray the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are 14 of them.
1). Militarism. Virtually all Evangelical Churches are highly militaristic, celebrating “the troops” and the military as the highest service one can render to one’s fellow humans. This, of course, is the exact opposite of what Jesus and the Apostles taught. Jesus’ teaching was unequivocally non-violent in nature.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus would have necessarily disapproved of a country or people protecting themselves with a military force sufficient to do so. But Jesus would have certainly condemned the way the American military is used — to project our power and impose our will on others.
2). Materialism. Evangelicals are highly materialistic as a group, even preaching that Jesus wants everyone to be rich. This is also the opposite of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. The Apostle James warned, in his Epistle, not to trust the rich, and not to give them preference. This is exactly what Evangelicals do. Evangelicals tend to follow the non-Christian teaching of the Calvinists, seeing material wealth to be God’s greatest blessing, and a sign of God’s favor. Jesus, of course, said just the opposite, indicating that it was nearly impossible for a wealthy person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and telling St. Joseph of Arimathea to go and sell his extensive possessions and give to the poor. Jesus made it very clear that someone cannot serve both God and money.
This is exactly the opposite of the Evangelical cry of “Greed is good!” Greed, historically in the Christian Church, has been seen as one of the seven deadly sins….at least equal to lust, which is the only “sin” that Evangelicals can seem to think about…night and day and night and day…and night.
3). Hatred for the poor. Evangelicals tend, as a group, to despise the poor. They consistently, as a political bloc, fight welfare, subsidies to schools, jobs programs, food stamps, Medicaid, and everything else that they see as “socialist.” And while Evangelicals tend to be incredibly generous in their Sunday collection plates, the vast majority of their gifts go to build mega-Churches, not to help the poor.
Jesus was very clear about this. He specifically ordered that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the prisoners, heal the sick and generally take care of our fellow human beings who are not as fortunate as we are. And, in a warning to Evangelicals, he was very clear that those who did not do this would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus loved the anawain, or those who were cast off, oppressed and helpless, not the “pillars of the community.” Considering the judgmental nature of most of the “pillars of the community” one can understand why, once one reads the Gospels and, therein, gains an understanding of Jesus.
Of course, the right wingnut clown Glenn Beck is the disdainer-in-chief of the poor, going so far as to tell his brainless viewers to leave churches that preach Social Justice…which, of course, is exactly what Jesus preached. Yet Evangelicals are much more likely to watch Beck and listen Limbaugh, et. al. than the general run of American…further increasing their hatred for the very people Jesus loved the most. Now, how is this Christian??
4). Self-sufficiency. Evangelicals are the most likely of Christians to preach a “gospel” of self-sufficiency. This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus preached. Jesus wanted people to be “as little children,” and totally dependent on God. In fact, Jesus said that, if we did not approach the Father this way, we could not enter the Kingdom of God.
Evangelicals (and many so-called “spiritual people”) teach that we are to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and disdain anyone who needs help. Again, this is the opposite of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches. The Gospel teaches that we are to be radically dependent, both on God and on one another. This is anathema to Evangelical teaching.
5). Pride. “I’m proud to be an American” is a very un-Christian statement. Pride is seen by Jesus and the Apostles as the most serious of sins, yet is seen as an incredible virtue by most Evangelicals. Pride is the puffing up of one’s own self, one’s own people, and one’s own nation. Jesus did not want us to be puffed up, but humble.
6). Mastery. Evangelicals want to be “on top.” They tend to want control by their country, their companies, and their church. This is completely opposite of what Jesus taught. Jesus taught that the individual who wants to be first, must be a servant to all. I don’t see many Evangelicals (or other Christians, for that matter) having the humble, servant attitude of Jesus and that Jesus demanded of his followers.
7). Nationalism. Jesus made it quite clear that he came to save all people, not one people. If Jesus does favor one people, that people would have been the ancient Jews, not Europeans. Yet Jesus made it clear that he did not come just to save his own people, but the world.
Evangelicals are very hostile to anything that is not American. For Evangelicals, even the whisper that America might not be number 1 in everything (regardless of the overwhelming evidence that we’re not number one in much…except for crime, guns and incarcerations) evokes incredible anger and disdain.
American exceptionalism is rampant among Evangelicals in a way that it is not among the vast majority of Christians. Even the Roman Church (of which I am no fan, either) makes it clear that Jesus did not come to save ‘Merica, but all of humanity.
This means that an American life is no more (or less) precious to God than an Iraqi life, or a Chinese life, or an Iranian life. All life is precious to God, according to Jesus’ teaching. America and Americans are not special in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus was a confirmed internationalist/globalist. And Jesus identified with those America seems to hate — the downtrodden, the oppressed, the masses. Instead, America has supported brutal dictators who have tortured and oppressed their people. We have trained their secret police in torture techniques, and supported them when their brutality has caused their own people to turn against them.
If Evangelicals took the Gospel seriously, they would not be supporting those who are on top, but those on the bottom.
8). Torture. I shouldn’t even need to say that torture is always immoral, regardless of who is conducting it, including our CIA or Army. Those who support torture for any reason are simply not Christians, regardless of what they call themselves.
Yet Evangelicals tend to support waterboarding and other forms of disgusting torture. It is very clear from even a cursory reading of the Scriptures who Jesus would identify with. As a victim of a brutal torture himself, Jesus would identify with the person being tortured and have compassion on the torturer. But Jesus would clearly see the one doing the torture as doing a very evil deed.
9). Hatred of gays and lesbians. The only people that Jesus condemned in the Gospels were the pillars of the community and the clergy. It is very clear to anyone who actually reads the Gospels, instead of merely thumping them, whose side Jesus would be on. He who ate with murderers, tax collectors, thieves and prostitutes and condemned the self-righteous would certainly not condone the attitude of modern day Evangelicals toward LGBTQ persons.
It is not even clear that Jesus or the Apostles had a problem with homosexuality. Contrary to what Evangelicals will tell you, it (like abortion) is simply not addressed in the Gospels, and probably isn’t addressed in the Epistles, either. The word that is translated “homosexuals” in Paul is a Koine Greek word the meaning of which is unknown. In fact, even Bible scholars don’t have a clue what the word that has been translated, in modern times, as “homosexual” means. In the past it was translated as “masturbators,” which means that a whole lot of people are in deep trouble.
10). Zero tolerance. Evangelicals are the most likely people to support “zero tolerance” policies, the death penalty, and draconian and harsh punishments for anyone who “steps out of line.” This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. The Jesus of the Gospels would despise “zero tolerance” policies,” as well as long and mandatory sentences for criminals. Jesus taught forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy, not harsh “justice.” For Jesus also taught that whenever we point a finger at our brother or sister (including a “criminal”), we are pointing three back at ourselves.
Jesus and the Apostles taught radical and frequent forgiveness, not “zero tolerance.” Mercy is the message of the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole, not draconian punishments or sentences, and certainly not a judgmental, rules-based society. The fact is that America has a higher rate of incarceration than any other nation in the world, including dictatorships. This is to our everlasting shame. If we are, as Evangelicals erroneously claim, a “Christian nation,” where is the forgiveness and mercy for those who need it the most, hmmm?
11). Hypocrisy. Jesus hated hypocrites. He strongly condemned the rules-based Pharisees who “laid burden upon burden upon the backs of the people, but lift[ed] not one finger to ease them.” What do you think Jesus would say about Evangelical pastors (or Republican senators) who preach a rules-based religion that, for example, condemns gay people, then run off to gay prostitutes? Hmmm?
If this were an isolated case, it might be dismissed. But the number of top conservative politicians and right wing pastors who have been literally caught with their pants down is enormous. In fact, one could almost state the rule that the louder one preaches against gays, the more likely one is to be gay. Psychology has a name for this. It is called “reaction formation.” Jesus also had a name for it. “Pharisee,” and “hypocrite.” Jesus said of people like Evangelical preachers, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming destruction.” These don’t sound like people Jesus liked very much.
12). Rules. One hallmark of Evangelical (and Roman) religion is a bunch of rules that one needs to follow to get into heaven. This shows a profound misunderstanding (and ignorance) of the Gospels. Jesus did not come to give humanity rules, but to give humanity love, forgiveness, and hope. Rules-based Christianity is Pharisaical religion.
A rules-based religion works for Jews and Muslims. Their religion is based on “the Law.” Christianity, however, is supposed to transcend a rules base and operate on Love. This is not what Evangelicals do. If they wish to live under the Law, they should not call themselves Christians.
13). Biblical basis. There are so many things wrong with a “Biblically based” Christian religion it is hard to know where to start. This should be a post all of its own. But let’s take a few.
“The Bible” was unknown to early Christians. They did not have a Bible. In fact, the “Bible” that Evangelicals use has little in common with the Scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles, or finally canonized by the Church. The New Testament as found today was not canonized (recognized by Christians in the Church) until the 5th Century, at one of the major Church Councils. The first real definitive collection of books that looked like our current New Testament was not made until the late 4th Century in two local councils (Carthage and Hippo, of 393 and 397, respectively). Prior to that, there were various collections of books used in the Church as representing the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles (though not the many “Gospels “that the Discovery Channel and History Channel tout…these weren’t developed until many years later).
So most of what was very interesting (and vital) in Christianity took place without a Bible even being in existence. The question was not “is it Biblical,” but “is it Apostolic.” The oral tradition and teachings of the Apostles remained the gold standard until the Protestant Reformation when “the Bible” took on the idolatrous and superstitious nature it has today.
Besides, the Bible most Evangelicals use is not the Bible that most Christians through the ages used. The Old Testament has been gutted by Protestants. Jesus and the Apostles clearly used a much fuller Old Testament than Evangelicals use today. This “Bible” is still in use by the Orthodox Church.
Of course, it is very clear that most Evangelicals only pick and choose “proof texts” from the Bible, rather than taking it in context. Reading of the Bible requires an understanding of the context in which it was written, as well as taking it as a whole, rather than piecing it out to prove one’s prejudices and opinions. The teachings of Jesus and the Apostles are meant to challenge our opinions and prejudices, not simply confirm them. This is something Evangelicals just plain don’t get.
14). Pushing their religion on others. Finally, their narrow, triumphalist attitude toward Christianity is not supported by either the behavior or teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Their militant attitude toward other faiths is opposite of that of both Jesus and Paul. While Paul passionately preached Jesus, he preached a humble and loving Jesus (“Christ, and him crucified…”). None of the preached the militant, kick-ass-and-take-names Jesus of the Evangelicals. In fact, they wouldn’t recognize the Jesus preached and “loved” by Evangelicals as Jesus, the Son of the Living God.
There are many ,more reasons for saying that Evangelicals are strangers to (and even enemies of) the Lord they claim to love so much. Their bigotry and narrowness is causing a great backlash in society against Christianity in general. This is too bad since they are still a minority of Christians in America, and a very small minority world wide. Yet their bigotry and obnoxious belief systems have become the icon for what Christianity teaches in all too many circles. They have dominated the narrative in far too many places, drowning out less strident (and, therefore, more obedient and Christian) Christian voices. Their hatred and narrowness is seen now as the hallmark of Christianity, rather than what it is — a perversion of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.
Evangelical Christianity is not historic Christianity. It has cut itself off from the great river of the Church through the ages. While that Church has not always paid attention to the teachings of Jesus, either, Evangelical Christianity is the enshrining of attitudes and teachings that Jesus and his Apostles would find highly offensive and opposed to what they actually taught.
Evangelical missions throughout the Middle East have already triggered great persecutions of Orthodox and Roman Christians. We Orthodox have lived in peace with Islam for many centuries. However, the aggressive and offensive preaching of Evangelicals has caused Muslims to turn on their Christian neighbors, due to the terrible image that Evangelicals present to the Islamic world. Evangelicals have a great deal of Christian blood on their hands. Their narrow and bigoted teachings are triggering a hatred of Christianity even in many circles in America. It is only a matter of time before faithful Christians are persecuted in our own country due to a backlash against the hate-filled teachings of Evangelicals.
I do not advocate hatred of anyone. Evangelicals generally tend to not have thought out their belief systems. They have believed manipulative pastors who are in it for the bucks and control. They also have bought, hook, line and sinker, American and Christian triumphalism, which is a strain from the Calvinistic underpinnings of this country. But I do strongly advocate other, non-Evangelical Christians, who have a brain in their heads and love in their hearts, speaking out loudly and continuously against the hate-filled and un-Christian teachings of Evangelicals. If we yield to these very loud and obnoxious people the title of “Christian,” we have only ourselves to blame if society operates in backlash against their hate-filled teachings. We are far too “politically correct” in not challenging their hate and narrowness (and proclaiming that it is not Christian). We must speak up and speak up now against bigoted and narrow Evangelical teachings while offering the hand of friendship and Charity to the Evangelicals themselves that they might learn of the true love, acceptance and patience of God.
May God have mercy on their souls for the harm that they have done to the Name of Jesus and his followers, and the future harm they have yet to do. And may God have mercy on our souls if we do not try everything in our power to stop them.
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