The primary mission of the Church must be to promote the message of salvation through Christ and to reflect God’s love to our fellow man. Few can rationally argue that America’s churches consistently reflect love and kindness to those who hurt in society, especially with leaders like Tony Perkins who leads a quasi-religious hate group. Decent American Christians must distance themselves from hate groups if they want to be taken seriously, but this has not happened. Too often in recent years the Church has actually advocated for laws that harm citizens.
We have been more concerned with changing the laws of men than with changing the hearts of men. We have been more focused on the kingdom of men than on the kingdom of God. The fact that American churches raise incredibly large sums of money for evangelist who live in multiple million dollar homes, drive expensive cars, and wear Rolex watches, should shock all who profess to love Jesus, but there is no outrage. We raise millions seemingly overnight to fight civil marriage rights for gays, while refusing to fight poverty or to address the medical concerns of the poor with anything approaching the same vigor. When World Vision announced in April 2014 that they would not discriminate in hiring and would therefore hire gay employees, the reaction from America’s religious right was so strong that tens of thousands of Christians announced they would stop sponsoring hungry children through World Vision, who quickly changed course and agreed to continue discriminating. Such is America’s Christian community that it considers a “win” in the culture war against gay civil rights more important than the welfare of starving children. They were more than willing to let children starve and go without food than to let gays have equal access to jobs. Not exactly a shining example of Christian love and grace.
Worse, when the US engaged in acts at Guantanamo that the US government previously condemned as torture when others practiced them (but euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation” when we used them), Christian leaders in America remained silent. Whereas Jesus was considered a radical who showed compassion for the oppressed and the marginalized, American Christians have too often become defenders of the status quo. When was the last time a major American Christian spoke out against war and the military-industrial-congressional complex that promotes war? Is killing people not a moral issue for the American church? The War in Iraq clearly failed to measure up to the criteria of a ‘Just War’ according to widely held Christian belief, yet there was no American Christian movement against the war in Iraq, even though Iraq did not attack us. Why? Have American religious leaders become so close to our political leaders and the status quo?
The harshness with which many American Christian leaders have attacked and denounced others who don’t agree with their partisan political beliefs is divisive to the church, to American society, and to the cause of love and grace. We must reject those who use religion to further a merely partisan political agenda. If I am harsh on American Christianity, it is out of a love for the Church I was raised in. I hate to see the American church destroy itself by meddling in partisan politics and thereby distracting people from the message of Jesus’s love and mercy. Political Christianity is unkind, and is harming the message and purpose of the church. If we focus on changing men’s hearts then we will not need to focus on changing men’s laws. Politics and money are corrupting by their very nature; and the religious right has been heavily involved in both fundraising and in politics, to the detriment of the message of Christ. Recent surveys of those who have left the church bear this out.
Christians – of all Americans – must become known as some of the most kind and loving of all Americans. If we serve a loving God than why would we be anything but loving towards his creation? We do not have to agree or like everything about others, but we are called to show love and grace towards them. It is not love or grace to say “I love gays but will advocate against them for legal discrimination in employment and in public accommodations ”. If you believe gay marriage is wrong, then don’t marry someone of your own gender. Problem solved. There is no reason that some Christians cannot believe that being gay is wrong while at the same time agreeing that no citizen should be fired from a job or evicted from housing simply because of who they are. Right now gay Americans can be fired from a job or refused housing and this is perfectly legal in a majority of states. This legal discrimination has been supported by the religious right, and muddles the message of the Church. Such discrimination is neither kind nor loving and the religious right’s support of discriminate perpetuates the image of religion in America as being unkind and more concerned with partisan politics than with preaching the gospel and ministering to a hurting world.
In short, political Christianity has undercut the primary mission of the church in the world. We see the same thing happening in the Middle East with political Islam, where young Muslims are increasingly questioning the received wisdom of their elders because they see the faults and dangers of mixing religion and politics. When religion and politics mix the results are always harmful to kindness, to justice, and to both religion and to the state.