Would you like to know what the primary focus of American Christianity is? Well, I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t Jesus nor is it His principles.
Modern-day Christianity in America is all about, well, us – the Christian.
The center of our religious universe is ourselves and most importantly, our self-preservation. Self-importance is a natural human trait that all of us suffer from, from time to time. However, as Christians, we’re often encouraged to shed those habits, rely on God’s understanding and live like Christ. Selfishness is a flesh flaw that we should strive to uproot and destroy. Yet, we’re not taught that in the church. We’re taught about what God can do for us and how He can bless us with prosperity and such. When it’s all about you, it’s no surprise that your needs, your wants, and eventually your fears become the priority over everything else. That’s a big problem that negatively affects your witness.
Now, let me be clear: my concern focuses squarely on a specific type of Christian – the evangelical, shiplap-loving, Trump-voting variety that follows a diluted version of the faith that Americans are most familiar with. You can learn more about my take on American Christianity in my first post on this topic. Since the church has become more self-centered, I believe this self-serving perspective has become the bedrock for Christians’ knee-jerk reactions to anything that’s remotely outside the norm of our ideal existence and makes us uncomfortable. That gives us a lot to be afraid of!
We’re afraid of terrorism, changing our way of life, people not being like us, people who are different being accommodated, different viewpoints, saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, oh and don’t forget persecution! All of this fear mongering convinces us to fight and protect ourselves from our worst, narcissistic nightmares. And whilst fighting, we make it painfully clear to the nonbelieving public that they don’t matter to us – when they should.
Here are some examples of that:
Example 1: Healthcare
While minding my business at Bible Study. Obamacare came up in a conversation. The Christian folks in attendance were practically rolling on the ground in ashes and sackcloth at the mere thought of the new program. Now I have to pay more each month for others to get health insurance? That’s so unfair. That’s not of God!
So I asked, “Wait. I thought all money belonged to God and we were simply given the task to be stewards over it. Shouldn’t we want to help others and trust that God will supply our needs when we have less?”
Forlorn church folk: *blank stare.* God wouldn’t want that! A man who doesn’t work doesn’t eat! They should learn some responsibility!
Me: “But people could die.”
Them: But our premiums are too high, so . . .
Example 2: Immigration and Travel Ban
Fearful Christian: We have to protect our country and strengthen our borders.
Me: Ok. But what about the Syrian refugees? Shouldn’t we try to help those in need – -?
Fearful Christian: That’s sad what’s happening to those people but we shouldn’t lead with our emotions.
Me: “So we don’t help them at all?”
Fearful Christian: America first.
These conversations happened. Real life. But are you seeing the pattern? We are consistently missing opportunities – politically and socially – to focus on others by showing the love (and compassion) of Christ.
The Fearful Witness
See, all that fear influences how we treat others. Fear fueled the rise of our current president. It widened the chasm between us and those who aren’t like us – that’s about 29% of the population, by the way. And it left a negative, indelible mark on the appearance of Christianity to the world. The church is not seen as a beacon of light for Christ anymore rather we’re seen as the intolerant, controlling majority that’s too afraid to understand, accept or deal with anyone threatening our control. Which is hilarious, since this is coming from a religion that is based on the torture and crucifixion of Christ, by the hands of a fearful group of religious folk. Today’s Pharisees accept the global atonement Jesus’ death and resurrection represented, but refuse to sacrifice themselves for others (as we’ve been commanded to do) out of . . . fear.
Those that fear loving others out of concern for themselves (selfishness) should probably take a gander at 1 John 4:18. Let’s take a look at the Amplified version so we can get a full understanding of the passage.
“There is no fear in love [dread does not exist] but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].
Yea. That whole chapter is legit and blatantly telling you to love God and love one another.
Love. LOVE, dang it!
The idea of loving without condition and fear is foreign to most of us – myself included. We live in an age, where we’re more concerned about ensuring our relationship with God is intact but hardly care if God’s love is demonstrated through our actions towards others. This behavior will murder our witness to nonbelievers and further cement the growing disdain potential converts have towards the church. We can continue to look out for ourselves and our way of life only. But we will eventually ignite the very persecution we fear the most, likely by the people we refuse to show the love of Christ towards. This behavior will affect our efficacy in this world.
That, my friends, should scare you. Because last I checked, winning souls for Christ and building the Kingdom was what the Christian walk was supposed to be about. . . wasn’t it?