Politics and Religion
Found this in a group where I am more observer than participant…
“This political season has created a deeply painful crisis of faith for me. I’ve seen so-called Christian after Christian support the hateful policies of men like Trump and Cruz. I’ve seen my Christian friends, especially (but not exclusively) the white ones, grow more and more bigoted and intolerant. I’ve seen pastors and other faith leaders endorse a man that openly preaches hatred.
The day Falwell endorsed Trump was the last straw for me. I renounced the faith that day and haven’t considered myself a Christian since. But it hurts me profoundly.
What I always felt made Christianity real was the transformation of a person’s character catalyzed by the experience of God’s grace. I don’t see that anymore. I don’t see Jesus in most Christians any more. I just see people clinging to religion because they are afraid of hell, and then using that religion to condemn others to the hell they fear. This is not a religion of love. It is a cult of fear and I feel completely alienated from it.”
…and felt compelled to say something.
First, let us take this man in the best possible light. This, to me, means that he was exaggerating when describing certain policies as “hateful,” that his notation of “white” Christians is ideological residue (after all, he also noted this wasn’t categorically true – so why mention it?), and that such word choices as “bigoted,” “hatred,” and “cult” are there for effect.
In other words, this is a rant, an emotive outburst.
Now, let us challenge some of his assumptions.
He refers to the “so-called Christian” who supports Cruz or Trump – but seems not to consider that both of those men are Christians, too. I submit that this does not even enter his mind, but that he considers the Christianity of these men to be ploys to curry favor with voters.
Just what does it take to be a Christian? And is this man the arbiter of Christianity? Interesting that he would, ostensibly, be so much against discrimination, and yet discriminate as to what someone holds as his deep-seated belief.
(See – you never, ever escape the reality of discrimination. It is a basic fact of the human condition. You simply choose which forms of discrimination to participate in.)
The climax of his post, of course, is that he renounced Christianity after the political endorsement of a major Christian leader. His assumption – I have to guess – is that Falwell’s endorsement made any difference at all to his own faith, or to Christianity in general, or to the Truth at all.
Would you renounce arithmetic if a mathematician endorsed Trump? Would you renounce southern food if Paula Dean endorsed Trump?
Obviously not. The connection is not tenuous; it is entirely imagined. I am a Christian, and I could barely recall that Falwell endorsed Trump. I have not renounced my Christian faith.
But it’s easy to get lost in the political rhetoric. There’s a reason people can get jobs as pundits – the stuff is highly engrossing. People watch on with great expectation, in astonishing numbers.
(Enough about Trump being a reality star, and that being disqualifying. That fact is exactly why he’s so good at this. He’s been training for it all of his public life.)
Our man does make one reasonably good assumption: That Christianity is about the transformation of a person’s life by God’s grace. (Though the ambiguity here confirms that he is not the best arbiter of a Christian’s sincerity).
Christianity is articulated in the Creed, and reduces to this: The God of all creation came down to earth and was made flesh; He suffered and died for our sins; He rose again to new life, giving us the hope of an eternity in His presence.
Your life may be transformed by accepting this, and inviting God’s grace into your life. It may also be that you continue to struggle, but your hope will empower you to endure the struggle. You now believe that God will redeem even the worst of your suffering, and that does change things.
So where does that leave our guest?
He laments that Christianity has devolved into a kind of bludgeon, useful for the fearful, and that there is nothing left which resembles his expectation of the Church. Indeed, his own act of renunciation, which accomplishes nothing relative to its catalysts, causes him pain, because he really did harbor the hope of Christ in his heart. He thought that same light, the light of faith, might have had greater effect on the world around him, which he projects onto the world as a whole.
I would begin by telling him to turn off his television, unplug his computer. But just before he does that, he should look into the persecution of Christians around the world.
American Christianity is not the entirety of Christianity. It is only one sliver. This is taken entirely for granted in the new Testament, as St. Paul addresses the Church in each location, and as the same happens in Revelation. Christians in every time and place are going to have their particular virtues and vices, and the character of one is foolishly projected onto the character of the whole.
Then I would cut to the quick: Where is your spine, man?
Do you follow the Truth as it is fashionable, as you have sufficient social approval for it? Are your beliefs so deeply sincere when you are comfortable, then complicated and tenuous when you are distressed? (This is about as good as we have for a Christian litmus test: When circumstances become difficult, genuine Christian faith will grow stronger, not weaker).
Or is it only that you are being lumped in with the wrong kind of Christians, who support “hateful policies” and are ever fearful?
What a terrible reason to apostatize. No, you find your courage and choose from two options.
One, you call yourself a different kind of Christian. This is the Protestant option.
Two, you renew the Church, by the grace of God. This is the Catholic option.
But to make an excuse for yourself, to relieve yourself of the burdens of faith because you can’t stomach the association with Christians of differing opinions, vices, and virtues – that is hateful. That is bigoted, and as is the case with bigotry: That is cowardly.
Lift yourself up, man. Force yourself up off the ground, take stock of your surroundings. God is abounding in mercy, so make a fresh start.
This time, return to Him with all your heart.