May 12, 2012

The Politicization of Christianity

Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for Newsweek and a longtime Catholic, was on CBS' Face the Nation awhile back and he was discussing how the rise in atheism, he felt, was fueled by the politicization of Christianity.  That many people had been turned off by how political faith had become.  When I first heard what he said I just sat back and exhaled and thought, "that's it.".

On another appearance on CBS' Good Morning, he said the following:

"When I go and see young people, their image of Christianity these days is one of judgment, intolerance and to some extent bigotry and politics," Sullivan said. "They associate it with one political party in this country, because of the fusion of evangelical and ultra-orthodox Catholics with the Republican Party. They don't see it as the message of Jesus, they don't see it any more as a message of love and forgiveness. They see it as a bunch of people trying to control their lives through political mechanisms. 

"Or, if they're in an evangelical church they're also susceptible to things like the 'prosperity gospel,' which is saying that Jesus told you to get rich. 

"There's so much bad religion right now in this country that I felt it was important as a Christian to say, 'This is not what I believe. This is not what many of my fellow Catholics believe. We want to return to the message of Jesus and the gospels, not these obsessive battles over contraception or gay marriage or these other, I think, political issues, where Jesus really, really avoided politics at all costs," Sullivan said. 

I've had a crisis of faith for a long time.  I've written about it several times on this blog and I kept battling back and forth between what I had always viewed my faith as being, and what my faith was now being turned into.  I didn't like how political my faith had become.  I'm somewhat of a political junkie and love reading about the various machinations going on and getting upset at this thing or that thing, but one thing that I've never enjoyed is seeing people take a faith that I've followed my entire life and turn it into a political weapon.


And I felt so frustrated and powerless to express myself as to why I felt that way.  I couldn't really articulate to others how I felt.   Over the years I've heard from several different people who are involved in the church that they do not consider me a "real Christian".  This, understandably, made me upset.  It felt like a personal attack because it was.  We as people tend to identify ourselves by what we believe in politics and religion, which is why most people decline to discuss either one in so called polite company. 

The reasoning behind that is because when you question someone's political and/or religious beliefs (particularly religious) then it smacks of a personal attack on that person.  You're essentially attacking ones morals and character.  And many would quite reasonably take that personal.   And so much of Christianity (and all religions I suppose) it's always boiled down to good vs. evil.  You're with us or against us, the same mentality that the former Presidential administration seemed to thrive on. No coincidence that the last President was a self proclaimed avowed Christian who felt he was doing God's work. 

And this attitude of everything being in black or white, good or evil has caused problems. All my life I've been given the whole "Christian = good.  Everyone else = bad." mantra. It's "our faith is the one true faith, everything else is a lie".  And when you're raised that way and you have people that are supposed REAL Christians telling you you're not one, then that hurts.  Because your faith is tied in to your character and morals and ethics.  Or so you're told.

So saying you're not a "Real Christian" or not a Christian at all, it's essentially saying you're not a good person.  You're not living your life right, and you are going to Hell.  This has caused me immense pain and heartache over the years.   At the moment, despite living above a church, I've withdrawn from all forms of the faith that I've called my own my entire life.  And I've resisted the urge to fight back against these attacks, which is what I have viewed them as, because  of what I've been conditioned to believe.  If you're not with God you're a bad person.  And if you're not with God, you're against Him.  And you can't be halfway, because we all know what God thinks of "lukewarm", right?   And besides, these people are "REAL" Christians...they'd know more than me, right? 

So I've been frustrated and not really knowing what to do or think or say about it. And I wanted to really write and let go and just say what was on my mind, but I always held back for some reason.  Mainly because I didn't know WHAT to say.  And then I saw the video with Andrew discussing this and it just clicked for me.

And Sullivan's words he spoke on CBS is EXACTLY how I feel. I've been trying to express myself without crossing a line that I'd rather not cross in how I explain myself, but this is perfect. The Faith that I have adhered to my entire life no longer resembles anything that I have always viewed it as. It has been co-opted and politicized so much that the very word "Christianity" doesn't even conjure up the words "Jesus Christ", it evokes negativity and anger and bigotry and politics.

You often hear politicians talk about how it's against Christian morals and values to support Gay Rights and/or a woman's right to choose.  Well if that's true, and I am both pro choice and pro Gay rights, does that mean I'm not a Christian? Do those TWO issues override any other belief I have as it pertains to the faith that I've been involved with since I was a child?

Jesus never said word one about homosexuality or abortion, and yet those two issues are held up as the very definition of what is in the Bible.  Even though we hear often about how marriage has always been about "one man and one woman", in fact the Bible is full of examples of one man and many women (King Solomon, anyone?).  

Yet Jesus spoke many many times about helping out the poor, helping out the less fortunate, treating others with respect and dignity, and he railed against the rich.  He specifically said that it would be easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven, and yet everything you hear from so-called REAL Christians is almost the exact opposite.  

They have an Ayn Rand philosophy where it's everyone for themselves.  The ultimate "I Got Mine Jack" mentality.  Oppressing women and denying same sex marriage was NOT what Jesus spoke about.  However so many politicians and others who claim the faith bearing His name represent nothing of what He spoke on.

Instead we have them trying to pass laws to ban contraception, you have North Carolina adding a law on top of a law outlawing gay marriage, and you have some states that are trying to CRIMINALIZE same sex relations, all while pushing for tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor.

Is that what Jesus spoke about?  Is that what REAL Christianity is about?

And more than anything this has seemed to push me farther and farther away from the faith that I've always identified as. And it's gotten to the point where THIS is what my faith is claimed to be about by so many Christians. They feel it's absolutely within their rights and needs to basically control the government and the society, and that anyone that denies that is not a real Christian.  


Not only do many Christians feel they have a right to influence and control the Government, but that they have an OBLIGATION to do so.  That in order to be a true Christian, then you have to not only be in favor of that, but also you have to be against LGBT rights and you have to be in favor of denying a woman's right to choose.   And you absolutely have to be in favor of tax cuts for the rich.

If that's true, then maybe those that I've been so angry at for years for labeling me a "fake Christian" or saying that I wasn't a good Christian...maybe they're right. Maybe there's no reason to be angry at anyone but myself for allowing myself to fool myself into believing that I have ANYTHING in common with these people.

Because I absolutely have ZERO in common with people who want to discriminate and foster hatred of other human beings.   The thing is though, there are many good Christians out there that are not in favor of discrimination who are not in favor of eliminating tax breaks for the rich, while we gut the social safety nets for the lower class.  Who are not in favor of a specific faith or religion being the official religion of the government.

Maybe I'm blissfully naive and innocent, but I much prefer to have my church and government completely separate.  I prefer to have my government govern based on what is best for the people as a whole, not what's best for the top 1 or 2 %.  And I want my church to talk about what Jesus ACTUALLY said, not what a biased man thinks Jesus REALLY meant.

To wrap up this already too long piece, I just have to say that I have to believe that there is a place still in my faith for someone like myself.  That I'm not continuing to fool myself into thinking that there's anything remaining in the Christian faith for someone who is absolutely against politicization.  Who simply wants to live according to how Jesus taught, not by what some politicos want the Bible to be about.

Everyone needs to be able to live peacefully and EQUALLY.  If you don't like something, then don't do that.  If you don't like gay people, keep it to yourself.  Same sex marriage does not affect YOUR marriage.  It doesn't make your life worse, it only makes someone else's life better.  Anyone who is against someone trying to live their lives peacefully with the person they love, can't call themselves a true follower of Christ.

As Sullivan so eloquently put it during his "Face the Nation" appearance, Jesus was only on the cross because he refused politics.

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