taking the words of Jesus seriously

When Christians engage in culture wars, theology can quickly transform into bigotry, and the gospel of Christ is often abandoned for a spirit of hatred, bitterness and judgmental accusations.

As the Supreme Court tackles the issue of same-sex marriage, many Christians are being labeled as bigots, but what exactly is Christian bigotry?  Here are some defining characteristics:

Bigots Fear Change:

Christian Bigots hate change and see it as an attack on their beliefs. Since their Bible is inerrant and their God is unchanging, new ideas are dangerous and subversive to their perfect theology. Perfection cannot be improved upon, so any variation or contradiction is perceived as absurd. Bigots hate discovery, creativity is often prohibited, and new ideas are threatening to their way of life.

Historically, this is why many Christians were shamefully ignorant and simply wrong when it came to addressing slavery, fighting for civil rights, addressing the Holocaust, recognizing genocide, and combating AIDS (just to name a few).

Bigots Are Often (But Not Always) Privileged:

Change is hard to accept when things are working in your favor. As the common expression goes: “Why change a good thing?” Any theology, idea or sermon that challenges people to sacrifice or reach beyond their comfort zones isn’t easily accepted.

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Bigots defend their position so passionately because the greatest beneficiaries of their worldview are themselves. But when people are persecuted, abandoned, ignored or powerless, their perspective changes and becomes open to different paradigms. These new paradigms are invisible and seem illogical to those that live in comfort and authority.

Bigots Crave Power:

Bigots want control, and they view their faith as a war of attrition. They use battle terminology to describe the gospel and prefer to preach, yell and shout instead of listen, discuss and learn. They use proclamations filled with absolutes and flood Facebook pages with dubious links and articles that promote their agendas. They declare statements instead of asking questions and refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue.

They prefer political might over spiritual strength, legal enforcement over personal choice, conscription over evangelism, punishment over grace, fear over hope, and control over love. In extreme cases, even violence and aggression is viewed as a necessary means of gaining power.

The Future is Scary:

Christian Bigots believe that the Apocalypse is going to happen sooner rather than later—possibly tomorrow. They assume people are becoming more depraved every passing minute. The Gays, Liberals and Abortionists are ruining the world, and every single negative news event is proof that God is judging the world and that The End is near.

Repent! Turn from your sins! Bigots shout the Gospel as a somber warning call from God that foresees a future full of doom and gloom and destruction. The Bible isn’t a message of hope, joy and redemption, but a weapon used to strike fear into anyone who doesn’t wholeheartedly agree with their theologies and belief systems.

The Past was Beautiful:

As bad as the future is, the past was practically perfect. If only American Christians could travel back in time when they were the predominant majority, when they could issue moral decrees and control the social and political institutions of the day.

Bigots love to tarnish the current (and future) reputation of humanity by comparing it to the past. But again, their past isn’t reality, and it’s a revisionist history that has been glossed over by misconceptions, ignorance and prideful assumptions.

Bigots lack humility, and they refuse to admit they were ever wrong. They forget—or refuse to admit—that many aspects of the past were worse than the present. Not only did Christians ruthlessly kill and torture in the name of God, but where was the Church when children were being molested, millions were being persecuted and killed, unfair taxes were bankrupting entire communities, and Christians consistently turned a blind eye to injustice, the poor, and those who were in desperate need of help?

These past sins of Christianity don’t exist for Bigots. Their words, actions and lives are skewed by a misguided sense of self-righteousness and virtue. They hold the moral high ground while everyone else is simply wrong.

Bigots are Exclusive:

Bigots have an Us vs. Them mentality and believe that only those who strictly agree with their beliefs can be true believers, the rest of humanity is being manipulated by Satan. If you question this line of reasoning you’ll quickly be labeled a “heretic, ” a word that Bigots love to attach to anyone challenging their thinking.

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For Christian Bigots, the Bible is a message of selectiveness, a narrow path that few will follow. They see themselves as being privy to a special revelation that has been given only to them and the select few who religiously adhere to the strict rules, practices and traditions that are required to uphold such holy doctrines. They view God as having a love that is exclusive rather than inclusive.

Bigots Have the Answers:

For Bigots, the concept of “the mystery of God” is a direct threat to their ideologies. Therefore, almost every situation and question has an answer and explanation. Everything is black and white—nothing is gray. And while society shifts and creates moral questions that are harder and harder to answer, instead of humble reflection, Bigots simply rework and evolve their answers to remain true to their original beliefs—no matter how complicated, confusing or ridiculous the answers are. To them, any answer is better than not having an answer at all, which they view as a sign of extreme weakness and stupidity.

Bigots are Aggressive, Vengeful and Cruel:

Since Bigots self-righteously believe to be correct in all matters, they’re obnoxiously rude, mean and hurtful when communicating with others. Their self-perception as being morally superior creates an attitude of disdain for those they view as sinners, challengers and outsiders.

Bigots are the people who get on TV and explain that natural disasters are the direct result of a specific group of people’s sins. They blare over the radio that certain politicians could possibly be the Anti-Christ. They publicly humiliate individuals by arguing with them on street corners, attacking them over Twitter or condemning them from the pulpit. They picket funerals, organize boycotts and use derogatory slurs and defamation against their enemies.

Ultimately, Christian Bigots do more harm than good, which raises the question: Am I doing more harm than good?

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Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Sojourners, and The Burnside Writer’s Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

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