I was flipping through my Facebook feed the other day when I happened upon Mary Colbert, a self-proclaimed Christian activist speaking on Jim Bakker’s TV show. In the clip, she stated that Donald Trump is “the chosen one of God” and that if people “… come against the chosen one of God, you are bringing upon you and your children and your children’s children curses like you have never seen.”
Let me state that another way. If I oppose Donald Trump, God will curse me, my children, and my grandchildren.
I’ve thought a lot about what Ms. Colbert said over the last 24 hours. I’ve come to realize that she represents the public face of what I’ve come to think of as American Christianity. Now do not confuse American Christianity with Christianity in America.
Christianity takes on many forms in this county. What I term American Christianity is a unique form of Christian expression that has come to the fore over the last 150 years and which, I assert, has little to do with the basic tenets of what I’ll call Faithful Christianity.
The fundamental precepts of Faithful Christianity are very simple and can be found in both the Old and New Testaments. An Old Testament example comes from the prophet Micah 6:8: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Jesus himself articulates the two most important characteristics of a Christian in Matthew 26.“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the laws of Moses and the books of the prophets are based on these two commandments.
To be a Faithful Christian all you have to do is love God, act justly, show mercy, and walk through life with humility. Pretty simple right?
So how does American Christianity reflect these commandments? Perhaps the best way to understand the distinction is to use a literary technique from high school English literature. Let’s compare and contrast American Christianity with Faithful Christianity.
- Faithful Christianity seeks peace and reconciliation between individuals and nations. American Christianity espouses confrontation and preemptive war.
- Faithful Christianity turns the other cheek. American Christianity carries a gun.
- Faithful Christianity treats the foreigner among us with dignity and respect. American Christianity denigrates the foreigner and labels him or her criminal.
- Faithful Christianity offers forgiveness. American Christianity assigns blame.
- Faithful Christianity offers mercy. American Christianity seeks revenge and retribution.
- Faithful Christianity serves the needy among us. American Christianity builds l$160 million temples to its ego across the street from homeless shelters.
- Faithful Christianity stands in awed silence at the birth of Christ. American Christianity turns Christ’s birth into a multimillion dollar vaudeville show complete with singing, dancing, and a Santa sleigh suspended on cables from the roof of the sanctuary.
- Faithful Christianity frees itself from the material world in order to follow Christ. American Christianity fully embraces American consumerism.
- Faithful Christianity submits to the cross. American Christianity wraps itself in the flag.
- Faithful Christianity does not judge the lives of others. American Christianity condemns that which does not conform to its ideology.
- Faithful Christianity confronts the power structure in pursuit of justice. American Christianity wields power to oppress others.
American Christianity is nondenominational in that it transcends Christian traditions. It cannot be called fundamentalist since it ignores the fundamental teachings of Christ. I have seen Presbyterian churches that embrace American Christianity and Baptist churches that do not.
American Christianity is a cancer consuming the vital organs of the body of Christ.
Unfortunately, American Christianity is the public face of Christianity in this country today. Everyday Americans rarely see the Faithful Christian serving meals at the Austin Street Shelter or The Bridge. They do not see Faithful Christians providing free medical or legal services to the poor. They do not see the Faithful Christians at the Vickery Meadow Learning Center teaching English to immigrants or helping them obtain citizenship.
Instead, they see American Christians calling for the expulsion of immigrants and the banning of refugees. They see condemnation of women and homosexuals and calls to deprive them of their civil rights. They see the hatred of those who profess different faiths and calls to wage war against them.
America Christianity is the antithesis of the teachings of Christ and the life to which Faithful Christians are called.
American Christianity is the religion of Constantine.
It is the religion of Rome.
It is the religion of empire.