taking the words of Jesus seriously

“You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”- ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues

You might be one of us. We love Jesus. We have at least a passing familiarity with what he told us to do. Therefore, we can’t wrap our heads around what has happened to our church. We are dumbstruck by the QAnon false conspiracy theory- not so much that it fooled Trump supporters, but that it fooled millions of Christians. We’ve pleaded with our communities ’til we’re blue in the face. Many of us have left our churches. Now it’s time to move on.

This is so much more difficult than it sounds.

I’m not having a hard time leaving church; I grieved that loss last year. But I still feel the need to speak out so non-Christians don’t think we all stand by the same values. The events of January 6, 2021 carved a bloody cavity in our nation’s soul, and tragically, Evangelical Christians are largely to blame. Though I’ve tried to distance myself from those who supported Trump in the name of our Savior, I am ashamed of my people. Because, like it or not, we still have our faith in common.

Interestingly, I’m finding that some of them just want to hit the “reset” button, as if everything in Evangelical land is still hunky-dory. Since the insurrection, I’ve been fairly shocked that I’m encountering an uptick in resistance to my message. From what I can gather, many Trump devotees just want to gloss over what has happened. Here’s a sampling of what’s recently come my way:

“Stop watching the news.”

“Trump’s not so bad. Stop talking and just come over for dinner.”

“There are no QAnons in my church.”

“Just stop talking.”

“You are not like the rest of us.”

All of these came from fellow believers, folks I’ve respected and even loved. Some just dumped me. Others called me up and read me the riot act. I can completely understand those who unfriended me on social media- I encouraged them to do just that. But one person, without meaning to, succinctly summed up what they all alluded to.

“Trump is gone. It’s time to move forward. Don’t dwell on the past.”

READ: The Idolatry of Christian Nationalism

Oh, that this was possible: that white, straight, financially secure people could go back to our happy lives.

Here’s the rub: we still have millions of false conspiracy theorists in the pews of our churches. Allowing a falsehood to just ‘slide’- not to stand up to evil- allows it to become ingrained in the people and in the society.

The other issue for some of us is that the Religious Right promotes Christianity as a conservative political movement, intent on closing our borders and limiting financial aid to the poor. That’s kind of a hoot, considering the Son of God was born a brown-skinned Middle-Eastern refugee and grew up to be a homeless, itinerant rabbi. He preached feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, treating the sick, and sheltering the stranger.  You can understand why this presents a problem for us.

I’ve known enough preachers personally to have compassion for their plight. Pastoring a church well is an extremely tough job. But some of us who have watched the ascent of Trumpism in the precious name of Jesus Christ have a hard time trusting people who failed to speak out against these evils.

I imagine most people would love to recover from the last four years. Trump’s reign has divided families, destroyed friendships, and fractured fellowships. Letting go of the past and moving forward is a splendid suggestion. I’m just wondering how ministers and pastors will entice people to return to church. We saw how easily evil infiltrated our faith. Now we need to see how it is routed.

Joliet Jake said,  “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Is it true that we can’t go home?

This is a decision that can only be reached by each individual as they seek direction from the Holy Spirit. Some of us might see the necessary changes in our churches, enough to shine a light of hope through the crack of an open door. Others may find that the last four years have only exposed what our churches believed all along, and it’s not a faith we can live with.

For those of us who can’t go home, what’s next?

The great news is that God knows. We ask, and God will show us. I’m going to ask for the right doors to be opened and closed. I’ll do my best to listen to the Holy Spirit through prayer and God’s Word. And I’ll try to remember that “following” is an active verb. Joliet Jake was right- I can’t stay here forever.

 

This piece first appeared on thechristianresistance.com.

About The Author

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Rachel Ophoff met Jesus when she was 30 years old. For the last 35 years, they’ve bonded over addiction and recovery, beauty and brokenness, and even the loss of her daughter on a church outing. In the Evangelical Church, she found the family she never had. Sadly, their support of Donald Trump threw her for a loop. She rebounded by establishing an online community for recovering Evangelicals at https://rachelophoff.com. Now working to move past politics, she keeps her eyes open for those who offer the hope of Christ’s love in this brave, new, post-Evangelical world. She can be reached at [email protected]

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