A while back, a friend forwarded to me on Facebook an article in the Huffington Post, entitled Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus, co-authored by Phil Zuckerman, professor of sociology, Pitzer College, Claremont, CA and Dan Cady, assistant professor of history, Cal State, Fresno, CA. My friend’s accompanying comment was, “I think you will agree with this; I do, more than I like to admit.”
I read the article, thanked him for it and posted it on my Facebook status with the comment, “To all my evangelical Christian friends, please read this article! This has been a concern of mine for many years. I have felt torn in my evangelical beliefs because of what I have seen as a major contradiction in our faith. Perhaps you’ll agree with me that this article hits the nail on the head. Even if you don’t, please consider what it has to say.”
The post received a number of comments and a couple of personal messages, some expressing agreement, and some giving qualified or partial agreement.
The article began with a reference to a recent poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The results of the poll reveal, we are told, that “White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus.” It described this finding as “one of the strangest most, dumbfounding ironies in contemporary American culture.”
Of course, the article clarifies that “Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus.” This was simply an assertion made to catch our attention. Evangelicals do love Jesus; but it is because of what He does for them. It goes on to (a bit sarcastically) describe what He has done and will do in saving them. It is His teachings that they don’t like! “And yet, as for Jesus himself,” the article tells us “… his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill .. most Evangelicals seem, to have nothing but disdain.” I can’t help but sadly agree, at least in part.
Before I proceed further, however, I believe we need to look at a few qualifiers:
• The authors are writing in generalities. They are writing about evangelicals as a group, not about every individual.
• They appear to be observing evangelicals from the outside as a social or cultural group.
• Other studies and statistics show that evangelicals are among the most giving. They give a higher percentage of their income and time to works of charity.
• I personally know many evangelicals who are “imitators of Christ,” who devote a large amount of their time and money to ministering to the poor, the prisoners and aliens.
However, the above facts simply emphasize the anomaly. Why do people who can be so loving support political policies which seem to be in direct contradiction to Jesus’ teachings and behavior, as well as their own behavior?
The authors claim that “Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment … torture … easy access weaponry … violent military invasion … corporate greed and capitalistic excess … and the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor …” They point out Jesus’ teachings on wealth and the rich and how evangelicals’ attitudes are totally opposed.
The article goes on to point out historical developments over the last century, as well as what is referred to as “an underlying, all-too-human social-psychological process,” how people tend to “pick and choose what suits their own secular outlook.”
As I said, I can’t help but agree with this article. I could even point out a number of other contradictions within evangelicalism:
• While they deplore any government interference with the pursuit of wealth, or government care for the poor and less-privileged, they demand government regulation in areas of personal sexual morality.
• Theological matters seem to take a back seat to political matters. A person could deny the basic tenets of the Christian faith and find acceptance with them easier than one who denies certain political or ethical dogmas. (Examples: Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich.)
• The acceptance and promotion of conspiracy theories and just plain lies, if these serve the right political ends.
If anyone has read this blog regularly, they would know how these matters have troubled me. I still call myself an evangelical Christian and I hold to the great doctrines of the faith. Jesus Christ is my Savior and my Lord. I have attempted to be an imitator of Jesus. I find, however, as I study the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, that I am led to positions that contradict many, if not most, of the ethical/political positions my fellow evangelicals.
I have not come to these views lightly or quickly. I have been a follower of Jesus for over 56 years. I attended an evangelical seminary and have served as a pastor and a professor at an evangelical Bible college. My position is the result of years of study and meditation, although the seeds were planted very early in my mind.
I feel that I have a dilemma, and I suspect that this is also a dilemma for many others. I have been at home in the evangelical community for most of my life, yet often feel uncomfortable in the presence of my fellow evangelicals. I can only discuss these matters with a handful of family and friends. I speak of my thoughts in the company of good church folks, (especially those my own age) I am at best considered odd, or at worst a troublemaker. Yet at the same time, I am often forced to tolerate the “hate Jesus” views of others.
What to do? No alternative appeals to me.
• I could continue to refrain from speaking out among these folks. I’ve done that and sometimes feel like a hypocrite.
• I could speak out as I have opportunity. I’ve also done that and lost a few friends and/or been considered a troublemaker.
• I could, as some have done, refuse to be called an evangelical Christian. I actually, very seldom use that label anymore, but simply call myself a follower of Jesus.
• I could, as I believe many have, simply walk away from the church and avoid the problem. But this is my family. These are those I minister to and who minister to me.
What would Jesus do?