We Need Genuine Christians

Wednesday’s post went into some detail about the competing American cultures identified by David Brooks. Brooks concluded (among other things) that an “autonomy culture” has prevailed over the traditional belief in obedience to an established external authority (aka God). He did acknowledge several of the negative aspects of the latter culture, but the more I’ve thought about his critique, the more I recognized the significant problems he failed to identify.

One obvious problem is that honest religious adherents cannot claim to know with confidence what their particular deity requires. (There’s a popular Facebook meme saying something along the lines of: isn’t it interesting that your God hates the same people you do?)

How many wars have been fought by men trying to prove that their God is bigger and better and more correct than someone else’s?

The bigger problem with Brooks’ description of what is really a culture of subservience is, ironically, theological. My clergy friends– who all exhibit what I consider appropriate moral humility– point out that authentic religious belief requires the freedom to choose.

Forced piety/obedience is inauthentic by definition.

What got me thinking about all this was a recent column by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. Rubin was pointing to Americans’ disinclination to “tell it like it really is.”

It’s not the plague of “polarization” or “distrust,” some sort of floating miasma, that has darkened our society. Bluntly put, we are in deep trouble because a major party rationalizes both intense selfishness — the refusal to undertake even minor inconveniences such as mask-wearing or gun background checks for others’ protection — and deprivation of others’ rights (to vote, to make intimate decisions about reproduction, to be treated with respect.)

What Rubin dubs the “White-grievance industry,” composed of right-wing media, politicians, pundits and think tanks, is enraged over the loss of a society where “far fewer women competed with men in the workplace, White power was largely unchallenged, and diversity was less pronounced.”

Encouraging that rage has required the (mis)use of religion.

Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote recently in Time about the MAGA formula, ascendant after the United States’ election of its first Black president: “the stoking of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right.

”The nostalgic appeal of ‘again,’” Jones observes, “harkens back to a 1950s America, when white Christian churches were full and white Christians comprised a supermajority of the U.S. population; a period when we added ‘under God’ to the pledge of allegiance and ‘In God We Trust’ to our currency.”

Our future as a tolerant, decent society ultimately may depend on White Christian communities’ recovering their moral equilibrium and support for American democracy, and rejecting the movement to turn churches into platforms for QAnon and white nationalism. But we cannot wait for an evangelical reformation.

Rubin and Jones are hardly the first to point out that people purporting to be “bible believing Christians” have perverted the previously understood teachings of that religion to serve political ends. But in the following paragraph, she contrasts that faux Christianity with the behaviors of people who take philosophical and religious teachings and the “norms of civilized societies” seriously:

MAGA voters think everyone else is the problem. As perpetual victims, they feel entitled to ignore the demands of civilized society — e.g., self-restraint, care for actually vulnerable people, pluralism, acceptance of political defeat. Their irritation with mask-wearing gets elevated over the lives of those most susceptible to a deadly pandemic. Their demands to display an armory of weapons mean schoolchildren become targets for acts of mass gun violence. Their religious zealotry, fed by the myth that Christianity is under attack, means poor women cannot have access to safe, legal abortions.

My friends and family members follow a wide variety of religious traditions and none. Virtually all of them– devout and nonbeliever alike–have come to their beliefs via the exercise of personal autonomy–choice. They have examined the teachings of their their own and other religions, adopted those they’ve found persuasive and rejected others.

Several are people I regard as real Christians. They follow a very different Jesus than the John Wayne clone manufactured by political Evangelicals. (For one thing, their Jesus isn’t an ahistorical White guy with blue eyes.) They attend–and in a couple of cases, lead–churches that avoid the moral absolutism buttressed by cherry-picking  bibles that have been translated from their original languages over the years. They respect people who are racially and religiously different, and they understand why authentic religious belief requires separation of Church from State.

They’re the ones I consider “kosher”  Christians, and the ones I know are really, really tired of the White Supremicists who have appropriated –and continue to disgrace–the name.


  1. My god is bigger than your god. My god can beat up your god. Sounds like playground stuff …it is just all so silly and stupid. Basing politics on their imaginary invisible friend is not helpful in a complex world. This overly simplistic stuff seems to fit so well with the R traditions. On Prosperity they believe “I got mine – fuck you”. On health care (as shown during the AIDS years “Shut up go home and die”. It seems natural for them to adopt and promote mean spirited crazy crap. I do not think we can change them but MAYBE we can defeat them at the ballot box. I sure hope so.

  2. It seems to me that these “Kosher Christians” aren’t as fed up as we’d all like to believe. Sure, they think those awful Christians are bad. But, you’ll notice that evangelical adherence to a dogma of money/power/grievance motivates them to control everything despite their small size. The good Christians sure don’t seem to have much of the same religious fervor for their version of the faith.

    Of course, hate is a much better product to sell than love so I don’t envy any good Christian’s position in this. They have a much harder row to hoe.

    The conveniently hates everyone you hate god sure seems bigger and stronger than the good god we all wish was actually followed.

  3. Bazinga!

    So, the American Ideal means religious minorities – who escaped religious oppression by coming to America – are all tolerated to practice their religion as they see fit, and others are allowed to practice their own godless philosophy without interference from religious people, institutions, and political cults. So, the takeover of the American government by a politico-religious cult is actually against the founding principles and documents.

    Also, let’s be explicit about how many religious wars: According to the Encyclopedia of Wars, out of all 1,763 known/recorded historical conflicts, 121, or 6.87%, had religion as the primary cause. The wars of the European Middle Ages stretched from the 7th-17th centuries. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia ended the 30-Years and 100-Year wars by agreeing to religious tolerance. The Enlightenment quickly followed that, and the United States Constitution is based on the Enlightenment reaction to a millennium of religious war that killed more than 4 million.

    The current cult uprising is dangerously regressive.

  4. If only the people who are “really really tired of the white supremicists” would actually show up at the ballot and vote.
    When I hear about “90% of Americans want this” or “65% of Americans want that”, and then when it comes time to actually vote and our turnout is in the low double digits, I think that it is true that America gets the government it deserves every 2 years.

  5. James,

    On a similar point, I would note that on issue polling, one cannot just look at what percent supports A and what percent supports B. Intensity of support matters a lot. So too, on a related matter is whether it is a voting issue for the people. If 90% of the people support a background check law but they’re not going to vote on that issue, but the 10% who oppose will vote on that issue, it’s a more powerful issue for the minority.

  6. “Kosher” Christians made me laugh out loud. I’ll use it to distinguish from fake Christian’s or Small-c Christians. Thanks for that and wish me luck as I entered my 8th decade yesterday.

  7. Most Christians, Jews and Muslims require no microphone. So be careful to caste judgement of the whole based on amplified sound from a few who know the script from their head but rarely from the heart and soul.

  8. Recently, Mr. Kallimani and I joined a small group of Mennonites who worship in a home or outdoors on a patio. It’s a small group of 10-12 who take turns being the leader each Sunday. We read scripture, poetry, have time of quiet to reflect and they discuss if we have something to add.
    It is the closest I’ve felt to God in years-almost like the Book of Acts.

    After living in the world of Popes, bishops and the wealth of the Catholic church, Hell-fire, hypocrisy and brimstone of a Baptist church, and a politically far- right agenda of an Evangelical group of +500, I am finally free of the phony stuff I knew in my heart was not the message of Jesus.

  9. That old adage; “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” came to mind reading this blog and some comments. Thinking of John Sorg and I as such, metaphorically of course; we both have a deep faith but his reliance on scripture quotes for answers or proof, takes away from his own words which most often speak greater truths.

    It is with gritted teeth that I must agree with Paul K. Ogden’s statement; “If 90% of the people support a background check law but they’re not going to vote on that issue, but the 10% who oppose will vote on that issue, it’s a more powerful issue for the minority.” This took me back to 2016 when 20% of the RNC supported Trump as their presidential nominee in that long list of wannabes; that left 80% of the RNC against Trump, yet here we are. We are seeing the continuation of that 20% vs 80% in Congress still in control from their minority position and the few weak Democrats aiding them in stopping progress by the Biden majority administration, however slim that might be.

    Words from Muhammad Ali’s movie theme song; “I believe the children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way.” has come to a sorry end with the Republicans full support behind the mass murders of our future leaders and their teachers as they are being taught.

    My comment yesterday hoping the other Kroger shoppers and I would safely shop and return home had a strange coincidence as I was leaving the store. I headed to the exit and saw nothing but flashing red lights across the front entrance; firetruck and ambulance and new shoppers lining up till they could enter. Then I saw the medics pushing the gurney into the entrance to the shopping area; no police in evidence other than then one on security duty leaning against a machine by the exit. These are the times we live in today; will we live THROUGH these times is the question, our faith doesn’t seem to enter the equation.

  10. Wars, all wars, are about money and power, but you can’t get the masses out to fight and die for your wealth or your power, so you juxtapose a religious grievance to motivate the people. That’s how we get “religious wars.”

  11. If you are already susceptible to delusional thinking, why is adding one more delusion to the mix surprising to anyone?

    A recent conversation with a FB character revealed when I asked repeatedly why they support a racist to be the leader of the USA, they simply said, “Just because you say he is racist, doesn’t mean he is a racist.”

    These are the same people who convolute the message of Christ or the Constitution or any other document or credo. You cannot have a rational conversation with a deluded thinker. You can’t use reason because it means nothing to them. Logic will get you a blank stare.

    What does morality mean to a delusional thinker? It means nothing because they believe all Democrats are baby killers or priming kids to sell off for sex to the Clintons.

    See what I mean? Don’t waste your energy on them.

  12. Love the FB meme quote; James and Paul are right-on. And for once, I agree with TS.

  13. It should be clear by now that the “Religious right” is in the grasp of the Anti-Christ ( assuming the Anti-Christ is really a thing) since they certainly aren’t following the teachings of the Christ when they support a charlatan like trump or any politician who claims to be a trump guy/gal. trump & the Christ are polar opposites, you can’t serve both. Choose wisely.

  14. It’s worth noting that the Old Testament’s original sin was disobedience in the Garden of Eden. The New Testament commands loving God, and “thy neighbor as thy self.” Evangelicals are the strict father authoritarians who use the Old Testament for their bedrock, picking and choosing whatever verses support their point at the moment. Jesus is rarely mentioned. That strict father authoritarianism justifies any behavior whatsoever. Closer inspection usually reveals some serious conflicts of interest and self-dealing. Christians in name only (CINO?).

    Still, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend Randall Balmer’s lecture on the True Origins of the Relgious Right https://youtu.be/_Gf4jN1xoSo

  15. Joe – regarding CINOs…funny how they NEVER invoke “What would Jesus do?”

  16. True to a fault, Peggy, and to expand on your premise I here offer the following as one look at today’s topic which briefly considers how we got to where we are today after the Agricultural Revolution in present day Iraq allowed our forebearers to end their roots and berries existence and engage in philosophy, religion, architecture, wars, and other such luxuries of civilization they could not theretofore engage in until they domesticated plants and enjoyed food surpluses.

    As for religion, I never forget that we had at least one pope in history who led an army, speaking of hypocrisy, which I found at odds with the biblical injunction of “Thou shall not kill.” This historical fact (among documented others) has led me to conclude that the “religious wars” we have had since then are still conducted by the clergy but with front men waving flags as cover in an amalgamation of religion and capitalism (or whatever ism) designed to maintain the status quo in their respective spheres of interest.

    It was then and is now a power play by such alliance to secure their respective goals and it works, i. e., the timid and fearful masses are promised eternal life or some other such reward if they will comply with how clergy tells them to run their lives which, incidentally, involves working for minimal wages to keep the ism (whatever it may be) in place.

    Religion with all its rites and rituals when thus aligned with political warriors in quest of power and assets may amount de facto to a simple subset of economics in a classic example of “Follow the money,” an alignment which Piketty and Krugman have not yet identified and discussed.

  17. I disagree with to James’ lament about non-voters causing this nation to get the government it deserves.

    I have been politically engaged since my teens. I have been advocate for free, fair, open, robustly contested elections where Congressional districts are determined mathematically to be evenly distributed and districts to be the most compact formation possible.

    I and many, many others similarly inclined do not get the government WE deserve. We are a full 40% of the nation’s voters (compared to 33% of the very loyal opposition.)

    We are bound by the votes of vociferous, ignorant, willingly misled folks that were not taught to think critically or afraid of the results of such a minor effort…but are trained to reflexively vote. It is better for them to trust in the political teachings of their (ir)religious leaders that promise an ice cream, cake, and candy fairy god who will someday grant their earnestly held wishes provided they only sacrifice their intellectual and financial autonomy…and their votes.

    It is an everyday challenge to treat faux, fairy god, christians with respect for their firmly held beliefs knowing that they, like me, deserve a government grounded in true Christian principles…where elected officials are humble, serve the public, lobby for their constituents, and hold corporations, their BOD’s, and fat cat investors responsible for the damage they do to individuals and commonly held resources.

    Removing the scales from the eyes of these willing fools will be resisted until they realize they have been personally betrayed by their “religious” leaders and that they have created our broken system.

    Only then do we have chance to get the government we truly deserve.

  18. I believe the apostle Paul wrote, why should anyone live under restrictions or allowances of another’s conscience? Should someone’s conscience take precedent over others?

    He absolutely states, in Romans 14:13; “therefore, let us not judge one another any longer but, rather, be determined not to put a stumbling block or an obstacle before a brother.”

    As we all know or should know, Jesus Christ was not a white guy, he didn’t have long stringy hair, or blue eyes that I would imagine. Jesus Christ was a jew, and a working man as carpentry was a very intense job to have back in the day.

    And since Jesus Christ was a Jew, he was bound under the Mosaic law until his death.

    Jesus Christ said in a sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5:44; “however, I say to you: continue to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

    Christ also said in the 46th verse; “for if you love those loving you, what reward do you have?”

    47 states; “and if you greet your brother’s only, what extraordinary thing are you doing?”

    An exodus the 23rd chapter it mentions; “if you come upon your enemy’s bull or his donkey straying, you must return it to him. If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave you must help him release the animal.”

    Job says in the 31st chapter verse 29; “have I ever rejoiced over the destruction of my enemy or gloated because evil befell him?”

    Proverbs 24:17 reads; “when your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, do not let your heart be joyful”

    Also in Proverbs 25:21, it states; “if your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat if he is thirsty give him water to drink”

    Hating your enemy was never in the mosaic law, Rabbi’s made an assumption that if you love your neighbor you must hate your enemy. But that was never written in the Mosaic Law. Just the opposite as you can see above was written in the law.

    Leviticus 19:18 reads; “you must not take vengeance nor hold a grudge against the sons of your people and you must love your fellow man as yourself.”

    So, Jesus Christ took these commands in the Mosaic Law and reiterated them in his teachings. They became part of the New testament and Christ’s law.

    What’s being taught in the Evangelical religions, and even some of the major religions, actually, all of the major religions is not part of the Mosaic tenet or Christ’s!

    The amount of widows and orphans in this world are a direct responsibility of religious organizations who bless the war fighters and encourage hating their enemies.

    James 1:27 reads: “the form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”

    I’ve always liked the scripture from the old Protestant Bible, the language is dated, LOL;

    Jeremiah 5th chapter reads; “thus hath Jehovah of hosts spoken, saying, execute true judgment, and show kindness and compassion every man to his brother and not oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the sojourner nor the poor, and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart! but they refused to hearken.”

    And finally, this scripture in Ezekiel 2:26-29 reads; “her priests have violated my law, and they keep profaning my holy places. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is common, and they fail to make known what is unclean and what is clean, and they refuse to observe my sabbath, and I am profaned among them. Her princess and her midst are like wolves tearing prey; they shed blood and kill people to make dishonest gain. But her profits have plastered over their deeds with whitewash. They see false visions and give lying divination and they say; “this is what the sovereign Lord Jehovah says” when Jehovah himself has not spoken. The people of the land have defrauded and committed robbery, they have mistreated the needy and the poor, and they have defrauded the foreign resident and denied him justice.”

    The issue Ezekiel was referring to was false worship, and, the priests of Baal, his prophetic words were not only for that time, but had a dual meaning for the future! Jesus Christ actually alluded to these scriptures quite a bit. And these prophecies!

    There’s a whole lot more, but this is quite lengthy as it is. So I’ll leave it there.

  19. Wake up, America! The Taliban is here and they have joined the evangelical movement to create “Talibangelism.” Talibangelicals are parading as christian nationalists. Let’s call them what they are, Talibangelicals!

  20. Joe Adams – While it is common to contrast the “old” and “new” testaments, I will point out to you that when the Sage, Hillel (110 BCE-10 CE), was asked to sum up the Torah (AKA Old testament) while standing on one leg, he said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”

    I have been privileged to meet good, moral people of many faiths – Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Bahai, Musliim, and Christians of many varieties (not to mention many of different varieties of my own Jewish faith). I will also include atheists, including my own mother. Religion, at its best, fosters a moral, loving life. Atheism at its best does so as well.

    “Kosher Christian” is an interesting construct. I suppose the opposite “Traif Christian” (not Kosher) would fit as well, as that word comes from a root describing an animal that has been torn apart, probably close to the idea of carrion, the likely result of religious wars.

    Just because I am done with work for the week, I will leave you with a favorite quote from a former co-worker that may sum up religious wars:

    “There is only ONE god. Mine is better.”

  21. The Democrats need to fight back with clear concise messaging on how the Republicans have gone insane pushing CRT, transgender, abortion and other deranged social issues. On abortion have the democratic governor candidate say something like, ——-

    “Do you think if any of the Republican Senators or Representatives of our state who all voted for the abortion laws and one of their daughters, wife’s or granddaughter’s get pregnant and they do not want to be burdened by a baby, do you think they will have a illegal abortion? Heck Yes! It will happen in a Indiana minute! Our Republican politicians have passed these abortion laws that apply to YOU and not to the women in their life!.”

    For CRT, transgender and other social issues they should be marginalized and be laughed at after the candidate discusses the real issues that confront our state. Maybe state that the issues in the schools by saying ,

    “CRT and transgender issues should be left to the school boards in Indiana, Republicans have always believed in home rule and so do I! I will push for public comment at school board meetings to be limited to only Hoosiers that reside in the school district! We don’t need people from out of state dictating to us how to run our schools!. As for banning books I will support children up to 8th grade having the parent okay their child taking out books that the school board and English teachers deem objectionable.

    As for our young men and women in high school lets be frank, they hear their fellow students and view on the internet objectionable language and videos daily. If parents want to object to books their child may be forced to read then we will have the teacher assign another book. As for parent right? I support teachers rights! Don’t worry our young women and men will be okay they are Hoosier tough ! So am I! I won’t let the Tucker Carlson’s, Rachel Meadows and the other right and left wing media entertainers run our schools! I’m not scared to stand up and fight for what’s right for OUR state.”

    That’s my thoughts- if you are a Democrat you also have to be a Republican in our state. See the people that are pushing the social issues are a very small portion of Hoosiers. So you have to say what resonates with both Democrat and Republican voters. The Democrat candidates have to show a toughness like DeSantis but not a asshole like him.

  22. The Christian Right has kidnapped Christianity. I refuse to accept their interpretation. That’s might right.

  23. Patmcc was close and I am glad others picked up in the theme of political manipulation of religion , “My God can out-vote your God”.

Comments are closed.