“What is Wrong with the Christian Religion?”

My friend, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, for whom I have a warm respect, recently wrote an article with that title for Patheos. I urge you to read it here.

For myself, I regard MAGA Qhristianity as I regard a serious localized infection in a human body. It is like a boil or a deeply infected zit. It is very clearly something happening in a specific place and time and it, in relation to the global Church, is very clearly an expression of the pathologies of that particular people and place, very much like Nazified Christianity was, or the bizarreness of the infected Orthodoxy of Rasputin, or the weirdnesses of the Malleus Malificarum.

The body of Christ appears to be susceptible to such localized infections. Heresies and local movements sweep over it throughout history. But it is also capable of creating antibodies and of fighting off such infections. So while it’s true that Christian Europe created Nazi Germany, it is also true that Nazism was defeated and extirpated by Christian civilization. It’s true that Christianity countenanced a resumption of slavery after it disappeared from antiquity (due to the gospel’s influence), but it is also true that Christian civilization made war on it and, indeed, is still in the process of making war on it.

So I’m not convinced it is “the Christian religion” that needs to be interrogated but, rather, the way it is currently instantiated in American civilization. The simple fact is, we made a deal with the devil four centuries ago when it comes to rejecting the gospel’s teaching on race (“in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, etc”) and we have never really confronted it fully since. We’ve flattered ourselves that the Civil War was good enough and the debt was paid, but that is a lie.

More than this, we have fallen for Mammon and Mars and want to be Great rather than good. We are prideful, the blackest sin of them all, and we somehow expect that we can reconcile that with the gospel. We want the trappings of Christianity but reject the heart of it and are surprised by results that are predicted throughout the gospels. We want to achieve by force and law what Paul insists can only be achieved by cooperation with the Spirit, not because we are Christian, but because we are not–not in our hearts. We have been, at best, sacramentalized, but not evangelized.

In short, the trouble is that we are sinners who don’t believe the Christian religion. And we have figured out lots of ways to game the religion in order to avoid listening to the gospel. Any system, including one divinely inspired, can be gamed. But that’s on us. And the fact that the Body of Christ does not everywhere manifest the very American (or German, or Spanish, or Russian) pathologies of its local instantiations makes clear that the infections are local, not systemic (though they hurt the whole body, of course). But the solution, as with all illnesses, is to attack the disease, not declare the body itself to be the problem. It remains the Body of Christ, created by Jesus to be the sacrament of salvation in the world. We must receive it as the gift it is while also working always for the healing of its infected members.

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7 Responses

  1. There is a great deal I could write on the subject, but I don’t want to get accused of what I usually get accused of when I do, so I won’t. However…

    Well, there is always a however.

    As I have said many times on these very pages, how people read the Bible – or in terms of this article, how people practice their faith – does not determine the kind of people that they are. Quite the opposite. They are already that kind of person, and how they read the Bible or how they practice their faith is an expression of that. No one reads the Bible, or practices Christianity, and says “I’m going to be that kind of a guy.“ They are already that guy, and they read the Bible, or practice their faith, in order to justify it. The process of course is not entirely cause-and-effect, but a dynamic process. But nevertheless, the overall trend is clear.

    Some people who appear on these pages regularly have admitted that as they began to understand their faith better, they also begin to understand where they went wrong in their faith, just as Mark says. They stoppedusingit as a weapon, but instead, as a guide for themselves. Their faith— finally— made them better people, instead of just better-than-you.

    And just in time for Mark’s column is this: Writing for the Christian Post, Jason Jimenez wants to know why the media (read: left-wing media) isn’t attacking President Joe Biden for his faith the way it did Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

    Of course. jimenez knows the answer to this question, but he wants to pretend it’s a different question, and so, subtly changes the subject. And in true Qhristian fashion, he knows the answer, but wants to pretend it’s a different answer because he has an ideological reason for doing so. and thus he demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of MAGAt Qhristianity that Mark so rightly decries.

    Mr. Biden doesn’t use his religion as a club against people that he disapproves of. Mr. Biden is the kind of Christian that actually believes “judge not lest ye be judged” and “y’allQuaeda pull the same crap all the time so just shut up about other people”— a rough translation of Romans. Mr. Biden doesn’t insist that everybody Has to be a Catholic, and follow the Catholic faith, whether they want to or not. Mr. Biden doesn’t come up with specious reasons to enforce his religious beliefs upon other people who don’t share them, but pretends he’s being a constitutional scholar, or kind, or anything but a theocrat. Mr. Biden thinks that his faith is for him and his family, because it makes him a better person and makes his life better. Mr. Biden does not believe that freedom of religion is for him, and the freedom to follow his religion is for you.

    MAGATry is different. As Mark has pointed out repeatedly, the Qhristian Reich, more often than not, supports policies that cater to an enable their own crowd while saying “sucks to be you” to just about everyone else. Case in point: moving heaven and earth to save a fetus, but ignoring 470,000 dead Americans. Or crying about how “morality matters”, and then finding multiple excuses for Grabby McPussy, theFormer Occupant of the White House. Or ignoring centuries of child sexual abuse my men who have been chosen by god as priests, but getting their holy knickers into a thoroughly uncomfortable bunch because Ben and Paul got married. Or $500,000 spent on producing a video protest in my marriage, because there just aren’t enough starving people in the world. Their religion supports firing gay people for simply existing. It’s right there in the Book of the Profit Pulleditouttamyass.

    Barrett’s religion, MAGAt Qhristianity, isn’t interested in neutrality, but only supremacy.

    Simply put: If you want to clean up politics in America, you’re going to have to get the money out of it, and get what’s best for the country back into it. And that isn’t sectarian warfare. If you want to clean up faith in America, you will have to get the money, the pursuit of secular power, and religious dominionism out of it.

    And if you want clean up both, keep them the hell away from each other.

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