As Easter rolls around again, and my Facebook news feed is inundated with pictures of a medieval torture weapon, or pictures of Jim Caviezel playing Jesus, bloodied with one eye swollen shut captioned “He did this for you!” I find myself astounded at the sheer lack of self awareness in those posting.
Let me preface this by saying that it isn’t my intention to bully those who choose to believe in Christianity. Most of the people I know who affiliate with this belief system are good-hearted people who care very much for others, and even if we can’t ever adequately debate the religious side of things, I do have a tremendous amount of respect for those who can adhere with blind faith to a belief that’s greater than themselves. It’s a feat that’s beyond my ability.
I’ll also preface this article by saying that I come from the viewpoint of an agnostic-turned-Christian-turned-agnostic again. In between my bouts of unbelief I had a conversion period that lasted several years, it ended when I tried to examine and live the teachings I claimed to believe much more carefully, and found them sorely lacking in practicality, and in my experience with the world.
Living in the Midwest I encounter many religious Republicans/Conservatives who, while simultaneously proclaiming their adherence to the teachings of Jesus, also espouse traditional conservative ideas (often derived from the Lockean school of thought) about Natural Rights, and what we are entitled to concerning our place in society.
Life, Liberty, and Property Rights, the Holy-Trinity of conservatism.
I am a fan of all three of these concepts, however, one of the reasons I no longer call myself a Christian is because I realized that these concepts are fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. Consistency, as much as this messy thing called life will permit, is important to me. Why would I say a believe a particular set of religious principles, and that my goal is to emulate the founder of this religion, and then do the exact opposite of what I claim to believe?
Who does that benefit?
From a young age I was lead to believe that America was a “Christian Nation”, thereby conferring some sort of moral superiority upon all the institutions I’ve come to know and love, and ingraining within me a sense of religious patriotism. How could I be wrong when “God Blesses America” with our freedoms won by those in uniform and protected by our Second Amendment? There was a cognitive disconnect from a young age between what the Jesus of the Bible demanded of me, and American-Capitalist Jesus allowed.
If you read the Bible at all, you’ll notice that Jesus requires all who follow him to forfeit their lives entirely to His cause. There are no exceptions or provisions. As the narrative follows Jesus throughout his short-term ministry, you see him moulding his disciples to emulate Him, a model that all Christians are to mimic.
Unfortunately, a cursory glance at the American Christian (specifically the American Republican Christian) reveals that this is far from the truth. Many American Christians flocked to the banner of George W. Bush as he wreaked havoc in the Middle East, killing innocents and insurgents alike. Many more flocked to Donald Trump, and defend him because Muslims are an “exestential threat” to our national security.
I’ve flipped through countless pages of the Bible to see where Jesus propped up politicians who feed the military industrial complex, and allow for large scale murder in the name of “national security”.
I’m still looking.
Then there’s the American Christian love of guns.
I am a huge fan of the Second Amendment. I believe it is an essential part of keeping government honest (though in many other areas of this we’ve failed miserably as a nation), but I’m also not a Christian. One of the reasons for that is that in the forfeiting of the Christian’s life to follow Jesus there is no exception when it comes to violence in self-defense. The New Testament doesn’t give permission to kill people overseas or right here because they threaten your person.
In fact, Jesus rebuked one of his own followers who acted in defense of him when the government came to detain him.
It doesn’t matter if you have a family, or want to protect your friends, you are not permitted to act in self-defense if you truly wish to follow Jesus. Jesus was a middle eastern “gun grabber”, as today’s liberals are so derisively labeled.
I’ll never forget when my wife and I still went to church, I posed this very question to the pastor. It was during the height of the ISIS videos being released and I was afraid this sort of thing would come to America sooner or later. I knew without a doubt that put in a situation like that I would unquestioningly defend my wife and girls with my life, but that was in direct conflict with my belief in Jesus.
After an awkward silence, the pastor mumbled out something about how God would “understand” you acting in defense of those you love, even though there was no precedent in the actions of Jesus (in fact, of you get right down to it Jesus preaches the opposite of tribal/family loyalty if it comes in contradiction to following him) to be found in the New Testament.
That’s how I knew it was all bullshit.
American Christians love their Jesus, but at the end of the day they love their Americanism too. It’s why you often can’t see a difference between Christian and secular Americans with the exception of a prayer before a meal (if that).
If it sounds harsh, I’m sorry, but it’s just what I’ve observed (and attempted to live myself for a time). My recommendation for Christians this Easter weekend is to go back and closely reexamine the person you claim to try to emulate and extol as the ultimate human being before going back to worship at the altar of America the other six days of the week.