The Friendly Atheist, Part 3

March 21, 2007

church / politics

So, to come back to this theme for another post (you can see how long this would be if it were one post), here’s another thing that has gripped me both before and during my thinking about this issue.

Many evangelical pastors seem to perceive just about everything to be a threat against Christianity. Evolution is a threat. Gay marriage is a threat. A swear word uttered accidentally on television is a threat. Democrats are a threat. I don't see how any of these things pose a threat against Christianity.

Of course, this idea relates very well back to the last post, and that’s fine. I’m going in a different direction here. Over the years, so many people have said it that I’m not sure who I’m quoting at the moment, but my essential thought is that “The greatest threat to Christianity is Christians.” Countless people have said this. Ghandi, I believe, said he’d be a Christian if it weren’t for Christians. In any case, that’s a significant thing. Dan Kimball often writes about the idea that people in emerging culture like Jesus, but they don’t like Christians. These ideas are a huge support to the idea that external things are not our biggest threat, if they are threats at all.

But the issue I would submit is that they are not in the least bit threats. Evolution, gay marriage, cussing, Democrats, and of course abortion, liberals in general, drugs, and similar things are the issues chosen by some as the threats to Christianity. If it weren’t for these things, America would be a Christian nation and the world would fall at our feet. I’ve briefly addressed the facade of a Christian America, and others have done so also, so I’ll leave that alone.

Christianity works the best when it is not the majority. When it does not have power, political influence, political influencers, and all the other things it has gained in America. Power corrupts. It can easily corrupt those who are legitimately trying to follow Jesus, and it attracts those who are looking to advance their agendas. So, when an idea (or religion, or philosophy, or whatever) is in a position of power, it is susceptible to this corruption, no matter how good it may be. It loses much if its attractiveness to those outside of it, and it usually loses sight of its core ideas (which is where we stand). This isn’t to say that faith should not have any political power, but it is to say that faith should not seek political power, as we have done.

Those outside the church in America, and around much of the rest of the world, believe that Christianity is synonymous with stereotypical Republican ideas. Whether those ideas are held by Republicans is not the issue at the moment. We are believed to be pro-war, anti-separation of church and state, pro-rich, pro-white, anti-environment, pro-imperialism, and all around pro-backwardness and anti-progressiveness. I believe firmly that these ideas are specifically opposed to the message of Jesus, and that in them and others we see the corruption the church has received since the time of Constantine. Until and unless this perception (and whatever parts of it are true) changes, we will be stuck in the position we’re in with the friendly atheist.