Friday, November 5, 2021

I’m Not Saying Conservative Christianity is Anti-Jesus. Jesus is.

 I’m Not Saying Conservative Christianity is Anti-Jesus. Jesus is.

 The steady stream of vitriol I receive from professed Christians who identify as MAGA or QAnon or Republican is completely understandable.

As they fire-off threatening texts, furiously tap out expletive-laden emails, and break into violent, performative histrionics on social media, I genuinely feel for them. They’re often getting some really bad second-hand news from me that blows up the story they’ve spent a long time telling themselves and depend on to validate and to justify them.

They’re coming face to face with the sobering reality that they are antithetical to Jesus.

Worse than that, they aren’t hearing that news from me—they’re hearing it from Jesus.

There are few things that confound and infuriate Conservative Christians quite like the simple, clear, unadorned words of Jesus as documented in the Bible they so loudly and frequently claim to love, believe in, and live by. It’s almost miraculous:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Matthew 5:9

When you’re part of an antagonistic movement built almost exclusively on a self-righteous battle posture: on a theology and politics that require an enemy, an adversary, an encroaching danger, a culture war foe to be defeated—the idea of being a peacemaker really pisses you off. MAGAs don’t like peace. They refuse to coexist with it. They cannot abide it. It’s not a compatible idea.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.  Matthew 25:45

The poor, the outcast, the hurting, the hungry, the homeless, the lonely. Jesus said he literally inhabits the most vulnerable among us, and that the way we treat them is the way we treat Jesus himself. That’s a really disturbing reality, when you spend so much of your time denying people healthcare and cutting social programs and assault voting rights and legislatively attacking people for their sexuality or their nation of origin or their pigmentation. The news that according to Jesus, you devote a great deal of your life treating Jesus like garbage—tends not to be received too well.

For God so loved the world…  John 3:16

The world. God loves the world. That includes the planet, the climate around it, the resources within it, the disparate humanity and expansive life upon it. No America First. No “Go back where you came from” nationalistic bluster.  No, “Don’t Tread on Me” middle-finger defiance. If you so love the world as God does, you fight for diversity, you welcome immigrants and foreigners, you demand environmental responsibility, you want more people to have voices, not fewer. When America becomes your world—you’re opposing God.

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Matthew 26:52

That’s the part of the oft-quoted story that gun-loving Christians never want to read: the part where Jesus reprimands his disciple who uses a weapon to defend him, reminding him and those listening, that his people will not be a people of retributive violence, that they will be those who shun force and turn the other cheek and resist harming others and de-escalate conflict. That is a really hard truth for the NRA, God and Guns, Come and Take It crowd, who really want Jesus to be cool with their instigating, posturing bloodlust—and who have to hear straight from Jesus that he isn’t.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.   Matthew 22:37-39

Loving your neighbor. Jesus says unequivocally that this is the priority and the point, and the way we show our love for God: the way we treat other human beings. When Conservative Christians realize that this includes their Muslim neighbor, their transgender neighbor, their Jewish neighbor, their Liberal neighbor, their uninsured neighbor, their undocumented neighbor, their black neighbor—they usually don’t react very well.  When you aren’t able or willing to practically or tangibly extend love to such a vast portion of your neighbors in any meaningful way, that is a difficult theological pill to swallow.

Honestly, I empathize with people who want to be both Christian and MAGA, who think they can be devoted to Jesus and to Donald Trump simultaneously, who labor under the false assumption that their bastardized, territorial, self-centered white nationalist GOP version of Christianity is remotely of God.

And I know that the actual words of Jesus are the most triggering of any they could be faced with, and so the venom these generate aren’t surprising and neither is their scalding rage toward those of us who regularly share those words with them.

MAGA friends, I’m not saying this white Republican theocracy built on power, exclusion, and subjugation that you’re tethered to is anti-Jesus.

Jesus is saying that.

I know you really want to shoot the messenger.

That’s been going on for two-thousand years.

 By John Pavlovitz


John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.