An Election Postmortem for American Christianity

grave

It’s all over.

At this point, it doesn’t matter who won this election.

Yes, the results have determined the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years, but a different outcome wouldn’t have changed one clear, devastating truth: Christianity in this country has been mortally wounded—and it was a self-inflicted injury.

This year much of the Church has been fully complicit in elevating to the highest levels of the political process, a man completely devoid of anything remotely representing Jesus, and passed him off as sufficiently Christian. Celebrity pastors and name-brand Evangelists have sold him as “a man after God’s own heart”, or at the very least a decidedly imperfect tool of Divine retribution in the style of the Old Testament—and they’ve repeatedly bastardized the Scriptures, insulted the intelligence of the faithful, and given the middle finger to the Gospel in order to do it.

And millions of Christians have held their noses and washed their hands while still trying to make their beds and cast their lots with the most openly vile, profane, hateful Presidential nominee in history. The desperate theological gymnastics and excuse making professed Bible-believing churchgoers have engaged in to try and justify it all has been the height of tragic comedy, with all the laughs coming at the expense of the Good News.

People have been watching it all, and regardless of the perceived gains, there is a price to this soul-selling.
The price is our shared witness.
The price is our credibility in the world.
The price is the integrity of the word Christian.

The price is the very name of Jesus.

A steady exodus from the American Church has been going on for the past few decades, but last year’s campaign and the election has blown open gaping holes in its once impenetrable walls, and intelligent, decent, faithful people are streaming out in droves—and I don’t blame them one bit. They’re right to run from this thing. It’s polluted beyond saving. It is irreparably tainted by its very caretakers. It is a dead body dressed up to look alive for an hour on Sunday.

Whatever American Christianity has become in this year isn’t of Jesus anymore, no matter how loud the preachers pound the pulpit or how many Scriptures they quote or how big the steeples become or how grand the display of showy faith it makes.

God has left the building and good people are following quickly behind.

I talk to these people every day. Many of them once called Christianity home. They are deeply faithful, incredibly sincere—and they aren’t stupid. They understand what’s happening here. They recognize that Jesus and this monstrosity are not made of the same stuff. They’ve saw the campaign unfold and they watched the Church slowly but surely fall in line behind hatred in order to preserve itself. They seen it grow more and more comfortable closely aligning with malevolence in order to save its own skin, even if it meant camping out on the devil’s coattails. They are grieving and furious and not sure what to do.

These are really decent people who still follow Jesus but who can no longer live with the profound disconnect between him and this terrible cancer that has stolen his identity. They know that regardless of the outcome of this election, that everything has changed. Too much damage has been done. Too much compromise has seeped in. Too much poison has entered the blood stream. Too many people have shown their true colors. There is no way to make nice and pretend it hasn’t happened.

And so no matter who is in the White House, the task at hand for these folks is to figure out how to be Christian in a place that has seemingly forgotten how; to forge a path of faith that makes a definite break from what the election has declared mainstream for followers of Jesus.

Yes, some Americans will still be doing business as Christianity, and yes the celebrity pastors and the name brand Evangelists will still pound the pulpits and quote Scriptures and make showy displays of faith in buildings with big steeples—but that’s all a desperate, flailing attempt to distract people from the stinking corpse in the center of the room. We see it. We wish we didn’t, but we do.

And yet, even with as much grieving as there has been watching this all unfold and even with the tremendous loss that we feel right now, for many of us hope still burns like a delicate ember in the center of our chests, because we know that there is something better that this faith of ours once was and still can be.

We still believe that there is goodness to move toward, as difficult as it is to find right now.

We know that this thing that is dead, isn’t the thing we seek or cling to or treasure or find life in.

And we know most of all, that the story we walk in is the story of death that will be overcome, despite the lack of evidence for hope.

And so we’re mourning and we’re throwing dirt over this dead body—and we’re here together, waiting on the resurrection. 

 

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94 thoughts on “An Election Postmortem for American Christianity

  1. Gary, my academic degrees, FWIW, are in Biblical and Theological Studies and Church History. I am more interested in the early church but, of course, to actually qualify for the degree, I had to cover it all.

    One theme that was a constant in church history was that the church was in constant renewal. This was welcomed. Seems like every coupla hundred years that happened until Just after Francis of Assisi.

    After him. the Powers That Be refused to entertain new ideas. Then martin Luther no only sparked the Reformation, but survived. There has not been a significant renewal since. The Protestant emphasis upon being cognitively aware, the RCC hunkering down into dogma, the EO ignoring everyone not EO, I think these things have prevented a significant renewal.

    But I really think we can see evidence of renewal. Eastern Orthodox and the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York have agreed that filioque clause can be dropped from the Nicene Creed. The ABC and Francis 1 have met and actually discussed the possibility of reunification. Pope and Patriarch have met together. Both the present Pople and the ABC have said there must be a greater pastoral concern for LGBTQ people. Personally, I see that as a baby step in the right direction. Francis is entertaining the idea of ordaining women as deacons, another baby step in the right direction.

    So I am hoping these are all signs of renewal.

  2. Must you always wax so melodramatically in your click bait? And furthermore, your comments section could use significant moderation (and blocking of certain users). I even wonder sometimes why you’re still in the ministry if you hate it so much. Just pack it up. If the “American Church” is a lost cause, dead and in the water, then close the doors of your church, walk away from the ministry and become an agnostic or atheist. It seems like that’s what you want to do anyway.

    • He doesn’t hate his ministry. He dislikes all the evil that exists within so many American churches—specifically the Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical kind. You know. The one happily supported by the disciples of Trump.

      • And, while I don’t associate with that lot anymore, Jesus did die for them too. Where’s the guy that wrote “Evangelicals and Progressives” are people too? The guy who wanted an open table, he seems to have been replaced by someone who just bashes the religious right (who do need a check in their empathy and compassion for sure) and clearly it’s from a place of personal damage I’m sure (probably having his own denomination kick him out) but I could never attend his church, he always sounds hopeless, full of despair. Maybe he needs to read the gospels, they’re supposed to be GOOD NEWS.

  3. God has not left the building !!!! He is with us ,holding us ,putting his hand on our shoulders to guide us . People voted in our new President not God ! No matter what our views on the outcome all we are charged to do is love our God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Lets get out there and do just that and show the marginalized they have people on their side .

  4. Following Jesus is still alive and well, even when Evangelical Christianity (& certainly the religious right) is not. Remember – what died here was the church as a “voting block”, and there will be no tears at the funeral from true believers. All the tears will come from the likes of Roger Ailes and Newt Gingrich and that paragon of virtue, Rudy Giuliani — who lose their power to manipulate and fundraise as the voter block falls apart. ????John Pavlovitz captures something I have been wrestling with for the past several years. Never have I been more committed to following my beautiful Jesus Christ, and less committed to following a political party or the opinions of the religious right. True Christianity calls to us.

    • Along with many individuals who share the spirit and life of Jesus and John the writer of the original blog, I find that many of us hope for a true renewal of the message of Jesus–not by denying or hating anything or anyone, but to re-awaken the diversity in the Gospels (there are FOUR) and the resurrection narratives in their diversity remind us of the different views of the very meaning of the Resurrection–and what a Messiah was in the early church. Constantine did impose a conformity, set Christians against one another, and, pagan that he was–accused almost certainly validly–for murdering his wife and son (and Hillary’s emails are a flaw?–but you and I know it is irrelevant)–pagan that he was, he manipulated the “episcopoi” (of which he considered himself one [though not baptize])) into the political conformity his empire needed. But my point is the need to re-discover the complexity–the gray areas of the Spirit–and reject the worship of Religion (both among Evangelicals and too many Roman Catholics) that has, replaced the worship of God, our Father. I would hope a new moral authority from authentic followers of Jesus would animate the emerging new political parties–NOT religion–but goodness. I am with you, Gloriamarie Amalfitano.

      • Yes, Joris, we who are actual followers of Jesus, who have absorbed Matthew 25, for instance, need to take action now to hold the so-called Christian politicians who have been elected to political office to the social justice issues of the Gospel.

        I expect to be homeless withi9n a year, thanks to the GOP’s desire to end all rental assistance. I am disabled, handicapped, have a chronic illness, but i feel as if they don’t care because all they will see is that I am poor and therefore nothing more than something to be squashed underfoot.

  5. Something died- that’s for sure! Of course- I’m laughing… but let me tell you- it will take more than 3 days before what has passed away will be resurrected. This phoenix ain’t gonna rise again for quite a while!

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