Is Christianity Helpful Anymore?

You’ve probably seen the ubiquitous meme floating around, or at one point or another you’ve posted or expressed the thought contained in it: I CAN’T ADULT TODAY. It’s the idea that whatever it is that is required of proper responsible grown-up human beings, one is simply not presently capable of it.

I’ve been a Christian for most of my forty-nine years, a pastor in the local church for twenty-two of them. And on far too many mornings recently, I’ve woken up, checked Twitter or watched the news or walked away from family conversations or church gatherings, and thought to myself, 

“I can’t Christian today.”

I can no longer be tethered to this thing that is so toxic and so painful to so many.
I can’t wade through any more bad theology and predatory behavior from pulpit-pounding pastors, who seem solely burdened to exclude and to wound and to do harm. 
I can’t sift through all this malice and bitterness masquerading as Christianity to try to find what of it is left worth keeping.
I can’t do any more facepalming while reading celebrity evangelist’s Tweets, or seeing the viral video of joyless people spewing racist fast food restaurant rants, while saying they follow the same Jesus I do.
I can’t apologize anymore for people who are willfully hurting other human beings in the name of a God they preach is love.

I can’t align myself with the human rights violations and overt racism and rabid nationalism that is defining Christianity in America.

If being a Christian, now means supporting openly racist candidates and excusing sexual assault claims and demonizing immigrants and worshiping America—you can count me out. You can keep that God.

Maybe you’re a Christian who understands this exasperation. Maybe you’ve had the experience of a thing you once felt at home in, suddenly feel like foreign soil; a religious worldview that was solid bedrock, suddenly begin to shake; stuff you knew that you knew that you knew—that you’re no longer certain of. You might be living in the tension of being associated with something that you suspect may be causing more harm than good. I get you.

I find myself in two battles lately. I am simultaneously fighting both with and for my faith tradition; some days working passionately to convince disillusioned people to stay there, and other days telling them to run, like it’s Godzilla about to squash them, because I know how much destruction it is causing, the way it is preying upon vulnerable people, the corrupt power it wields against the already marginalized. 

Given this, I find myself asking a question that I’d like to ask of similarly frustrated followers of Jesus: “Is Christianity helpful anymore?”

Not is it true or real or provable or noble—but is it helpful? Is it leaving a net effect that is redemptive? As we seek to be agents of compassion in the world, and as we interact with people who more and more don’t know the Jesus story—only the story they experience through Franklin Graham and Alt-Right Proud Boys and bathroom bills and Muslim bans—is claiming this faith now a liability?

Is the name Christian now so inextricably entwined with misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia that it cannot be untangled?
Now that it has been so politicized and weaponized by a political party for its own gain, can we ever hope to redeem it?
Have we lost the battle for the name of Jesus—with the wall builders and the homophobes and the white supremacists?
The answers don’t seem encouraging.

Not long ago I was having a Twitter exchange with a woman who said she was a queer agnostic. We were talking about the way Bible Belt Evangelicals have sold their souls and thrown their support behind unapologetically racist political candidates; the way they’ve bullied sexual assault survivors and demonized immigrants and made an idol of the flag—and I implored her, “Don’t be swayed by this! This violent, perverse thing isn’t Christianity!” to which she replied, “Actually John, it is Christianity. By and large, this has been my experience of Christians. This is the rule: all this venom and fear mongering and sexism. You’re the exception. You’re the outlier. You’re the strange one—your “heresy,” is why I like you!” In other words, the idea of an empathetic Christian, seems like an oxymoron to her.

I’m suspecting she speaks for many people in America. I imagine that more than ever, Christianity here is synonymous with bigotry and intolerance, which means compassionate, equality-loving, diversity-welcoming followers of Jesus may need to make a difficult choice. We may need to secede from this thing in order to fully live it out. We may need to lose our religion to hold on to our souls.

Honestly I don’t know if Christianity on balance, is helpful anymore. What I do know, is that the compassionate heart of Jesus I find in the stories told about him, is helpful—and urgently needed. The world can use more empathetic people, doing what they can to live outwardly, sacrificially, gently—and that’s probably the highest spiritual aspiration we can have: leaving people more loved than we found them.

I want to stand with the compassionate human beings, no matter where they come from and what they call themselves and who they declare God to be, because that is the most pressing need I see in the world. I want to be with the disparate multitude who believe caring for others is the better path. 

People don’t need any more heartless, loveless, joyless jerks, claiming they’re Christian while beating the hell out of them. It needs people who give a damn in a way that emulates Jesus.

When I leave this place, I’m not very interested that anyone declares me religious. I’d rather have them say, that to the marginalized and alone and hurting and invisible; that to the weary, wounded, tired people around me in this life—I was helpful.

 

Get John’s book, ‘Hope and Other Superpowers’ HERE!

74 thoughts on “Is Christianity Helpful Anymore?

  1. I was raised Presbyterian. I was sensitive and empathetic, and I thought it made me a better Christian. However, by the time I was 14, I had seen so much hypocrisy, so much exclusion, so much judgment of others, often for things they couldn’t even control. All I ever saw in my church was privileged people looking down on others. I don’t know if that was the norm in the 1980s, but that’s what I saw. At 14, I renounced it completely and have been an atheist ever since. I’m not saying the church itself was the only reason for this, but it certainly kept me from feeling any regrets about my decision.

  2. Christianity is not helpful anymore. Christians are haters, bigots, homophobes and transphobes. They see to create a theocracy and have the ability to discriminate against the people they hate. Its why I left religion and I will never go back.

    • Not only is it not helpful, it’s hurtful. Christianity simply doesn’t work. Period. And the youth of today are figuring that out. Religion is on its way to the grave. Good riddance.

    • Well I’m happy to see you’re seeing it. I’ve been around 50 and was first made to feel furious over Christianity at age 6, going to church with neighbors. My mom tells the story. But the last sentence from 45 years ago went something like “if this is how everything is set up i don’t want to live in this world.”.
      I railed against Christianity for years, but i always felt like Jesus was compelling me to not abandon him because of what his followers had done and do. Turns out it wasn’t Jesus but the s Spirit. When it tells you wordless truth such as it does no one in the world can tell you it was a lie. So i looked for good in it. Mom directed me to scripture that was quoted from Jesus even outside the nt . In my opinion there’s more righteous scripture in what wasn’t canonized in the nt. And things took on a different flavor. My heart relaxed to Jesus, and my attention turned to Christians.
      It was only through Gotama’s teachings that i was able to see Jesus. And more notably what you guys call the Spirit. So i have my own understanding through the spirit of what Jesus was and did. Powerful and beautiful.
      I’ve only met a handful of Christians in my life that had any connection with the spirit much less Jesus. I blame the of most that on guys like you, the ones preaching to them. I’ve sat in plenty of time in random c churches in Sundays. Never once heard one of you guys even speak about the commandments. Non harming, or what you guys reduced it to, not to kill, for instance, never mentioned. If you respect his word not only do you not take others lives, you don’t endorse war or those gone off to fight them. You don’t support Capitol punishment or police violence. No, all the commandments might as well be made of excrement for how adverse Christians are to following them. They come on Sunday, have a pleasant little talk, and go back to doing whatever they want, all talk of ethics forgotten. Instead talk in support of destroying destitute families at the borders, hollering about black folks protesting racial inequality by taking a knee. And, in my opinion, one of the top contributing factors that leads to this behavior is your thing with Jesus dying for your sins. By saying you accept Jesus as your savior you are cleansed and forgiven of anything you do. You’re going to heaven no matter what. And that’s a lie. If you can’t help them to see that Jesus only saves them if they live a life devoted to actually practicing His teachings, they’re going nowhere. No way. Jesus saved us by giving us the teachings we need to save ourselves. No one or nothing else is going to do for you. Make them uncomfortable. Urge others in your position to do the same as leaders. Cut the shit.
      I’ll say it again. Most of the people supporting the treatment of those suffering folks struggling for asylum at the border, destroying families, destroying children’s lives until the day they die, are god damned Christians. And i mean that literally when i say God damned because they are. Damned. And that’s partially on you.

    • Not all Christian people are religious. Not all Christians are Trump supporters. I have never wanted to be seen as religious but I want to be seen as a follower of Christ. I want to do my best to emulate Him and to love like He does. I fall far short but I will continue to try. I have NEVER been able to see the justification of supporting a man that is so removed from Christian values. It has broken my heart that people I love so dearly can think this is okay. But you know what? Jesus lives in my heart and I can forgive but I can’t be a part of it. I feel if I do I am betraying the Man Jesus I love and follow!

  3. I whole-heartedly agree, however, it begs the question, if Christianity did help, how would it help us/me?

    It seems like they see help as either conversion or monetary loss.

    So many Christians think they are “helping” when they shame others (especially LGBTQ) into “believing”.

    They think they are “helping” when they minister to people of other faiths and tell them they are wrong.

    They think they are helping when they see someone else as less than and offer charity when that person was content in their life/lifestyle choices.

    And then somehow despite their insistence to the contrary (especially this time of year) when people reach out their hands and say, “please help me I’m…sick, poor, hungry., etc.” They refuse.

    Usually because things like jobs, food, and healthcare cost money. People just need to face facts. Christianity is not helpful as long as it is political, and as long as it remains that way, it is no longer Christianity.

  4. How sad you have looked at humans and not the creator of the universe. God has given us His Word to live by so that we live a life that pleases Him not our selves or others. Study your bible and seek the Lord while He can be found. All wisdom comes from Him He is truth. Nothing else is He has said you are either for me or against me. Which are you?

  5. There are no Christians. No one follows the teachings and examples of Christ. Jesus said,” If you love me, keep my sayings”, “Those who do not keep my words do not love me” , “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that procedeth out of the mouth of GOD”. The words of Christ include, “Do not build up treasure (Money) for yourself on earth”, “Sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me”, “Keep the commandments”. In short, no one in America does this? He said, “Love your enemies, Do good to those that hate you, pray for those that , despise you”, “Resist not evil”. No one in America does this either? The list of his words and teachings goes on and on but every self proclaimed “Christian” does not follow these words of Christ. They use Christ to push there own agenda and enrich themselves. They do not consider the lilies of the field or fowl of the air. I have never met a Christian but I will continue to search for one.

  6. My faith is very simple, focus on Christ, period. Everything else is just politics. What I take away from your blog is you’re really focused on politics and very little on the Bible. Without the Bible you’re tilting at windmills. If you focus on Christ all these other issues will take care if them selves.
    Bible Believing is all you should be preaching otherwise you’re part of the problem. Sure these issues are important, hiwever, the main focus of Christianity is Christ, otherwise you have nothing. And you can talk about the issues just relate them to scripture.
    I live in the Bible Belt, actually the buckle of the Bible Belt, and your representation of this area is laughable at best, offensive at worst. Im not from here I lived in California for 45 years and left.
    Your blog, at least the one I’ve read, is more politics than Christianity. We don’t enter heaven by brownie points wwe enter by believing in Jesus as your personal savior.
    Also to see someone heading down a sustructive path and doing nothing but help instead of showing them the truth is not productive in any way.
    If you were to say, “This is wrong” and “Here is the scripture that shows it to be so” I’m with you. Everything eilse is opinion.
    Truth is what every Christian should be searching for. But you have your way and I believe differently. Good luck with the book.

  7. You absolutely ARE helpful! You turn a feeling that is unbearably damned into something real and respectable. Thank YOU! I am learning to love myself again but I have to stay away from the guilt mongers (Christians). I complied with the requirement that I “be confirmed” in order to NOT have to ATTEND church 30 years ago, as even then it was confusing to me. They seem to always teach one thing and do another.. always have, always will. They are FAKE. I applaud you for your honesty. I am not an atheist. I believe that God, is the source of EVERY soul, human and animal. Yes that means that I believe I am a piece of God. No religion needed.

  8. “I CAN’T CHRISTIAN TODAY.”

    If that’s how you think, then you aren’t and never were a Christian to begin with.

  9. With over twenty years as a very sincere, bible-believing Christian now appearing thirty years distant in my rear-view mirror, I say no, on the whole, Christianity is not helpful. But hateful Christians are not completely to blame. The blame falls on any part of any religion or spiritualism that is not true. Think of all the times your faith has failed you. Ever notice that “a crisis of reason” is not part of our lexicon?

    Many find religion and its rituals comforting, and they wonder why any would have a problem with that. But the problems are apparent to all who pay attention to the discomfort and unease that you, John, describe. It springs from the separation, shame, and rational dissonance that is inextricably woven into much religious practice. The most thoughtful practitioners can become exhausted by the continual mental contortions and denials of internal truths required to keep from outgrowing their “comfort box”. When one recognizes this, it can take a lot of courage to act. There is often much to be lost.

    What I find most helpful is the truth. Determine for yourself the most meaningful things you truly, honestly, know. Honesty is key here. For me, it’s 1) Life goes on (not my life, necessarily, but Life). 2) The only constant is change, and 3) Kindness is the most important thing. I can find in the first two all the comfort and groundedness I need. My personal rituals help here, too. (working, walking my dog, playing with children, sharing meals and chores with my wife…). The third gives me purpose. No matter how poor, weak, talentless, or dumb I may be or become, I can always strive to achieve kindness. It is my measure of success.

    Anything else is distraction, including branding oneself a “follower of Jesus”. Just as the Bible presents a conflicting, relatively worthless guide to marriage, the Jesus story too is conflicted.We don’t need Jesus as THE primary inspiration because we have millions of others to choose from. You, John Pavlovitz, are one example. Jesus was a revolutionary with a voice. So are you, today. He had a heart for the weak, poor, reviled—just like you. There’s no need to twist yourself into “believing” Jesus was magic. He didn’t bring the dead back to life, walk on water, or perform an encore to his burial by flying into the clouds with gaping wounds in his hands, feet, and side. Just like you, Jesus wasn’t without sin. He could be thoughtless and rude to his mom and dad (“What, you didn’t know I’d be at my father’s house?”), throw tantrums, and be self-centered with his friends (While on the Mount of Olives he could’ve said “I need a little alone time. It’s late, you guys go back to the hotel and I’ll see you tomorrow at breakfast.” Or even, “You guys wait here, grab a little shut-eye if you can, I’ll be back”, not berate them for succumbing to their exhaustion when it doesn’t make a bit of difference what they do when the angry mob actually shows up.)

    This is not to say we should ignore the Bible or any other book. But ultimately, it’s simple, really. Just Be Kind. Unlike Christianity, kindness will always be helpful. Notice it in others around you. Practice it. It will never have a bad name, and you’ll never have to explain yourself.

  10. Your self justification doesn’t justify wrong actions– Let’s face it you are doing the same things as those you criticise — by being a friend to one person a bully to another, encouraging one person and condemning another.

    I get it you are angry but self justification has always been a poor excuse for spiritual abuse.

    Promoting hatred of a deplorable, despicable, horrible and cruel person is still promoting hatred and inciting others to hatred.

    Unfortunately you think this is a war to be fought with words but the change of heart that is needed happens through a relationship with God not through cursing the wicked.

    You are a leader and have more responsibility than the people who listen to you.

  11. You know, all you ever do is complain. Have you had a single blog about how great Jesus or the Christian Faith is without your standard “no one else but me a a few are actually doing it right?”

    I guess you can take the boy out of radical reformation fundamentalism, but not the fundamentalism out of the boy. It just changes to fit a different ideology with the same naive need for purity. “No Church is pure enough! I’ll start my own! Buy my book!”

    I’m sure you’ll just say you’re like an OT prophet…oh wait, the God of the OT is bad or something…..so whatever. Respect Judaism, but not it’s God, unless it fits what I like then he’s cool, so I like most of the prophets….unless they get violent…and maybe if they talk about the poor, but not when they condemn other religions, and blah, blah, blah. Just admit you’re not remotely religious at all because there’s not a remote concept that God could truly be in conflict with your sensibilities.

    If the Faith Jesus started is so bad, just find something else will ya. Here’s a list to get started. I hear Wicca is nice for people who like to do their own thing. With a pantheon to choose from you can also find the deity that meets your exact needs!
    https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions

    Or be secular atheist, move on with you life, and stop whining.

  12. I will continue to fight back against those who have made “Christian” a bad name. I’m not surrendering my faith to their hate.

  13. “Is Christianity helpful anymore?”
    It is not meant to be. Christianity is not therapeutic moralism, nor is it about human progress. It is about the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus’s first sermon, according the the gospel of Mark, was an announcement that the kingdom of God has come. For more info, check out “Living in God’s Two Kingdoms: A Biblical Vision for Christianity and Culture” by David VanDrunen.

  14. I need more than a one-way reading this. I need a dialogue where I can rumble with this pain. I’m a black and blue-leaning evangelical in a red state, which politically and religiously leaves me homeless. Do you have a virtual forum or platform for discussion where people can air this alienation without abandoning our witness to be change agents for Jesus?

  15. Well you got quite a few things right including jesus is *just* a story. A good one to be sure, but fiction none the less. From searching the lack of credible historical references to seeing how his story is the same recycled messiah story from over 30 other religions, you eventually figure it out. Instead, how about just being a reasonable more person simply because its good ? the world works better that way, everyone has better lives. no greedy motivation around the promise of if you do good in this life you can another one afterwards so you better behave. What a powerful tool to manipulate people with. Get them to put up with misery and suffering and for the promise you’ll be rewarded on the back end of the deal…and we should all know how that works out by now. find the truth.

  16. Long ago, I was a fundamental Christian, loving the gospel of love and the hymns. I too saw the hypocrisy, and even lawbreaking, especially from the leadership. That leadership was almost all white and all male. Women were secondary. They did a lot of damage to me and others. I also saw people who were to my way of thinking true Christians. Perfect, no. It truly practicing the gospel of Love. They were helpful, as you put it.

    I left and found my spiritual home elsewhere. Are we perfect, no. But on balance the personal connection with the realm of Spirit and with others is, as you put it, helpful.

    Best wishes.

  17. John, thank you for the compassionate and passionate nature you have. I and my wife have left religion totally because it has turned out that it has never really been truly helpful. My exit was a result of seeing the result of religious fervor in Islam. My wife left religion because she found her reasoning could not balance the teaching with the preaching. We now see all religions the same: perverted human institutions with no accountability, intending only to control and mold individual thoughts.
    The moral fables told are useful and the characters used are relatable, but the bible simply does not hold up under objective scrutiny. Mysticism does not address real problems.
    We are certainly not alone in our conclusions.

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