In an era of “fake news,” “fake science,” and even “fake law,” I suppose it was inevitable the term “fake Christians” would pop up. On Twitter, it’s most commonly used as a means of criticizing Trump voters. As such, it’s of a piece with commentary from the 2016 election cycle asserting, for example, that Evangelicals are “political” as opposed to “really religious” (as if these things were entirely distinct or there were any such thing as apolitical religion). Even scholars such as the widely (and rightly) respected Randall Balmer, who should know better, have argued that, in terms of their voting, “Evangelicals are secular now,” a claim that is frankly absurd. If this is the kind of thing that gets you riled up, then you’ve surely observed the hashtag #FakeChristians and the acronym CINO (“Christian in name only”) on Twitter, but in case you haven’t, here are some examples of relevant tweets:
There are a lot of Christians out there who don’t want support for #IllegitimatePresident Donald Trump to define their faith. I understand them. I’m as outraged and disgusted as anyone that the white Evangelicals I come from are the demographic most singularly responsible for bringing us this nightmare presidency, and that they remain Trump’s most supportive demographic. Conservative Christianity in the U.S. is undoubtedly authoritarian through and through, and those of us who escaped from it have been sounding the alarm on this for some time. Does that mean, however, that we can dismiss as “fake” those Christians who understood voting for our incompetent, volatile, pussy-grabbing narcissist-in-chief precisely as a religious imperative? Spoiler alert: No. There are no solid intellectual grounds for equating Trump support with “fake” as opposed to “real” Christianity. Politically, such an approach may be cathartic. It may even be of some immediate tactical value in some engagements. But as the claim underlying this approach is patently false, I believe we will be better off in the long run without using it.
Before I get to the why, consider a few pro-Trump Christian tweets:
Who Died and Made You Chief Theologian of the Universe?
A modest proposition: while defining Trumpist Christians as “fake Christians” might feel good to the people who understand Trump support as a violation of their Christian values, this categorization is inaccurate from any empirical perspective. In other words, what represents “true” or “pure” Christianity (or Islam or Judaism, etc.) can only be debated within the discourse of the religion in question, that discourse being inevitably multivalent, tension-ridden, and subject to reinterpretation and internal contestation. Arguing over interpretation is part and parcel of text-based monotheisms. Put more simply, theologians and believers get to debate what the “pure” form of a given religion is; no one else does. However, there are no universally accepted grounds they can appeal to on which their contradictory metaphysical claims can be adjudicated, which means that, empirically, there is no such thing as a singular, timeless “pure” form of any religion. “Not so fast,” I hear an imaginary reader objecting, “Why can’t we make the argument from the religious texts they use and what we know of their founding figures?”
At the risk of appearing pedantically socratic, my first impulse is to answer that question with this one: “Have you ever read a text-based religion’s entire canon?” Even conceding for the sake of argument that we can leave aside centuries of theology and tradition for a sola scriptura approach, if you can e.g. read the entire Bible and come up with an objectively, empirically demonstrable, singular and entirely coherent “pure” interpretation of Christianity that is accessible and convincing to all, well… #SorryNotSorry but if you are able to continue thinking you have done this after putting your interpretation out into the world, you will have up and moved to #AltFactistan, because this is 100% not how religion works in the real world in which people live, read scripture, and practice their faith.
Think about it for a minute. If the question of what constitutes the “real” essence of a given religion were really so simple, why would history have given rise to a never-ending proliferation of groups with competing theological claims, all revering the same founders and professing allegiance to the same confession? When it comes to theological hairsplitting, if you want to spend your days parsing how many demons can dance on the bridge of Kellyanne Conway’s nose, be my guest, but don’t expect your answer to ever become universally definitive, even if you could somehow get a church council to ratify it.
I predict you’ll have precisely as much success trying to demonstrate definitively exactly where “religion” ends and “ideology” begins, something that e.g. Julie Goldberg simply assumes is self-evident, as so many others have done, in a recent piece for The Establishment. “Christianists,” as she argues, certainly do want to take dominion over America. I was raised and socialized to participate in their program of “taking back America for Christ,” and I’m always ready to emphasize the seriousness of the theocratic threat we face from conservative American Christians. But given that these conservative Christians understand their drive to take dominion as a theological imperative, why should we understand their religious worldview and goals as only “ideology,” at the expense of “real” religion? Goldberg does not tell us. For her, as for so many other commentators, the evident answer is that “ideology” is religion they don’t like, and “religion” is religion they do. This is intellectually sloppy:
In pointing out that this is an intellectually sloppy approach, I do not mean to impugn Goldberg’s intellect, or Balmer’s, or that of any of the numerous other commentators who argue from the same ungrounded set of presuppositions: that “real” and “political” religion (or “religion” and “ideology”) are distinct; that “real” religion is benign. The temptation to believe these things is powerful. Many of us want religion to be inherently good, and it can make for feel-good politics to reject fundamentalism as “fake” religion. But it is not. Religion is not anymore inherently good than it is inherently bad.
As a survivor of oppressive Christianity, I feel erased by claims that the Christianity I grew up with was not “real.” Let me tell you, I experienced myself as intensely religious well into my 20s, and I do not appreciate it when the Balmers and Goldbergs of the world tell me I was not “really religious” after all. Also as a result of my religious PTSD, I am naturally inclined to the position that organized religion, on the upshot, does more harm than good. I admit this may be my confirmation bias, and this claim would be very difficult if not impossible to demonstrate for the whole course of human history (although it is worth noting that the Abrahamic faiths have served as powerful vehicles for the propagation of patriarchy). The more salient point to my argument here is that harmful practices carried out in a religious context, as religious imperatives, do not stop being “really religious” just because they are harmful. This belief is nothing but wishful thinking and/or political expediency, even if many intelligent people cling to it, having failed to check their own confirmation bias on this point.
From an empirical, outside perspective–one informed by such fields as history, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, etc.–we must accept that there are a wide variety of Christian communities with competing theological claims. And since we have no universal grounds to appeal to on which to adjudicate these claims, we must accept these varied groups as Christian, as representing varieties of Christianity. We must treat religions as multivalent “cultural systems,” to use the classic terminology of anthropologist Clifford Geertz.
“But wait,” you will object again, “Are you saying Christianity is anything anyone says it is?” No, I am not. If I tell you that true Christianity preaches that every believer must stand on one foot for five minutes every weekday starting at precisely 3:27 p.m., except on Tuesdays, which are to be set aside for pouring out drink offerings of Unicorn Frappuccinos, you may reject my claim as “fake Christianity,” because this claim has absolutely no relationship to Christian scripture or any Christian community’s tradition or practice, either historical or contemporary. It is precisely the complex of such practices, traditions, and approaches to scripture that make up the cultural system of a text-based monotheism.
So What about the Bible?
But let’s juxtapose my #FakeChristian assertion that Christians must stand on one foot with the Christian case that good believers were morally required to vote for Trump. The crucial difference is that the latter case was formulated within a community, or more precisely a multiplicity of overlapping conservative U.S. Christian communities, that exhibit clearly defined religious practices and beliefs, the justifications for which illustrate that these communities have a clear relationship to the Bible. And what about the Bible, by the way? As a collection of books written over millennia, it does not hold together so neatly and tidily as many believe. Despite frequent protestations to the contrary, the Bible is often unclear and tension-ridden; there is in fact no such thing as a consistent literalist interpretation, or any consistent interpretation without some picking and choosing. So while you may try to make a case for better and worse interpretations from a variety of perspectives (from hermeneutic to moral to historical), the Bible is not going to be the “trump” card you want for your claims of #FAKECHRISTIANITY. Things are not so simple.
Consider the white Evangelicals. 81% of them who voted in the 2016 presidential election voted for Donald Trump, and today they remain his staunchest supporters. “Ah,” you will say, “But surely these are not the churchgoing Evangelicals.” To quote #NotMyPresident, “WRONG!” The latest Pew data have revealed that it is precisely the most frequently churchgoing white Evangelicals who are currently most supportive of #SoCalledPresident, so you can give up what was literally a #FakeNews narrative concocted by a mainstream media that simply refuses to face the extent of white Evangelical illiberalism. The Evangelicals who voted for Trump are the kind who in many cases send their children to Christian schools or homeschool them, who memorize Bible verses, and who practice daily “quiet time,” that is, a period they spend praying and reading a devotional gloss on scripture or the Bible itself. We must face facts: this group is a Christian community.
When these Christians read the Bible, what do they get out of it? For starters, they appeal to the narrative of the fall and the doctrine of original sin to support an extremely dark view of human nature, the kind of paranoid view that imagines any number of “inherently lustful” men might put on dresses and claim to be transgender in order to spy on women in bathrooms, even though there is zero evidence that this ever occurs (while the medical community’s consensus on the validity of transgenderism is unequivocal). This extremely dark view of human nature leads to a sense that fallible human beings must be subjected to strict discipline or moral and social chaos will result, which in turn serves as “justification” for these Christians’ willingness to use coercive law in order to enforce on all moral norms that are not shared by all and that have no secular justification. (This aspect of conservative Christian ideology is unpacked at length in my “The Russian Origins of the So-Called Post-Secular Moment: Some Preliminary Observations.”) This reading of the Bible leads to a sense that only Christians can be expected to behave morally at all, and comes with a concomitant rejection of pluralism (on which see this Twitter thread).
Do you think there’s nothing in the Bible that can be used to support such conclusions? If not, uh, have you read it? But, as the great American sage LeVar Burton was once wont to say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” I give you Romans 1:18-28 (NIV):
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
These conservative Christians, with their dark view of human nature, also find in scripture typologies through which to understand the world in terms of Providence and apocalyptic prophecy. This leads to what I call a “politics of Providentialism,” which entails reading the will of God into history and current events. Often it involves “recognizing” divine “blessings” and “punishments,” which believers of this sort insist can be applied not only to individuals, but also collectively to nations. One of the walls in my Christian elementary school was emblazoned with the phrase, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,” the first part of Psalm 33:12.
While the psalmist was referring to the covenant between God and ancient Israel, many contemporary American Christians believe the same type of relationship to exist between God and the United States of America. Thus they argue that if the U.S. “sins” by, say, removing officially sanctioned prayer from public schools, legalizing abortion, and/or legalizing same-sex marriage or passing transgender non-discrimination protections, God may punish the nation with some sort of catastrophe, or at least allow catastrophe to befall the nation by removing the “hedge of protection” with which God supposedly surrounds us when our nation is “obedient” to him (this version of God is always a him).
“But,” you will object, “How can such people claim to follow Christ and at the same time seek to deprive fellow Americans of healthcare and social support?”Many such conservative Christians would argue this is not what they are doing. Believing, as they do, in the inherent and indeed extreme corruption of human nature, and having a deep suspicion that such corruption will be expressed in a high degree in the secular state, which we can make into an idol if we’re not careful, they will argue that individual Christians and churches, and not the government, should provide for the needy. (Yes, this is utopian.) Some go further, either taking the road of the prosperity Gospel, in which health and material success are signs of God’s favor, or arguing, through an extreme interpretation of the Calvinist concepts of “total depravity” and “limited atonement,” that Christians are only to take care of other Christians. I don’t find any of this to be in the spirit of the Gospel as I read it, but nevertheless it is “real” Christianity.
So why Trump? Abortion is key. While many conservative white Christian Trump supporters are uncomfortable with some of Trump’s mannerisms and behaviors, they saw in him a man who would protect them and pursue their agenda, and he is following through. Indeed, #IllegitimatePresident is expected to sign an executive order on “religious freedom” tomorrow, and this EO will most likely allow for widespread discrimination against marginalized populations on the grounds of “sincerely held religious belief.” You may think that sounds contrary to Jesus as you understand him, but I hope that in what I’ve laid out above I’ve shown how such a thing can be “justified” from within authentically Christian discourse. What Goldberg calls “Christianism,” and some others call “Christofascism,” is a way of being Christian, although it is of course far and away not the only way. Nevertheless, I believe it is inevitable that such fundamentalisms will arise within the complex cultural systems that religions represent. Fundamentalism cannot be stamped out, and it is no use treating it as “not really religious.”
I could adduce many more examples of illiberal ways of reading the Bible in a devout community of regular Christian practice. I could also spend some time focusing on how to read Jesus in an illiberal way, something that many of the Twitter critics of so-called “#FakeChristianity” seem to get hung up on. Jesus, even as represented in the four canonical gospels apart from any other sources, is more complicated than those in the “religion is benign because religion is benign” school make him out to be. I may write a later post on the illiberal Jesus. But this post is long enough as it is, and, besides, at this point I have to get ready for this afternoon’s five minutes of standing on one foot, may it be pleasing to God.
50 thoughts on “About those Trump Voters for God? Stop Calling them “Fake Christians””
I was never thrilled with philosophy classes that argued esoterics, split hairs, (you get the drift here) and ultimately said they’d proved everything was its diametric opposite and nothing practical was meaningful. Had much the same eye rolling reaction to religious argument such as determining the number of angels that could dance on a pin. “Fake Christian” means someone who is not a Christian -that is, not someone who follows the teachings of Jesus and strives to be like Jesus- but claims to be one. It would make little sense to decide someone who made a mistake or didn’t live up to those teachings at times etc was a fake Christian; those who preach the gospel of hatred and ignore Jesus’ teachings consistently while claiming they are doing what he taught are quite a different matter. As friends of mine, a Reverend and spouse couple, said after the House AHCA vote and rose garden beer party celebrating falsehood/treachery/and funneling money from medical program to aid the poor into the pockets of the already fat from theft wealthy, Jesus spoke of people saying “Look what we did in your name” and being told, “I never knew you” and termed evildoers…and reiterated the story of the man who (in modern terms) paid for the medical needs of another not his class and not his religion who had been beaten and left to die.
I am not a Christian. I expect those who tell the world they are to live up to the basic tenets of their “profession” or make a very good try at it. Whether or not that is my “right”, patting them on the back when they mock their own basic tenets is a hypocricy-enabler I am not capable of pulling off.
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Thanks for the comment. I hope no one reads this piece as me “patting them on the back.” Hypocrisy, however, is a feature of fundamentalism, not a bug. And fundamentalism is an authentically religious phenomenon, but not the only way of being religious. There’s no single straightforward interpretation ofJesus’ teachings, either.
My concern is that if we fail to understand fundamentalist politics on its own terms, as an ideology comprised of real components of the “cultural system” of Christianity, we will not be able to combat it.
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Well said. I am tired of those who use Christ’s name to preach against everything he stood for. Those who claim to love G*d but not their neighbors love only the beams in their eyes.
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This is really fascinating and I definitely would appreciate an analysis of the “Illiberal Jesus” that you mention. I’ve definitely been saying “those who are supporting the President* can’t call themselves Christians” and I enjoyed this analysis and having my rather simplistic views challenged.
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Don’t want to get caught up in yet another political fray, but defining who is ‘in’ the flock,
and who is ‘out’ isn’t up to me, nor any earthly institution.Any community who claims that is their right is playing into the hands of authoritiarians (pharisees?) who love using The Law to cut people out of relationship with Jesus and his following. The final judge is the one defined
in Matthew 25. However, as a Lutheran, I believe and preach that we are saved by grace,
not by political identification… however, again I turn to scripture, Matthew 7: “you shall know them by their fruits.’ It ain’t up to me, but to the crucified one who called our my name in baptism.
Thanks for sterling observations about this particular American version of Christianity.
I would call them deceived Christians, and I say that as someone who was once in this club. We were easily led into grandiose fantasies of being mighty warriors for Christ in consequential times. It was so much more exciting than what we would rather not do, which is the dull and often ungratifying work of loving our neighbor and ministering to “the least of these.” That made us extremely susceptible to rhetoric from any conman that let us off the hook and gave us license to wrap in righteous garb an attitude that directly opposes what Jesus taught in pretty plain language. We would embrace that kind of useful rhetoric even from a conman as obvious as Trump, by telling ourselves and each other that in the case of Balaam, God spoke his will through an ass.
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Sorry, but going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Those 81% of evangelicals deserve the moniker “fake Christian”.
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Shannon, Stroop doesn’t say that going to church makes people Christian. The only requirement to be Christian is to believe Jesus is god, and we can’t ever know someone’s beliefs. If someone says they’re Christian, we have to believe they’re Christian, however horribly they behave.
That’s not true. You can determine if they are Christians by how they act. Even Jesus said about the Pharisees, “Do what they say, not what they do”. Jesus was, imo, saying Pharisees are fake christians. There are numerous Biblical verses that point out who and what fake christians are. They fit Evangelicals perfectly.
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And all those verses can be, and are, interpreted subjectively. Hence, all the different branches of Christianity. Also there were no Christians in Jesus’s day, and the historical Jesus was essentially a Pharisee himself, calling out others.
You touched on some of this, but there really isn’t a complete picture of Jesus in modern portrayals of Him. Part of the problem is that many Christians try to wrap their head around how a Jesus can go from calling a group of men “sons of devils” and viciously tearing them down with a Jesus that preached the sermon on the mount. Unfortunately the portrayal is too often the sermon on the mount Jesus because that Jesus is agreeable to all. There certainly are “fake Christians”, though, but identifying them based on their theology or politics is not really possible. Of course many of the people denouncing these fundamentalists as “fake Christians” are probably only loosely acquainted with Jesus in the popular imagination. Jesus was exclusionary at times, hostile at times, violent at times, as well as many other things typically imagined to be negative aspects of humanity(though each has a proper application)
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Thanks for your well thought out work, Christopher. I have a decades-long history of fundigelicalism which settled nicely into Evangelicalism, which I thought represented a balanced and unextreme and “biblical” position. So I’m no stranger to “searching the scriptures.” And judging others with a measure that I in no way could pass. That ended several years ago in an event that merits a blog. But I made peace coexisting in an assertive way with that population.
So when 2016 arrived with its escalating and boundary-pushing sexism, racism, isolationism and patriarchy, AND attaching “Christianity” to extremely and intentionally cruel behavior, I opted (most deliberately) to call it out, noting it (cruelty in Jesus’ name) as Evangelicalism, further clarifying that “Evangelicals are not Christians.” I almost always attach the tag “Matthew 25” or for brevity, “Matthew 25:35.” Because even the most Trumpian Christian must admit those words emanate from the object of our faith, and are far clearer and internally consistent than anything Paul wrote. Second, I use the clarifier “Evangelicals are not Christians” not because I believe it’s universally true, but to avoid encouraging hostile judgement to those who call themselves Christians and practice and teach distributive social justice and compassion. It’s a caveat to those who have never been inside this faith community to avoid painting with a broad brush those inside.
Thanks for your insight, Christopher. Now I have to go call out Franklin Graham on his “no way!” to POTUS releasing his tax returns, which I had not been aware of until now. Because if anything defines my practice of my faith now, it’s speaking truth to BS, and (trying really hard in) doing so with civility.
This is a great post, keep up the great work!
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Is this thread closed, or did my (long) post not go through, due to length?
Comments from new commenters have to be approved. I’m not always around. I see your comments as on the whole rather unhelpfully defensive (which is such a temptation for progressive Christians–exvangelicals are #NotYourMissionField). I don’t begrudge you what you have, nor do I see how I erase it. But I don’t want it. If you think I don’t know it exists, you’re very mistaken. But your urgent tone seems to indicate more that you think I should go out of my way to praise it. That looks to me like a lack of respect for my own moral autonomy. But of course, your comments are not trolling and not something I would censor. I just haven’t been on the back end of my website much the last couple of weeks.
I’m sorry you see them that way. In reviewing them (breaking them into 3 parts, when it seemed to be a question of length), I did see how my tone evolved from somewhat defensive at first, but more affirming over the length. I could have rewritten the entire thing, but being that I wasn’t sure the whole thing wasn’t going to disappear into the ether, that seemed beyond me!
“If you think I don’t know it exists, you’re very mistaken.”
Of course I know that you know the Episcopal Church exists—you’re probably aware of its doctrinal evolution. But in my experience “exvangelicals” (good one!) treat progressive Christians as exvangelicals themselves—but who, for whatever reason, failed to “completely evolve” (via reason) to atheism. Hanging onto the “opiate of the masses”, as it were. And I sense a continuing suspicion, that progressive Christianity [FWIW, I mostly claim to be a Jesus-follower these days, and have stopped using the word Christian] is still just Christianism…waiting to pull the rug out of the unsuspecting queer (no matter how many gay bishops, or Midwestern mayors marrying their husbands therein, e.g. Pete Buttigieg) we might have. I sense a disbelief that I can be a queer person-of-faith, and simply HAVE NO SCARS via my religious upbringing (sometimes I feel like I’m a unicorn that way—is there literally no one else?) Oh, and of course totally grok to the scientific method (evolution, climate change, all the evidence that humans are particularly self-destructive animals, and that God isn’t going to pull our proverbial bacon out of the fire, if we ignore the science that says we’re killing ourselves. That.)
…but speaking of which (humans, killing ourselves): to TRY to change that, I have to get back to—no, not praying the global warming, or racism away (anymore than The Gay)—campaign work. Election, 4 days away. GOTV! Have been using a “Text Out the Vote” app, that’s supposed to reach the kids today. ;-/ Pax et bonum, Chris!
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Far from all in the exvangelical community are agnostics or atheists. Many are authentically progressive Christians, and we try to build bridges between the two groups and discourage proselytizing either for Christianity or for atheism. Proselytizing is objectification, and we value moral autonomy. But we also have to process the awful Christianity that we lived. For some of us, that drives us out of religion altogether, and that is perfectly valid. It really doesn’t need to be taken as prescriptive or one-size-fits-all. At the end of the day, I personally think organized religion does more harm than good. But I see that there are healthy branches of it. I tried to be Episcopalian for a while, but it didn’t feel authentic, and now I also couldn’t do it because the denomination isn’t fully affirming and the Anglican Communion as a whole is awful, trying to keep a “big tent” with African churches that drive violence toward members of the LGBTQ community. But it’s great that most Episcopalians are affirming. It’s also not for me. As long as others respect my moral autonomy, I’m not here to tell them they should give up religion. I have my conclusions, and they have theirs.
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“As a survivor of oppressive Christianity, I feel erased by claims that the Christianity I grew up with was not “real.” Let me tell you, I experienced myself as intensely religious well into my 20s, and I do not appreciate it when the Balmers and Goldbergs of the world tell me I was not “really religious” after all. Also as a result of my religious PTSD, I am naturally inclined to the position that organized religion, on the upshot, does more harm than good.”
The interpretive key to your essay. Strip away all the bog-standard philosophy-talk and proof-texting [Romans 1:18-28: “Eek, see how bad REAL CHRISTIANITY is?”], and we’ve got your feelings: “feeling erased” by those claiming #FakeChristian (FWIW, I’m a “Christianist” user: I like the symmetry w/ “Islamist”).
Your feelings are perfectly valid, Chris, and I would never want to deny their validity for an instant. But two can play that game: MY feelings, that ex-Evangelicals (ex-Fundegelicals, ex-Talibangelicals, whatever’s the most vituperative term: have at it!), especially when the pendulum swings back to the other extreme of anti-theism (anti-religion, or “the position that organized religion, on the upshot, does more harm than good”) completely ERASE my experience of growing up in, and maturely claiming, NON-Fundamentalist faith.
[To be con’td.]
Of course, the disclaimer: the Episcopal Church in which I live, move, and have my being, never was, and still isn’t, perfect. Far from it. Existing in religious world of “Well, at least we’re not as bad as _______” will never be a particularly captivating sales pitch. We’re still finding predators among our clergy (and not all of them now old men).
But the thing about a non-Fundamentalist religious organization—as w/ any organization grounded in post-Enlightenment ideals, religious or secular—has *self-correcting mechanisms* which promote progress (“Progress, Not Perfection”, as we 12 Steppers say). In my 56 years in the Episcopal Church since I was baptized as an infant, I have seen its leadership structures open up racially (still much work to be done on that—though our current Presiding Bishop is African-American), via gender (ordaining women since the mid-1970s, and first female Presiding Bishop the past decade), sexual orientation (ordaining openly gay&lesbian clergy since the early 1990s) and gender identity (Trans-equality enshrined since the past decade). All of these things, well, FUNDAMENTALLY matter to the essence non-Fundamentalist religion.
[To be concluded.]
Yes, of course, your Franklin Grahams, et al, will simply dismiss *us* as FakeChristians! But the Episcopal Church’s way of doing religion, I would argue, is highly consistent w/ the way Anglican has discerned Truth since the 16th century (Richard Hooker’s “Three-Legged Stool” of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason). But I would furthermore contend that this way of doing religion didn’t really originate then, either. Most clearly in the Rabbinic tradition, the interplay of scripture, tradition, and reason are certainly apparent.
For those of you, mainly ex-Evangelicals, who’ve reasoned yourself to the position of “religion does more harm than good”, I can understand why you might want to lop off the scripture and tradition parts (especially seeing how quickly you went to a Text-of-Terror like Romans 1!). I’m not trying to argue you away from that. Simply, I want you to see more broadly those of us in the non-Fundamentalist communities, whose interplay of the three has enabled, nay, emPOWERED us to create something truly life-affirming, hope-supplying, strength-fueling, for the Journey. The journeys of ALL of us Imago-Dei—even if we’re non-White (thank you, Nancy Bolsom, for your OPEN racism!), non-male, non-straight, non-cis. THAT is something that your Franklin Grahams cannot claim. THAT makes their so-called “Truths” a LIE. And if it be True that God-in-Christ created queer little me, then THAT makes them #FakeChristians.
I agree, in a part of this essay:
Reblogged this on On the Road Again.
Fascinating! Sheds light on an experience I had a few weeks ago when two polite ladies (white, casually attired) approached me at the bus stop to ask if I had a spiritual background of any sort. (Yes, Roman Catholic). Who did I think Jesus Christ was? (The Son of God.) They deflected my added comment that people who believe in Christ should be heading to the Southern border to aid the suffering children in Border Patrol custody by telling me that good works alone aren’t enough to enter the Kingdom of God, but first you acknowledge and welcome Jesus Christ. What was my experience of welcoming Him in as Savior?
I rocked back a bit on my bench. I said “No, you must never separate Jesus from the Holy Trinity! He is the Second Person, God and the Holy Spirit matter too!”
They exchanged startled glances, assured me yes, that’s right, of course, but what they meant was did I ever, at any time, have a personal relationship with Jesus?
I was still a bit irritated that they dismissed the cruelty at the border. I told them I had been born a Catholic, had had the Sacraments of baptism, First Communion, and had been Confirmed. I felt I had a relationship with Jesus through these Sacraments. My bus arrived and I left them. As we drove off, I saw them talking to another waiting person. At least I had been calm during the encounter.
Now, this may be off-target, but I think Evangelicals put all the emphasis on Jesus alone, separating Him from the Trinity. That bothered me, as a former Catholic school student. And I will admit I’m lapsed when it comes to going to Mass, but it wasn’t the same without my parents to go with. Now, following the priest scandals, it seems impossible. Like other Christians I can pray to the Lord in private.
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Thank you for sharing this.
Thanks for your article. It disabuses me of my hope/prejudice that Christianity or any religion has any relationship to anything that I would consider good.
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