A segment of American Christianity has been hijacked by politics and a few Loud Voices.
If you landed here from Mars and listened to some of our most prominent Christian speakers, you would be quickly convinced that Jesus started His church with a primary goal of stopping abortion, immigration, and homosexuality. And very little else.
Jesus spent 33 years on earth. He was well-known for dining with some of the least-desirable members of society. And He was criticized by the elite church people, the Pharisees, for doing so.
He also preached that we are to love God and love one another. This exhaustive list was not followed by a fine print disclaimer detailing exceptions.
Love one another.
That's it, go on home.
In Jesus' day, the law dictated the death penalty for various crimes, including adultery. It was carried out by getting a gang together and stoning the person to death. They only stoned women for adultery.
Jesus famously intervened in one such stoning. The Pharisees tried to trap him by asking his thoughts on whether adultery was okay, or whether the woman in question should be stoned.
Jesus wasn't trapped. Rather than answer their either/or question, He said that whoever was without sin should throw the first stone. Perfect, blameless, sinless? Then go right ahead. (By the way, Jesus could have thrown a stone if He had so chosen, based on the qualifications He laid out. However, He did not.)
Then He waited until all of the mob dropped their stones and walked away, ashamed. No stones were thrown.
The story illustrated that not only are we to love one another, but we are to show mercy and not judge and vilify those who do wrong.
Jesus, literally the only One qualified to judge the woman, did not do so. He told her to go on her way and to sin no more. He didn't condone what she did, but He forgave her and saved her from a painful, humiliating death.
In contrast, the Loud Voices of today, vilify those with whom they disagree, those who don't look like them, or those who sin in certain ways that are less palatable in their eyes than, say, financial malfeasance, political corruption or discreet sexual sin.
In other words, I am a sinner, but my sins are forgivable. Your sins, however, are not.
The Loud Voices not only judge they also convict and they do so harshly. They do so without referencing Biblical words or stories like the Prodigal Son, the attempted stoning of an adulteress or even Jesus' words from the Cross about the men who were killing him. 'Forgive them, they don't know what they're doing.' These stories all showcase God's mercy and compassion.
More likely if they point to a scripture passage at all, it's cherry-picked from an Old Testament book like Leviticus and taken out of context to make justify their points. The Westboro Baptist Church gang is an extreme example of this sin.
I just read a review of two recent non-fiction books. The headline of the review was 'Why Evangelicals Support Donald Trump.' Since I have been asking this exact question for 3 years, I was hoping to get an answer.
Alas, there is apparently no real answer in either book, so I will not bother with them. But one did reference the broad-brush approach the media and politicians take to Christianity.
In much of the media, 'Evangelical' = 'Christian' = 'Protestant' = 'Conservative' = Republican. If challenged, which is rare, they cite the overwhelming statistics showing that many Christians identify as conservative, evangelical, and Republican.
The Loud Voices will say outrageously blasphemous things about politicians they support or oppose. They participate in manipulative photo-ops laying hands on the President in the Oval Office. Some call him a chosen one. They pray, not for our nation or its people, but for the end of the unfair 'persecution' of the chosen one.
Their chosen one.
The media, absent any audible pushback, assumes that 'Christians' all believe what these Loud Voices say. That the Loud Voices speak for all of us.
They don't speak for me. Much more importantly, they don't speak for Jesus either.
I believe in Jesus, who was not a politician. His message of love and acceptance is antithetical to the policies of most governments, not just the current American one.
Jesus was a refugee Himself. If you know Jesus, can you really believe that He would condone separating children from their mothers and putting them in cages?
Or that He would say, 'YES, great idea! That'll discourage them from leaving their miserable countries and coming to ours.'
No, and No, He would not.
There are Soft Voices out there. You can't hear them because of the Loud Voices, but also because their message isn't incendiary, sexy, or even new.
It is these Soft Voices that speak for Jesus.
The Soft Voices that say, 'Forgive them, they don't know what they are doing.'
The Soft Voices that say, 'In this world, we will have trouble but take heart, I have overcome the world.'
The Soft Voices that say, 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...' and 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
The words of the Soft Voices have been out there for 2000 years. They are not 'news.' But they are the right words to answer the questions we continue to get wrong as a nation, a society, and a world. And even as a church.
So, if you are able, turn down the sound of the Loud Voices that often distract, confuse, divide and mislead us. The voices that rouse you to anger against others. The voices that cause you to justify hating, judging and shunning others.
If you can turn it down, you'll be able to hear the Soft Voices. The ones that are telling you the truth. The ones that speak for Jesus. His way is the right way.
Remember this when a loud voice comes on television and anoints a human being as rants about politics. Or rants against someone who disagrees with their positions. Then ask yourself if Jesus would say or do the same thing.
If the answer is no, change the channel. Better an empty-headed sitcom rerun than a demagogue misleading the faithful and justifying the denigration of our fellow human being.
Thank you for reading. Have a wonderful day. God bless you!