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2 Ways Modern Republicans are Anti-Christian

I was seven when I saw the original Star Wars trilogy, and eleven when The Phantom Menace came out. To say that Star Wars had an impact on me would be one hell of an understatement. I was obsessed. Completely and utterly obsessed. I loved everything about those stories, and almost everything I wrote for over a decade was Star Wars fanfiction.

Like with Star Trek, Star Wars helped shape my views and opinions, and two of the things that affected me most were the Jedi Code and the statement Yoda makes in The Phantom Menace:

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

I didn’t fully understand what he meant as a teenager, but as I’ve grown I’ve come to appreciate the truth in this quote. Over the last few months I’ve come to appreciate it even more, as it’s been occasionally difficult to not let my justified and righteous anger over so much of what’s happened– police brutality, domestic Christian terrorism, the utterly depraved, utterly evil policies advocated for by Bush, Cruz, Trump, Carson, and all the rest– to not let that anger transform into hatred.

Hatred would be easy. Hatred would even feel good, probably.

But Yoda was right: hate leads to suffering. What’s become vividly clear to me, watching with nauseated horror this circus-cum-trainwreck, that the Republican party is deeply and terribly afraid– and that fear is leading to anger, and then to hate, and culminating in terrorist attacks and assaults and murders. People’s homes and churches are burning to the ground. Little girls are being attacked at school for wearing a hijab.

Many Republicans say they’re Christians; in my experience, they tend to be Republican because they think that Christianity is Republican. However, the modern Republican approach to many issues– from foreign policy to economics to domestic public health concerns– blatantly contradicts two Christian principles.

In the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy (if he wrote these letters, which is … doubtful), we find this passage:

 … I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God …  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling …

The context of this passage is one of suffering . Regardless of whether or not Paul wrote this to Timothy or some later person wrote it in Paul’s name to the persecuted church, it’s clear that the author of this letter was encouraging their reader not to be afraid. To live by their Christian principles (love, joy, peace, kindness, forgiveness), to use their Spirit-given gifts, regardless of what the people around them were doing or what the frightening consequences might be.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but the modern Republican party is wholly consumed by it. Fear is the driving force behind calls to only admit Christian Syrian refugees (just in case you think Trump’s the only one who thinks Muslims shouldn’t be let into the country, that was Bush). Fear is turning into barely-restrained panic, prodded and goaded by white supremacist, fascist, misogynistic, and homophobic rhetoric. Christians are afraid, and so they’re filing for Title IX exemptions that will allow them to discriminate against women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons while still receiving federal money.

We’re so very afraid, and we’re letting that fear dictate almost all of our political choices. We’re letting unprincipled men and women use that fear as a weapon to control us and maintain their power.

Fear is leading us to suffering.

But it’s not just fear controlling us. We’re being manipulated by lies.

One of themes woven throughout Scripture is that the truth will set you free: that Christians are supposed to value and love truth, that we’re supposed to be honest, that we’re supposed to condemn duplicity. Many of our Bible stories are about the consequences of lies and self-delusions, encouraging all of us to be honest about who we are and what we’ve done.

In fact, truthfulness and honesty are such bedrock Christian principles that the greatest antagonist of our faith is called the Father of Lies:

If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

We’re afraid of lower social classes, of black people, of LGBT people, of Muslims, of foreigners, and all of that fear is based in lies. We’re Christians– we’re supposed to love and accept the widow and orphan, the foreigner, the weak, the prisoner, and yet conservative Christians have gone out of their way to lie — with unbelievable impunity— about all of these groups for decades.

Read the common Christian propaganda about the AIDS epidemic from the 80s– it’s almost totally bald-faced lies, and the things that aren’t are still twisted half-truths. Or, for a more recent example, look at the videos the went viral this summer that claimed that Planned Parenthood is “selling baby parts” for financial gain. Carly Fiorina is still using this outright deception, and Ted Cruz is just thrilled to pieces with Troy Newman’s endorsement. If you don’t know who Troy Newman is, he argues that people who murder reproductive health providers are committing “justifiable homicide.” All of this led to Robert Dear shooting twelve people at a clinic– and a rapid increase in aggression and violence since the release of the videos.

Many Christians are convinced that the “only faithful Muslim” is a radical jihadist, that “true Muslims” are committed to killing infidels, and peaceful, loving, tolerant Muslims aren’t real Muslims. This is a lie. It’s possible to make any religion look brutal and violent– in fact, a straightforward, un-nuanced, un-contextual reading of the Bible (yes, even the New Testament has its problems) could lead someone to conclude that God wants his followers to commit genocide, since he commanded them to do exactly that repeatedly.

Or how about the despicable lie that transwomen are just looking for a way to assault women in restrooms? The truth– the truth that Christians are supposed to uphold and cherish– is that there have been exactly zero times that this has ever happened. Instead, Christians in Houston fought tooth and nail against allowing trans people to use the appropriate bathroom because of nothing more than fear and lies.

We’re not supposed to be afraid. We’re not supposed to lie. But, instead, it seems like modern and supposedly Christian Republicans are rarely capable of anything else.

Theology

American Christianity is broken

[content note: discussions of child sexual abuse, rape apologia]

Growing up as a Christian fundamentalist meant that I was supremely good at judging people. I could tell, usually with the briefest glance, exactly who was in and who was out. I could winnow out the chaff of liberal and “lukewarm” Christians in an instant, but I could also spot a legalistic Christian– untrimmed hair, no makeup, no jewelry– five miles off.

That skill hasn’t gone away simply because I’m a liberal now. I have to fight off the urge to circle a completely different set of wagons and refuse admittance to the people who don’t agree with me. My theology has changed, but the desire to keep a mental checklist of doctrines to compare everyone to is still there. I’m on the opposite side of the question, but the problem is that I’m still asking it, and it’s difficult to stop. I’ve been reading through Searching for Sunday again with my small group, and one of Rachel’s challenges is to have room for all Christians in your faith– even the Christians you really don’t want anything to do with.

I was getting more comfortable with the idea, slowly, but this last weekend threw a whole monkey wrench into that process.

For the first time in a long time, I am truly astounded by the depths of depravity that American Evangelical Christianity is capable of sinking to.

For years I’ve heard preachers make jokes about beating infants and breaking the arms of toddlers. I’ve heard calls for genocide. I’ve seen Christians blame natural disasters on innocent children. I’ve watched as our leaders remain silent and complicit amidst horrible abuse. I thought I’d seen it all. I believed there was a line– surely there was a line. Surely we couldn’t be capable of defending a confessed child sexual abuser. We couldn’t.

I was wrong. Turns out, yes, we can. Easily.

I didn’t go to church on Sunday because of how exhausted I was and because I knew that if I heard a whisper of someone defending Josh Duggar I’d start screaming. I still can’t quite process the idea that I could encounter someone who thinks that child sexual abuse isn’t that bad, that people like me are merely “bloodthirsty,” that we’ll do anything to make conservative Christianity “look bad.”

I am repulsed. I am absolutely stunned by the amount of stomach-churning evil pouring out of keyboards and mouths. These people– supposedly good people, supposedly faithful Christians– are defending a young man who crept into bedrooms in the middle of the night and groped and fondled little girls. If they’re not saying it was a “mistake” or a “childish indiscretion,” they’re calling it normal.

Normal. To thousands and thousands of Christians, child sexual abuse is normal. We should be ignoring this and moving on because it isn’t that big of a deal. They shrug their shoulders at something that should be making every single one of us pull back in horror. They’re saying things that should make good people vomit. Anyone making the argument that child sexual abuse is dismissible should make us grieve, but we’re not. Instead I see thousands of Christians nodding their head in agreement.

That is sick.

All weekend, I couldn’t help but think of I Corinthians 5:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Only now it’s worse. Now it’s a teenager attacking a five-year-old little girl, and we are just so proud of the Duggars. Look at how wholesome they are, look at how they espouse family values, look at how radiant and spiritual they are!

I read an article on Saturday that argued how it would be “wrong” for someone to criticize conservative Christianity because of this, but oh, I am. If the reaction from all these self-proclaimed “true Christians” is so utterly despicable, how am I supposed to rectify this with the notion that being “saved” means we have a relationship with Jesus, that we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, calling us to a more holy life? How is this possible?

There is something defective in American evangelical Christianity, something rotten in the core of it. We’ve created a culture conducive to almost nothing else besides defending predators and abusers. Right now, that seems like all we are: a way for predators and abusers to shout “do over!” and escape justice.

Photo by Rodrigo Parades