This Isn't Christianity

What a January. From Insurrection to Inauguration Day, it feels like the longest month of my life, yet it isn't over. As I've been reflecting on the events this past month, so many emotions welled up – happiness, joy, frustration, confusion. Frustration seemed to get the best of me. This comes from the polarizing events in America that have waved the banner of Christianity when it has clearly been misrepresented. Long gone are the days when “Christian” leaders can hide in the shadows without denouncing such hate and rhetoric spewed by the outgoing administration. I'd like you to join me as I do a bit of self-discovery and try to understand why the far right chooses to use the guise of Christianity to unravel the ties of democracy in America.

I've been around my fair share of churches. Growing up Southern Baptist, hell, fire, and brimstone was a quintessential part of every effective sermon. Like every good conservative in 2008 (I was 16), Obama was the enemy – "who could blatantly support the killing of unborn babies, and, is he even an American?" These comments filled the halls of my high school, the walls of my church, and the dinner table late at night. I was an outspoken young republican, a true definition of "sixteen in the south." Looking back on my Twitter feed in 2008, I barely recognize the person composing those tweets over a decade ago. Fast forward to 2021, as a 28-year-old gay man who loves the Lord, my views have drastically shifted. Ironically, they've shifted because over the past 10 years, I've not only come to a deeper revelation of who Jesus is, but I've also experienced the transformative power of how His love can make an impact.

I'm still a very outspoken person when it comes to politics. I have aspirations to run one day. I also know the boundaries of spirituality and politics seem like a blurred line at times. We can often forget that while our moral compass and spiritual purviews guide us, Christ never aligned himself with a political party. 1 His politics were that of a Kingdom mindset. A mindset that is far beyond any earthly political battle. There is a lot to unpack here, but for far too long I've been asking myself why has Christianity been a bedrock guise of the Republican Party when the Democratic Party aligns closer to the values and lifestyle of Jesus? Fortunately for us, Christ didn’t concern himself with this. However, He did say to be 2 be imitators of God. From this, we can delineate how a Christian should act, engage with, and understand politics.

Everything starts with Jesus. Everything. To understand the why behind the mischaracterization of Jesus in politics, we first must understand the heart in which Christ approached people.

The Heart of Christ

As I began to think about who Christ is and the point I’m trying to get across, the book of Matthew paints the best picture. The message of Christ is simple, Grace and Truth. Those two points paired with His purpose, the Kingdom of God, is where the modern train of Christianity gets derailed. There’s not a better example than in Matthew 7 and The Sermon on The Mount.

'“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! ’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’‘

Matthew 7:13-23

Now, let’s not take this out of context, the real story here begins in Matthew 5 with the start of The Sermon on the Mount. Within the context of Matthew 5-7, Christ is essentially speaking to his disciples and a large crowd that had gathered about how to be Christian. This is the ultimate scorecard for what Christ began saying in 3 Matthew 7:15. This is an example to use when affirming our political leaders. While Christ doesn’t align Himself with a party, He does give us an example of how those in leadership should carry themselves. We are able to judge these leaders by the fruit of their life.

How Jesus became the Exploited Figure of the Republican Party

Before we go any further, we have to address just exactly how Jesus became associated with the Republican party – the elephant in the room. Although this may seem one-sided, Republicans were just the first to “claim” Jesus. They have somehow taken on the title of the “Christian” party. This fundamentally doesn’t make sense to me. Since much of the unchurched world associates the Republican Party with Christianity, I had to take a deep dive into how and why this is the case.

Abortion
Most think the modern rise of right-associated Christianity happened during Roe. v. Wade in 1973. This is only partially true. In fact, most of the evangelical community was indifferent about abortion before and a few years after Roe. In 1968, for instance, a 4 symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. They even endorsed birth control over abstinence in the same meeting.

Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell
Paul Weyrich was a power-hungry political activist in the 1970s who found a prop in conservative televangelist and friend, Jerry Falwell. The two had a thirst for the moral retention of "white America" and developing a "moral majority." “The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”

Weyrich was hungry for a platform to build the "moral majority." But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.

Jimmy Carter
During his Presidency in 1977, Carter was known for his more liberal-leaning Baptist views. This was especially true when it came to views of race. In 1978 the IRS proposed new 5 guidelines that would uphold certain tax status for private schools that refused to integrate. This was mandated by the Nixon Administration but upheld through the Carter years.

The far-right, predominately private Christian schools did not like this. At last, an issue for Weyrich and Falwell to stand on.

Bob Jones University
Bob Jones University — a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate and did not like Nixon's new 6 Tax Policy. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

Bob Jones University did, in fact, try to placate the IRS—in its own way. Following initial inquiries into the school’s racial policies, Bob Jones admitted one African-American, a worker in its radio station, as a part-time student; he dropped out a month later. In 1975, again in an attempt to forestall IRS action, the school admitted blacks to the student body, but, out of fears of miscegenation, refused to admit unmarried African-Americans. The school also stipulated that any students who engaged in interracial dating, or who were even associated with organizations that advocated interracial dating, would be expelled.

The IRS was not placated. On January 19, 1976, after years of warnings—integrate or pay taxes—the agency rescinded the school’s tax exemption.

On May 25, 1983, the Supreme Court 7 ruled 8-1 that the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had the authority to deny tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, Goldsboro Christian School, and other private and religious schools with racially discriminatory educational policies.

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As we enter the mid-1980s the Republican Party shifted and adopted the position of restoration of school prayer and opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, which the Christian Right believed would guarantee universal abortion rights and the right for homosexuals to marry.

The domino effect of the modern era has perpetuated a reality in which non-biblical truths are used for political gain. Not only do these falsehoods have no merit, but it also has undeniably hurt generations of Christians and those who have been affected by these non-biblical beliefs.

Current "Biblical" Rhetoric in Politics

Now, to the final point and purpose of this article. The rhetoric we are seeing in the United States today isn’t that of a loving God, it’s anti-Christ. The hatred, repulsive conspiracy theories, the senseless desire to go against the constitution, why has it come to this? I’ll go back to an earlier quote by Jesus himself, “You’ll recognize them by their fruit.” We have enabled men and women hiding behind the guise of Christianity to rise up and contort our faith to something that is not sound in theology, not based in scripture, and is definitely not reflective of imitating Christ.

With a new Administration comes a fresh start – an ability to ingest new ideas, new policies, and work for the American people. While the Biden-Harris Administration has shown their heart for America and for Truth, we still live in a divided country. Our politicians hide behind Christianity not because they believe it, but because that's exactly what voters want. We live in a society where it's ok to simply talk-the-talk without walking-the-walk. Should politics and Christianity agree? I don't believe that's the right question, because it will never happen. Should they intersect? They often do. It's our job to understand that morality cannot and should not be legislated, that's not how this country was designed. What we can do is vote for those who unite us and best represent the values we hold dear.

We are called to be imitators of Christ, to love, to find empathy and compassion within one another. The most radical thing we can do in our country right now is to have one-on-one, life-giving conversations that birth understanding and overwhelming grace.


Footnotes


Greater

Today I had to stop.

I woke up to the news of the Las Vegas shooting. Last week my heart was heavy for Puerto Rico. On a closer to home note, I was in a car accident over the weekend that left me shaken to the core. There seems like so little one can do while sitting at a desk, or watching from a screen at home. It's times like these we want to rush in and help to aid the situation. I've been struggling with the overwhelming sense of helplessness in the middle of all this chaos. What can we do? How can we help? I was reminded yesterday of a simple yet very hard lesson surrounding one word.

Love.

On TV it's preached. In referencing our administration and the U.S. as a whole, it's encouraged. But what does it mean? What does it truly mean to love – to share it, spread it, and ultimately live it?

This discussion comes down to one simple fact: In order to love, you must first realize that you are loved.

In order to love, you must first realize that you are loved. Click To Tweet

I can't help think of the ultimate example of love... For me, as a Christian, that example is Jesus Christ. I realize not everyone believes the way I do, so feel free to adjust accordingly. But Christ was the ultimate example of showing compassion and love.

We see so many celebrities and news outlets saying, "we need more love," or "love is all we need," which is true. However, how are we able to love our neighbor, our friends, or those who bring harm to us, if we ourselves aren't sure how to be loved? You could google "how to be loved" like I did. It will bring you to a wikihow page with 9 simple steps. Or we can look inside ourselves and realize we are all truly broken people. Once we realize this, it's easier to give grace and lend compassion to our fellow man. None of us are perfect and we are all in desperate need of love.

Today as we go about the news cycle and uncover new details about these tragedies; let's not forget that we ourselves are broken. Let's show compassion and love to those around us with the realization they are broken and in just as much need of love as we are.


Voting in 2016

On this election eve, I felt the need to address something that I've been thinking about for almost a year now. We see celebrities, politicians, our peers all say "go vote," "it's your civic duty," or "your opinion doesn't matter if you don't vote."

The reality is voting is your right and only that. It's not a duty, it's not a moral obligation – it's a right. If you feel conflicted whether because of religious or personal beliefs, no one should make you feel inferior for not participating in a voluntary act.

This election has been so heated and the American people are more conflicted than ever. We need educated voters to step up and vote. We need young people who believe in the democratic process to vote. We don't need those who are simply voting for "the lesser of two evils." Am I out of line for saying this? Does this go against everything America stands for? I don't believe so. Look at the Evangelical community, they didn't even turn out to vote in mass until the 1970's.

If you are at odds between the two candidates, it's ok, take a deep breath with me – it's going to be ok.

Personally, I feel there is a clear choice in this election. I was conflicted at first, but then I took a big look at a few key points that were important to me. This allowed me to go in, vote, and feel confident about my candidate. You might feel the same way but still be in the dark. It's ok. For those of you that are passionate about either candidate and are educated on the issues - VOTE. This is your time to represent your country and candidate using your right given to you by the United States of America.

I leave you with one of my favorite Roosevelt quotes:

A vote is like a rifle: its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.
- Theodore Roosevelt


Make America Great Again?

This weekend was a bit of a mess. I attended two political events that couldn't have been more opposite of each other. If you just landed here via social media, welcome, the next few minutes I'm going to detail my experiences at two different events for GOP frontrunners. I decided on a whim to attend Donald Trump and Marco Rubio rallies. Their campaigns announced last Thursday they were coming into town, so I took this as an opportunity to see them both live. Were they actually going to discuss this issues? Do they carry themselves the same way as they do in the media? Is Trump really that orange? All these things were going through my head.

My first stop on Saturday morning was Donald Trump. His event took place at XNA and was set to begin at 12PM. I arrived at 10AM only to realize they had already started filling the third overflow parking and had almost 2,000+ people inside the airport hangar where his event was set to take place.

Donald-Trump-1
Trump supporters waiting in line for a shuttle.

The crowd was diverse. It was nothing like I expected it to be. I would estimate about one-third high school/college kids, while the other two-thirds were families and adults. This was interesting to me that his campaign is no respecter of age/race/status, it was a very good mix.

Donald-Trump-3

Once inside I found my friend Tevin and begin to realize the extreme production value of this event. I have never seen something so well put together in the last minute. From media relations, crowd control, A/V – it was all excellent.

By the time 11A rolled around there were countless announcements, an endorsement from Mike Huckabee's daughter, the Pledge of Allegiance led by two Veterans, the singing of the Nation Anthem, prayer by a local pastor, and Tiny Dancer by Elton John played about 20+ times.

At 11:15A Trump's plane was in full view of the hangar to make its landing at XNA. At 11:37A his plane made a dramatic takeoff to the left side of the hangar while what felt like Hans Zimmer played in the background. About 15 minutes later his plane landed (for a second time) and taxied to the front of the hangar. Chris Christie and Donald Trump made their entrance and it was nothing short of fanfare by all.

Trump did best what Trump does best – Immediately started attacking Rubio. Trump is a MASTER marketer and it showed in the production of his campaign, and with everything that came out of his mouth. Every breath is calculated. If you think for one second he's a blabbering idiot who doesn't have a plan – you are very wrong. I went into this event with an open mind. I was genuinely excited to see what all they hype was about. I came out of that hangar feeling like I was in a scene from Welcome to Mooseport instead of feeling confident about the GOP frontrunner. Street vendors lined the side of the road as I made my way back to my car. It took a few minutes to realize what all had just taken place. Everyone in that hangar was convinced Trump is right for America. If his Presidency is anything like his campaign rallies...we're in for a long four years.


Fast forward to that evening. After spending the afternoon getting my tires aligned at BMW, I made my way to Emmanuel Baptist Church where Marco Rubio's rally was set to be held. The demographic was very similar to Trumps. A great mix of high school/college plus a large pool of 45+. Rubio was introduced by Governor Asa Hutchinson, here's a clip from their entrance:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tij6VXy1Okk&feature=youtu.be

Rubio was poised for a 10P rally and spoke relentlessly on key issues. He didn't belittle Trump, but he did disqualify his attempt at becoming the President of the United States. He spoke on issues of immigration, the important of preparing for future generations, and his heart on veteran affairs. There was even a point in the even where a protester started chanting "Trump, Trump!" Officials escorted the guy out of the room but not before Rubio said, "Don't worry, I'll cut his taxes too." It was refreshing to be in a room of positive energy. A stark contrast to Trump's event.

With all of that said, Marco Rubio has my vote. I had him picked from the very beginning. I'll leave you with his closing remarks of the evening that I found to be very inspirational. No matter who you vote for, you need to go vote. Regardless if you agree with me or not, show up and vote or your voice will not matter for the next four years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GTcqa0Jtm0&feature=youtu.be