Commentary
By Stephen Mattson 7-03-2018

Countless American Christians spend thousands of dollars traveling to impoverished countries on missions trips, taking photos of themselves surrounded by “locals” and participating in numerous service projects. Reminded of their wealth and privilege, these parishioners will return to their churches and report on the inspiring faith of those who live in squalid conditions, and pay lip service to serving “the least of these.”

But once back in America, these very same Christians will adamantly oppose having “foreigners” as neighbors, loathing the idea that they could possibly be allowed to cross into the border of the United States seeking a better life. So while they post pictures on social media of themselves surrounded by poor children and holding babies they personally cared for, they’ll post nothing about the children and babies being separated from their parents at the border.

Instead, they’ll share rants about the morality of following government-sanctioned laws and reiterate the importance of national security. Meanwhile, they’ll join their congregations and worship a God they claim has lavished unwarranted grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love upon them. Singing lyrics like “I couldn't earn it, and I don't deserve it, still, You give Yourself away, Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God…”

These same worshippers regarding immigrants, refugees, and foreigners: “they didn’t earn it, they don’t deserve it.”  Praise songs will continue to be sung in honor of a savior whose own family fled to Egypt as refugees. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost, but now am found…” But regarding non-Americans who dare to imagine saving their own families by creating a new life in America: “Ban them! Deport them! Build the wall!

This blatant hypocrisy has the audacity to promote citizenship is heaven while simultaneously denying people a citizenship on earth. The Christian promises of a better — eternal — life, and an end to all pain and suffering, seemingly doesn’t extend to those who are seeking a better life right now.

This cruel duplicity, whether intentional or not, is how Christianity, a religion espousing charity, morality, love, joy, peace, and kindness, has devolved into an institution of greed, power, hate, racism, violence, oppression, and injustice. For those wanting to follow the ways of Jesus, “Christianity” has become intolerable. It has become the antithesis of the God it claims to represent.

What does it profit a person to gain the economy, the stock market, a legislative victory, or to build a worldwide empire ... but lose one’s soul? For many observers, church services, sermons, hymns, and evangelism has become not only idolatrous — serving a nationalistic agenda rather than God — but even dishonest. Unfathomably contrary to the actions of those who spew it, hordes of Christians say “I love God” but hate immigrants, refugees, and refuse to help the neighbors they are called to unconditionally love.

Despite numerous opportunities to prove that Christianity is good for society, generous to the poor, a help for the victimized, and a safe haven for the downtrodden, it has not only failed to do so, but in many cases has contributed to the evils it claims to oppose. Instead of proving to the world that Christianity can prevent and alleviate attacks against humanity, it has fostered them.

For many, the religion of “Christianity” has long been this way: a tool used to rationalize and enact slavery, internment camps, incarceration, segregation, xenophobia, gender inequality, racism, violence, oppression, and injustice.

If you feel hurt and upset by all of this, good, because that’s a sign of spiritual awakening. You might be experiencing a holy anger similar to the person who overturned temple tables, rebuked religious leaders, and called for a traitorous revolution against the ruling empire of his day. Eventually, Jesus was arrested and crucified — legally — for such actions. Christ’s opponents sought to overcome him through the machinations of political power, a state-run legal system, and populist fear.

But Jesus gained victory through selfless love, and this is the hope we must cling to: Jesus is the same person today —still working through this radical love. God promises to be “near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Although “Christianity” has failed, Jesus hasn’t — and he never will. He loves the immigrant, the refugee, the oppressed. He loves us, and loves even our greatest enemies. Whichever path is the most loving is the way of Christ, and the way we must choose.

To their credit, there have been faithful communities who’ve followed Jesus by resisting evil and passionately defending the cause of the voiceless. Their gospel of good news hasn’t become co-opted by political rhetoric or opportunistic greed, but has been centered on the life and words of Christ.

Find Jesus. Sit with Jesus. Follow Jesus. When all else crumbles, He will hold and comfort you, eventually guiding you forward. This is what Christianity was and is: Jesus. despite large portions of Christians appearing more like the Pharisees than the Good Samaritans, Jesus is still working, even through us — vessels of brokenness — to fulfil his greatest commands: to love God and love others. May God help us to go and do likewise.

Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ. You can follow him on Twitter (@mikta) or on Facebook.

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