According to Pew Research, 88% of members of Congress identify as Christians. This raises some interesting questions: How are the Christians in Congress acting? In what ways are the Christians in Congress acting that are not Christian? How should we apply the saying of Jesus, “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”?
Given the state of Christianity in the United States, a Congress where 88% of the members are Christians may not be healthy for democracy. If what we’re seeing there is Christianity, I would like to return my ticket to heaven.
What if being Christian is more than counting heads and calling the roll? The Pew report counts the number of Christians on the basis of self-declaration. If a member of Congress states she or he is a Christian, that’s all that’s necessary to check the box. It feels, however, sort of like counting the 375 people who claim membership in my church, when only about 55 of them actually participate.
“When the seven cardinal sins are treated as the seven lively virtues of Congress, we should know we have a problem.”
There are legitimate quibbles with the idea that the supermajority of Congress is Christian. A Christian Congress that promotes the vices instead of the virtues creates questions about the amount of Christianity in the claim of being Christian. When the seven cardinal sins are treated as the seven lively virtues of Congress, we should know we have a problem. Greed, anger, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy and lust dominate the headlines pouring forth from the halls of Congress.
A Congress that has enshrined lying as a political virtue doesn’t make the cut as Christian. While some members of Congress have made the amazing discovery that “lying sells” and “lying works,” others simply have ignored the reality of the lies that now cover the place like a heavy fog.
Rep. George Santos of New York, elected to Congress with a resume filled with lies, has spent his first days in Congress sitting alone. The rest of the Congress has ignored him, but they haven’t suggested he face a hearing with the Ethics Committee. Santos learned if you tell enough lies, enough big lies, they become so huge as to be so absurd that they must be ignored. His lies were too big to face expulsion.
“How odd that conservatives now use arguments that have become cliché even among liberals.”
In an odd way, this is what now passes as Christianity. No matter what egregious act a member of Congress does, there’s an outburst of defense for him or her: “We are all humans. Nobody is perfect. It’s not like he killed anyone.” How odd that conservatives now use arguments that have become cliché even among liberals. It is as if a person can sin, everyone can know it, and then all the good Christians will forgive that sin with no accountability. Somewhere Dietrich Bonhoeffer is saying, “Cheap grace.”
Perhaps we would be better served by an Aristotelian Congress than a Christian one. Aristotle had 12 political virtues for the good citizen. For nostalgia’s sake, take a look at Aristotle’s 12 virtues: Courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, magnanimity, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, shame, justice and modesty.
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that humans are rational and social animals who seek to “live well.” He also argues that the person who possesses excellence of character will have a tendency to do the right thing at the right time and in the right way. Thus, he puts forward a system of ethics to achieve eudaimonia, commonly translated as “happiness” or “human flourishing.”
What should a Christian do about immigration? On the Republican side, immigration policy is not likely to end well for immigrants. Yet in Leviticus 19:34 a command from God about caring for immigrants suggests that many members of Congress are not in the mood for this kind of magnanimity: “As a native among you shall be to you the sojourner who sojourns with you; you shall be loving to him as (to) yourself, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
“Those who assaulted the Capitol two years ago may have had Jesus on their banners and flags, but there was nothing Christlike about their actions.”
Then there’s the matter of the January 6 insurrection. Those who assaulted the Capitol two years ago may have had Jesus on their banners and flags, but there was nothing Christlike about their actions.
Christians in Congress are attempting to treat January 6 as an act of patriotism. Annie Gowen, in the Washington Post under the headline “Supporters Raise Millions to Rebrand Jan. 6 Rioters as ‘Patriots,” describes: “For nearly two hours, about two dozen people on a group Telegram livestream cried, read Scripture, listened to hymns — and prayed fervently for defendants in jail facing trial for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U. S. Capitol.”
“We pray for unity in those cells,” said one of the group’s leaders, a woman named Aida. “Get close to them, Father God, to protect our brothers.”
These actions are Christian actions, but the underlying cause of these actions is not Christian. The supporters of the prisoners see the defendants as valiant patriots, prisoners of conscience persecuted for engaging in their First Amendment rights. Evidence contradicting this misinformation has been overwhelming but has done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the group.
Since 2021, January 6 defendants have raised more than $3.7 million on the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, …. And millions more have been raised by umbrella groups in the name of the “patriots.” The amount of money raised has more in common with the heresy of the Prosperity Gospel than it does the Christian faith. In any event, this is just a fantastic moneymaking opportunity.
January 6 insurrectionists have more in common with the rebels of the Confederate States of America than they have with Christianity. The Confederates also insisted they were Christians. The Confederates were defending slavery. They did so not only in war but also with Scripture.
“Southerners were convinced the Confederate States of America was a Christian nation.”
Southerners were convinced the Confederate States of America was a Christian nation. They viewed the Confederacy as a refuge for the godly amid the “infidelity” of the Union to which they once belonged. Southerners fought a war they believed would prove God was on their side.
This mentality is clear in the Confederacy’s decision to adopt the Latin phrase Deo Vindice (“With God as our defender”) as its national motto. The leaders of the Confederacy had no qualms about claiming God had uniquely raised the South up to do God’s work in the world. Christianity held an exalted and powerful place in Confederate culture. This didn’t make the movement Christian.
Aside from the insurrection, Christians in Congress have a twisted view of patriotism. That members of Congress would profess to be Christian nationalists and would include the Pledge of Allegiance as a Christian credal statement is a sure sign that such Christians no longer know how to recognize idolatry.
The “Christianity” represented by some members of Congress is not, in fact, Christian.
Patriotism is not a Christian virtue. Will Campbell wrote: “I believe God made the St. Lawrence River, and the Rio Grande River, and the China Sea and the English Channel, but I don’t believe God made America, or Canada, or Mexico, or England, or China. Man did that. … It is doubtful that there has ever been a nation established for bad reasons. Nations are always established to escape tyranny, to combat evil, to find freedom, to reach heaven. Man has always been able to desire to build a heaven. But it seems he has never been able to admit that he didn’t pull it off. So he keeps insisting that he did pull it off. And that is really what patriotism is all about. It is the insistence that what we have done is sacred. It is that transference of allegiance from what God did in creating the whole wide world to what we have done with a little sliver of it. Patriotism is immoral. Flying a national flag — any national flag — in a church house is a symbol of idolatry. Singing ‘God Bless America’ in a Christian service is blasphemy. Patriotism is immoral because it is a violation of the First Amendment.”
Perhaps the most galling lack of Christianity among Congressional Christians is the growing shouts for revenge against Democrats. There are already calls to impeach President Biden, warnings of new investigative committees and a removal of Democrats from committees for no reason other than getting even.
Many of the Christians in Congress look more like the hyper-Calvinists running the political show in Puritan New England. Baptists, especially, will remember that this is the bunch of Christians who expelled Roger Williams from the colony in the dead of winter to an almost certain death. Williams was “saved” by a group of “pagan” Native Americans.
Our democracy, formed under the auspices of a kind, distant deist God, never was intended to be a Christian nation. The God that appears on our money and in our pledge is a harmless god that serves the nation and is not related to the Christian God who raised Jesus from the dead.
The United States is not a Christian nation, and the actions of Congress to vote for the ambitions and moral arrogance of people claiming to be “Christian” is shameful and dangerous. I gladly oppose this kind of Christianity.
May God save us from a Christian Congress like this one.
Rodney W. Kennedy is a pastor in New York state and serves as a preaching instructor at Palmer Theological Seminary. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released The Immaculate Mistake, about how evangelical Christians gave birth to Donald Trump.
No, Pastor Jeffress (and others), America is not a Christian nation. And here’s why it matters | Opinion by Andrew Daugherty