In a recent NPR interview, Russell Moore, author of Losing Our Religion, told a story about a pastor who preached a message from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. During his message, the pastor quoted Jesus saying things like “Turn the other cheek” and “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
After the sermon was over, a parishioner asked the pastor, “Where did you get those liberal talking points from?” The pastor said, “I was literally quoting Jesus Christ.” The parishioner responded, “That doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.”
As he reflected on that incident, Moore said, “When we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis.”
“A large number of American Christians no longer even try to follow the example and teachings of Christ. Instead, Jesus is too ‘woke’ for them.”
I concur with Russell Moore. America faces a religious crisis. Why? Not because American Christianity is in decline. But because large numbers of American Christians have jettisoned the spirit, example and teachings of Jesus. Numerous examples follow.
- Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” In that context, “stranger” meant immigrant. But today, many American Christians demonize immigrants and seek to block them from entering the country.
- Jesus said, “I was hungry and you fed me.” But today, many American Christians seek to cut programs for the poor and hungry, including SNAP benefits (food stamps).
- Jesus was a healer. He cared deeply about the physical health of all human beings. But today, many American Christians seek to cut health care to people, especially the poorest among us.
- Jesus taught his followers to avoid self-righteous judgment of others. But today, many American Christians viciously condemn the LGBTQ community with mean-spirited venom.
- Jesus respected women and believed they were equal to men. But today, many American Christians relegate women to second-class citizens who cannot serve as ministers and who must submit to men.
- Jesus constantly spoke about “the kingdom of God.” He taught that God’s kingdom transcends all earthly kingdoms and that God loves all people of the world equally. But today, many American Christians affirm extreme “America First” Christian nationalism.
- Jesus cared about the welfare of children. He once warned it would be better to “be drowned in the depths of the sea” than to hurt a child. But today, many American Christians refuse any and all efforts to protect children (and adults) from gun violence, which has become the leading cause of death among children and youth in America.
Other examples could be given. But the point is clear. A large number of American Christians no longer even try to follow the example and teachings of Christ. Instead, Jesus is too “woke” for them.
When I was a teenager, my church taught me to ask the question, “What would Jesus do?” and then to try to do the same. Today, a large segment of American Christianity asks, “What would Jesus do?” And then they do the exact opposite.
Russell Moore is correct. This is a crisis. And it needs to stop.
Martin Thielen, a retired United Methodist minister and writer, is the creator and author of www.DoubtersParish.com.
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