The False God of Conservative Christianity

By Stephen Mattson

There's a religion whose savior was a refugee, yet it rejects refugees. Whose God embraces sojourners, yet it deports immigrants. Whose parishioners worship someone called the Prince of Peace, yet they defend violence and are pro-war. Whose hero was an ethnic minority, yet they're complicit in white supremacy. Whose Christ was unlawfully arrested and killed by a governing empire, yet it has become nationalistic and oppressive. Whose ultimate model for behavior preached selfless sacrifice and lived humbly, but now its followers idolize political power and carnal wealth. There's a popular type of "Christianity" that wants nothing to do with Christ other than to use His namesake to promote its own agendas.

There's a popular type of "Christianity" that wants nothing to do with Christ other than to use His namesake to promote its own agendas.

This religion often calls itself "Christianity," but its love for Jesus has been substituted by an obsession with obtaining political, social, and economic power. The fruits of the Holy Spirit have been replaced with xenophobia, bigotry, racism, hate, and fear. And the words and actions of Jesus have been weaponized into vague platitudes of "Christianity" which look and act nothing like the person of Christ. 

The god of this Christianity isn't Jesus, but is a political ideology that worships power and control above all else. And this Christianity's enemy isn't Satan, but is anything and anyone deemed "liberal." Instead of following the words and actions of Christ, this Christianity has idolizes leaders whose words and actions are contradictory to those of Jesus.

Jesus loves everyone. We know this because Christ instructed his followers "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12), and by stating,  "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:36-40). The strength of your faith can be determined by how loving it is towards others. 1 John 4:8 says that "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."

The strength of your faith can be determined by how loving it is towards others.

Christianity should be centered upon love, not on carnal power. Jesus loves Christian and non-Christians, Jesus also loves immigrants, "illegal" immigrants, refugees, and "foreigners," Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, and Communists. Jesus loves every person regardless of their race, religion, gender, or creed. Jesus died on the cross for all of humanity. But due in part to an obsessive political allegiance, loving others has become nearly impossible for too many Christians.

Instead of loving their neighbor as themselves, oppressive legislation has been a hallmark of some Christians' religious practice: deporting immigrants, blocking refugees, limiting asylum, banning foreigners, prohibiting gay marriage, expanding massive incarceration, increasing global military operations, vilifying the poor, stripping environmental protections, widening voter suppression, and spewing widespread rhetoric that's bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, ethnocentric, ignorant, and racist. 

Where is love, joy, peace, patience, and self-control? Where is mercy, generosity, grace, or kindness reflected to anyone—and everyone?

The rise of a politically-centric "Christianity" reveals what happens when nationalistic and partisan ideologies are prioritized more than the love of Jesus. Evil often masquerades itself as faith, but you can identify this farce by the significant absence of Christ. Instead of centering itself on Jesus, it relies on political power, fear, and religious hyperbole, which quietly replaces the living person of Christ. Thus, when this Christianity is idolized, truly being like Jesus becomes demonized. 

But being Christlike is more important than being Christian—Conservative Christian, or Liberal Christian, or any other "type" of Christian. Jesus is God incarnate, the perfect representation of holiness. Jesus, not any form of Christianity, is who we would should strive to emulate.

God help us. 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 Love never fails.
~1 Corinthians 13:1-8


Stephen Mattson is the author of The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ.

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Comment policy: ESA represents a wide variety of understandings and practices surrounding our shared Christian faith. The purpose of the ESA blog is to facilitate loving conversation; please know that individual authors do not speak for ESA as a whole. Even if you don\'t see yourself or your experience reflected in something you read here, we invite you to experience it anyway, and see if God can meet you there. What can take away from considering this point of view? What might you add? The comments section below is where you can share the answers to those questions, if you feel so moved. Please express your thoughts in ways that are constructive, purposeful, and respectful. Give those you disagree with the benefit of the doubt, and assume they are neither idiots nor evil. Name-calling, sweeping condemnations, and any other comments that suggest you have forgotten that we are all children of God will be deleted. Thank you!

8 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    Although I agree in principle that what is today sold as " Christianity" is often lacking the character of Christ I am not sure I completely agree with your assessment. My understanding is that not everyone will be allowed into the kingdom of God but only those who desire to leave their old lives behind and embrace a whole new way of living (repentance). If you( I am not American) desire " a nation under God" surely there should be some checks and balances governing who should be allowed to reside in the country. In is not loving the the people who live here in peace if you allow people in who are known to be terrorists, or violent, or subversive.

    • Adelheid says:

      We are not a nation under any god. We have separation of church and state, and that is to protect both the church and the state

  2. Ken Lauer says:

    Yes, this is a serious problem that is rarely appreciated.
    Where are people who practice the teaching of Christ
    Oh I know monastics do, and I am a big fan since discovering
    Trappist monk Thomas Merton
    But where to find others willing to live according to the very clear
    teaching of Christ, the RED LETTERS.

  3. Linda McMillan says:

    Do you have something to say? Because this is kind of generic, tepid. Nothing new here.

  4. Matthew Lee says:

    Yes, your love for others is so evident in the lazy epithets you hurl at them. I can just feel the love, Stephen.

  5. Matthew Lee says:

    What about this from your own website?

    "How can we listen respectfully in order to truly see and know those we disagree with rather than vilify and dismiss each other?"

  6. Ruth Jewell says:

    Stephan, excellent article. Those who engage in a false Christianity have made me angry, but, mostly sad. They have missed the message. Yet they are continuing a nearly 2000 habit of worshiping Jesus rather than following Jesus. It is difficult to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, much harder than turning him into an object of veneration. The early disciples tried, and failed, by the time of Constantine they had created a system of rituals and liturgy that placed Jesus on a pedestal and his message of social justice, compassion and love in a box. I have been conducting with friends a "What If" conversation. What if the early disciples had refused to enshrine Jesus and instead imitate his actions? What if the early church had imitated Jesus and instead of building great cathedrals and beautiful rituals had fed the homeless, cared for the widow and orphan, and welcomed the stranger? How many wars would we have had? How many children would have lived to be amazing artists, doctors, scientists? What would the world look like today if, just if, Jesus' message of justice, compassion, and love was the rule not the exception? I am amazed at the number of people who look at me and have no answers. I am saddened by people such as these false christians and pray for them. I pray and hope, and pray some more that somehow, someway, my What if questions will be answered. Change will only come when we as true followers, not worshiper, change how we hear the message and let go of the pedestal.

  7. Dennis says:

    So, my question is this: Given all that is said about Jesus in this article, are we somehow supposed to govern this country as a theocracy under the lordship of Christ?

    Or, are our civil servants, doing a civic duty, just suppose to act in accordance with the Constitution and uphold the laws of this country?

    If we're gonna be a theocracy under the Lordship of Christ, then by all means, let's get busy evangelizing, and winning every heart in this country for Jesus.

    But, unless we're all agreed that this country is a Christ-centered theocracy, then the "marching orders" for Christians to do things like feed the poor, care for the elderly, and so on, is for Christians to do – not the US government, with the tax dollars of everyone else (unless everyone else votes to do so).

    To be honest, I hate this kind of politicizing of Christianity, as much as I hate the kind that the author rants against.

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