The Idolatry of “Adjusted” Christianity
By Stephen Mattson
When Christians choose to further the agenda of a politician at the expense of promoting the Gospel of Jesus, their faith—and their witness—are devalued.
It’s one thing to have personal political beliefs and opinions. But when those political beliefs (and actions) contradict the teachings of Christ, we must decide which to honor. We can choose to abandon following the example of Jesus for the promise of secular power if we wish, but to do so under the false premise of Christianity is sheer evil.
When this happens, our reliance on the Holy Spirit is exchanged for legislative control, treasures in heaven are discarded for riches on earth, spiritual truths are exchanged for administrative policies, and executive orders are prioritized over the commands of Jesus. Instead of providing hope and joy, Christians become complicit in making the lives of countless people substantially worse—and the good news of the Gospel is replaced with fear-mongering, xenophobia, misogyny, and racist rhetoric.
This issue isn’t the exclusive provenance of Donald Trump. Anything that is idolized above Jesus is obviously a problem—but American Christianity’s prominent support of Trump and his policies might be one of the most clear and obvious examples of how adjusting Christianity to accommodate a specific person or institution can derail our faith.
The Christian rhetoric that helped elect Trump, and now supports his administration’s policies, is a macro-level example of what can happen when people co-opt their faith for the purpose of achieving agendas that are counterintuitive to being Christ-like. Whether it’s a celebrity, political cause, religious organization, or denomination, it’s easy to let our deep-rooted opinions and ideals overpower the central themes of following Jesus. For example:
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)
But substantial budget cuts will disproportionately hurt the poor.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
But nationalist fervor promotes killing our enemies through violent military tactics.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35-36)
But proposed changes to healthcare will reduce aid that benefits the hungry, sick, and imprisoned.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:2)
But we’ve denied refugees entrance into a safe haven.
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
But immigrants are scapegoated and deported.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31)
But foreigners are feared and hated, as our current administration tries to ban these our neighbors from our country.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. (Proverbs 12:22)
But truth has been repeatedly manipulated and abandoned.
Can you see how widespread Christian support of Trump and his policies can be seen, in fact, as antithetical to Christ’s teachings?
If large segments of Christians have proven themselves willing to cut healthcare for the most vulnerable, build walls to keep out our neighbors, deport immigrants and tear apart families, fear foreigners, kill our enemies, deny help for the poor, and prevent hope to refugees, how can that type of Christianity possibly be interpreted as good news? It’s not.
Instead, this form of pseudo-Christianity is perceived by a skeptical society as being hypocritical at best and evil at worst—and they’re right.
This form of pseudo-Christianity is perceived by a skeptical society as being hypocritical at best and evil at worst.
Christianity is meant to reveal God’s purpose for humanity, not destroy it. It’s meant to show love, not hate or oppression. This may seem obvious, but the subtle poisoning of Christianity is easy to miss, and we’re often unaware of the power of twisted rhetoric to influence our minds and emotions.
Our faith can always be tested by how well it exemplifies and reflects the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. How is mainstream Christianity faring in this regard?
Both conservative and liberal Christians are equally susceptible to the temptation to adapt their faith to promote earthly desires rather than divine inspirations. The best defense against such foolishness is to center ourselves in Christ. Jesus is the perfect example to follow, and if something doesn’t look like the life of Jesus, don’t follow it—and definitely don’t promote it.
May God help us to be Christ-like, no matter what, and may our love for Jesus supersede any political allegiance.
Stephen Mattson is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. You can follow him on Twitter @mikta.