The Idolatry of "Adjusted" Christianity

Photo by Unsplash / pixabay.com

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

You May Also Want to Read

  • By Stephen Mattson More often than not, what Christians think of as 'patriotism' is what God defines as 'idolatry.' Jesus…

  • By Christie Purifoy What was true of King David and true of King Solomon has, in fact, been true of…

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!

11 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    Nice piece. It's a very serious problem for Christians — so few of us ever thing to say, "hey, I've actually been breaking the first commandment; I'm guilty of idolatry."

    You might be interested in my 2013 book which looks at this issue. I started thinking of ideologies becoming idols during the Bush administration and through the Obama years…it really is a serious spiritual problem. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1594713421/?tag=theanchoress-20

  2. richard jennings says:

    I wonder if you wrote any articles during the Obama years against some of his policies and decisions? He was a very big supporter of abortion, I believe to the point that he supported partial birth abortion. Or did you condemn him when our troops killed Osama bid Laden? I believe Obama also deported more illegals then any other president.. hmm. I find that most people on this sight to be very anti Evangelical Christianity and almost to point of shaming all that the church stands for.. Christianity is for the oppressed and poor.. But it is also a gospel for the rich and arrogant and wealthy. I don;t think there should be any difference. Trump wanting to create jobs is a good thing.. poor people need jobs and help welfare is good to a point I support it for those that need it.. But give a man or woman a job… so they can be a whole person. I think your views and outlook are as one sided as the so called evangelicals conservatives that so many people in this group seem to be ashamed of and berate.

  3. Dave C. says:

    Are you forgetting that the bible says that our leaders are ordained for God's purpose? Countries are supposed to have borders, just because we won't let someone in doesn't mean we don't love or care about them. Quit throwing around your liberal catch phrases and agenda, your opinion doesn't make you right.

  4. Alma jones says:

    I will always stand for the ones that love God .I believe Trump loves God .He may not live it one hundred % but at least we are hearing good things .I am not one bit ashamed and do not think that God dissaproves of it .I suppose these people thinks Hillary is righteous. Shame on people that are so blinded to the truth .

  5. Cynthia Joy says:

    How do you reconcile the left's politicians' lies to secure votes? Stealing from the working class tax payer and enslaving them to provide for their lifelong pensions and government appointments from which it is almost impossible to be fired as there is no accountability? What about how these "handouts" that the liberals promise to their constituents end up destroying our society and are making lazy, unproductive and often drug addicted citizens with ungrateful, entitlement mentalities who refuse to even provide for themselves and their own families, though they are able-bodied, making them "worse than unbelievers "? How can you not understand how the right would need a political Cyrus in the form of Trump? How can you be so absolutely obtusely out of touch? Perhaps you are not working a secular job?

    • Jonnie Magnus says:

      It seems like you are missing the point of the article, Cynthia. The point is not to say, "well the democrats are so bad" that the Conservatives are justified in their utter disregard for such lessons of the Christ as are revealed in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mathew 25:31). 80 percent of white evangelicals voted Republican in 2018. 90 percent of black evangelicals did not vote republican in 2018. What explains this divide between like-minded, religious people? It should be a seriously contemplated question for anyone that considers themselves to be a follower of Christ. Furthermore, the central premise of Christ's teachings is to serve your fellow man. Christ gave his entire life to the service of humanity. This is why the crucifixion is necessary – he had to give EVERYTHING, including his LIFE, to the example of service to humanity. To speak of "handouts" is very much un-Christlike. As it is to speak of "lazy" and "unproductive" "drug addicted citizens." Unfortunately your view points are neither isolated nor original, but they permeate a large portion of the right wing white evangelical landscape. To suggest that Donald Trump, a man who is up to his eyeballs in the seven deadly sins, is what the right wing needs now, is frighteningly misguided. I suggest that the political right should digest the words of Christ and the thoughts of this article's author before continuing down a hubristic highway. The rightwing evangelical movement seems to be currently lead more by a Nietzschean Will to Power philosophy than it is driven by the charitable teachings of Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.