On Pseudo-Christianity

I have long said that if a person cannot, will not, or does not follow the words of Jesus, then that person cannot call oneself a Christian. As Christians, we are called to imitate the way Jesus lived and to follow his words. Short of doing that, a “religious” person who attends a Christian church cannot claim to be a Christian. At best, he or she is a church-goer.

The president this week “disagreed” with Jesus’ lesson to us to “love our enemies,” and he doubted the faith of those who say they pray for their enemies. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-politicization-of-the-national-prayer-breakfast-is-unholy-and-immoral/2020/02/06/529518e4-4931-11ea-bdbf-1dfb23249293_story.html) Jesus said for us to do that, most starkly in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, the president rejected the words and teaching of Jesus as his “enemies” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Mitt Romney listened,

It has been interesting to listen to people marvel at African Americans voice forgiveness for the persons who have killed their loved ones. The most recent example of a black person forgiving someone was Brandt Jean, who publicly forgave the white police officer who shot and killed his brother as he sat in his own apartment. (https://www.npr.org/2019/10/03/766866875/brandt-jeans-act-of-grace-toward-his-brother-s-killer-sparks-a-debate-over-forgi) His act did not endear him to many; in fact, many Christians – black especially but others as well – have scoffed at Jesus’ directives to forgive, to “turn the other cheek,” and to treat enemies with respect.

But if the truth be told, had not the words of Jesus been pounded into the psyches of black people, we as a people would have been long gone. We did not have any support for our lives and our rights – not from white people, not from the system, including Congress and the US Supreme Court, and we did not have the same access to weapons as did white people. Nonviolence saved protesters on the street; struggling to “do” the words of Jesus saved the souls and spirits of protesters as they continued to fight their enemies on a daily basis.

In a book I wrote some years ago, Forgive WHO? The Struggle to Obey God’s Awful Command, I examined this directive given to us by Jesus. It is as distasteful as it is difficult. It makes one feel weak because the natural human inclination is to fight stones with stones, and yet when the playing field is so uneven, it is a given that the powerful have more stones they can access, and therefore to wipe out their opposition.

The power of Jesus’ words is their ability to empower and strengthen people, who show a weird love – the love of God – and stand in front of their oppressors in spite of their pain and anger. It is doubtful that anyone “forgives” his or her enemies right away; that seems humanly impossible, but the words of Jesus become seeds in bruised souls and begin to sprout even as the victim of evil works to breathe through their pain. The act of forgiving first helps the one who has suffered an attack or affront from any number of sources. It is the highest, most supreme show of strength one can exhibit.

Those who do not, cannot, or will not forgive display what hatred and anger and resentment does to one’s spirit. The president is an example. He only wants revenge; the desire is eating at him, so intense that even in a “prayer breakfast,” where supposedly devout Christians have gathered to honor God, he cannot hold his pain within him, and he openly disavowed the words of Jesus the Christ.

And the Christians-in-name-only applauded him and laughed, which says at least to me that something is awry in their souls as well.

There is much confusion about forgiveness. Forgiving doesn’t mean you become best friends with the one who hurt you (no need to set up a time for “tea and crumpets), but it does mean that you lose the visceral reaction you experience when you even think of what the person has done to you. It frees you even as your abuser drowns in bitterness and anger.

What we have seen this week in this president and in the religious nationalists is a love of power, not of Jesus. We have heard – and will continue to hear and see – his words of anger and contempt for those who he deems as being his enemies, and he will spew his venom all over this country and everything he touches.

He and others might claim to be “Christian,” but they cannot be. They adhere to something that can only be called “pseudo Christianity,” something which has no foundation and teaches nothing about how to be one’s best self in the face of abject evil and attacks.

Those who fight with fists claim that they are strong. Dictators, who cannot stand to be criticized or challenged, and who kill and/or destroy anyone who does either, also claim to be strong,  But their quest for absolute power, and their willingness to put God and the instructions for life given by Jesus the Christ on the periphery of their lives, makes them the weakest people of all.

A  candid observation.

What WOULD Jesus Say?

Sometimes, I find myself wishing Jesus would come to earth for a few days and clear some things up.

He could probably settle a lot of the confusion that swirls around him.

It would be interesting to see how he looked, and what he would say about pictures that have him with that long brown hair.

But mostly, it would be interesting to get his take on what he reportedly said.

This little diatribe comes on heels of my reading a comment on a blog, “Unedited Politics,”  which had put President Obama’s recent speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on his site. One of the comments said something to the effect that Jesus wanted individuals to help poor people, that “social justice makes Christians lazy.”


The person who made the comment  referred to the Biblical passage found in three of the Gospels, where Jesus says to people around him, in response to their ire at a woman anointing his feet with some very expensive oil, that “the poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” That passage is found in Matthew and John as well.

Someone had apparently lifted that passage of scripture as proof that Jesus is a supporter of social justice, i.e., societies helping the poor, and the writer of the comment took issue, lifting up the “social justice makes Christians lazy” jewel.

That comment has bothered me all day. It reminded me of how the late Strom Thurmond once said, in acknowledging that Jesus advised us to help and love our neighbors, that Jesus would certainly allow us to “choose our neighbors.”

I know from having studied how the words of the Bible have been manipulated in order to keep certain power relationships intact – meaning the Bible’s words have been used to justify sexism, racism, militarism.

But Jesus’ words seem so…obvious. How is it that anyone could think that the words of Jesus do not mandate us to engage in social justice, to take care of each other, the “least of these,” as he said in the Gospel of Matthew?

The late Derrick Bell writes, in Faces at the Bottom of the Well, that racism is permanent, that it will never go away. That is a sad and sobering thought, but if the words of the One who was sent to teach us about the love of God cannot or are not interpreted uniformly, perhaps Bell is right.

I guess it makes no difference that people in the Bible were always under some kind of oppression, so a mandate for social justice would make sense. From the beginning, there was always a “we” and a “them;” oppressors included the Egyptians, the Assyrians, Babylonians,Persians, Greeks and finally, the Romans. In times of prosperity, the people of God would forget their God and go after the pagan gods, trying their best to fit into that society. Always, the oppressors would take economic advantage of the oppressed, but the oppressed, instead of turning back toward the the Hebrew god who had led them through the wilderness, would turn toward those whom they could see and aspire to be like them.

It spelled disaster for God’s people, if the Bible is to be believed.

I have heard people reject what seems to be a god who turned away from his people because of their apostasy, but goodness, is anything in the Bible sacred, beyond convenient translation and interpretation?

If a person can interpret the words of Jesus in such a way that would make social justice not a central part of Jesus’ message, then what is sacred? What WOULD Jesus say?

I wish he’d come for a visit, if just for a few days.

A candid observation …