Conservative White Christians Need the Real Jesus Too

Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism in the United States have hijacked the traditional, orthodox Christianity of 2,000 years ago and replaced it with a 20th century, All-American, man-made, counterfeit Christianity that reduces the faith to little more than a simple mathematical formula:

Personal Sin + Repentance + Faith in Jesus = Salvation

Because the fundies are so focused with deep tunnel vision on evangelism, they conveniently forget that there is much more to the Christian faith than just evangelism alone and this simple formula. To use a real estate analogy, the above formula is just the entrance gate to the expansive estate of the authentic Christian faith.  While the Christian faith does include this formula, the authentic Christian faith is far more than just this formula and this formula alone—and the words and deeds of Jesus, the Gospel writers, and the authors of the other books in the New Testament make that crystal clear.

Somehow, it seems that the fundies are never able to receive this basic message, and they actually seem to be both dead and blind to it—given the way they hate so many people in the name of Jesus and how they regularly mock and belittle the vital threads of love, mercy, and compassion that run so true through the New Testament—and how they ignore or only give passing lip service to the many other New Testament scriptures that round out the full estate of the authentic Christian faith. The house and grounds of the Christian estate are the heart, mind, and Spirit of Jesus that is supposed to dwell in all who truly follow him, and they lovingly compel us to go forth into the world (as Jesus himself did) to manifest that heart and mind, not just by words, but by actions of love, compassion, mercy, kindness, and real help shown to our fellow man and all of God’s creation. Jesus said: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8). I firmly believe this scripture aptly applies to the American Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals of today. It is readily apparent in much that they do and say on the American stage.  For all practical purposes, they have become lost to the full estate of the Christian faith and stand holding only the simplistic, formulaic gate to the great and expansive estate of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

One of my favorite Christian writers is Reverend John Pavlovitz in Raleigh, North Carolina. John is a loving Jesus follower who understands that there is far more to the Christian estate than just its front gate alone.  John operates a popular Internet blog entitled Stuff That Needs to Be Said.  Please read the reprinted and slightly edited article below by Reverend Pavlovitz and get a good feel for the wider expanse of the authentic Christian faith that the Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, especially the white American ones, widely ignore and even scoff at in much that they say and do in this world.  (Scroll Down)

Conservative White Christians Need Jesus

by

Reverend John Pavlovitz

outstretched-arms-photo

Conservative white Christians need Jesus.

But not the one they’re always selling, not the one they love to preach about so loudly, not the one they trumpet from the stage and the platform and on social media.

They don’t need the walk the aisle, say a prayer, and get out of Hell kind of Jesus. That Jesus is too easy. That Jesus requires no further work. That Jesus is convenient and accommodating to their lifestyle. That Jesus allows them to leave no more different than when they arrived. That Jesus serves them salvation on a silver platter and asks nothing in return.

The Jesus these Christians need is the Jesus of the Gospels—the one who gets all up in your personal business; the one who turns over tables in the sacred temples of your greed and hypocrisy; and the one who demands that you give half a damn about the poor and the hungry around you—enough to give all that you have for their care.

They need the homeless, poor, dark-skinned, foreigner Jesus who shunned opulence, denounced power, and defended the marginalized, so they remember where they came from and where they’re supposed to be walking toward in this life.

They need the Jesus who said:

 You cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

They need the Jesus who said:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

They need the Jesus who said:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

They need the Jesus who said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

They need the Jesus who:

Healed on the Sabbath—to remind them that hurting people matter more than showy religious pageantry.

They need the Jesus who:

Dined with the street rabble—to remind them that privilege and position don’t denote moral worth.

They need the Jesus who:

Washed filthy feet—to remind them of the holy ground of humble service.

They need the Jesus who:

Prepared a meal for the multitudes—to remind them that we feed people not because we believe they deserve it, but because they’re hungry.

The cosmic vending machine Jesus who saves us from damnation isn’t enough for these Christians.

This Jesus isn’t transforming their hearts or their neighborhoods or the world around them because this Jesus makes this planet largely irrelevant.

Caring for the environment is of little concern to them because it’s all a fallen world they’re eventually looking to escape anyway.

The threat of nuclear war doesn’t terrify them because it simply hastens them meeting their Maker.

The suffering of people here and now doesn’t fully move them because they see these people as only damned souls to be saved before they die.

There is a cold, detached callousness marking so much of the Far Right’s religion in America.

It’s a faith system that conveniently justifies personal gluttony and greed, while questioning the morality of those who may be suffering or in want. It’s a cause-and-effect, reward-based, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps Christianity that bears almost no resemblance to Christ at all.

And that is why they so desperately need Jesus; for the holy here and now they are missing and the flesh and blood humanity made in God’s image who they no longer seem at all concerned with this side of the Afterlife.

Conservative white Christians so desperately need the compassionate, sacrificing, suffering servant Jesus to transplant the stony hearts that allow them to live with contempt for those on the margins; for the sick and the invisible; for those with hijabs and brown skin; for those whose roads may have been far more difficult than their own.

When he walked the planet, Jesus did far more than simply give an altar call and stamp sinners for Heaven.

If he hadn’t, the Gospels would be far shorter and simpler. Instead, the Gospels give us an expansive, complex, explicitly beautiful picture of the way we are to live this life:

  • We are called to live oriented toward others.
  • We are called to live passionately in pursuit of love and justice and equality.
  • We are called to live not to avoid Hell or to escape this world, but to bring Heaven down to it.

White Conservative Christians need to recover and incarnate this Jesus so others can see him, so they can be touched by hands that heal and serve and restore in his likeness.

They need this Jesus to step into their politics and their preaching and their churches. They need this Jesus to renovate them into something resembling him so the word Christian can again be a source of restoration and not of damage.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know that I fully and desperately need this Jesus too.

But knowing that is a good place to begin.

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