“Sure, we used the prayer breakfasts and church services and all that for political ends. One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders. We would bring them into the White House and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office, and I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups that we worked with.”
The above quote is from Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man”, Charles Colson, discussing how the Sunday services at the White House were set up during the Nixon’s term as President. Billy Graham and other faith leaders had helped get Nixon elected, and his administration was all too happy to exploit the Church for it’s own political purposes.
I’ve spoken at length before about the many reasons why I de-converted from Christianity. As I’ve attested, there was no “ah-ha!” moment for me that started the ball rolling down the hill, but there were certainly tremors that kept getting stronger the more I learned and experienced. One of the biggest such tremors for me was the stark realization that Evangelical Christians in America today are far more influenced by politics than by the teachings of Jesus.
From big business leaders enlisting clergymen in their war against Roosevelt’s New Deal, to the Bush administration using it’s “play-to-the-base” plan to exploit the concerns of the religious right for electoral gain, the Church of America has a long history of being odd bedfellows with big business and politics, using each other for their own gain.
The line between politics and religion have become so blurred over the last eight decades, that it is nearly impossible to discern what came from where.
And the vast majority of Christians can’t make the distinction.
They will adamantly insist that their views comes from the Bible, and that it’s merely a coincidence that their favorite political party and/or politician happens to espouse the same views. Yet, they seem to completely illiterate to the teaching of the man they claim to follow, who stood against many of the positions they so boldly stand on.
Books like Greg Boyd’s The Myth of the Christian Nation, Jim Wallis’s God’s Politics, Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President, and Kevin M. Kruse’s One Nation Under God all paint an accurate picture of the influence right-wing politics have had on the Church – and the negative repercussions of this merger.
Zack Hunt wrote an article that I thought articulated this point well. The subject of the article is on John Piper and his hypocritical stance on socialism, but my focus is on what Zack has to say in regards to Christians and politics:
What I do know is Piper is not alone in his ability to ignore the obvious when it comes to contradictions between his faith and politics. If anything, his inconsistency is emblematic of American Christianity and American evangelism in particular.
From immigration and gun control to healthcare and caring for the poor, American Christianity has become synonymous with its ability or willingness or even zeal for turning a blind eye to the egregious ways in which our political convictions contradict the faith we confess.
Like Piper, we go to astonishing lengths to twist and contort and ignore scripture until it becomes a sanctified prooftext for American capitalism. So much so, that simply raising questions about the negative effects capitalism can and does have on the poor (to say nothing of a whole host of other political issues) is akin to the worst sort of heresy.
Our faith has been baptized in the waters of capitalism, refined in the fire of American patriotism, and somehow we either don’t realize it or simply don’t care.
God help us all.
Zack perfectly outlines one of the many reasons I believe American Evangelicalism is, by and large, a hypocritical and toxic institution – it claims to base its views solely on the Bible while parroting right-wing ideology and conservative soundbites. It continues to use the Bible as justification for war, violence, discrimination, intolerance, and fear-mongering while ignoring the central tenets of Jesus’s message.
Rather then take ownership of their ignorance, dualism, and bigotry, many Evangelicals will throw their hands up in the air and loudly proclaim, “Hey, these aren’t my opinions, these are GOD’S OPINIONS – I’m just abiding by them!”
And the politicians are laughing all the way to the White House.
I’m happy to see more progressive and enlightened people of faith like Zack speaking out against the double-speak preached from the pulpit and media alike. Sadly thought, they seem to be in the minority. I’m sure there are many other Christians who have similar feelings, but because of the tribalistic nature of their religion, are too afraid to speak out. But, there is reason to hopeful.
The younger generation has taken a notice to this disconnect as well. Both non-believers and Christians alike have cited the Church’s heavy insolvent in politics as an unfavorable quality. Phil Zuckerman, in his book Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion, cited “the use of religion as a tool of political power” as one of the most common reasons people left their religion.
Whether it’s people of faith realizing the hypocrisy of a religion that “has been baptized in the waters of capitalism”, or people walking away from faith all together, I’m hopeful that there will come a time when Christians in America loose their power, privilege, and influence in politics, and society as a whole. This country will be all the better for it.
Thanks for reading.