An Alt-Christianity: Nascar Christianity

Probably the most popular driver in NASCAR history is Dale Earnhardt. He traded paint with other cars in an effort to get to the front and was known for disrupting what might otherwise be a predictable outcome. Earnhardt sometimes used a time-honored technique of "Bump and Run,” to catapult his car to the checkered flag. His fans couldn't get enough of his unconventional style and sheer determination to win. On the backstretch of what would be his last race, he lost control and hit the wall. His death at the Daytona racetrack still occupies a large space in the folklore of NASCAR. In some way, perhaps, fans vicariously felt the adrenaline of winning at all costs – winning at the expense of everyone else. For that is, after all, the very essence of NASCAR.

Some of these NASCAR driver behaviors can be observed in our day-to-day lives. We hustle to our jobs, racing for the checkered flag. We are quick to assert ourselves, sometimes at the expense of others. The Bible talks about the Christian journey as a race to be won. We also learn from Scripture that there are myriad obstacles along the way. Satan stalks his prey like a roaring lion, trying every tactic to destroy us. Many of us see life as a race filled with adversaries and disrupters. To arrive at the finish line unscathed takes some cunning and strategy.

Some Christians seem to embrace a "win at any cost" mentality, sometimes acting as though we are in the last stretch, and the finish line will only accept one winner. Because Christians generally accept the premise that God expects us to help one another, such a competitive spirit seems strange. In Scripture we find directives to help the poor, the widows, and the orphans. Jesus showed compassion to those who were considered outcasts or people on the fringes of society. However, something different is happening for NASCAR Christians who have adopted the “win at any cost” idea, even in political spheres.

It strikes me as odd that Christians would even have much of a political agenda. Why would churches, founded on the legacy of Jesus, have such a keen interest in how government works? What compels some Christians to be so vocal and adamant about their beliefs to the exclusion of other ideologies? For some understanding of this phenomenon, consider the mindset of Dominionism and Christian Reconstructionism among some modern Right Wing Christians.

Dominionism has many variations, but simply stated it is the belief that Christians can and must have political, social, and religious dominance in the world. Some Dominionists believe that this process could take hundreds or thousands of years to achieve, while others believe it must take place in the here and now through decisive political action. Both streams of thought envision a world where Christians rule over the earth in a truly biblically-based theocracy. Reconstructionism is a variation on the theme, but takes Dominionism to an extreme level. Based on the writings of R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001), Reconstructionists believe that someday Christians will set up a theocracy that will reinstate all the laws found in the biblical Old Testament.

Frederick Clarkson quotes Christian Reconstructionist Gary North in an article written in 2016. "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty,” North declared in 1982, “to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."

One stream of thought under Dominionism asserts that God is waiting for America to come under complete Christian rule before He is willing to set up His earthly kingdom. Citing certain Bible verses (2 Chronicles 7:14, for example), some believers proclaim that God is withholding His approval and His blessings because America has fallen into apostasy. (Ibid)

These Dominionist ideas are not new to the Christian movement. Along with flamboyant displays of patriotism, evangelical Christians have a long history of decrying the sad condition to which America has fallen. Draped and securely shielded by the American flag, Christianity has adopted the idea that our nation needs to return to greatness. That is to say that this nation needs to return to God. The slogan utilized by Donald Trump, "Make America Great Again," and the Christian call to “Make America Godly Again,” are two slogans that can easily meld together into one goal.

It is impossible to know the full meaning of our President's call to "Make America Great Again," but we do have some very good ideas with regard to what more radical Christians might mean by returning this country back to God, or returning this country back to greatness.

According to some, America was great when the LBGTQ community was safely hidden away. America was great when no one would ever dream of gay marriage. America was much better off when abortion was illegal and doctors who performed such procedures could be jailed for doing so. America was great when prayers were offered in public schools and creation was taught along with regular science classes. All of us were better off when Sunday was a religious day: a day for church, not for shopping. America was a better place because people had no choice but to dutifully follow the prerogatives of the Christian Religion.

So what happened to America? Is it true that the moral fabric of this great country has been destroyed? The answer to that question, simply stated, is that citizens from every walk of life decided that America belonged to everyone, regardless of religious affiliations. Non-believers filed lawsuits in an effort to have a voice. The courts slowly recognized that people who hold beliefs and practices outside of Christianity had the right to exist and flourish. Christians still remained in the majority and had the votes to write any laws they wanted, but the United States Constitution clearly mandates that our government will not establish a state religion. This important doctrine protects people who find themselves in the minority. Non-Christian citizens still have the same rights and privileges under our constitution as those in the majority. The decisions from the courts brought rapid and widespread changes. Christians were jolted into a new reality. Non-believers were here to stay. Misguided Christians reacted decisively and adopted the idea that people who live and believe differently are enemies of America.

Roy Moore, the so called, "Ten Commandment Judge," spoke at a function sponsored by a group known as Operation Save America. He assured the group that they need not be too worried about other religions in America. He said, "I'm sorry but this country was not founded on Muhammad. It was not founded on Buddha. It was not founded on secular humanism. It was founded on God.” According to Judge Moore, now top runner in a U.S. Senate race in Alabama, there is no room for non-Christians in his America.

Seventh-day Adventists have a long history of protecting the rights of the minority against the preferences of the majority, and have carved a somewhat safe space for our members in military, our church schools, and the rights of our members in the workplace. At times our organization has sided with other minorities who are outside the mainline of American culture. The Golden Rule insists that we provide reciprocal consideration to others. This is the problem with Alt-Christianity or NASCAR Christianity. Large swaths of people have adopted the winner-take-all approach which gives little attention to how actions impact others.

"Make America Great Again," and "Make America Godly Again," are the battle cries to return our country to a time in history when conservative Christians wrote the rules, and all citizens had no choice but to follow them. History teaches us that the fragile gains made by the minority against the Christian majority can quickly fade away. Religious zealots, eager to win at any cost, will gladly attach themselves to anything and anyone who promises to move their agenda forward.

When we cast votes for a particular candidate, we do not get just a slice of what we wanted. We get the whole pizza delivered to our door. Christians would be wise to remain clear-headed in deciding how closely to align with a political figure. We might think that a particular candidate is advancing the cause of God, only to learn that our freedom to worship as we choose is suddenly in jeopardy. The same Christians who believe in an aggressive political agenda to get this country back to God are the very same activists who are very certain which day of the week should be observed as a Sabbath of the Lord. Muslims who prefer Friday and a few Christians who observe Saturday might very well find themselves out of the mainstream.

I join the chorus of people who are waving a warning flag in front of American Christians who have fallen into the easy trap of blaming others for all cultural problems. Modesty and a sense of proportion are missing in the political sphere. David Brooks opines, “Progress is not made by crushing some swarm of malevolent foes; it’s made by finding balance between competing truths — between freedom and security, diversity and solidarity. There’s always going to be counter-evidence and mystery. There is no final arrangement that will end conflict, just endless searching and adjustment.” Witness cannot occur in NASCAR Christianity. As citizens of Jesus’ kingdom we cannot pledge allegiance to a fallible human leader without regard to how this will affect our witness for Jesus. It is clear that some Christians actually believe, "Make America Great Again," trumps everything Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.

It is easy to compartmentalize thoughts to the point that one will miss glaring contradictions. Thus, I can sympathize with my brothers and sisters within the Seventh-day Adventist Church who strongly support certain political figures. But, please be warned. If Jesus were to attend a political rally, or listen to one of our television newscasts, He no doubt would hang his head in disappointment. Yes, if Jesus were to attend our church services, He might very well hear about how much God loves all of His children, and He might hear how much God loves people from every walk of life. Yet, as Christians, we do not have permission to separate our politics from devotion to the gentle, humble Teacher from Nazareth. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot invoke the name of Jesus while at the same time espousing hate and intolerance for those who live or believe differently than we do. Jesus died so that the whole world, through His sacrifice, might be saved. When we encounter hatred, bigotry, shaming, belittling language and actions, it is our privilege as true Christians to repudiate these ideas that contradict the teachings and character of Jesus.

Christians must look closely at our NASCAR tendencies – our predispositions to compete and win at the expense of other people. Sometimes we make compromises to make the racetrack seem a little smoother. We might even be willing to trade some paint with those around us to get ahead. Jesus demonstrated that it is possible to lead, while at the same time assuming the role of a servant. One Friday afternoon, oh so long ago, our Lord stretched His hands out on a cruel cross. He died for everyone – including those who believe and act differently than we do. When we try to win at the expense of others, we absolutely defeat the very principles of heaven. It is impossible to say that we are Christians while at the same time denying the love of God for everyone. "Win at any cost," might work for NASCAR, but it doesn't work very well for true Christians seeking to do the will of Christ.

Leroy Sykes lives and writes from Alabama.

Image Credit: Pexels.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8178

The message of Jesus was universal and most certainly did not include racism. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” This quote more than adequately describes the disparity between Christ’s teachings and many of his proclaimed followers. A term commonly thrown around the discourse of perceived attitudes in regards to this Christian community is “holier than thou.” This attitude can best be described as holding an opinion of one’s self that is expressed by asserting their own opinions or actions are superior to another’s We should note that the analysis by Wendy Wood, provost professor of psychology and business at USC College and the USC Marshall School of Business shows that “good Christians” are more likely to be racists than anyone else. The purpose of the study was to be “a meta-analytic review of past research evaluated the link between religiosity and racism in the United States since the Civil Rights Act.” The report observed that “members of religious congregations tend to harbor prejudiced views of other races.” The study surveyed over 20,000 white Christians, citing their role as the largest demographic, both in terms of race and religious denomination, in the United States.

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99% of Christians and not a few Adventists reject the words & actions/efforts of Jesus on the commandment that gets more exposure, than the other 9 put together, in the 4 gospels.
Matt 12, Mk 2 & 3, Luke 6,13,14,23 and Jn 5,7 & 9.

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Well, I guess I’ll have to stop being a fan of NASCAR lest I end up burning in the fires of hell.

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Interesting perspective Leroy. May I say that “alt-right and alt-left” Christianity is in error. Both have the tendency to worship a “folklore” of their own views not found except through their own “filter” of scripture.
I read all of Rushdoony’s book “Biblical Institutes of law” as well as some of North’s books about 40 yrs.ago. As many books/authors, they have very informative information and some "less so."
Dominionism makes up a very small fraction of present “liberal or conservative” Calvinism however. One should not ignore the “progressive” brand of “Dominion” that was especially prevalent pre-WW1 when the desire for lasting peace on earth was dreamed for. The mainstream progressive magazine of the day was https://www.christiancentury.org/ . The magazine in it’s 2.0 form that is often quoted on this site is still prevalent with much the same thoughts and message.
The conservative wing of theology countered originally with the magazine “Christianity Today” that countered the “progressive/liberal” social theology of the day.
So to be intellectually honest one must be aware of this history to objectively see the influence of the “humanist dominion” of the alt. left and right on biblical Christianity as each seeks what in their view will bring “Peace on Earth” in the present age.
Interestingly, I feel a true “separation of church and state” requires that we give unto Caesar the things of Caesar and unto God the things that are God’s. Both "liberal/progressives and Conservatives religious views at times try to press their views on the state due to what I believe is an incomplete Christian Worldview."
I can believe in MAGA in the secular sense as I love my country and would like to see it economically and socially enjoy some of it’s previous greatness that in some situations has been diluted by bad trade deals, by immigration policy, environmental policy and other policy which should be a legitimate desire of all nations. I also can enjoy racing and football, baseball, basketball at times because I enjoy speed and competitive sports. Sorry EGW! None of these should master my life here but I do believe we can attempt to “be over righteous to our own destruction” which really isn’t righteous at all but application of our own filters.
So Leroy please don’t blend your biblical understanding to judge my secular choices and I will attempt to reciprocate you the same courtesy. To do otherwise is attempting my own brand of “dominion” I suggest.
Regards,
Pat

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Because they must keep it as a “Christian” nation, something it never has been. It is a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles and ethics, and our Constitution (as we’ve seen so often) does not work well in countries with no history of those kinds of principles. They don’t seem to understand that Christianity cannot be forced upon the populace, and they forget that the gospel never spread as fast as it did under a hostile pagan government in the time of the Caesars.

They also forget the lesson of Dan. 2 (which is not surprising, given their overemphasis on the NT, at the expense of the OT), that God “sets up” kings and takes them down.

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I love NASCAR. I also frequent dirt track races here in Alabama! What works in NASCAR is not directly translated into how we achieve objectives. I understand the role of government to regulate and manage civil affairs. My article is just pointing out that when Christians try to legislate religious prerogatives, they are trying in effect to shortcut the process of good, honest hard work. Where they have failed to persuade others through love and sound reasoning, they seek to write laws a to force compliance with some religious objective. I remember when you couldn’t buy a car on Sunday. I remember aisles at the grocery store being roped off on Sunday. As far as Dominionism being a thing of the past, one only needs to read the statements by Ted Cruz’s Father following his Senate win. It will shed some light on the way the Christian conservatives view the role of government in a religious context. I do appreciate your perspective. No point of view walks on water so to speak. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. But from one racing fan to another let me just say, let’s try to keep the shiny side up!

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I am a die hard NASCAR fan!! The faster the better. !!!

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One man , it may have been Solomon , prayed to receive BOTH knowledge AND wisdom as a legacy from the almighty. Not too bad a request at all, I am thinking, except that he himself did not seem to have constantly exhibited the lifestyle and behaviour of a recipient of these gifts. But how many of us are for that matter? One woulkd have thought that discerning modern Christians would br praying for a DELAY to the “second coming” in order to give sinners(all humans,( perhaps excepting those too young or disabled to sin to any significant degree) time to make amends. What have Christians really done different to justify pre-eminent recognition in the judgement? From one point of view Christians , and Christian armies have slaughtered as many, if not more, people than other adherents. Christians have for millennia applauded the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a gift enabling salvation of mankind. This could be a false flag bearing in mind that the Roman Emperor who compiled the books to be included in the Canon would likely seek to divert culpability for the assassination of jesus away from the Romans , and certain high-placed Jews, by seeking to praise/blame God himself. Nevertheless , our wisdom, it is said, are as filthy rags, and thosde who blame Rome rather than other forces could be mistaken. However, what seems certain is that those who chant “make America Great Again” are way off base. When has America been greater than at present? All cap-wearing "greater again " advocates would do well to do a fact check. One scientist has , credibly, opined that there are advanced lightspeed computers with almost infinite storage capacity which can , among other things, store unlimited data. The judgment will consist of exchange of memory banks thereby inflicting EXACT retribution as decided.The LYNCHER will be resurrected and fitted withe the memory banks of the slave so as to experience EXACTLY the fires of the former slave. The hit and run driver who killed an innocent family returning from a prayer meeting service on a dark street . will be outfitted with the memory banks of all victims . For that matter, ALL THOSE involved wkith seeing to it that the MASTER was crucified can be made, by the science of the almighty to suffer EVERYTHJING he did. Knowing this Jesus Christ was almost sorry for THEM “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” now assumes much greater significance. Let us pray for both wisdom and KNOWLEDGE. OR do christians REALLY want to experience EXTACTLY what it was like for Native Americans to be massacred, or Africans to have been enslaved by White Chrtistians?

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Thanks for your reply Leroy and I assume I can “legally” repond on this site’s rules which really do confound conversation.
I will offer you an example of how the “religious progressive left” of mainline protestantism ie, “Christian century” as noted above blends with the MIddle/progressive left political views in RCC. Both very much integrate themselves in the “political process” and view themselves as legitimate and other views such as “evangelical Christianity” the enemy/evil.
Interestingly the following article http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/articolo/evangelical-fundamentalism-and-catholic-integralism-in-the-usa-a-surprising-ecumenism/ seeking to point out an evil mentality of “others” is actually a self indictment on their own position in the article. Likewise, may I suggest many articles on this site do likewise. Food for deep thought!
Anyway unlike Nascar…one must look deeply “left and right” so as not to naively getting run over! :slight_smile:
Cheers,
Pat
PS. In the history of our country it is said that in British parliament it is said that it was stated of the colonies "The damn Presbyterians have run off with our bride! " There indeed are strong Judeo-Protestant Christian roots in our nation…but you are correct it has never been legally a “Christian Nation.”

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Most of our Nation Founders. Deists. Believed in a “Higher Power”. Saw GOOD in the Bible. Probably had MORE insight into Biblical Teachings than the Anglican STATE Church of that day.
Thomas Jefferson was one of those harassed by the State Church – having to pay for a pew in church. Whether one went to church or not [if not spent time in the stocks] WERE REQUIRED to pay Church Tax and if slow, the local Sheriff came to the door to collect.
Our Founding Fathers recognized a “Higher Power” called God. And so felt comfortable using the name Creator in the official papers.
And that is WHY one was allowed to Believe, or NOT Believe what they wanted, and WHY no religion was to be influencing the operation of the Government. Other than in the Constitution and later the Bill of Rights allowed.
Also, Sunday sacredness, as earlier prescribed by the Anglican Church, and enforced by Sheriffs, was condemned, and rejected as part of Religious Freedom.
All these were NEW in the Nations of the World. Definitely different from the English Empire that had been controlling the Colonies.

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I was telling a friend the other day that Christians have always felt they should legislate the conscience of other Christians. Since Paul was talking to the Galatians on the subject. That because I don’t feel that need, it makes me less of a follower of Christ. Or feel that I have the right to make laws to decide what others can do.

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Really disappointed you have the wrong car posted. Throws off all credibility.

My favorite driver. Mark Martin-- now retired. A true gentleman on and off the track!!

Steve, you are right about our founding fathers. There was a concerted effort to make sure that religious practice was left to individual conscience. This was a reaction to the abuses of power so prevelant in European countries where a state religion was taken for granted. When people cry out, “Make America Great Again” it makes you wonder how far they want to go back—To the colonial days? Do they want to go back to a time when Sunday keeping was mandatory? The Christian Right is leading the way, and many unwitting Christians are following along like little puppy dogs. Remember. You don’t get one slice. You get the WHOLE pizza!!

Patrick, it does strike me that there is a difference between the left and the right when it comes to philosophy or mindset. I’ve never heard someone from the left decry and condemn those who want to go to church on Sunday. I have never heard someone from the left say that they are sick and tired of people praying in private all the time. I have never heard of a leftist begging for laws to restrict a Christian from calling themselves a Seventh-day Adventist or Jehovah Witness. Most true liberals are perfectly willing to let people pack the churches full on Sunday morning—. The true liberal only asks that while those good Christians are safely in church, that a leftist unbeliever be afforded the small courtesy of buying a beer on the Lord’s day. (Just to get ready for the NASCAR race that afternoon of course!). Religious legislation is still with us my friend. (The IRS provision for clergy Parsonage exclusion is just another example.). How far will it go? His far BACK will it go?? We have to pay attention to who is driving the bus!

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Leroy,
I am 72 and a 4th+ generation SDA on my mothers side. In 1973-74 in Atlanta I was on PBS in Atlanta in regards to the “Common day of rest act” discussion in which the act would force business to close either on Sat. or Sunday but not both. The local SDA conf. Religious Liberty thought this was fine. I said no it isn’t because you have an obvious religious law that would violate the liberties of those who worshiped on any other of the 5 days and I felt it unconstitutional. Well actually the Ga. Supreme Court also did and that law was scraped and shortly after Sunday closing in Ga. I have heard the SDA eschatological view all my life. I simply no longer believe Saturday worship is the final test. If it were, we would be saved by RBWorks rather than RBF "alone.“
I got my M.Div. at a Conservative Presb. Seminary school. RTS. I got nothing but respect for my worship for 3 yrs. We simply have to many boogey men.
I suggest true Christians will before the parousia " be hated by all nations for Christ Names sake then shall the end come.” This is the test. Who is Christ? Sabbatarian Jews and Gentiles killed Christ not for worshiping on Saturday!
So, I suggest you change your narrative to simply secular and religious. I don’t see anyone threatening SDA’s. I do see “political leftist” not allowing conservative speakers speak at places like UCBerkley and other “political liberal schools.” So it appears at those schools the liberals drive the bus of bigotry. As previously stated I disagree with all the Alt. at Charlottesville. BOTH GROUPS HATE AND WOULD STOP OTHERS from speech and worse to those THAT DISAGREE WITH THEM. You may have forgotten the KKK is a product of the Dem. Party and Lincoln was a Rep.
Unfits piggyback in both parties.
In religion it was the Popes gang/paper that showed disdain for conservative Chistians that still believe in the principles that first formed “Christianity Today.” I would personally suggest that if there is a “historical apostate Protestantism” it Stems from the “German School of thought” and modern liberal Christianity. The last 300 yrs. of “progressive religious liberalism” is the new kid on the block that rejects and revises both the Bible and has a disdain for the Protestant Reformation.
God bless true Christians that worship Christ on Sat. and Sunday!
Regards & Cheers,
Pat
PS. And Paul is Correct. Dale Sr, was #3 and Junior was #8 and is presently #88. I am a stickler for truth and facts so intelligent decisions potentially can be made. :slight_smile:

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I don’t think anyone was trying to find a picture of Dale Earnhardt’ s number 3 car—just a stock photo to draw attention to the title!!

Patrick there ARE honorable and decent people on both sides of what defines religious liberty. But good intentions often become the exact problem. If we are content to use persuasion and love to accomplish our purposes, then I think it is hard to do wrong. When we get tired and start looking for the long arm of the law to intervene and force some kind of religious conformity, then we can get derailed quickly. My mention of Sabbath / Sunday issue was only to illustrate a point. If an average Joe Q. Citizen can’t buy a case of beer on Sunday while others are in church, then I know something is amiss somewhere. I agree with you that salvation only comes through RBF. Those who rely on certain works to differentiate themselves from others will discover that their pious devotion has nothing to do with salvation. If we had the power to force people to follow ANY interpretation of Biblical instruction, we would be wrong to exercise that power. I appreciate your clarification on these points. I have never believed that the SDA church has truth which automatically assures them heaven, while excluding honest seekers of truth in other disciplines.

Just playing with u Leroy about Earnhardt. :slight_smile:

Took me 45 yrs. Leroy to realize SDA’s would never drop the RCC view of RBF through Grace that means to “make Righteous.” …but that’s another issue. But, keep “looking both ways” as labels are continually changing from what was “Classical Liberalism” to today’s “political liberalism” in the secular realm which isn’t liberal at all as this past year has shown/demonstrates but full of hate, hypocrisy and censorship.
Cheers and Peace,
Pat

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Oh, our editors definitely tried to find an image of Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s car, but unfortunately, they were unable to find one that was in the public domain and/or under a creative commons license. So, we had to go with a generic NASCAR photo that was available for use. :slight_smile:

-Web Editor

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