“Christians Against Christianity” Takes Right-Wing Evangelicals to Task

Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith, by Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. (Beacon Press, 2021)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11633
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A great review from one of my outstanding former professors!

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Another Good read is “White Too Long” by Robert P. Jones.

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Sooo, we’re supposed to interpret the Bible through Karl Marx…

Political ideology has no place within the Christian brotherhood. The last time I checked, the scriptures says somewhere, “He who is not against us is for us.”

All through my Adventist experience we’ve been fed antipathy (suspicion) toward other Protestant churches, because they will ultimately “chase us into the hills”; while those more educated and nuanced, have fought against this kind of divisive, simplistic attitudes. Now, that politics have entered the discussion, those looking for Christian unity, are themselves, doing the chasing of other Christians, with left-wing politics leading the chase.

Divide and conquer.

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I don’t think this is what this article is doing. It is taking core evangelical positions espoused in the public square and holding them up to what the bible itself and its core principles say. The comparison is not pretty…

Yes, but the evangelical church itself has done just this. It is a version of Christianity that is in bed with political ideology. It deserves such a critique.

Additionally, Christianity is not just an individual, private spirituality that has nothing to say within the wider political world… it does, even if it does so discreetly. It can still be a subversive commentary regarding the powers that be. Paul organized radically inclusive, egalitarian communities that upended Roman ideas and practices of social status and power. They were also communities that refused to participate in the public festivals, feasts, and parades where the worship of the gods and Caesar were central. This was seen as subversive to social and political life and order, and likely brought suspicion and local outbreaks of persecution.

On top of this, they were communities proclaiming Jesus as Lord in a culture where the only lord was Caesar…kaiser kurios. Even if they weren’t identifying with an overt political ideology, they were commenting on the social and political life of the day by publicly living out a new allegiance to a new lord. How did that play in Rome and the rest of the empire? Christians weren’t persecuted because they were advocating a private piety and escape from the world after death to heaven. It was because their allegiance to Christ was actually perceived as a threat to the accepted and traditional social order.

How does conservative, evangelical Christianity in this country measure up to such a vocation and calling? If anything, while proclaiming an individualist, quasi gnostic gospel whose goal is escape from the world after death, it has also gotten into bed with the established powers to advance its own limited and narrow moral agenda in the public square. It sells out the gospel for a pot of lentils. This has nothing to do with Marx, and everything to do with the proclaiming and living out of the gospel of King Jesus in this world, and faithfulness to that calling.

Frank

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And you think Obery Hendricks doesn’t have a political agenda?

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My concern is what the gospel says to the powers of this age, and what it says to a form of Christianity that is in so many ways obviously complicit with those powers. If this article spotlights that, and I think it does, then I don’t really care about the author’s political leanings. The premise and measure of the article is still accurate. I can read past whatever the author’s own political agenda may be.

Frank

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I think we can agree that politics and religion should not mix. At this present time, the politics are in a kind of struggle we haven’t seen for a long time. It’s not only about differing views - it has become vicious; and it’s not about differing views, but about ideologies and judging individuals by what party they prefer. Here we have a supposed Christian view based on political positions. The Christianity is judged by their political stance. The list of “sins” are all about current politics: Trump - racism (the standard accusation for any opposition of the LEFT) - gay rights (a long debated religious and political issue) - immigrants who come across the border illegally (political issue) - abortion (political issue) - NRA (another political issue) - big business (this one has me stumped since big business favours the left - in any case, another political issue based on economics). Some of these political issues clearly overlap with religious differences.

We can argue the specifics of these issues, but the fact is, Christians should not be pitted against each other - unless you’re looking to create a schism. According to the information available on line, Hendricks promotes leftist causes and is closely in agreement with groups that began their leftist campaigns back in the 60s. He has some connection with Jeremiah Wright who rails against anything US.

The US has always had socialist opposition. The Communist factions have stirred up anything possible to pit Americans against each other. Feelings and loyalties are most fervent when it comes to religion, race and politics; and if these can be attacked and divided even further, the better - combine the them, and they have a gold mine.

You have to admit, this kind of ugliness between ideologies is unprecedented. Any contrary opinion on any one of these issues listed, automatically places you in the opposition camp, and you’re charged with all the ills, real and imagined, the other side holds.

My point is, through the ideology promoted here we ( in the name of religion) are being used in a battle for the American soul and the destruction of the precepts that, just a generation ago, were honoured - all this for power and control. We are seeing the same forces battling the same battle, in real time in Europe. The same outcome is waiting for the US, using the current social unrest precipitated by the same forces - using different personalities and social issues.

Adventists aren’t looking out for this kind of battle; so while our focus is on Sunday laws and doctrinal opposition the danger comes through the back door.

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I’ve been reading the back and forth between you and Frank. And what I would like to hear is how one should choose between the two parties, both of which have some christian support? I suggest that the values consistent with the values held by individuals will determine which way they go. But as you say both are still the government, I guess both can achieve an end , and either way there will be collateral damage

In a perfect world, voters would vote on the platforms of each party; and have the party choose who they think will carry out that platform. This way individual candidates matter only as their abilities to make their platforms work. Party re-election depends how well there succeed. Who cares if they’re “nice” or not.

It also matters who makes up the party platform and its goals. The last time I sat in a history class, the Constitution was supposed be the law of the land, guaranteeing its adherents “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”; and to keep any one person or group from taking over the country, the government was divided into three separate section which separated its power.

When it comes to Christian support, it is the platform that matters; not the Christianity or personality of the candidate. Today it’s about how much money supports the candidate - not his abilities. Money, through the special interest groups, runs the country.

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I like that idea, if I get the idea right. Each state would have a party election based on platforms and then the state parties would appoint their proportion of the allocated representatives for the state and federal governments. Sounds democratic to me.

This conversation encapsulates pretty well why Adventism and Christianity in general are losing their relevance, especially White Adventism and Christianity. They have no understanding of the privilege they sit upon, nor their position with respect to “politics” and government. As if politics can be separated from our lives, and as if many of our churches or institutions would exist without government tax breaks (because of nonprofit status).

As if the SDA church wasn’t founded on abolition, social justice, and being involved in politics for the sake of the underprivileged in society. As if Jesus never engaged with the politics of the time, both religious and governmental.

It’s all so tiring to see red scare tactics continue to exist in the American church, too. This continues to show a sheltered ignorance of the imperialism and genocides our country has so gleefully fueled, not to mention how those tactics misinform people on political ideologies. But, propaganda and indoctrination have gone a long way in our schools—public and private—and media.

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As if the American black experience is the only one on this globe that’s suffered imperialism and genocide. This is the human condition ever since Adam (whatever color he may have been) got thrown out of Eden.

You picked on the wrong person to explain propaganda and indoctrination. Sheltered I am not. My first memories come from a “displaced persons” camp, as my parents had the guts to leave behind a system of genocide and imperialism in order to give me a chance to have a life free of “propaganda and indoctrination”.

When my family arrived on these shores, all we had was a few suitcases and a will to make a good life for ourselves. At that point, we had gone through both kinds of immigration, which the media is too ignorant or too manipulative to differentiate. The first leg of our trip was in a leaky fishing boat that had to navigate the Baltic filled with German military; and we were graciously cared for by the Swedes. My dad had been a truck driver in Estonia, and deemed an “essential worker”, so he wasn’t conscripted by either the Soviets or the Nazis. In Sweden he had to learn a new language and a new way of making a living.

Life in Sweden was good; but, as most of the world back then thought the ultimate “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” was “Amerika”, my parents aimed to get there. Five years of processing and, with my uncle as our “guarantor,” we made it passed that Statue of Liberty to yet another new language and, for my dad, a new way of making a living for his family. If we’re comparing poverty, we had no home - spoke no English - had no money, or way to make some. It was the first time I saw my dad cry, sitting in my uncle’s spare room.

Fast forward to the day I stood by my dad’s hospital bed, and I put my hand into his rough, work-warn hands to say a final good bye, he had fashioned a life for me that included a college education and life without fear of losing personal freedom - a life, our family that remained behind, could only dream about.

Don’t talk to me about propaganda and indoctrination. Yes, there’s plenty of that. The only problem is those who are being duped, don’t know it until it’s too late.

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I think it shows your bias that you assumed I was speaking only about the Black experience in America, and not only that, but that you found it necessary to take us outside the American context. Is that always your response to encountering suffering, whether in conversation or in real life?
“Oh, other people also suffer, so why do we need to focus on this particular person?”
It’s not uncommon for people to trivialize and divert attention when the discussion at hand is so inconsequential to themselves.

No American is the wrong one to talk about American propaganda and indoctrination. Thank you for sharing part of your backstory, but that doesn’t mean you automatically are impervious to either propaganda or indoctrination. American Exceptionalism doesn’t play favorites, and you seem to still have those rose colored lenses on, considering—I’ll say again—the red scare rhetoric you deployed above. For at least 70 (fair to say at least near 100) years the US has been aggressively opposed to left-wing political ideologies because of its lust for power and domination. Especially since WWII, when it really picked up the pace trying to get Central and South American countries at its beck and call (among other countries).

What I’m getting at here, is even in your attempts to seem apolitical or not choosing a side, you show your bias against or historical misunderstanding of left-leaning politics.

In case you aren’t sure what I was referring to, this is red scare tactics.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Perhaps you aren’t trying to come across as apolitical. Whom is being duped and what are they being duped by?

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Everyone has a reference point by which they look at the world. Here, with this group, everything is seen through the denominational biases they have been taught, modified and adjusted by education and age. Speaking in general terms, Americans see the entire world from an American perspective, of course, and dependant on the current political climate. I will admit, my frame of reference is European centred because of my experiences. My life was turned upside down by what happened in Europe in my lifetime. While I was very young initially, I grew up in a family where our own history influenced how I see the world.

The American experience also reads in various ways depending on racial background, - again, because of the history of each group. The two political parties, being what they are - political - use (take advantage of) American biases to further their agendas. At the present, there are other powers functioning on the globe with their own agendas, and obviously, all these overlap and influence each other. Quite a mess to untangle.

You seem to dismiss the “red scare tactics”, from your frame of reference - which I assume is African American (I could be wrong). Just as you focus on “white privilege,” my focus is on the powers that have influenced my life, and are also still at work globally (according to the current news cycle). I am white, and there’s not a darn thing I can do about it - that also influences how I look at the world, (and the same for you). We can’t force our viewpoints down each others’ throats. All we can do is get more educated and try to give each other more grace.

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My issue in this discussion is not simply whose political views are more consistent with scriptures and the gospel. That is obviously something that would be a matter of conscience for people at the polls.

The key issue for me is that the modern American evangelical church, particularly its high profile leaders, has gotten in bed with political power to advance its moral agenda. It essentially has gathered around Pilate’s bema and is chanting, “We have no king but Caesar.” This is while preaching a gospel whose highest aim is to get individuals evacuated to heaven at the end of life.

The early church wasn’t persecuted because they advanced a different God or a private spirituality. There were many syncretic mystery religions in the empire that did that, and weren’t bothered. The early Christians were pressured and at times persecuted because their religious life caused them to withdraw from the Caesar cult and the worship of the gods. It caused them to proclaim a different lord in a kingdom where the only lord was Caesar, even though they were not politically agitating to rebel against or violently remove Caesar. And, it caused them to practice a shared, egalitarian life that upended the status consciousness of Roman life. All of this was seen as subversive and even a threat to the social order.

It was when the church triumphed politically under Constantine that it became the persecutor instead of the persecuted. It became an enforcer of traditional social order instead of the alternative that it was called by God to model. It also became a purveyor of a kingdom out of this world, instead of the salt and light of this world. This describes the arc of conservative, evangelical Protestantism in America today. It is following the same path, all while trying to paint itself as the victim of godless forces.

The church will always face the godless powers in this world. Its power is not in getting in bed with them to achieve its ends. Instead, Christ died at their hands and rose from the dead, rendering their power impotent. He came to establish the rule of God on earth as it is in heaven through such a paradox. The paradox and power of self giving love…a new way of being human in society.

When the church abandons this, it abandons the gospel. It abandons Christ himself.

Frank

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Red scare tactics are inherently anti-left, straw-men propaganda. Literally, filling people’s ignorance of political movements, actors, and philosophies, to drum up fear—and often hate and demonization—of said movements, actors, and philosophies. All in attempt for the classes in power to keep that power.
The writing is so clearly on the wall when a person understands that the same kinds of people—and same people in many cases—who were deploying Red Scare tactics in the 50s were the ones resisting both unionization and fairer labor standards for decades prior. Why? Because pro-worker (e.g., unionization, safer workplace standards, work hours, etc.) movements were a threat to their power and organized and led in large part by Communists, Socialists, Marxists, and other left-leaning individuals. My frame of reference here is simply a history I have had to newly learn after unlearning the American Exceptionalist history Americans present internally and externally. A history that’s centered on “White Saviors.”

I must say, the fact that you automatically associate opposing right-wing propaganda with Blackness in America seems problematic in itself. For the record, I am not Black, and one doesn’t need to be Black to oppose such things.

And this is more code for American Exceptionalism and our dreamy American past:

More propaganda and explicitly ahistorical. Precepts that were honored for whom—Native Americans, Black women, and immigrants through our southern border suffering forced hysterectomies more so than they are today? American soul—the American soul that marked Dr. MLK Jr. and his peers as Communist and/or Socialist troublemakers who needed to be eliminated by the FBI? We are all victims to revisionist history in some way, but those words and phrases I quoted from you are time tested American, ahistorical propaganda. I suggest you extricate them.

Well, certainly you can’t change the concentration—or lack thereof, despite the early experiments of enslavers to remove it from their enslaved captives—of melanin in your skin, but that’s a cop out. No credible person is asking you to change your skin. Anyone telling you otherwise should become immediately suspect to you. If anyone is actually asking you to do anything with respect to your skin color, it’s to acknowledge your proximity to particular privileges it affords you and consequently help bring equity to those with different skin colors. I recommend you stop paying attention to corporate news, especially those who enjoy manipulating you, whether left or right leaning.

I agree we need to offer grace to each other, but offering grace and accountability need not be mutually exclusive. Nor should truth and grace be mutually exclusive at all times. I hope you can understand how I’ve tried to do this.

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I guess my underlying concern is that in a democracy where we can vote why would some say that it is anti christian to support any government action which might advantage the less fortunate. I have heard some say that to do so is to support the mark of the beast if not immediately than it will at some point in the future make that easier.

The history of Christianities sad cooperation with governments is certainly a record of conflicted relations at best. In fact I would go so far as to say that organized religion has always failed to live up to it’s ideals. Maybe it really is time to come out of her my people.

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Sounds like you’ve already received your diploma from the newly created CRT class. Those “pro-worker” unions etc. were run by mobsters, one of them still buried under a parking lot somewhere. But sure, promises, promises, promises. Class warfare is a favorite channel of the the Marxist promoters, as long as they make the rules - “some pigs being more equal than others.” Karl, himself, directed the “revolution of the masses” riding in a Rolls Royce.

I inferred that from your wording in the following excerpt:

You’ll notice, I added “I might be wrong…”

To conclude this frustrating exchange, I’ll just say, If we both live long enough - “We shall see.”

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Your response here was, while disappointing, still expected, which is why I originally led with,

It rings even truer now.

Additionally, this quote from Dr Martin Luther King Jr. comes to mind, from Letter from Birmingham Jail,

If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.

I wish you well.

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