“What amazes me, however, is how disposable Christianity and the Bible are in this conversation. America, it seems, has become a nation of Christians of convenience, who trot Jesus out when he suits their politics and prejudices only to hide him away when he does not.” –Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and regular CNN Belief Blog contributor
Dr. Prothero makes this comment on the heels of his article regarding surveys recently released on American views of Bin Laden’s death. His insight is probing, if not disturbing, in the uneasy manner in which people of faith pick and choose when it comes to difficult issues.
In his case, the teaching by Jesus to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you is seen as inconsistent with Christians who celebrate the death of Bin Laden. One can argue both could be true in this case, that a Christian could diligently pray for Bin Laden yet be glad to see the end of a person’s reign that has caused the death of many. However, the accusation of being Christians of convenience is often more true than not.
Some other recent cases:
- “Conservative” Christians who argue major budget cuts should be made to programs that serve the poorest of the poor and save numerous lives so the US economy can bump the unemployment rate down a couple of percentage points.
- “Conservative” religious groups in Georgia who argued against the recent state bill called SB200 that strengthens punishment against sex trafficking criminals, arguing instead that many teenage girls “choose” to live in prostitution.
- Religious leaders who want to increase military participation in Libya and move beyond protection of civilians (Who would Jesus bomb?).
In each of these cases and many others, key teachings of Jesus are neglected by those who claim to be his followers. Jesus gave much attention to efforts to stand for the poor, to protect the rights of women, and to encourage people to live as “peacemakers,” even calling such people “blessed.”
Prothero points out something that has disturbed many of us who follow Jesus–that his teachings are used only when helpful to another’s cause.
But those who follow Jesus do not get to pick and choose which parts of his teachings we follow.
Only when we embrace wholehearted surrender to Christ and his ways will we become Christians of impact rather than Christians of convenience.
Thanks, Dr. Prothero, for the reminder.
DILLON BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith. Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books include Undefending Christianity, Not in My Town (with Charles J. Powell), and Thirst No More (October). Discover more at ActivistFaith.org.