Monday, March 7, 2011

Do Evangelicals Hate Jesus?

The Huffington Post recently published an article by Dan Cady that was provocatively entitled, “Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus.” If the article’s title didn’t tip you off, let me clue you in: Cady really seems to dislike Evangelicals, particularly what he views as their hypocrisy.

Here is the central argument of his article, which is based upon a recent Pew survey:

White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.
It is an audacious claim, and Cady backs it up by first summarizing his understanding of some aspect of Jesus’ teaching and then how Evangelicals violate it by their actions and political stance (paragraph breaks added for clarity).

Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture.

Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world.

Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one's money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation's poor -- especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of "socialism," even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training -- anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do.
In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.
Before I address the problematic aspects of Cady’s article, let’s begin with confession. Is there anyone among us who would claim to follow our Lord completely? I hope none of us would be so arrogant. I am certainly guilty of loving this material world too much. My prayer, of course, would be that when confronted with my failure, I would respond with repentance. May each of us have the grace to acknowledge that our critics are right on one point: we fail to perfectly practice what we preach. 

I would hope that we find that more dismaying than they!

That being said, I take several issues with Mr. Cady’s argument. First, there is not a single citation of Scripture throughout his work. Cady is not a theologian and cites no Scripture or even other sources as he attempts to summarize the totality of Jesus’ teaching. It is shocking that he fails to mention the centrality of repentance and faith in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus preached a coming theocracy...does Cady wish Evangelicals to work to implement that into public policy?

Second, Cady presents a worldview that he has hand-crafted using absurd twists of logic. “Evangelicals” are a gross caricature that seem to march in lock-step on various positions. I believe that Cady actually fails to understand the study he is citing to make his argument. The study he cites is about the beliefs of the Tea Party not about the beliefs of Evangelicals. The Pew study notes that many Evangelicals support the Tea Party and that many Tea Party activists have similar moral views, but nowhere does it delve into the beliefs of Evangelicals. In fact, the Pew study notes that only 42% of Tea Partiers indicate an agreement with Conservative Christians.

Third, another logical fallacy consists of the false dichotomies he presents. According to Cady, I either support the democratic tax policy or embrace corporate greed? I must either embrace a national health care system that will expand access to abortion or I hate poor people? Can I have a third option? Please?

Cady has created an idolatrous Jesus, one that agrees with him on policy, and Cady seems upset when Evangelicals don’t bow down to it.

I have expressed concern before that Evangelicals believe that the Republican party or Conservative movement is synonymous with Christianity. It is not. There is a love for the material world that is damning for the soul within the Republican party. No matter how much it talks about moral values, that does not mean that it has embraced the repentance and faith that the gospel demands. Don’t be deceived.

At the same time, don’t be deceived by those who deny the deity and lordship of Jesus Christ. Just because a party talks about helping the poor doesn’t mean that it rightly understands the life-transforming and God-exalting compassion to which we as believers are called.  Simply proclaiming that you are trying to help people doesn't make it so.


traever guingrich said...

i couldn't agree more. i hate seeing christians confused between the role of the government and the church. or being attacked when they do make a correct distinction.

Em said...

Fantastic (and yet gracious) response.