The face of Christianity that most makes headlines across the world—is not one that represents all believers. For example, I was appalled when I saw a news article about an evangelist, a preacher from the south, titled as a pastor, an author, and a radio and television host—so this particular belief system is widely available. In a nutshell, this pastor proclaims that Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics and Hindus have rejected Christ and will therefore, go to Hell when they die. Unfortunately, I’m not making this stuff up. I’m fairly certain I would be added to this list as I most certainly do not follow the same Jesus as depicted by this line of thinking. The bigotry of Christian leaders is running rampant. Somehow, we became a people that condemns anyone who doesn’t sing the same self-entitling praises that we sing. It’s disgusting and it’s tearing Christianity apart.
To add insult to injury, this pastor and others making the headlines of late, play victim as they lament that Christians in America are being persecuted. You read that correctly. These preachers believe that they are being attacked for their attempts to speak out against the Devil—which in their opinion, resides in anyone and anything that isn’t them. Isn’t that convenient? To have God reject everyone you don’t like? But really, to say that Christians in America are being persecuted has got to be one of the most arrogant statements I have heard to date. If we want to talk about persecution in America, we need to go back to our nation’s indigenous – ask them how it felt to have a bunch of white people come to their land and make it their own, practically annihilating their religion, all while claiming they came in search of religious freedom. Or, just to branch out a little further than ourselves, let’s consider many of our sister nations. If we want to talk about persecution, we need to first step into the shoes of those who are tortured for even asking questions about a religion their government doesn’t dictate. So, no, preachers, people countering your perspective is not persecution.
But let’s get back to this overarching mindset; this idea that anything that goes against your opinion, is obviously the work of the Devil, is a very dangerous way of thinking...one that I believe divides Christianity down the middle (thus, the need to differentiate what type of Christian one claims to be). Condemning someone for not falling prey to your personal belief system is the very attitude that brought about the holocaust, apartheid, white supremacy, nationalism, and Christian extremism, just to name a few. We must seek to separate ourselves from this type of behavior. Furthermore, we must call it out as the abuse it is.
Every scriptural account of Jesus Christ standing up against the religious dictators of his day, isn’t documented so that we might become dictators ourselves, but that we might do as Jesus did and fight the oppression such a mindset produces. How do we know if our religious perspective stands contrary to the call of Christ? Well, if it excludes anyone that doesn’t agree with us, it’s not Christ-driven. Jesus was born as “good news of great joy for all people.” Let’s not forget that we are the ones who have added a whole host of restrictions to that statement. Christ didn’t create religion, humanity did. The Christ we know from the Bible lived a life of activism and called for release of those held captive by oppressive powers. Indeed, Jesus confronted human greed head-on. If we claim to be followers of Christ, we, too, must call out modern-day Herod’s and work for the world God empowered us to enjoy.