Particularly during campaign seasons, but often during the regular year, one can hear candidates and their supporters claiming to be Evangelical Christians. While one is often accepting of the labels that others give themselves, it is more than a stretch to accept many of the current proclaimers of that label as genuine Christians, whether that be evangelical, fundamentalist, or otherwise.
The writer grew up in the middle of the Bible Belt, where he, his family, and friends were quite familiar with the Holy Bible. Early-on he was taught, not only at home and in church but in school as well, that Christians were supposed to “love their neighbors as themselves” and to “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It was easy in that context to decide that members of the KKK were not genuine Christians; that segregation and other forms of Jim Crow were not things of which Jesus would approve. Those who refused to follow the principles were not genuine Christians. We were in our own little world, even to the point of not seeing much of how other people lived. We heard that things were different in many other countries and even in parts of this country. It took the advancements in transportation and communication, the expansion of the publishing world, and television to help us see the rest of the world more clearly.
As we fast-forward to the twenty-first century, we see world-famous religious leaders, celebrated political leaders, and many of our neighbors proclaiming themselves as Evangelical Christians. Simultaneously, we see them advocating and/or supporting things that are diametrically opposed to what we had come to know as the teachings of Jesus, the Christ.
In a very graphic way, the idea of loving one’s neighbor as oneself is brought home in the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Matthew. There followers are instructed to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, cloth the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. This they are instructed to do as nations and as individuals. It is also what is taught about faith without works.
On the one hand, we realize that not everybody in the community nor the country is Christian. We realize that there is a separation of church and state in this country. On the other hand, the point that we are making here is that if one is going to claim to be a follower of Jesus, he/she ought to at least try to follow His teachings rather than oppose them by his/her actions. With that in mind, let us turn and look at where many modern Evangelical Christians stand on the matters outlined for Christians in the book of Matthew.
From the very inception, many opposed the idea of Social Security and even minimum wage laws. These two things made it possible for many to have food, clothes, and shelter. Beyond that, however, virtually every time the bills come up, these so-called Christians oppose the renewal of the food stamp and other programs that provide food for the needy. They have consistently opposed expanding Medicaid and tried to de-fund Medicare and Medicaid. The same holds true for bills that make it possible for many to have shelter. We can now add to that list bills that deal with improving the quality of the water and air needed in a growing number of communities. Rather than welcoming migrants and immigrants who are seeking a decent living, these evangelicals are among the first and the loudest to want to build a wall or tighten immigration laws to keep out people from undesirable countries. The same is true regarding people who are strangers to them because of their sexual orientations. Finally, rather than support programs that try to reform criminals or release people unjustly incarcerated, they want to lock up even more people and make their lives more miserable and unchanging.
The additional sad thing about the situation is that these evangelicals take these positions because they argue that these things are too costly on the rest of society. In the back of many of their minds, the people caught up in many of these circumstances are getting what they deserve. Very often the harsh and uncaring attitudes stem from the fact that the victims are not of their tribe; they are “others.”
The writer stands to be corrected if he is wrong. Furthermore, it is no fun to criticize any group so severely. Nevertheless, the writer is of the opinion that many Evangelical Christians are not interested in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger, or visiting the prisoners on their dime. It is “dog eat dog,” after they and their tribe have gotten what they feel entitled to have. They feel that God gave them this land, despite the fact that they committed genocide in order to get it. That, in their minds, makes them the real Americans. At this juncture in history, they are in a position to screw-up everything for everybody else. Additionally, when all is said and done, by deliberately opposing the actions that would mark one a Christian, it leaves these people as nothing more or less than white supremacists/white nationalists.
America could be a real paradise, if Evangelical Christians could bring themselves to do what Jesus commanded rather than just wearing the name. It is a virtual certainty that other Americans – Natives, Africans, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and other European Americans, would more than willingly do their parts in making this country the showplace of the world, so far as human living is concerned. Of course, they would also not feel the need to deceive others by calling themselves by titles that they do not deserve.