IS THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT “RIGHT”?

During my undergraduate years in college, I served as student coordinator for Campus Crusade for Christ. At the peak of the Vietnam War and political protests, I participated in a faith-based initiative on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.The campus was in turmoil at that time due to the firing of the college present, Clark Kerr.We had many speakers involved in our spiritual thrust, including the Reverend Billy Graham.The week-long theme was, “Jesus, the Revolutionary.”I was taken back by the interest that many students demonstrated as they carried signs reading, “Jesus Yes, Christianity No.”The students were open to the teachings of Jesus but were less enthusiastic and rejected many of the values associated with a Christian world-view.

As I conversed with many Berkeley students, I found them to be spiritually open-minded, thoughtful and reflective.These students shared an ideological perspective that was compatible with my own.I found the students to be more spiritually mature than those from the Midwestern University that I attended. My own university schoolmates were more interested in what fraternity or sorority they would join as opposed to contemplating in-depth issues regarding the meaning of life.

 

My week-long exposure at Berkeley got me thinking.Was it true that Jesus really was the revolutionary figure of his time?I concluded that if He were present on this earth today, He would be dismayed by the brand of Christianity professed by many who seek to follow in His footsteps.

Jesus’ teachings and lifestyle went against the grain of the religious establishment of His day.As one reads the Gospel accounts, one is struck by the extent to which He contradicted those who held the religious power of His time.When the religious leaders hid behind their scriptural literalness, He rebuked them for missing spiritual insights. When He was challenged about breaking the religious rules, He proclaimed that the rules were made to aid people, not trap them.When the religious power-brokers accused Jesus of hob-knobbing with the whores, He dismissed their insensitivity for neglecting the poor and down-trodden.He accused the religious establishment of criticizing the sins of others while refusing to “see the log in their own eye.”Jesus reminded the Scribes and Pharisees that the Bible was meant to be a scriptural account that would point people to Him.It was not meant to be a guidebook used as a pretense to personal piety.In John 5:39 Jesus said to the religious leaders, “You search the scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life.But the scriptures point to me.” (New living translation).

 

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, today’s Christian Right:

  • …Displays rigidity in their interpretations of scripture, rejecting any differences in perspective as “going against God’s will.”
  • …Pontificates about the obvious “sins of the flesh” such as drinking and sexual indiscretion while ignoring the other more subtle “sins of the spirit” such as pride, greed, envy and jealousy.This convenient diversion tends to take responsibility away from the more egregious sins of the spirit which we all commit.
  • …Places more emphasis on a conservative political agenda rather than their religious beliefs.From a religious perspective, Mitt Romney’s beliefs are antithetical to those of the Christian Right.However, his political ideology is compatible with the Christian Right and all of the religious differences will soon be forgotten as he seeks the candidacy for President.
  • …Demonstrates a sense of false piety and over-spiritualizes reality.The third Biblical commandment indicates that we should “not use the Lord’s name in vain.”This is called blasphemy. Many of the Christian Right are convinced that this is a commandment about swearing.Although swearing is not desirable, this commandment is broader in scope.The context of the commandment refers to using religious language as a pretense to pious behavior.More specifically, the commandment addresses those who incessantly try to impress others with their overbearing religious posture by over-spiritualizing life.This includes chronic verbiage such as, “It’s the Lord’s will” and those who say, “Praise the Lord” in every other sentence.God’s name is to be revered, not used lightly in a blasphemous manner.
  • …Has an immature concept of God. James Fowler, theologian and author, illuminates this issue in his book, Stages of Faith.Those who embrace an infantile faith appear to view God as the “Cop in the sky” who punishes those who are not obedient to His every command.In my opinion there is a difference between child-like faith and childish faith.Cooperating with God is a more mature way of defining our relationship with the Lord.
  • …Uses the Bible as a vehicle for defending their position on many subjects. Like the religious establishment of Jesus’ day, the scriptures are interpreted in a preconceived manner to fit the believer’s convictions. By being overly-literal, the translation is lost for practical everyday living.

 

The way the Christian Right operationalizes its beliefs reminds me of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Those beliefs and behaviors are what He challenged the religious establishment to transcend. It was not the “letter of the law,” but the “spirit of the law” that He emphasized. The spirit of the law represents acceptance, tolerance, love, open-mindedness and personal responsibility. This is the spiritual revolution that we students were talking about so many years ago at Berkeley.

 

 

James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer, and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona.Are you in the bubble or have you stepped out? See www.booklocker.com.James can be reached at www.krehbielcounseling.com.

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