Do you remember after 9/11 how there was a message being put forth that the terrorists did not represent Islam? Authentic Islam is a religion of peace, not violence, we were told. American leadership called on such people to denounce the actions of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, to separate themselves from the evildoers. Back then, it was difficult for me to understand the position the majority of mainstream Muslims were put in by extremists who had hijacked their religion, distorted it, and declared war on my country.
I understand now.
Now, there is an “imposter” Christianity that has hijacked my religion, distorted it, and is a threat to the witness of the church and to democracy. It’s been around for many years, but it is growing and feeding the movement of White Christian Nationalism. Unfortunately, elements of Imposter Christianity have infiltrated deeply into the mainstream and is found in all kinds of churches.
I feel compelled to denounce this imposter Christianity and that’s why I write this blog and share it with you. Authentic Christianity, Christianity rooted in the Gospels, is about following Jesus.
Imposter Christianity is a political movement and an ideology; it is about being right and having all the answers. It seeks power and claims to honor God by imposing certain biblical values on others.
Following Jesus is about understanding that God is honored in humility, in mercy, and in sacrifice. The sacrifice that God seeks is that we would welcome refugees, feed the hungry and surrender our individual freedoms, even our lives, for the sake of the “other.” It is not about power; it is about surrender.
Imposter Christianity is rooted in fear and uses fear to manipulate.
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” The quote comes from Yoda, but the concept is in line with Christian teaching. Fear is the path to sin. “Do not fear,” is the most common single idea in the Bible. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Churches and political leaders who stoke fear and anger in the name of God or by using biblical concepts, lead their followers to hate their neighbors and destroy the witness of Jesus.
Imposter Christianity boldly claims to be “biblically based” and is a proud proponent of a “biblical worldview.” This biblical worldview is a filter through which to view the world, the lens through which one interprets science, medicine, history, culture, and morality. If the Bible must be true in all things, then anyone who presents evidence contrary to the Bible is a liar and cannot be trusted. This is how we got the two different realities that we seem to live in today. This is why I believe in teaching the Bible. The Bible in no way presents any kind of simple worldview to interpret our world through. The Bible reveals God to us and was presented in a way that made sense to people who lived thousands of years ago in a culture far different from our own.
The whole Bible helps us to interpret the world through God’s mission of reconciliation. The Bible is not a code to live one’s life by and it certainly is not a code to judge another person’s life by. It is a tool through which we can experience God’s presence.
If Christians seek to find a worldview in the Bible, it is found in the words of Jesus. It does not pertain to science, medicine, history or culture and it sums up the whole of what it means to live a moral life: “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:38-40)
Read that last part again: All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Authentic Christianity filters the Bible through the command to love, to love God and to love neighbor.
Imposter Christianity celebrates the joy of justification (being saved) and declares that it is finished.
Authentic Christianity struggles through the difficult, lifelong process of sanctification, of walking humbly with God through the transformational process that tears down the idols of conviction and self-righteousness.
Authentic Christianity seeks to embody love.
It is patient, it is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Authentic Christianity does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.