It seems that wherever “Great Commission” people have established a foothold in a society and advanced their notion of the religion of Jesus (notice that I said “their notion”), those societies have not become more loving and peaceful.
Instead, other religions have been disrespected. Land and minerals have been seized and stolen. Government practices have become brutal. Dissent has been outlawed. People who hold different beliefs and different visions of life and love have been marginalized, persecuted and even massacred.
That is not only the history of previous generations. That is the reality now wherever the “evangelical” efforts of “Great Commission” religionists are gaining acceptance.
Even in Africa, South America, Asia and the Pacific Islands, when “Great Commission” notions of evangelism have been successful, systems of oppression, injustice, wealth, health and educational inequity, and authoritarian government are surging.
I am not asking us to remove Matthew 28:18-20 from the Bible. I am challenging the idea of spreading “the gospel” as a “mission” and mandate from Jesus while casting aside the teachings of Jesus to live as part of beloved community with God, others and the creation.
There is something wrong and harmful about a movement that would rather boast about calling other people “converts” than living with them in community.
There is something harmful and sinister about a movement that uses the name and ministry of Jesus to “convert” others as a pretext for stealing their land, labor and minerals and for belittling their ancestry.
There is something sinister and diabolical about taking the identity and ministry of Jesus – a man devoted to non-violence who was murdered by the Roman Empire at the behest of religious nationalists and profiteers – and using it to sacralize premeditated and systemic expressions of violence: imperial, political, commercial, personal, physical, sexual, moral, environmental, racial, domestic, social, religious and global.
There is something diabolical and hateful about claiming a “Great Commission” from Jesus to treat immigrants as “illegal,” blame them for societal woes, separate immigrant children from their parents, and refuse to grant migrating people asylum from violence, war and poverty.
The religion of the “Great Commission” is not a religion of love, community, peace and justice. It is not a religion of truth, repentance, reparation and reconciliation. It is a religion of white supremacy, manifest destiny, imperialism, colonialism and capitalism.
The religion of the “Great Commission” is not a religion of Jesus. It is a religion that pimps the name and ministry of Jesus to advance empires.
“Great Commission” people produced poisoned water for Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi. “Great Commission” people support profiteering gun manufacturers and their lobbyists over the health and safety of other persons.
“Great Commission” people are bearing false witness about critical race theory and intersectionality, demonizing LGBTQI persons, and preventing women from exercising the freedom to choose whether to bear children.
“Great Commission” people are mis-using the name of Jesus to support a Zionist apartheid regime in Israel that steals land, water and life from Palestinians, and discriminates against people who criticize, condemn and boycott it.
“Great Commission” people celebrate chambers of commerce as forces for “economic development,” but condemn labor organizations as “greedy.” They love industries that pollute the air, water and ground, but condemn environmentalists as “tree huggers.”
“Great Commission” people did not speak up after Black people were massacred in Tulsa, Elaine, East St. Louis, Omaha, Rosewood and elsewhere in service to white supremacy.
“Great Commission” people are supporting white nationalist and capitalist policies, voting for right-wing politicians and getting their information from right-wing media outlets, including some that call themselves “Christian media.”
Now “Great Commission” so-called “Christian” politicians such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders in Arkansas, Ron DeSantis in Florida, Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, and Greg Abbott in Texas are leading efforts to prevent students from learning about the history of racial injustice in the United States and across the world. In Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is dismantling public education and promoting mass incarceration at the same time.
“Great Commission” evangelical voters are the backbone of a neo-fascist movement that threatens democracy and justice in the United States and across the world.
I want no part of that religion.
I bear in my memory and ancestry the proof of its hatefulness. I see its greed and lust for power every day in the faces of people who live with their backs against the wall where I live and across the world.
Jesus told his followers to embrace and follow his nonviolent, loving, communal and generous life in God’s name, not use him as a license to lie, steal, murder and destroy other cultures in service to political, commercial, personal and religious empire.
I love the nonviolent, inclusive, communal path that Jesus set forth. That is why I chose to follow the nonviolent, inclusive, communal way he lived and called on his early disciples to practice and teach others.
We should practice, teach and invite others to share that way, not a “Great Commission” religion bottomed on a vision of white supremacist global empire and enterprise.
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is available here.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a retired state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion, and a contributing correspondent at Good Faith Media.