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The large, dominating white team within Americanized Christianity has called time out and made a substitution. It was a very poor move.

One doesn’t have to guess who is truly Lord when proven conservative Christian leaders are pressured out of long-held positions solely for their “sins” of criticizing the deceptive, destructive and immoral behavior of white evangelical’s beloved political savior and his many uncritical underlings.

Russell Moore, former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics and religious liberty arm, and Marvin Olasky, who recently resigned as editor of World magazine, are a few of the higher-profile examples.

But there are pastors aplenty and other Christian leaders whose lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by this major realignment of loyalties.

And, for many, the hateful and hostile reactions from once-supportive teammates and those who fill the stands have added to the fears and disruptions of daily living. In many cases, it has been, and is, brutal.

This establishment of a new divine Deliverer — whose demands require arrogance over humility and selfishness over sacrifice — is both striking and ironic.

Christian leaders from small churches to large evangelical institutions — now facing this fanatical, pharisaic opposition — are being heavily pressured simply for rejecting the very unchristian values and behaviors conservatives have long opposed.

But that was before the major substitution. And don’t think other church and denominational leaders haven’t taken notice.

When the heat rose on Moore, his mentor and Southern Baptist seminary head Albert Mohler sprinted to the other team — renouncing his earlier denouncements and promising loyalty to the perceived winner. It’s a game plan Mohler has executed for decades.

Many pastors today face immense and threatening pressure from emboldened parishioners who expect — and often demand — that the Sunday sermons align with the talking heads of Fox News rather than that those weeknight rants align with the gospel.

What many ministers have been teaching and preaching for years — about basic Christian values and behavior — can no longer be said aloud without it being heard as criticism of their hearer’s new beloved.

There’s a lot of soft selling going on in pulpits as a result. Carefully chosen words have never been more carefully chosen. Yet, the gospel message really can’t be watered down without being perverted.

One may wonder — at least I do — how long any credibility within Americanized Christianity can remain when so many leaders keep their heads down in fear of criticism or even job loss while those who claim the highest devotion to the faith bow their heads in a different direction than the cross.

A stark reality to consider is the likelihood that Jesus never was Lord. When those who told us so — and taught us all those biblical stories — turn out to not take his calling seriously, and can so easily turn to opposing allegiances, it is easy to reach that conclusion.

This realization — that surely brings disappointment, even disillusionment — is painful for those of us who dared to believe that the way of Christ we were taught was more than a Sunday morning nod of the head.

These are the people who told us to be faithful even if it meant being tossed into a lions’ den or having to hang on a cross of our own. And then suddenly, and with seeming ease, they leave Jesus for a new messiah who merely offers the deceptive promises of self-interest and the preservation of white cultural power.

Could it be that following Jesus was never the real purpose of white Americanized Christianity? Were eternal escapism and institutional success the real driving forces?

Evidence is mounting to reach such conclusions.

The challenge for so many facing this painful realization — while holding deep gratitude for the positive ways our faith traditions impacted our lives — is how to consider our options amid an overwhelming, redirected allegiance away from the lordship of Jesus.

One response that many are choosing is to simply ignore it — or rationalize away the clear indications that Jesus has been largely sidelined within much of white Americanized Christianity.

Another is to resist it at every turn — with a willingness to accept the often-ugly responses from those who want to bear the Christian name while advancing a political ideology at odds with the essence of what Jesus revealed about God.

A third path, and these are not exclusive of one another, is to create or find expressions of the Christian faith — whether old or new ones — where imperfect people can failingly, but honestly, seek to follow Jesus. One where at least he remains Lord, and is still in the game.

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