I’m a Christian but not that kind.
In America, there has always been at least two types of believers: slaveholding or liberating, segregating or protesting inequality.
The former type is certain that we must protect the police but unsure of where to stand in cases of police brutality. They promote book-banning and ignore history, but not that part about my ancestors’ kind.
They are part of the book club that is comfortable with the title but not with what the last chapter calls for, they fight over words like “woke” and “critical race theory,” and they just want to read their Bibles and go to church.
Lately, Christians have been split into the Democrat and Republican kind. Less subversive and more subordinate to political parties, you’ll find them on either side. “People of the Way,” though sharing the same faith, continue to go in opposite directions.
Our managing editor Zach Dawes Jr. shared a recent Pew Research Center report that said 60% of U.S. adults believe that the founders intended for America to be a Christian nation.
However, Christianity as the dominant religion in America is an oxymoron, conflicting with its founder who rode in on a donkey as an indication of his humility and weakness and not with an army of support.
Christianity as the sole religion of the nation and, thus, something to fight over and defend is Christian nationalism. Though we live in a time when, if we disagree, then we must divide, I would like to continue the conversation.
When I hear Christian nation, I immediately wonder, “What kind of Christian?” Frederick Douglass experienced them both, writing in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, his autobiography:
“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I, therefore, hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial, and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.”
It is a two-faced faith, which has a good and a bad side. But, if we can count two Christianities, then we have one too many.
I believe that the fourth-century preacher John Chrysostom got it right. He said, “This is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good … for nothing can so make a person an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors.”
Put that gospel tract down. This is not a call to go door-to-door and ask, “If you die tonight, where will you spend eternity?” No, “neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept,” Rabbi Joachim Prinz says.
This neighborliness is how we can espouse a standard of behavior that allows us to live in community and in cooperation with what is best for us all — not because everyone is a Christian but because we believe that God loves every human being unconditionally.
The Christian witness in America is more than inconsistent if we have to ask, “What kind of Christian?”
The faith wasn’t meant to define a nation. We should not view the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the 14 territories of the U.S. as synonymous with the kingdom of God or become identified with gross generalizations, reduced to groups labeled “evangelical” and whatever the exact opposite of that is.
A “patriotic gospel,” a mixture of religion and the race to the White House, some Christians believe Jesus needs our political assistance. Yes, for Christians, Jesus is our savior but not that kind.