When it comes to following the teachings of Jesus, many find little solace within the institutional Church. As a result, we have divided into at least two camps – those who are fighting to sustain a lifetime of church attendance in a world of conflicting allegiances and those who have drifted away, yet longing for relevancy. We press forward trusting that it is never too late for either.
The most self-conscious wing of the American Christian Church, Evangelicalism, having effectively merged with the Republican Party as its hope for America, has turned to an adaptation of the Reagan mantra in “Trickle-Down Theology” – not necessarily from God, but from a cadre of self-appointed prophetic teachers. There is tragically little room for self-examination.
Are we really ambassadors for Jesus to a growing population of people struggling with poverty, homelessness, mental health issues, opioid dependency, sexual and gender identity crises, racism, and greed? Can the American Dream of prosperity and success be reconciled with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God? The answer from the “top” seems to be a resounding “Yeah, but..” at best.
Is the Gospel Good News for the Poor?
Evangelicalism traditionally dismisses as “New-Agey” anything outside its ecclesiastical box. Thus, we are left with the last word from authoritarians on top of their respective cadres of wannabes and has-beens. Jesus’ teaching that “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal” (John 12:25) passes judgment on us, does it not?
Mahatma Gandhi, long ago dismissed by the evangelical community for failure to assent to top-down wisdom, has been credited with this observation:
I believe in the teachings of Christ, but you on the other side of the world do not. I read the Bible faithfully and see little in Christendom that those who profess faith pretend to see.
The Christians above all others are seeking after wealth…Their prosperity is far more essential to them than the life, liberty, and happiness of others.
The Missing Ingredient of Self-examination:
Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, another voice discarded from the “top” of the evangelical dogpile, has the courage to question his own heritage and ours as deriving from 313 CE, the date of the merger of Christianity with the State (the subtle objective of today’s Christian Right):
Those who are outside or at the edges of the system understand Jesus, while those who are inside or at the center are the ones who crucify him…Apart from grace, we don’t see anything valuable on the bottom.
May God forgive us for failing to discern or acknowledge when dictates from the “top” are designed to advance one’s own security and standing within this dog-eat-dog world.