Evangelicals Hate Jesus
There is a brilliantly scathing article over on Huffington Post from a few days ago entitled Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus (I just got it sent to me today). I tend to think I’m pretty blunt to the point of offending conservatives, but this article I think easily trumps anything I’ve written. But while I may not have been quite as harsh in my word choice, I definitely love the point being made. The thesis can be found a bit down the article:
Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus — as we’ve provocatively asserted in the title of this piece. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can’t stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself — his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill — most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.
They go on to explain the rise of what we now think of as evangelical American Christianity. Before the 1950’s, Christians were usually the radical liberals not the radical conservatives, but there was a severe backlash to the Social Gospel after WWII and thus began the disturbing yet interesting subculture that exists today: a subculture that not only accepts violence but actually promotes it, a subculture that seeks to deny human equality, a subculture that is inextricably tried to its nationality. These are all things which were directly opposed by Jesus.
The bit that may interest me the most, and that they don’t really go into in the article that much, is how evangelicals (and I’m still talking mainly about American conservative evangelicals) love that Jesus saves them from Hell but that’s really all that they’re interested in. I probably would have denied that before the recent Rob Bell dramatics. So many responses were that being a Christian was meaningless if they weren’t avoiding Hell that I realized how many people really do think that way. It was actually quite eye-opening, and I think this article did hit the nail on the head with it.
I come to two basic conclusions theologically – as opposed to the historical ones looked at more in the article – as to how the evangelical subculture has reached this position. Firstly, there is such a heavy dose of Jesus as Saviour, and out of the resistance to the Social Gospel’s optimism of improving the world in Jesus’ name, the concept of Jesus as Lord gets shoved aside. All that matters is that Jesus saves us from Hell. Secondly, it is very easy to confuse the importance of a personal relationship with God with having an individual relationship with God. Who needs the church or the rest of society when I have a personal relationship with God? Both are principles that I agree with, but left without the balances of Lordship and community, it can easily lead to some of the distorted mindsets present in the evangelical subculture.