It’s a good question, and it’s something that everybody can see, except, of course, White Evangelical Christians. It’s sort of amazing to liberal believers, atheists, agnostics, etc., that these people, who so fervently scream about how they’re the Real Christians, the ones who really have been Saved By The Blood Of Jesus, often have little to nothing in common with the deity they claim to worship. A new study has come out which addresses this very topic:
The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life () reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.
Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor — especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training — anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.
Oh, but here is the thing, and it is a lightbulb moment:
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.
In other words, conservative Evangelicals react to Jesus the same way they react to everything else: “What is in it for ME?”
Now think about it. This sort of selfish mentality also informs their reactions to things like marriage equality, because people who are only concerned with themselves tend to play victim when somebody else threatens to outdo them in quality of life, love, happiness, etc. They have so long convinced themselves that they are The Elect, and that their system of morality is the best one, so it really messes them up to consider that the rest of the population has no use for their patriarchal system, for their rigid shame-inducing lifestyle, or anything else about them, really. It’s the same mentality that has retirees on Medicare joining the anti-union pitchfork-fest in Wisconsin. That’s why it’s really not surprising that conservative, fundamentalist Christians are the most likely demographic when it comes to supporting selfish, awful policies that do nothing but hurt people.
Indeed, in my Evangelical upbringing, there was an inordinate focus on the idea of grace, but not in a humane sort of way. It was a sort of grace that was offered to Evangelical Christians for no reason other than that God had chosen us. There were always banal ramblings from the pulpit about how this inherently meant we weren’t better than anyone else, because we weren’t elect by our own merit. But at the end of the day, just the same, we were the elect. We got ours. This was a Calvinist tradition, but it’s much the same in the more Baptist, Arminian framework. The only difference is that the Baptists knew well enough that they’d better accept Jesus Christ into their hearts, thus making them elect. The others who didn’t? We got ours.
It’s useful to remember these sorts of things, when considering the fight for equal rights. We’re dealing with people who have been trained to be selfish, to view this life as merely a stepping stone to a magical paradise fantasy land, the entry into which they have not earned, but that they have nonetheless received.
In other words, screw the rest of y’all, you’ll be sorry when we’re all in Heaven!