What Jesus Are You Worshipping? And Realizing Its Time to Leave

In a recent New York Times article there was a comment in a post that grabbed my attention. The comment dealt with watching a church change and become more political and more focused on the culture wars. The person finally asked, which Jesus is being worshipped? And then they left.

“Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.

Karl Menninger 

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James 1:21 NIV

NCC3

Last week this blog wrote about an op-ed in the New York Times by Michelle Goldberg. You can access that op-ed in, “Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times. The Decline of White Evangelicalism is Leading Evangelicals Who Fear Losing Power to Defile the United States.” There was a comment that resonated with me in which a person described why they left their evangelical church. They wanted to just go to church but they saw it change in the Obama years. The church became more political and racial overtones started to come forward. They didn’t recognize the place and they decided to leave. There were a couple of comments along those lines. 

I checked out from evangelicalism from 2009 until 2013 but when I came back I noticed something more political. I also watched the behavior of people I knew from other churches in California or Wisconsin. I saw more conspiracies. I saw some marry faith and the right to own a gun which baffled me and I am a gun owner. I saw hostility and more overt racial tones. And what stunned me is that some of the people I just didn’t recognize as much. But for me the painful years were after the November 2016 election and the first couple of years afterward. That is when I lost a number of relationships or people questioned my faith because I was a Rubio voter at the time. What I saw I didn’t understand and it was painful. But the height of the racial issues which stunned me go back to my former Campus Crusade for Christ director in Milwaukee – Steve Papez. Even though he taught about racism as sinful when I did Crusade in 2016 and the first couple of years he threw his adopted (Who here remembers when every evangelical wanted to adopt from either China or Africa in the 1990s?) African-American daughters under the bus. I just could not understand that kind of loyalty. But this comment below hit a nerve.


I don’t understand what has happened to the church in America. From 1996 to 2010 I was very happy at my small church community, no one really spoke politics, it was all about the Bible and theology. I began to notice a change during the Obama years, and once Trump arrived people started to come out of the closet. I realized I was not worshiping the same Jesus as they were. I was amazed at the way he was embraced, no one spoke up against him, a few maybe. I realized white supremacy was alive and well in that church. I left in 2015.

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Michelle Goldberg commented 17 minutes ago

Michelle Goldberg

The New York Times17m ago

@Radagast This is so sad but also so interesting. I’m not surprised the change that you describe began during the Obama years. The experience of a Black president was so radicalizing for so many conservative white evangelicals, and as Jones pointed out to me, the Obama years were also when self-identified white Christians stopped being a majority in America. Your experience gets at a self-perpetuating dynamic driving evangelical decline. Racial and cultural resentment, driven in part by a sense of losing power, led many white evangelicals to embrace hard-edged right-wing politics. Those politics, in turn, drove out believers who didn’t share them, leading to further shrinkage.

 

31 thoughts on “What Jesus Are You Worshipping? And Realizing Its Time to Leave

  1. I occasionally listen to old Christian music and hear themes of racial reconciliation, poverty, anti-war, fighting legalism, love, anti-violence, etc. And I think how different that is from what we’re hearing lately. Just the other day I heard this from Amy Grant:

    “I went to see my brother
    On the 32nd floor
    Of a building down on Wall Street
    You could hear the future’s roar
    He said, “Here we make decisions
    And we trade commodities
    If you tell me where there’s famine
    I can make you guarantees”
    I said, “Is this all there is
    Power to the strong?”
    Something’s wrong”

    What? A Christian song against capitalism? How can that be??!! /sarcasm off

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s not the the evangelicals. After Obama was elected, I started seeing White Supremacy in the Pagan-Wiccan community, particularly in the “Heathen” groups & “Germanic” or “Nordic” groups. What had once been a very accepting, eclectic group of people has now splintered into warring groups, each accusing the other of “cultural appropriation” in the name of “cultural purity” & “tradition”. I have always been a solitary but I find this very troubling & sad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I started seeing White Supremacy in the Pagan-Wiccan community, particularly in the “Heathen” groups & “Germanic” or “Nordic” groups.

      Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler would be proud of them.
      Wasn’t his grand plan to make a Nazified Germanic/Nordic Heathenism the Reich’s State Religion? With his SS as its Priesthood and Wawelburg as its Great Temple?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, yes. The Nazi Party, the only ones who could stand against The Radical Left and WIN der christlicher Kulturkampf. The Christians’ only champions against the Pornographic HOMOSEXUAL decadence of Weimar Berlin. The only ones who could Make Deutschland Great Again, restore Traditional Family Values, and enforce Christian Morality.

        Liked by 1 person

    • What had once been a very accepting, eclectic group of people has now splintered into warring groups…

      Many years ago when I was most active in SF litfandom, we had a lot of Wiccans among the more Fantasy than SF fans. One told me the reason covens are limited to thirteen members is that more than that and factions form, the infighting starts, and the coven splits (schisms). So some sort of “splintering into warring groups” has always been there.

      It’s not a Wiccan thing, it’s not a Christian thing, it’s a People thing – another example of Stupid People Tricks. The late Fred Patten, oral historian of local Old School SF fandom, spoke of Science Fiction clubs in the Forties who never had more than five members but were always split into two warring groups. All Out Total Warring Groups. Again, Stupid People Tricks.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s an important Barna graph that is staggering: https://i.imgur.com/r4psZwr.jpg

    It’s from here: https://www.barna.com/research/changing-state-of-the-church/

    It shows that around 2011, there was a huge shift in practicing Christians from 41% to 31% of Americans. And while there was a decline since 2008, there’s no doubt something happened.

    2008 was when Obama became president. 2011 was Harold Camping and the leadup to Obama’s second term.

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      • Should we just expect evangelicalism in the United States to just get darker as it gets more removed from the mainstream?

        YES.
        An animal is never as dangerous as when it’s wounded and cornered, and the Christians have spent decades in their little bubble surrounded by SATANIC enemies (real and imagined) out to Destroy them. Now they see those Enemies winning.

        Culture War Without End (To The Death), Amen.

        The only way out is to take over themselves (before their numbers get too small) and destroy all those Enemies before that can happen and establish a Truly Christian Nation with themselves on top. Forever. “BOOGALOO!”

        And they’ll look for and cleave to any LORD and Savior who will do that for them. “MAGA!”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What Jesus Are You Worshipping?

    These days, the One in Mar-a-Lago (Who WIll Come Again).
    Or a Cosmic projection of the same.

    Like

  5. I saw the same thing in my previous evangelical church, with the transition accelerating especially in the 2008-2012 timeframe. GoIng back to when I started attending in 1986, the church was always politically conservative and the vast majority of people always voted Republican, but the tone really changed in those years. People were extremely hostile towards Obama. In the Bill Clinton years, people didn’t like him, and he was constantly being criticized in the church, but in the case of Obama it was more than criticism, it was outright hatred. It was clearly deeply personal. For a very long time I naively minimized the racial aspect of this in my assessment of what was happening, but it ultimately grew to be too much to ignore as a big contributing factor.

    The other thing that happened during this time was that it seemed like EVERYBODY was watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh every day, and people were just as likely to be talking politics in the halls of church as they were to be discussing faith or the Bible. Just a constant stream of “all anti-Obama, all the time,” and this showed very much in the lives of those listeners.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I should have said, we left the church in 2013, although I know this trend continued after that point, and definitely helped to pave the way towards the idolization of the “Savior of American Christianity,” Donald Trump.

      Liked by 1 person

    • We moved to a new town in 2010; found a church that looked welcoming and faithful to Christ. It was after a couple of weeks, and I was in the foyer preparing for Sunday worship service. I saw two elders snickering to themselves over something on a cellphone. I casually walked by and noticed what they were laughing about. It was a cartoon with President Obama portrayed as a monkey. I never went back.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I left Evangelicalism a few years earlier, so didn’t see my old church tilt that way. It was the same thing there: A lot of people probably voted Republican, but the preacher didn’t encourage politics in church, so we also had a number of Democrats–and they hated Bush. After that we were in a Presbyterian church for a year, where the people tended to be liberals, then I moved to an Orthodox church where people were split between Republicans and Democrats. I hear the occasional political talk, but not a lot.

      However, my narc ex-friend was a convert from Foursquare into Orthodoxy, and also very political, a Libertarian. He’d make nasty comments about Obama, and comments like “We’re not in the same America we were before” and “I’m probably going to get locked up for being Christian.” He joined the TEA Party and started calling himself an anarcho-capitalist. So even though neither one of us were Fundie/Evangelical anymore, that anti-Obama talk was very much there, and driving me crazy.

      And now it’s gotten worse. I don’t hear it at church, but I hear it from friends and family who are Republican. I used to be political on Facebook, then in the Walker era I started zipping my lip. But in 2019 I realized that people kept “assuming” I was Republican etc., and making comments to me based on that belief. I finally got mad and “came out” on Facebook. Now I have to deal with snarky comments from the Republican friends/family. Some have been unfriended; some probably unfriended me; others get put on “probation” by being blocked from seeing my posts for a time. It wasn’t this bad when I was political on FB a decade ago. There were a few annoying ones (like my ex-friend, and my brother-in-law, who unfriended me for making liberal comments), but most of the comments weren’t nasty.

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    • Just a constant stream of “all anti-Obama, all the time,” and this showed very much in the lives of those listeners.

      And since Obama was cast as the Black Antichirst figure for seven years plus one, guess who got cast as the Returning Christ figure to overturn The Beast at Armageddon and usher in The Millennium?

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  6. I think many in Evangelical circles somehow include in their theology some kind of link to the prosperity of the USA. The idea is that if we do the right things (vote republican, oppose abortion, build the wall, get the vaccine, whatever) then the country will be prosperous and God will bless us. I’ve heard preachers say that we, as Christians, need to “take back our country” by getting involved in politics. (I can’t find that in scripture, though…)

    Some in my former fundie/evangelical church were so gung-ho for Trump they naturally assumed that because I shared their faith in Jesus and membership in that community that I must also share their politics as well. The idea that I have to think and vote exactly like everyone else at my church is simplistic and offensive. Not to mention, you would think that my friends of over 15 years would care to know me well enough to know where I stood politically and/or made room for differing opinions.

    I wish we could get back to civil discourse where we share ideas and listen to other (different, opposing, unique) ideas, learn about each other, and somehow remain friends. I think with social media that time is long gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I got a lot of those “assumptions” for a while, as well. I kept quiet about politics because they’d gotten so volatile, both locally and nationally. So people assumed that because I was Christian, I felt/voted a certain way on various issues. I finally got tired of it and “came out” on Facebook….I got support, but some people really got snarky and offensive.

      Like

  7. The great irony is that Jesus (if he was real) probably looked more like Yasser Arafat than the Barry Gibb Jesus in much evangelical art..

    What you’re seeing are the convulsions of a demographic that has lost its privileged place. Sure democracy is lots of fun when you have the majority vote.

    Like

    • Jack, I think you sell the magic of the double-helix short.
      The ideals of human beauty are universal and I for one seriously doubt that The Son of God looked anything like Yasser Arafat.
      Of course I can’t prove it with something yanked out of my ass.
      How about showing you that the square root of 2 is not a rational number?

      Like

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