a note on jesus and evangelical christianity

Some people were apparently offended by my post a couple weeks ago about being ‘prayed for’. That has bothered me a bit, and I want to take an opportunity to clarify that. I’m not anti-Jesus and I’m not anti-Christian, I’m just anti-assholes-in-the-name-of-Jesus. But I’m not eloquent, and didn’t convey that in my post.

In contrast, John Scalzi is an excellent writer, and he puts it really, really well today, in a discussion about Luke 6:42 and Ted Haggard:

From the outside, it looks like evangelistic core beliefs are about division, acquisition and exclusion, none of which strike me as particularly Christ-like (or for that matter particularly evangelical). I’m never going to be an evangelical Christian, but I like Jesus; he was a righteous dude. It would be nice to see more of Jesus in the loud and showy thing that is evangelical Christianity. I don’t expect it. It would still be nice to see.

[Emphasis mine.]

So yeah… that’s my position on Jesus and evangelical christianity. If the idea of more forgiveness and turning the other cheek offends you, then please continue to be offended by me. But if you believe in the Jesus who said this:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.

Then we’re pretty much on the same page, regardless of the details of whether or not I believe in an afterlife and the resurrection.

16 thoughts on “a note on jesus and evangelical christianity”

  1. Justo como yo quería decirlo, aquí está (Via algunos Planets, en inglés, sí) un buen resumen de mis ideas religiosas. Espero que nos encontremos un poquito de acuerdo.

  2. Scalzi makes the common error of confusing evangelical (believing that the Bible is the ultimate authority for behaviour and doctrine) and evangelistic (concerned with telling people about your religion). Obviously most evangelicals are evangelistic, but a lot of Christian evangelists aren’t evangelicals, and to assume that evangelicals are so called because they evangelise is to misunderstand them. Misunderstanding people with political power is often a dangerous thing to do.

  3. I don’t think he has a problem with either of those, per se- his problem is with capital E Evangelism. Evangelism in the US is a movement which is not only evangelical and evangelistic in your senses of the words, but which has specific divisive and exclusive interpretations of that ultimate authority, and which seeks not only to evangelize, but to use government to enforce that interpretation of the authority.

    So, yes, I agree that misunderstanding people with political power is often a dangerous thing to do, but the misunderstanding would be to think that Evangelicals in this country are merely evangelical and evangelistic in the limited sense you describe, Thomas. I (and I think Scalzi) have no problem with critical evangelicals and ‘mere’ evangelism- it is the literal, politically-loaded reading of the Bible (which is best read critically and skeptically, understanding that even if it is the Word, it is often vague, self-contradictory, and spoken to poor tribesmen 2-4,000 years ago), combined with the transformation of evangelism into political activism, that I have a problem with.

  4. I’d better pray for you, otherwise God will kill a kitten.

    Error message at the bottom of your blog:

    Warning: gethostbyaddr() [function.gethostbyaddr]: Address is not a valid IPv4 or IPv6 address in /home/louie/public_html/tieguy.org/blog/wp-content/plugins/bdprt/bdp-referral-db.php on line 244

  5. Ithink Evangelicalism in theUSand is quite differentto other places in the world. USstyle Evangelicalism has spread in part to other shores, but hasn’t made that much impact. But then again, I would call myself a postevangelical so what wouldIknow (apologies, spacebaris playingsilly buggers)

  6. You might be interested in knowing that there is absolutely zero evidence that there ever was a Jesus Christ – it has just went on to become one of those “everyone knows” truths. Oh, there’s plenty people saying there’s evidence, however, when you go actually *look for yourself* you will find nothing, and noone can point you to any actual indications of his existence (they can however start calling you this and that at this point).

    That doesn’t invalidate that being excellent to each other is a great idea – but why need a lot of mysticism to be a good person?

  7. Proof or non-proof of his existence really doesn’t matter- I mean, there clearly isn’t proof of the existence of his father either, and that hasn’t stopped people believing in him for thousands of years. What matters is how you want to interpret the myth/fact, not whether it is a myth or fact- the myth is firmly enough entrenched that it might as well be fact for all intents and purposes.

  8. I’m not a Christian, nor do I any follow any other organised religion. That said, I have no trouble accepting that Jesus may have been an ethical person (because my personal standard of ethics agrees with, for example, Jesus’ pronouncement cited above.)

    However, I take offence at many religions’ tendency to associate ethics with particular historical/mythological characters. The argument usually goes something like this: Jesus said foo; it is self-evident that foo is ethical. Therefore you should believe in Jesus, and the set of ethical principles is equivalent to what Jesus said. This is true of several religions, not just a few branches of Christianity, and so my use of “Jesus” here should not be misconstrued.

    The trouble is, I believe, that this suppresses our inherent ability to judge on ethical and social matters, borne out of the social structure of our species. It may indeed be true that everything Jesus said was right and proper, but it is crucial that we verify this for ourselves and not accept it simply because it is holy writ.

    One may read and memorize a science encyclopaedia, and then believe every fact it presents, but that doesn’t make one a scientist. On the other hand, a true scientist may have fewer factual data, but if they have been obtained using the scientific method, they are infinitely more valuable.

    Similarly, justifying ethical propositions using Jesus as an example is a circular argument, like saying “alchemy must be true because Newton said so.” We must instead perform the equivalent of an ethical “observation” and look deep into ourselves for the answer to ethical dilemmas. This way religious authorities, having power over theological imagery, cannot extend that power over our definition of morality or ethics.

  9. Oh, I understand that his problem with is with the current reactionary brand of evangelicalism in the US, I just think the fact that he uses “evangelistic” as the adjectival form doesn’t give me much hope that when he says certain beliefs aren’t “for that matter particularly evangelical” he actually means that they aren’t supported by the Bible, rather than particularly concerned with spreading the message. I could be wrong, of course.

  10. Perhaps what is being stated here, has nothing to do with the splitting of semantic hairs but rather about the double faced tendency of High-Profile CEOs of MegaChurch, Inc. The claims of serving God through the proxy of his son Jesus Christ _and_ exerting political currency in worldly affairs, does seem to go against the statement that one man can not serve two masters. Thus these “Evangelicals” who use the name of Jesus but do not practice his principles are not Christian in the spiritual sense, but in the worldly and political sense.

  11. Yeah,

    I used to call myself an “evangelical/conservative Christian” — blah… most of their teaching and even political agenda isn’t based on the Bible or Jesus.

    If one wants a look at what Jesus was all about, just read up on the Anabaptists and the Early Church (ante Nicene Fathers).

    That’s all,

  12. ANd to think that I would’ve been on the third steop had I not posted this, but I just couldn’t resist. Conratulations to all of you who ignored the whole conversation though.

  13. your blog post reminded me of a quote from Gandhi:
    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Comments are closed.