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Is Christianity being weaponized? – Manistee News Advocate

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Fr. Jim Colburn
Today there is a sizeable part of the Christian American population which strongly advocates a liaison with the political power of the state (not an alliance scripture approves! Isaiah 1:23, Rom 12:2).
It is a Christian faction which seriously departs from the faith of their fathers and from the original message of Christ’s teaching. This innovation to the faith is not an element of the gospel that the apostles experienced and absorbed as disciples and witnesses of Jesus. Neither does it employ their morality in its methods.
This version is one that would shock the handpicked 12 who selflessly brought an invitation to know Christ to the four corners of the world.
“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” (Mk. 16:15). Today’s newly political version lacks the “good” in the “good news” that the risen Lord commissioned them to offer. The fast-moving current of this emotional semi-faith combines strident nationalism into a hybrid Evangelamericanism that creates and promotes suspicions, prejudices, conspiracy theories and existential fear among its audience. Search therein as one may, no loving, respectful invitation to accept the inclusive affirming embrace of God’s son will be found.
When well-meaning men and women get ahead of the gospel message — which they think they are advancing — they, then, “become” the message. They lead according to their own lights rather than being led by the light of the Gospel. 
Zeal, detached from compassion, respect, charity and love (core elements of God’s word), can turn evangelization from the invitation it was intended to be into a weapon wreaking violence on those not choosing the brand of “Christian” ideology being promoted. Tried during medieval European history, the enforcement of “Christian” ideologies did not transform human behavior nor advance human welfare. Rather the opposite. In some countries the justice dispensed included imprisonment, denial of rights and livelihood, and burning at the stake.
Too many times through the centuries the sacred work which Jesus has placed in the hands of His followers — to offer God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness and abundant life — has gotten lost somehow. It certainly is corrupted in the new Evangelamericanism message popular today.
Since the miracle of Pentecost the purpose of the Gospel has been to “lead others” to Christ. Those who “lead” must be submitted to the leadership of Christ and his gospel at all times and without pause, just as much as their hearers — the “others” at whose hearts Christ has knocked and whom He wishes to introduce to his gospel by His preachers. Under any other circumstance, their preaching and their efforts are merely an exercise in human enterprise which, by nature, is faulted, error-ridden, sin-stained, driven by the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit.
Like warring economic and political movements or ideologies of the past, how many of the thousands of religious divisions among Christian denominations can simply be put down to ideological differences? An unfortunate fact of history. The ideologizing of Christianity has caused much grief and pain. But there is a special malevolence in today’s new ideology.
To force, and to have the political power to enforce, an ideology upon an entire population is not only a violation of the human dignity of each member of that population, it is an act of violence upon each member of that population. Like the Christians who created the Jim Crow culture against the emancipated former slaves, today’s new “Christian” ideology embraces force. It incites violent insurrection to advance its purposes. To force, and to enforce, a moral or religious ideology of a faction of a population upon an entire population — in addition to all else it effects — is a supreme act of unconscionable spiritual violence. Such acts defame the Gospel.
As St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, if pseudo-Christians get in the way of the Gospel by their own ideologizing religious motivations, we must remember from sacred scripture how Paul calls out and admonishes them: “I am astonished at the promptness with which you have turned away from the one who called you and have decided to follow a different version of the Good News. Not that there can be more than one Good News; it is merely that some troublemakers among you want to change the Good News of Christ. And let me warn you that if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one we have already preached to you, whether it be ourselves or an angel from heaven, he is to be condemned.” Gal 1:6-8 New Jerusalem Bible.  
Humble Christians who read and know the scriptures, know that the gospel is promoted and spread by invitation — not compulsion. The use of the state’s powers to impose and enforce one’s own view of morality or truth is foreign to the Gospel and opposes the freedom to follow one’s conscience as taught by the scriptures.
When St. John wrote the following words, there was no state or federal morality police standing behind Jesus: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20.
Jesus’ words are words of an invitation. His invitation respects the hearer; it respects his dignity as an image and likeness of the God who imparts to him a share of His own freedom. It honors the freedom of the householder to open the door, to freely respond with his own invitation to enter in and dialog at table. This is the only true evangelization.
Fr. Jim Colburn is a retired priest of the Antiochene Orthodox Church, the Christian community described in the 11th to 15th chapters of Acts in the New Testament, whose members were the first people to be called Christians. He conducts retreats and is co-owner of the historic Dempsey Manor Inn & Victorian Museum. He can be reached at jcolburn506@gmail.com.

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Written by: Christianity Today

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