Well, they’ve finally done it.
The Religious Right has completed their wholesale reboot of Christianity and it now bears no resemblance to the original. It has fully abandoned its namesake.
This week, watching Republican governors shipping exhausted migrants to other areas of the country in brazen acts of performative cruelty has been horrifying—but not nearly as much as witnessing the theological and mental gymnastics so many professed Christians have engaged in while trying to justify traumatizing already traumatized people.
It has been a grievous thing to see human beings who openly wield their adoration of Jesus, miss the stratospheric irony of their intentional mistreatment of those he claimed such affinity for while he was here: their heartless, loveless response to those he called “the least of these,” in the way the world disregarded and injured them. They find all of this perfectly fine, even Christian.
Supposed followers of the same Jesus whose family fled to Egypt to avoid genocide, are actually celebrating these malicious political stunts and branding our condemnation of them, partisan politics. That is how far afield they have drifted in 2,000 years.
Republican Christians have so lost the plot, that affirming anything remotely compassionate or decent now feels to them like a political attack; so fully embraced a Christianity of cruelty that actual empathy seems an act of defiant resistance to them.
In many ways, it now is.
- Advocating for sanctuary for refugees,
- Protecting immigrants from Government harassment,
- Demanding full equality for women,
- Insisting on affordable healthcare for every human being,
- Opposing the proliferation of assault weapons,
- Affirming religious freedom for all traditions,
- Fighting the degradation of our planet and the gutting of our public schools,
- Defending our Press so that it remains free,
- Championing the vulnerable, the sick, the poor—these have somehow become partisan politics and assaults on their religious freedom.
And the simple reason, is because the leaders of the Republican party and the Evangelical ministers in bed with them, no longer care to be burdened by the expansive heart of Jesus, the basic goodness he preached, the people he poured out his life for.
- And so his values now seem offensive to them,
- his words are convicting,
- his very life feels confrontational.
- The extravagant love, overflowing compassion, and sacrificial generosity that marked him are foreign to their ears and threatening to their sensibilities.
- And these things all have no home in their religion.
The very idea that coming to the aid of refugees and migrants now feels like culture war salvos to Republicans, instead of the beautiful defense of the inherent value of all people that it is—should be a red flag to people who are paying attention. It should be an alarm, warning them that things have gone sideways—especially to those folks who claim faith.
If speaking the very words of Jesus, if reiterating his compassion and generosity seem like partisan politics to those of you reading this who identify as Republicans—well maybe that’s a problem. If someone aspiring to be a loving, empathetic human being causes you discomfort—that should give you great pause.
Maybe the truth is that equality, diversity, justice, and compassion are indeed now solely “Democratic talking points” because you have gone all-in with something that Jesus would rightly be horrified by.
Maybe you really no longer aspire to loving your neighbor as yourself as much as you imagine or profess to.Maybe your expression of faith is lacking something essential.
Perhaps the absence of gentleness and mercy in your midst have left him no choice but to head elsewhere, joining the religious of every tradition and the non-religious who together are affirming these things.
I wonder where Conservative Christians see the Jesus in shipping beleaguered migrants to Blue areas of this country; how they can celebrate with joyous middle finger defiance using human beings as some sort of prop in political posturing.
I have seen Jesus in the response of those on the ground in Martha’s Vineyard, as disparate human beings there, some claiming faith and some not—understand that empathy is the only redemptive path worth taking and have appealed to their better angels.
So yes, my dear Republican Christian friends, maybe homeless refugees and sick children and the working poor and black lives and fewer guns and universal healthcare are indeed now “Democratic talking points”. And if they are, then you should take a long look in the mirror, let your knees hit the floor, and ask Jesus just why that is. Maybe some repentance is in order.
As for me: I know where my heart is, I know where my loyalties lay, and I know that I can sleep at night because I know that love is a nonpartisan decision and I am choosing it.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.