The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I’m releasing a post that has been sitting unfinished in my draft pile for months: “How did Christianity become so toxic?”, subtitled “Six ways conservative theology undercuts the teachings of Jesus.”

I started writing this piece to explain what I see as a paradox: Any time you’re out there working to make the world better in some way, chances are that you’re elbow-to-elbow with somebody who goes to church and is trying to live by the Sermon on the Mount. But at the same time, organized Christianity is your biggest enemy. The people who are either creating the problem you’re working to solve, or making it worse, claim to be championing “Christian values”.

How the Hell did that happen?

My answer is that Jesus’ enigmatic, person-to-person teaching style left room for subsequent generations to build a structure around his teachings, one that offers simple answers rather than mysteries and challenges. By now, the structure that got built in Evangelical churches has Jesus completely walled off.

I pick out six particular ways that works, like “Focusing on the Devil opens people to conspiracy theories.” I also explain how denial of evolution blazed a path for denial of climate change, of Covid, of systemic racism, and just about anything else people don’t want to believe. Stuff like that.

Anyway, this article that started with a paradox is itself a paradox: It’s simultaneously a denunciation of Christianity and the most Christian thing I’ve ever written. Go figure.

I’ll try to get it out by 10 EDT. The weekly summary should follow noonish.

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  • Al Jette  On March 14, 2022 at 9:20 am

    I am glad you are tackling this. Raised in the Catholic faith by a pretty Jesus-like mother, the easy and insane answers to hard questions that the church provided led to what I now call atheism (though I admit to only believing that, agnostic sounds undecided). I have met some who were searching and asked, “What would Jesus do?” and were very serious, not flippant about working to be as he was.

  • Roger  On March 14, 2022 at 9:21 am

    Seriously, I can’t wait. As a “liberal” Christian, I have this constant, and largely unfruitful, conversation with “conservative” Christians. More than a few have suggested I’m not a Christian at all, despite my near-weekly attendance at a PCUSA congregation.

  • Cathy Strasser  On March 14, 2022 at 9:37 am

    Looking forward to reading this. I was raised Catholic but have found that most organized religions twist values so much I don’t even want to identify as “Christian” any more – although I try to live by what I think are Jesus’ original teachings. But I feel even that is uncertain, 2000+ years later….

  • Creigh Gordon  On March 14, 2022 at 10:15 am

    The Christianity I see now feels different than when I was a kid. People then seemed ok with evolution, for example. But in general religion was not as political.

    • Anonymous  On March 14, 2022 at 10:26 am

      My gut reaction is that “religion was not as political” is a really important point. These days, it can be hard to separate them.

  • philipfinn  On March 14, 2022 at 10:54 am

    I hasten to point out that Christianity only appeared to “work” during periods of enforced orthodoxy such as the Tudor Reformation. In the five centuries since, the only thing standing between Western Civilization and another 100 Years War has been secular liberalism with its damnable Human Rights and Constitutions, rendering religions bereft of their traditional tools of oppression, violence, and death, and thus unable to operate.
    Not our circus, not our monkeys, however. Christians themselves must decide whether their Christ is a feature or a bug in the system, not the rest of us.

    • Anonymous  On March 14, 2022 at 8:55 pm

      Maybe “not our circus, not our monkeys,” but since the monkeys are busy tearing up the vegetable garden and pulling shingles off the roof, we can’t really ignore them either.

  • Thomas Paine  On March 14, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    The answer is really simple, and has always been true. For many, organized religion is nothing more just another grift. And one with a particularly attract hook: in exchange for your money now, you’ll get salvation and eternal life when you die. Or, you’ll go to hell. Everything that’s said and done is for this purpose, from the absurd rituals and extravagancy of the Catholic Church to the Republican Jesus theology of the cultish mega-churches.

    For those asking the question you’re asking, it’s likely you’re too inside the “hey, what about the Sermon-on-the-Mount guy who healed the sick and cared for the poor?” bubble. It’s never been about that guy and never will be.

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