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What happened to Christianity?

Just saw this article on CNN.com.  We Christians may be the last ones to notice some of the trends leading people to these conclusions.  Your thoughts?   By Jay Bakker and Marc Brown Special to CNN   Editor’s note: Jay Bakker…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Just saw this article on CNN.com.  We Christians may be the last ones to notice some of the trends leading people to these conclusions.  Your thoughts?
 
By Jay Bakker and Marc Brown
Special to CNN

 

Editor’s note: Jay Bakker, son of former Praise The Lord leaders Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner, is minister of Revolution Church and subject of a new documentary series, “One Punk Under God,” on Sundance Channel. Marc Brown is a Revolution staff member.

NEW YORK (CNN) — Where did we go wrong? How was Christianity co-opted by a political party? Why are Christians supporting laws that force others to live by their standards? The answers to these questions are integral to the survival of Christianity.

While the current state of Christianity might seem normal and business-as-usual to some, most see through the judgment and hypocrisy that has permeated the church for so long. People witness this and say to themselves, “Why would I want to be a part of that?” They are turned off by Christians and eventually, to Christianity altogether. We can’t even count the number of times someone has given us a weird stare or completely brushed us off when they discover we work for a church.

So when did the focus of Christianity shift from the unconditional love and acceptance preached by Christ to the hate and condemnation spewed forth by certain groups today? Some say it was during the rise of Conservative Christianity in the early 1980s with political action groups like the Moral Majority. Others say it goes way back to the 300s, when Rome’s Christian Emperor Constantine initiated a set of laws limiting the rights of Roman non-Christians. Regardless of the origin, one thing is crystal clear: It’s not what Jesus stood for.

His parables and lessons were focused on love and forgiveness, a message of “come as you are, not as you should be.” The bulk of his time was spent preaching about helping the poor and those who are unable to help themselves. At the very least, Christians should be counted on to lend a helping hand to the poor and others in need.

This brings us to the big issues of American Christianity: Abortion and gay marriage. These two highly debatable topics will not be going away anytime soon. Obviously, the discussion centers around whether they are right or wrong, but is the screaming really necessary? After years of witnessing the dark side of religion, Marc and I think not.

Christians should be able to look past their differences and agree to disagree. This allows people to discuss issues with respect for one another. Christians are called to love others just as they are, without an agenda. Only then will Christianity see a return to its roots: Loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The Apostle Paul describes this idea of love beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

But don’t take our word for it; look at what Jesus and his followers stood for in his time and what Christianity stands for today. Then come to your own conclusion.

Comments (8)

  • Is this the same Jesus who made a whip and took out the money makers and loan sharks in the temple? Was Paul talking a different Gospel than Jesus when he said that he had judged a certain member of the Corinthian congregation? Is this the same loving God that killed not one but three people (and two of them professing believers) when they lied to Him (Ananias and Sapphira. Herod didn’t lie, but basically aloud people to call him a god). I’m not saying Christ isn’t about grace, but don’t assume that loving somebody doesn’t mean drawing a line in the sand when needed. Of course, even now I’m not writing a comprehensive response, as this is too big an issue to dialogue about in 100 words or less. Still, I think a bit more reading of all Scripture, not just the Gospels, would do Christ’s followers well. I do agree that more patient, honest, and loving discussions are in order, even over the hot buttons. We don’t discuss and debate well – we argue and yell (in general).

  • “I think a bit more reading of all Scripture, not just the Gospels, would do Christ’s followers well.”

    Isn’t this exactly the point? Our evangelical conception of God has been, in large part, dominated by an image of an Old Testament God of war / New Testament “fire and brimstone”-warning judge riding on a white horse to slay the wicked in the valley of decision. At the very least, the life and teachings of Jesus have taken a backseat to Paul’s “superior” epistles.

    Obviously the Bakker/Brown article is an oversimplification (over-reaction?) to this disparity in many (most) evangelical churches. These guys are not theological scholars, they are grassroots pastors seeing things from a street level ministry perspective. Even writing an essay like this for CNN is an evangelistic overture to a presumably non-Christian audience. I think those points need to be taken into consideration when evaluating what they have to say.

  • “Obviously the Bakker/Brown article is an oversimplification (over-reaction?) to this disparity in many (most) evangelical churches.”

    Yes, I would agree with that statement, and the whole paragraph, for that matter. In return, I would have to say my answer is probably the same. I see more and more Christians in public leadership watering down the Gospel, communicating that God is only grace. We shouldn’t not communicate that, but sometimes it’s all I here. Just this past week in our local paper a local pastor wrote an article explaining why we’ve got salvation all wrong, and everybody’s going to be saved (universalism). So, yes, my response was a reaction to it all, yet a concern, too. As I said, a difficult thing to talk about via a blog comment peace, or even via computers in general, in order to make sure that those in the discussion are hearing everything that’s the writers are wanting to communicate. It could be that all I am bringing up has crossed Bakker and Brown’s mind, too.

  • I must be tired.

    “blog comment piece” not “peace”.
    “allowed people to call him a god” not “aloud”.

  • Jesus was extremely liberal with His love and extremely conservative with His righteousness. He drove the moneychangers out because he loved God and he loved the money changers. He called the religious leaders a brood of vipers because that was the loving and honest truth.

    I think it would do “christianity” well to realize that just because our government may legalize gay marriage, that doesnt mean that it is no longer a sin. What this American government declares to be legal or illegal should be of little concern to the follower of Jesus. One should have the faith to stand and follow Christ regardless of what laws dictate.

    And really, i think it would be great for the cause of Christ if people would inspect their own lives before they jump on political or social “christian” bandwagons. It would do our country much good if we, followers of Christ, actually lived righteous loves, instead of working to force them upon others.

    It is loving to point out the sin of others, however, God is not glorifed by a law that bans gay marriage, He is glorified by people not choosing homosexuality. God is glorified when people faithfully choose righteousness, rather than having laws dictate their behavior.

    It all comes down to love. I dont care how solid your theology and how sound your doctrines, if you dont love people you have completely missed the point. We live in a fallen world and laws wont change that, nor will religion.

    I think that the point of the article is the fact that people claim to be christians, yet they do not follow Christ. People say they know Jesus, but their lives are not in agreement with that. Our world is fallen, not stupid. They recognize our hypocrisy far better than we do.

    j

  • I would have to agree that this is a perfect example of the drawbacks of electronic communication.

    It is hard to be sure of the real intent, and it is easy to complicate an issue. We each respond based on our own interpretations, without any face to face accountability or clarification.

    I wonder what Bakker and Brown would have to say if they were part of the conversation. And would we respond the same to their face?

    When I read these comments, I get a sense of deffensiveness and a little hostililty. I don’t know if that was the intent, or if I am reading some emotion into it that is incorrect.

    I’m sure some may interpret my response incorrectly too. How do we ensure that what we are putting out there is received the way we mean it? Or can we?

  • Seth, I checked out your website after hearing about it from my friend Kathy Lucas. I was quite surprised that we had a common denominator in Adventures in Missions. You see, Joe Countiss and his family are long-time friends, ever since he first traveled with me to Romania way back in the 80’s. Anyway, I was also quite surprised to see the article “What Happened to Christianity” on your website. The day it was published by CNN, I responded to their request for comments, figuring they would go nowhere. Well, I’ll now include them below!

    I’ll have to spend a lot more time going through your website!

    Dave

    =================
    The whole history of the so-called church (meaning all those who call themselves Christians) is one long story of this tendency to be comfortable with things on earth (including political agendas) and to become conformed to this world system. That is the nature of man to find acceptance and popularity here on earth rather than in the spiritual realm, where authentic Christianity exists. And this is the whole purpose of the enemies of Christ, both human and demonic to distort and confuse and deny the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God until it becomes an external man-made kingdom of buildings and denominations and money and programs and – yes – politically correct. There are indeed many true followers of the Lord Jesus within this amalgamation of false churchianity, but they are like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s why Jesus came to earth to both expose this lie AND to reveal, by His own life, the true nature of life in the Spirit. His was a life of total dependence upon the Father every minute of the day. The Christian life is not by effort or by struggle. It’s not by merely trying to put into practice certain maxims or by trying to attain to a certain measure or status. But from beginning to end and everything in between, it’s simply a matter of knowing Jesus within our human spirit just as He knew His Father on earth within His spirit. And for us this can only happen through a genuine heart repentance which denies everything else, including my own life, and only Christ is left. Then there’s no longer any need to have to come up against the world. Christ lives in me, and HE is my Master, my Shepherd, my Lover, my Friend and my very Life! THIS, and nothing else, is what separates those who truly follow Christ and those who are mixed up in this lost and evil world around us.

    “And THIS is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is IN HIS SON. He who has the Son has [a spiritual] life; he who does not have the Son of God dows not have [a spiritual] life.” (1 John 5:11-12, NIV)

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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