Some time ago, I read an article on the left-wing, anti-religion, news-and-commentary website Alternet.org entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” by skeptic Valerie Tarico.
While I personally find most of the articles on this site to be little more than irrational liberal ranting, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.
Ultimately, people who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Unfortunately, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”
I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.
Reason #7: Political Meddling
If you look at religion-bashing quote-quip-photo-clip-links that circulate Facebook and Twitter, most of them are prompted by church incursions into the political sphere. A spat between two atheists erupted on my home page yesterday. “Why can’t ex-Christians just shut up about religion and get on with building a better world?” asked one. “Why can’t we shut up?!” screeched the other. “Because of shit like this!” He posted a link about Kansas giving doctors permission to deny contraception and accurate medical information to patients.
I myself give George W. Bush credit for transforming me from a politically indifferent, digging-in-the-garden agnostic into a culture warrior. He casually implied that, when going to war, he didn’t need to consult with his own father because he had consulted the big guy in the sky, and my evangelical relatives backed him up on that, and I thought, oh my God, the beliefs I was raised on are killing people. The Religious Right, and now the Catholic bishops, have brought religion into politics in the ugliest possible way short of holy war, and people who care about the greater good have taken notice. Lists of ugly Bible verses, articles about the psychology of religion, investigative exposes about Christian machinations in D.C. or rampant proselytizing in the military and public schools –all of these are popular among political progressives because it is impossible to drive progressive change without confronting religious fundamentalism.
Before I move on to the valid points Tarico makes, let me point out some of the logical problems with her arguments.
First, she presumes that the religious beliefs of Christians should have no bearing whatsoever in American politics. She implies that George W. Bush’s beliefs should have been left outside the White House gates, and that the Religious Right and Catholics have no business bringing their beliefs into the realm of politics. Yet, at the same time, she argues that her religious view – that God does not exist – should be the foundation of the American political mindset. What Tarico and others like her are arguing for is not the removal of religion, but the establishment of Secular Humanism as the state religion.
Besides the liberal use of question-begging epithets (ugly Bible verses, fundamentalism) and fear mongering (holy war), the other glaringly illogical line of reasoning is in the statement, “…and I thought, oh my God, the beliefs I was raised on are killing people.” First, it’s ironic that she thought, “…oh my God…,” since she says she doesn’t believe in God. Perhaps she was just trying to be funny. Or perhaps it is an indication that, subconsciously, she knows that God does exist, although she fights to suppress that truth. More important that the slip in theology is the irrationality of claiming that the reason we went to war in Iraq was because Bush thought God told him to. First, the fact that Bush prayed about it before making a decision does not mean evangelical Christianity was the cause of the war. And second, if one compares the number of deaths caused in the name of “christianity” versus those committed by atheistic or secular humanistic regimes, there is no comparison – hands down, atheism and secularism have taken far more lives in war than “christianity.” The evangelical Christian beliefs Tarico was raised on are not what caused the wars in Iraq and Iran; sin is what causes wars. If people all became Christians, and actually followed Biblical teaching, there would be no wars.
What can I as a follower of Jesus Christ learn from what Tarico says here?
First, we need to be careful how we mix our relationship with Jesus Christ with our political views. During the recent election season, this became quite evident. I must confess, at times I let my political disgust with President Obama tarnish my Christian witness. As one meme put it, “God does not want us to bring DEMOCRACY to people. He wants us to bring CHRIST to people.” Unfortunately, I now realize that some of my political postings on Facebook offended many of the people God has called me to reach with the Gospel. Regardless of whether we have a syncretistic humanist like Obama as President, or a Mormon like Romney, or even an evangelical like Bush, government is inherently secular and temporary. The Gospel has eternal implications. Political regimes will come and go, but human souls are eternal. The choices we make about which person becomes the President are only relevant for a brief time, but the choice we make about Jesus Christ affects us for eternity.
Secondly, Tarico’s thoughts point out how our underlying presuppositions define our worldview and actions. Because she rejects God, she must logically reject anything associated with God. She must believe that human beings are the ultimate authority in politics, morality, and every other aspect of life. In order to bring people to Jesus Christ, Christians cannot simply attack the symptoms of unbelief – abortion, socialism, evolution, homosexuality, and so on – but need to attack the underlying presuppositions that the unbeliever’s worldview is founded upon. We must help unbeliever understand why their foundational beliefs don’t make sense, and why Biblical Christianity is the only rational worldview based on reality. Focusing on the external symptoms doesn’t change hearts and minds. Only by building on the foundational truths of God’s Word can hearts and minds be turned to Jesus Christ.
Christian, be careful how you mix the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the gospel of your political views.