When the President of the United States of America recently spoke at a prayer breakfast and declared a number of wrongs done in the name of Christ, many Christians across the country were appalled. He pointed to the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow laws as examples of wrongs justified as obedience to Christ. Whatever his personal agenda was that day, it can be stated with absolute certainty that it was never his purpose to praise or serve Christ in those words. Nothing about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery or Jim Crow laws has anything whatsoever to do with the teachings of Christ or the work of his church. What’s more, nothing about those events serves to justify some other occasion of wrongdoing in any historical era. The clear purpose of those words was to tamp down outrage over violence wrought by militant forces who claim to be serving Allah. The obvious intent was to make Christians ashamed of criticizing the violence of people who claim to be acting for Allah and for the advancement of Islam.
Christians need not be ashamed of abhorring the violence of ISIS, or that of Boko Haram, or that of Al Shabaab, or the violence of any other violent group that claims the name of Islam. People who follow Christ are justly ashamed that the Crusades were initiated as if they were the work of Christ, because people who follow Christ know that the Crusades were never part of Christ’s plan for the advancement of his kingdom. Anyone who studies history knows that fact. The Crusades were politically motivated, and the church was so deeply integrated with the state at the time that whatever the state did was labelled Christian. It defies logic to attempt to justify the violence of ISIS because the violence of the Crusades was not Christ-like.
Such utter disconnect with the truth of Christ taught our founding fathers that the administration of the state must not be confused with the administration of a religion. They did not reject the voice of Christians as citizens with the right to speak and act for what is right. They did reject the integration of church administration with political administration. The founders protected people of all faiths with the assurance that government would never try to tell them what to believe or whom to worship or how to live out their faith. The men who founded the USA knew that evil loves to cloak itself in religious garments and governmental power. They also knew that the values of citizens are rooted in their faith, and the founders welcomed the expression of and advocacy for values based in faith. They did not reject the voice of people of faith out of some misguided notion that advocacy for the values taught by faith was synonymous with giving that faith executive power.
All sorts of people had agendas related to the Crusade, the Inquisition, slavery and the Jim Crow laws. The agendas that drove the wickedness did not derive from Christ or his teachings. The fact that many individuals and groups appropriated Christ’s name and claimed his support for their behavior does not make it so. Making Christ responsible for the Inquisition or slavery is like making cows responsible for the increase in size of the Sahara Desert. When all the available facts are examined, the evidence does not support the conclusion. Christ’s teachings do not incite to violence, torture, and oppression.
Christ told his disciples and the other people listening to his Sermon on the Mount to expect this sort of thing. When he spoke of heaven and those who will join him there, he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV). We can safely conclude from that statement that people who somehow do a few good things by claiming the name of Christ will never be able to gloss over their evil by trying to hide behind a good show of good deeds.
The elected leaders in Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act showed exactly this behavior. They have not, to this day, read the content of that law, yet they go around claiming that this law is good law, even though it is profoundly evil in its design and implementation. Any sane person who reads the text of the law will quickly see that the benefit of the law falls on those who are hired to administer it—the bureaucracies that create bureaucracies that monitor bureaucracies that eat up the federal budget by the billions of dollars at a bite. The President is the most visible and most vocal of the people who claim that this act is something good, when it is demonstrably a profound evil that is already harming the very populations it alleged to help. Numerous supporters, too, linked the ACA to Jesus, even though this is not at all what Jesus meant by helping the sick.
An agenda that steals the God-given freedom of people and enslaves them to government through secret taxes and oppressive bureaucracies is evil. Evil thrives on its success in turning people’s eyes away from Jesus. Many evil laws have been passed under the guise of feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless or ending all wars. The proponents of such laws always allude to the teachings of Jesus. They are exactly right that Jesus taught us to help the downtrodden. However, Jesus taught us to do it with our own gifts. Jesus taught me to give my own coat to somebody who was shivering; Jesus did not teach me to grab your coat and your hat and your wallet so I could give the coat and hat to someone who is cold and keep the wallet for myself. This sort of behavior was behind the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow laws. This sort of behavior is embedded in the Affordable Care Act and in most government social programs. This sort of behavior has nothing to do with Jesus.
It is a great challenge in the US today to keep pointing to Jesus. Political leaders of all stripes busily accuse Christ of blessing their agendas. When we look intently at Jesus, we see that he has nothing to do with the many evils linked to his name and his mission. It is easy to see that Satan, the father of lies, is behind all of these things.
Who is Christ? He is the one who came to save the people of the world from being enslaved by the lies of Satan. He is the one who pitied the downtrodden and lifted them up. He touched lepers, fed the hungry, held children on his lap, and suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered under cruelty perpetrated by an agenda that originated in the unholy union of religious and political leadership. Jesus died at the hands of the same variety of unholy alliance that produced the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow. He did it, because his purpose was to save people from being lured into such evil.
When Nicodemus came to Christ one night, curious about him because he seemed so unlike the religious leaders among the Pharisees and the priests, Jesus gave Nicodemus the answers he needed: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Such a mission is completely opposite to the purposes of the Roman government, the Pharisees, the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, Jim Crow laws, or even the Affordable Care Act. If people actually look at Christ, it will be easy for them to see that his love and grace do not produce such evil. In order to see the origin of evil, they must look away from Christ.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.
Image: Barack Obama at Prayer Breakfast
By Pete Souza, White House photographer (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons