“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
So What Happened?
Recently a friend posted the following “status” on FaceBook: “Why I am losing my faith a little more every day:” She referenced a link to a news article featuring yet another televangelist selling something guaranteed to facilitate a direct line to God while at the same time endorsing a corrupt politician as God’s favored candidate.
Okay, “blah blah blah” – we all know there are plenty of snake-oil salespersons both in religion and politics, and the current political climate is a perfect storm both for those who like to manipulate and for those who seem unable to think for themselves. It’s sad, but there it is, there’s no escaping what is going on.
So why have I responded in this blog? It’s not typically my style. Well, there are two reasons.
I can’t stand by:
FIRST: I cannot stand by and say nothing when people I care about begin to lose their faith. Oh, not just the latest story to be sure, but the long sad litany of false and tawdry teachings from decades of “Prosperity Gospel” preachers, to one moral failure after another, to the growing tilt of evangelical leaders toward religious nationalism, to the compromising political alliances of folk such as Jerry Falwell Jr and Franklin Graham – all of whom seem to be the loudest voices in the room.
My friend is one of many millions of Americans who are struggling to see the authentic light of Jesus anymore through the increasingly dark veil of hypocrisy and flat-out deception.
So I get it, I really do.
SECOND: The other reason goes to my own history as a news commentator and Op-Ed writer. I remember the first time I called out a televangelist publicly via my Tampa Tribune column. It was Pat Robertson on The 700-Club.
Someone close to me said I should not have written the column, that Christians should not criticize one-another in public, that I was being a “bad witness”.
So I thought carefully before responding because I’m the first to admit I am often wrong. But that time I said, “Sorry, but I disagree. What I am standing against is not anything like Christianity. And it is past time for those of us who follow Jesus to be a little louder about what is true.”
And I say it again now. Listen, friends, the last thing this country needs is for people to be falling away from faith because the loudest “Christian” voices have nothing at all to do with the Gospel of Love and Light.
Jesus said this: he said that everything in the scriptures, all the law and the prophets, needs to be viewed and understood through the lens of love. If we are using God’s name in any other way, then Jesus quite clearly points out that we are working against everything he was born, and lived, and taught, and loved, and died, and rose again in order to accomplish.
This is the task of the Christian Church – to celebrate and to soak up God’s splendor and light and love in the presence of Jesus, and then to share that quality of faith and love in and through everything that we are and in all that we do.
It’s clear to me that we need to do this a lot more loudly and to point out to the world that what they are losing faith in is not Jesus but some false, deceptive, cynical distortion that values political power, financial profit, manipulation, and a pseudo-religious nationalism over the self-giving, humble, grace-filled and merciful love of Jesus.
So get yourselves back in church, all those who are losing faith! We would love to reintroduce you to the one who said this: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
In love, and because of love – DEREK