Christian ‘Radicalization’

20 05 2018

BlogIt was an “Invisibilia” podcast from July 15, 2016 titled ‘Flip the Script.’  Transformative in many ways, the content was designed to lift up the importance of fighting hate with love, judgement with grace, and exclusion with acceptance. At one point, when considering the radicalization of young, Muslim men in Denmark, it was suggested that they are not being radicalized in Mosques, but in their social circles.  There, a vastly different message is being given.  Nothing is being ‘flipped”; and instead, the impressionable young are being taught to meet hate with hate, judgement with judgement, and exclusion with more exclusion!

Now the vast majority of Mosques, in Denmark and around much of the west, ARE teaching a faith that is full of love, grace, and acceptance – teachings that are not all that unlike the teachings of most historically ‘mainline’ Christian Churches.  But the social lives of the radicalized include vastly different teachings; and I would contend this is true not just of Muslims in Denmark, but of Christians in America.  Radicalized Muslims and Christians are NOT living out distorted and flawed expressions of their faith because of what they are hearing in their Mosques and Churches.  Rather, they are becoming radicalized because they are not listening to what is being taught in their Mosques and Churches.

Now to be clear, there are many churches in America teaching a Gospel that is not at all reflective of the life of Jesus.  And ‘radicalized’ Christians from those congregations are indeed frightening.  But by far, most churches in our nation are doing a fine job of teaching people to love God and neighbor; to care for widows and orphans; and to “seek justice, love mercy, and walk in  humility.”  Do we have our issues?  Of course we do.  But in most instances, I still believe the Church of Jesus Christ to be ‘the hope of the world.’

So what is the source of America’s ‘craziest’ Christians?  Are they coming from America’s craziest churches?

I think not.  And that is the primary problem with American Christianity.

Most American Christians today know little, if anything, about the life and ministry of Jesus.  They have been blindly led to believe that Christmas is about his birth to a virgin named Mary, in a stable, with angels singing in the heavens and shepherds nearby with their sheep.  And they have been naively told that Easter is about his body being raised from the dead, evidenced by his friends finding an empty tomb three days after his crucifixion.  But that is the extent of their knowledge of Jesus.  And most know even less about the Bible.  They spend little, if any time, studying faith or spirituality.  And while perhaps ‘members’ of a local congregation, they rarely darken the doors of those churches, and thus they fail to ever really connect with a faith community that might help them to grow and expand their knowledge of God.

Most American Christians are pretty clueless about our faith.  And it pains me to say that.  But after 32 years of ordained ministry in the PC(USA), by far, the majority of the members of the Churches in which I have served – not all, but a majority! – spend more Sundays out of worship than in worship, and they never attend a Sunday School class or Small Group to help in their spiritual formation.  Membership in a local faith community is treated like membership in some kind of social club – where they have a chance to visit with friends, sing some of their favorite songs, and enjoy a cookie and a cup of coffee . . . that often is not even very good.

So is it any wonder that American Christians are so misguided when it comes to matters of faith, and the way of Jesus?  We’re no different than the radicalized Muslims in Denmark.  And while we may not be blowing up buildings, or driving our cars onto crowded sidewalks; too many condone the evils of colorism, sexism, and lying.  And too many continue to support a president, an administration, and a devolving political party that violate the most basic of Christian values, and deny the way of the Christ.

“Radicalized” American Christians, which apparently are most American Christians, need to get themselves into a church; because in the shadows of America’s so-called Christian sub-culture, they are learning little, if anything, about the One they claim to be following.


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