The False Messiah of the Religious Right

If your version of Jesus is an Americanized, gun-toting, LGBTQ-hating, Republican Messiah, then you are, from a classically biblical stance, an idolater (someone who worships an idol). If your version of Jesus is a Disney-boycotting Messiah, like that of Franklin Graham or Micheal Brown or One Million Moms, then you are, from a classically biblical stance, an idolater. Those are strong words. How can I make such a bold declaration?

Before addressing that question, consider the words of Michael Brown, who offers an op-ed on the recent call to boycott Disney from Religious Right advocates Franklin Graham and One Million Moms: "Why must all moral or spiritual differences be attributed to hatred [e.g., the suggestion that all opposition is founded upon hate]? This is one of the most glaring (and self-disqualifying) aspects of LGBT activism: It is so blinded by the alleged rightness of its own position that it cannot see any rational reason for anyone to oppose it." (link) But is not Brown also blind to his own hermeneutical rightness that he cannot see any rational reason to buck against said opposition? Let us first consider the notion of hatred.

From the Religious Right, one would imagine that their homophobia in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast was due to a raunchy gay sex scene, because this matter is so very overblown on their part (the part of the Religious Right). Given the fact that so-called Christians have persecuted LGBTQ people for nearly two thousand years, and that the mission of Jesus was never to fight culture wars but to spread His message of self-sacrifice, atonement, forgiveness, grace, mercy and love, many of us are left perplexed at how many in the Religious Right do not at all reflect the heart and the mission of Jesus. What is love? St John teaches us: "We know love by this, that he laid down his life or us -- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another." (1 John 3:16) Where is the love of the Religious Right?

Are Religious Right advocates willing to sacrifice their time, their prayers, their love, their own rights for the rights of others, including LGBTQ persons? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, the Religious Right, in their anti-Christ agenda, are lobbying Republicans to protect them from the rights of others! These so-called Christians are unwilling to give their lives for others. Instead, they lobby congress for protection, and seek their own political agenda when challenged, opposed, or threatened by any notion that may contradict their "religious values." Mind you, those "religious values" are used only when it's convenient for them politically, so do not be fooled. But let us consider love and hatred particularly.

LGBTQ people -- those who promote a "gay agenda" -- are voicing a right to equality, not special rights, not more rights than other U.S. citizens. They, we, want to love and to be loved just like heterosexuals are privileged to love and to be loved. This, in reality, is what people like Franklin Graham, Michael Brown, One Million Moms, Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pence, Robert Jeffress, James Dobson, and a host of other political and Religious Right advocates seek to suppress: love. So, to address Michael Brown, yes, when you and your ilk attempt to deny LGBTQ people the same privilege to love and to be loved as you enjoy, that can be counted as hatred: it certainly cannot be counted as love. But there is a problem.

The Religious Right consider homosexuality an abomination. So, they will insist that they are loving LGBTQ people by denying them an equal right to love, to be loved, and to wed, and are actually saving them and this country from the imagined wrath of God. There is so much baggage to unpack in that last sentence: I would have to write another long blog post in order to address the above notion. Suffice to say, this is not a Christian nation, and America was never a Christian nation. God did not call people from England to form a Christian nation. I beg you to inform yourself and read the brief post addressing this issue: "Why America? The Puritan Persecuted Complex." God had only one nation and that was the nation of Israel. God never formed any other nation from any other people.

For the Religious Right to pretend as though they are staving off the wrath of God is the absolute height of spiritual arrogance. There are LGBTQ-affirming nations in the world that are not experiencing the so-called wrath of God. If you, among the Religious Right, think that only you and your kind are loved by God then you are even more deceived than I currently think you are deceived. Your anti-gay politically-right agenda betrays your alleged Christian faith. Jesus never -- not once in all of His writings, nor in the writings of any New Testament author -- called His followers to fight culture wars. We are called to make disciples of those who believe (Matt. 28:19) -- disciples, not converts, not Republicans.

What is so utterly frightening to me for many conservative evangelicals is the following from Jesus: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21) The will of the Father in heaven does not include engaging in the Republican culture wars of the Religious Right. He continues: "On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, did we not prophesy [declare the word of God] in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?'" (Matt. 7:22) Consider, gravely, these words: many will say to Jesus that they were preachers of God's word and performed so-called signs in His name. Think carefully about the groups of people claiming these very attributes for themselves today.

To such, Jesus responds, "Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'" (Matt. 7:23) The Religious Right, men like Franklin Graham, make enemies of the very people whom they should be loving self-sacrificially; but he and they are too busy in the Republican religion, lobbying for their specialized rights, to engage their self-made enemies with the Gospel of Jesus. But these hypocrites are not even obeying the words of Jesus regarding enemies (Matt. 5:43, 44, 45, 46, 47) or being mistreated: "But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer." (Matt. 5:39) How does that cake for a gay wedding relate to these words of Jesus? "But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also" (Matt. 5:39). How do those specialized religious rights views correspond with Jesus' words here?

He continues: "and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you." (Matt. 5:40, 41, 42) This is Jesus. But this is not the Jesus of many in the Religious Right. When Franklin Graham was politicking for Donald Trump in the summer of 2016, masking that political agenda by naming it the "Decision America Tour," he was publicly denouncing his political opponents by naming them as part of a "godless secularism and people who call themselves progressives." (link) Odd, though, how Jesus reserves his righteous indignation not for progressives but for religious hypocrites like Franklin (Matt. 23:4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14, 15).

These type of Republican religionists remind me of these words from Christ: "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you [or, before you will enter]." (Matt. 21:31) Tax collectors and prostitutes were two of the most despised and marginalized groups of people in that day. Today we might translate this equivalent: "unrepentant drug dealers and child molesters will enter the kingdom of God before you ever do." Why this strong language? Because religious hypocrisy does not merely damage those who are its victims but it also damages the reputation of Jesus Himself.

You cannot presume that your religious politics rightly represents the Gospel and the values of God's kingdom and expect to be welcomed by Jesus upon His arrival. Unless men like Franklin Graham, and women like those involved in One Million Moms, repent of the idol that they created -- the Americanized Republican Jesus -- I fear they are the ones to whom Jesus is referring at Matthew 7:21-23, for they insist that they are merely prophesying the word of God but they directly oppose the teachings of Jesus in this culture.


My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.