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Regardless who wins this election, there is one thing I’m sure of:

The American Church is done.[1]

In a very public way, evangelical Christians have been the most powerful force for evil in our country over the last four years; and have energetically made themselves into flagrant hypocrites for enthusiastically supporting the most un-Jesuslike political leader this country has ever seen.

Mainline Christians have been utterly impotent when it comes to mounting a compelling spiritual response, consumed as they are by their fear of conflict, terror of institutional decline, and profound spiritual apathy that gives them no better response to the last four years than perhaps “Be a secular progressive and use some Jesus language!”

All this means that publicly, American Christianity now stands for:

  • Caging children
  • Destroying the Earth
  • Sexual Assault
  • Serial Hypocrisy
  • Inciting Violence
  • Undermining Democracy
  • White Supremacy[2]

In other words, any claims that American Christendom ever had to moral authority have now completely collapsed.

I realized this morning that If I had not grown up steeped in both scripture and Christian community in the best possible way, there is no way I’d ever be a Christian; precisely because all my deepest held values stand in direct conflict to those above. American Christianity has become the Church of Assholes, with Jesus as the chief one, proudly validating every worst expression of what it means to be human.[2.5]

And if that’s true for me, then why in God’s name would anyone, especially anyone under the age of about 35 ever consider Christianity as anything other than a vile, anachronistic expression of hatred that deserves to be relegated to the dustbin of history?

For those of you who are churchgoers, the bottom line is this: your particular Christian tribe is toast.

Your church will most likely not grow, as you’re now nested in a religion considered so profoundly toxic by the people around you that being Christian could be considered an active moral embarrassment.

Your judicatory bodies and your local church will almost undoubtedly collapse under the weight of financial pressures and turn to dust before your sleepy, tradition-worshipping members wake up to the fact that the time to change has more or less passed.

Your children, unless you approach their spiritual formation with an incredible amount of intention, will likely leave the religion of their youth as soon as they can; judging (with some truth) that mom and dad’s religion doesn’t seem to be helping anyone become a better, more joyful, more loving person.

And what will be left besides dust and ashes?

Probably just a few groups of people living life together with great fidelity, structured in a way that they can sustain themselves with very few financial resources, as this American Christianity fades into memory and they themselves re-learn what it means to follow Jesus when they’re not utterly co-opted by imperial, capitalistic, industrial modernity.

And lest you think that your church or denomination will escape what I’ve just described: remember that God is the cause all of this.

For God heard the cry of those oppressed by those who claimed God’s name,

God sent the prophets whose voices were silenced by false religious leaders,

God saw the shameless acts of infidelity, in action and inaction, by those who were so audacious as to claim to be God’s very body;

And God saw how their ears were deafened, their eyes shut, to God’s persistent calls to repentance,

And so, in God’s fury, God used Donald Trump to make a public mockery of the American Christian myth[3]; to expose its spiritual nakedness, to make its name a byword, and, in doing so, to guarantee the downfall of those who would blaspheme the love of God through their hateful words and actions.

You cannot stand against this God, because God is working for the liberation of God’s hurting people and to free those who have been spiritually trapped by that which has called itself of Christ but has been of Satan.

And so, if you’re not having conversations about selling or renting your building; about cutting your pastoral staff, about figuring out how to configure your ministry so it can run without giving for decades; and more importantly, if you’re not covering yourself today in sackcloth and ashes; if you’re not on your knees, begging for God’s mercy and forgiveness; if you’re not reaching out to every one of your traumatized neighbors to apologize for your church’s hypocrisy through action or silence, and then serving them with desperate, openhanded intention:

Then don’t expect to escape the wrath that is to come.

[Wow, this post generated a lot of feedback. My response to some of your questions can be found here.]

[1] Whenever anyone says “American Church”, just a reminder that you should mentally adjust to “White American Church”.

[2] You could probably add, for a certain demographic: Pews, Grandma’s Favorite Old-Time Hymns, and Those Easter Flowers as well.

[2.5] After getting your feedback, I’m now aware that I wasn’t clear enough here either. No, I don’t think all Christians are assholes or that Jesus is an asshole. Rather, this is about perception. It’d be clearer to say, ““It is the near-universal experience of people under the age of 35 that American Christendom has become a church of assholes.”

[3] To be clear, I’m not saying that God was the reason Donald Trump was elected. That was our own damn fault. Rather, that God worked through the election to expose the hypocrisy of the American church.

 

7 Comments

  1. Jen Hovnanian Reply

    Ben, Throughout history “Christians” have been MAJOR assholes…look at What the English did. The Romans. I think you know as well as I that these are not God-loving people.
    Some people go to church, Some people are the church.

  2. Keith Boucher Reply

    Hi Ben:
    Harsh but true words spoken. Hard to face reality.
    For me, it’s take a deep breath, and think of “Church” as more a historical social aspect of my life. My true church is what I do that illustrates my belief in Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. Especially James, where we are asked to live consistently with what we have learned in Christ. That we, as believers, can mature in our faith in Christ by living what we say we believe. That is my public face to the world.
    Keep talking and keep the “faith”!
    Best, Keith

  3. Ben, I so wish you were wrong, but I am starting to realize how tied up with capitalism the American church is., among other things. Thanks for sharing,

  4. Elaine Stier Reply

    Wow, Ben! I just don’t even know his to respond to this! Do I understand correctly that you do not consider yourself to be an evangelical Christian? As a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (and the wife of a pastor) I am proud to be a member of a very conservative denomination! We believe the Bible is the true word of God-not the watered down, do what ever feels good version that liberal churches have made it! I believe that we should love all people but that does not mean that we condone their sinful lifestyle( including sex outside of marriage, same sex marriage, and abortion) to name a few. Frankly, I am disappointed in your use of the name of the Lord. I’m sorry if your church is dying! Ours is not!!!

    • Dave Drennon Reply

      Well said Elaine. I am also an LCMS member and I am in full agreement with your sentiments.

  5. Pingback: The American Church is Done – A Followup – Reports from the Spiritual Frontier

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