Published September 14, 2023
By Lib Campbell
From 1050 until about 1300 AD, the Latin Christian Church sent crusaders, fighters for the faith, into the Holy Land to reclaim Jerusalem and other holy sites for Christianity. They wore the breastplate of the Cross and fought the “infidels” in the name of the Church. The “infidels” were Muslims and Jews. Purification was the goal. The Moors were pushed back to Northern Africa. The Jews are still squabbling about land.
To fly the Christian flag and wear the Christian symbol on anything from a breastplate to a tee shirt makes a statement about the wearer. My shirt tells you I have marked myself as Christian. When the bearer of said symbolism also carries a sword or machete, demonstrating a hate-filled spirit and angry mean words, one might think it’s hypocritical at the least and self-righteous piety at the most. If my behavior is crude, demeaning, and de-humanizing it is not Christian.
The Crusades of long ago not only changed landscape, they also gave cause for people to question the authenticity of the faith of those who maraud and kill to gain advantage of any kind. Being Christian is not beating people up under the banner of the Cross.
Daniel K. Williams, in the Atlantic, wrote, “What Really Happens when Americans Stop Going to Church.” His thesis was that “people hold on to their politics even when they stop attending church.” We all know that since the 1960s, church attendance has been in decline. So, why are so many “Christian Nationalists” zealous about taking Jesus with them to the fight against gays, Blacks, Muslims, immigrants, women, and any other category of persons who are not like them?
Williams says that “decline in church attendance in rural Republican regions has given rise to more strident Republicans and Christian Nationalists.” He concludes by saying, “roughly one half of Christian Nationalists never even attend church.” As I read his article, I thought about those Crusaders of a bygone era who bore the banner of Christ into war with the intent to taking back something they thought was theirs. It appears this is also the mindset of today’s Christian Nationalists.
Once again, the Christian faith is being co-opted by voices and actions of those who want to eliminate the most vulnerable, the most fragile modern-day “infidels.” Christian Nationalists seem to want to decide who is worthy.
It also seems that the Onward Christian Soldier Jesus and the great misreading of the Bible have become the justification for beating up on people. What happened to the “love one another as I have loved you?” What happened to the Kumbaya?
The agendas of systematically taking away rights, claiming righteousness while doing it, is wrong. People are getting hurt at the expense of a few exercising power. This is a time when Christians, and people of every faith cannot afford to be silent any longer. Don’t thump a Bible at me and kick me in the knees at the same time!
When the tenor of the country is vitriol, and hate is spewed in the name of Christianity and aimed at a few, we are in a very dangerous place. I remember a time after 9/11 when all Muslims were painted as Jihadists. Muslims were fearful. Who wouldn’t be? Hate and harm are not the way of anybody’s faith.
I remember sitting in a Bible Study with a sanctuary filled with women years ago. The speaker was quoting some of the Pauline letters regarding divorce. At the same time, she was extolling her own perfect marriage as the end-all and be-all of marriages. Women all over the sanctuary were walking out in tears and shame. I remember thinking teaching like this does not paint God in a very good light. It might have felt good to the teacher’s self-righteousness, but in my eyes it did more harm than good.
In such a hurtful culture, our children will suffer as the world loses its wonder, love, and praise. We have to claim them back from the craziness around us today. They will be stunted, shielded and sheltered from truth and fact, from inquiry and awakening. They will continue to get lost in social media. Suicide rates will likely keep ticking up.
In a world where any person who is different from the self-proclaimed pious “us” is out, and Christianity is used as a bludgeon to control others, we cannot expect good to come from this. Putting the fear of God into people is God’s prerogative, not ours.
Come at me with your kindness and grace. I can be molded by love. Most of us can. Perhaps we need to try it.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite www.avirtualchurch.com. She can be contacted at email@example.com