Tag Archives: politics

The Heart of American Christianity Isn’t Jesus, It’s Winning

There has been a lot of talk this week about the term “evangelical” and whether or not it can be “saved.” I really couldn’t give a rip about that, to be honest. It’s just a label, a word, and one that has less than ever to do with the actual gospel of Jesus. So, whatever. What’s far more important and meaningful to me is the question that underlies that debate about nomenclature: the sorry state of American Christianity. When people ask if “evangelical” has lost its meaning, they are really asking if there’s anything left in American Christianity that can still be called “Christian.”

Many unflattering things can be said of American Christianity. It is combative. It is arrogant. It tends toward nationalism. It is obtusely focused on a hypothetical future and reckless in the present. It is more eager to be certain than it is to be kind. It is quick to demand respect and obedience but slow to listen or learn.

Put simply, American Christianity is obsessed with winning. It has inherited this ethos from the national culture, so that the “American” aspect far outweighs the “Christian” one.

Win. Be right. Dominate. Influence. Favor in this life, reward in the next.

How did these become values of people who claim to follow Jesus? Consider the ways American Christianity has compromised and contradicted the vision of God and humanity set forth by Jesus:

  • We have been paralyzed by dogma and tradition while our neighbors are dying.
  • We have defended our own rights to security and self defense while justifying the exploitation and suffering of others.
  • We have treated beloved children of God like subhuman enemies because of abstract ideological and doctrinal differences.
  • We have hoarded possessions and wealth while children starve to death.
  • We have become mired in nationalism and right wing politics instead of loving our enemies and advocating for the marginalized.
  • We have exploited the Holy Spirit as a source of personal power instead of the abiding and peaceful presence of Jesus.
  • We have obsessed over a cosmic and vengeful Jesus instead of honoring the humble Jesus who taught peace and self-sacrifice.

When did winning become more important than grace and truth? When did we commit ourselves to victory at any cost? When did we forget that we follow one who died for others, who forfeited glory and retaliation and then announced divine forgiveness to his own murderers?

There is no point in defending your identity as a follower of Jesus if everything you believe and do explicitly mocks him. How did this happen? How did we lose Jesus? How do we get him back?


Break Your Bible: Ezra Makes Judah Great Again

One of the major convictions which fuel most of the material on this blog is my belief that modern Christianity must confront and reconsider how it understands and interacts with the Bible. This is not necessarily the most important nor the ultimate task, but it is a necessary stepping stone to growth and progress. The old flat and systematic way of reading the Bible as an inerrant catalog of religious axioms is the biggest hindrance to spiritual advancement and the rediscovery of Jesus which we need so urgently in my opinion.

In that spirit, I often highlight problematic or misunderstood portions of scripture, not to be contrary or to “attack the Bible,” but to foster the important conversation about what the Bible is and how we can read it honestly and fruitfully. Today I want to look at the small book of Ezra.

Ezra, Revival, and Mass Deportation

In a sense, Ezra should be one of the most triumphant and satisfying texts of the Hebrew Bible. It narrates the return of the exiled citizens to Judah, the rebuilding and rededication of the temple, and the religious reawakening of the people. And yet, many modern readers find this to be a shocking and upsetting episode for reasons we will presently consider.

The titular Ezra only shows up in the book’s final chapters, a priest empowered by the Persian King Artaxerxes to re-establish the traditions and (more importantly) the laws of the Torah. This involves prayer, reinstating sacrificial practices, public reading of the law, and a call for national repentance, which is where things start to get rough. Ezra demands that those Judahite men who have married foreign wives during or since the exile must divorce them and have them all “put away” along with their children.

The gamut of modern reactions to the book of Ezra is perhaps represented by two recent blog posts: one from our pals at Charisma News hailing Ted Cruz as “an Ezra for America,” and one from Fred “Slacktivist” Clark who responds with both horror and humor. The difference is between those who believe that mass divorce and deportation of women and children are right and good when religiously justified, and those who have their doubts.

The standard church reading of Ezra, informed by inerrancy and an apologetic commitment to the moral cohesion of the entire Bible, sees this as a story about revival, repentance, and the difficult choices we often must make when confronted with God’s clear commandments. This is not to say that every bible-believer smiles in approval of the tragic events at the end of Ezra (though some clearly relish it). But most feel obliged to give assent to the “divinely inspired” leadership of Ezra. In fact, most wouldn’t dream of questioning any of it, simply because it happens in the Bible.

Ezra and History

In a flat and self-contained reading of the Bible, especially historical texts like Ezra, the perspective of the author is always assumed to be divinely sanctioned, the morality consistent and prescriptive, and the main characters heroes of the faith. But diverse political and ideological perspectives run wild in the collected texts of scripture, often in tension or even in slap-fights, if we will just open our eyes to see it. When we acknowledge this fact, it is no longer possible to talk about a singular “biblical” perspective, but rather the various voices and agendas which populate the library. Just because the historical context or ideological bent of a book or author is not spelled out for the modern reader doesn’t mean they are not present or have no bearing.

In the case of Ezra, he represents a particular aristocratic wing of Yahwism in the fifth century BCE which placed a strong emphasis on religious and genealogical purity. This powerful group (or party) was opposed to and by other groups, such as the resident Samaritans, who were descendents of the northern Israelites with different ideas about how the nation should be run and who was to be included in the “people of God.” This political battle gave Ezra’s party control of Jerusalem and resulted in the great schism with Samaria, the effects of which are still seen centuries later in the narratives of the New Testament gospels.

While our traditional way of mining Bible stories for absolute truths and coded messages has only ever seen Ezra as a positive example of how a nation might please God by cracking down on certain laws or enforcing certain prohibitions, a more careful and educated approach understands that we are reading a text written by the winners of a particular ancient culture war. This doesn’t make their actions inherently commendable or condemnable, but it means that we are free to use our discernment and moral sensitivity when considering that question for ourselves. If forced mass divorce and deportation in the name of “pure religion” strikes you as unsavory, you might want to follow those instincts. I can even think of a few other voices in the Bible which might agree with you.

Weighing the Cost of Intellectual Honesty

Whenever I push Christians to think critically about the Bible like this, there is always the inevitable “gotcha” question: If you nuance, critique, or openly disagree with even one part of the Bible, how can you trust or believe in any of it, especially what it says about Jesus?

This question presupposes so much about authority and the nature of belief and the Bible, and my response is always the same. I can only judge anything I read in the Bible based on the same simple criteria I apply to everything else: Is it good, and does it turn out to be true? I can’t prove, argue, or defend anything based on those questions, I need to have faith and patience. Good things will bear good fruit, and bad things will bear bad fruit, regardless of obtuse appeals to authority or “purity.”

Subjectivity is unavoidable, in fact our attempts to deny it take us down roads of compromise and delusion. When it comes to the Bible, let’s learn from history, literature, and conscience. Let’s be the best subjective, educated thinkers we can be, let’s passionately celebrate the good things we find and not hesitate to call out specious and harmful things as well. 


Three Harmful Theologies Behind Current Events

When I was young and rather naive, it was very simple: you were either in or you were out. People, institutions, and ideas were either Christian (and thus good), or non-Christian (and thus bad). Part of growing up into (or out of) our religious identity is learning to navigate the vast diversity of beliefs and ideologies that comprise American Christian culture. When we do, we discover that not everything that calls itself “Christian” is inherently healthy or helpful. Peeking behind the curtain at the theological pedigree of nominally Christian figures and movements can be quite illuminating. Here are three examples of potentially divisive theologies embodied by self-proclaimed Christian authorities, straight out of today’s headlines.

1. The end-times dominionism of Ted Cruz’s father

Rafael Cruz is a Cuban-born American preacher and the father of Texas Senator and leading Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. After coming to America, Cruz converted from Roman Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity and became an influential speaker and political activist. Cruz subscribes to a dominionist view which understands God’s instruction to Adam and Eve to “take dominion” over the earth as a standing commandment for all Christians, especially those with wealth and influence. Cruz and his dominionist colleagues see themselves as heralds of a new age – the final age before the second coming of Jesus – in which powerful conservative Christians must assume control of America’s wealth and resources. In his own words, from a now-infamous sermon delivered in 2012:

“There are some of you, as a matter of fact I will dare to say the majority of you, that your anointing is not an anointing as priest. It’s an anointing as king. And God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield ? The battlefield is the marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion. If you remember the last time I was in this pulpit, I talked to you about Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, where God says unto Adam and Eve, ‘Go forth, multiply, take dominion over all creation.’ And if you recall, we talked about the fact that that dominion is not just in the church. That dominion is over every area – society, education, government, economics.”

“The pastor referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur. God, even though he’s sovereign, even though he’s omnipotent, he doesn’t let it rain out of the sky – he’s going to use people to do it.”

On a surface level, Cruz’s teaching might comes across as little more than a creepy sort of prosperity gospel. However, his intense personal involvement in his son’s presidential campaign indicates that his ambitions might be more grandiose. He recently stated that Ted’s presidential bid is the result of divine will and the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

2. The strict complementarianism of The Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) is a collection of Reformed Christian teachers and cultural watchdogs intent on promoting and defending the Christian gospel as they understand it. Their website and network of publications provide a platform for pastors and a resource for like-minded believers. TGC is characterized by a few distinctive doctrinal positions, such as belief in biblical inerrancy, a Calvinistic understanding of sin and salvation, and a pervasive devotion to complementarian gender roles. Complementarianism, against egalitarianism, asserts that men and women are created equal but with different “biblical” roles to fulfill. These involve male “headship” and female “submission.”

Critics of TGC suggest that their commitment to the complementarian hierarchy has fostered an environment in which male abusers are protected and female victims marginalized. A blogger named Nate Sparks recently compiled an overview of scandals and controversies surrounding TGC members and their churches and posted it as an open letter. Issues raised include TGC’s consistent advocacy and support for pastors implicated in abuse scandals and controversial teachings by its famous members like John Piper and Doug Wilson. A particular quote from one of Wilson’s books has sparked some outrage:

“Women inescapably need godly masculine protection against ungodly masculine harassment; women who refuse protection from their fathers and husbands must seek it from the police. But women who genuinely insist on ‘no masculine protection’ are really women who tacitly agree on the propriety of rape.” (Douglas Wilson, Her Hand In Marriage, pg. 13)

Meanwhile, TGC has not directly responded to Sparks’ or anyone else’s request for a comment, though they may have passively acknowledged the controversy by tweeting this quote from Kathy Keller, wife of TGC heavy-hitter Timothy Keller:

“Whether you’re able to see justice in divinely created gender roles depends largely on how much you trust in God’s character.”

Instead of addressing or denying specific allegations, the message from TGC seems to be, if you’re not a complementarian, you simply don’t know God. This is emblematic of TGC’s troubling tendency to draw lines in the sand and to package secondary theological questions (eg. gender roles and inerrancy) into their version of “the gospel.” 

3. The reckless reconstructionism of Franklin Graham and James Dobson (and friends)

No doubt Graham, Dobson, and their colleagues on the religious right would reject the label of “Christian Reconstructionist.” Like their dominionist counterparts, these leaders deny any ideological motivation, claiming instead to simply and boldly speak obvious truths on God’s behalf. However, both Graham and Dobson understand America’s national vocation and destiny in terms of a covenantal relationship with God modeled on the stories of Israel in the Hebrew Bible. If bad things happen to America, it is because we have angered God by disobeying His laws and violating the covenant. If we turn “back to God” and obey His laws, the nation will surely prosper. In this universe, cultural trends and Supreme Court decisions have the power to incite God’s wrath, bring on natural disasters, and possibly even set the end of the world into motion. Conversely, electing Christian leaders and passing Christian legislation will usher in an era of blessing.

Full-blown reconstructionism asserts that the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament constitute God’s everlasting blueprint for human behavior and must form the basis of all modern laws and governance. Being a savvy evangelical, Franklin Graham would surely equivocate and give lip service to the “new covenant” established by Jesus which supplants the ancient law, and yet he consistently gives voice to the reconstructionist view when he says things like this:

“When you look at Scripture, when Israel turned their backs on God – and that’s what we as a nation have done and are doing – there was usually some type of calamity. There was a famine, there was a persecution from their neighbors, nations would come in and overrun them and destroy them.”

Elsewhere, especially in his frequent Facebook missives, Graham directly links Christian morality and American prosperity with obedience to the laws of ancient Israel. Meanwhile, Dobson laments that “God’s judgment will fall on this great nation” because of political and social developments he finds displeasing. Whereas Dobson has frequently endorsed specific ultra-conservative candidates, Graham has remained unaffiliated, instead urging Christians to vote for any candidate who demonstrates “biblical values.”

What they all have in common

In this post I’m taking aim at self-appointed Christian authorities and gatekeepers, not friends or lay people who happen to hold this or that theological position. I’m not personally acquainted with any dominionists, and I’ve known a few Christians who thoughtlessly perpetuated reconstructionist ideas now and then. Understandable. I do know quite a few complementarians, good people who choose to apply complementarian principles to their marriage or family. I respect their choices even as I disagree. My real concern with any theology is what happens when it is enforced by those who claim authority over the lives of others. Here is what all three of these stories have in common:

First I note that all of the theological views described here are based on a flat and literal reading of an “inerrant” Bible. They have privileged and adapted portions of scripture for their own purposes, to be sure, but each appeals to the Bible as its basis. Second, each has some view to “God’s design” for how certain people or groups of people must live. They see morality in general as a response to hierarchies and divisions implemented by God from the beginning of time. And third, each becomes most harmful when combined with the authoritarian ambitions of influential Christian leaders. That is, abstract ideas about what God expects from humankind are solidified into doctrines, rules, and even legislation, and real human lives are affected. We note also how the “divinely appointed” divisions enforced in each case favor those in authority.

If God has a favored class, gender, or nation, surely God can see to it that they prosper without the help of a booster club or task force. As a rule, I am wary of anyone who speaks of “God’s design” as the heart of morality rather than selfless, redemptive love. That’s one more thing authoritarian Christian watchdogs have in common: in all of their posturing and for all of their “biblical” formulations, Jesus is readily invoked but his teaching is consistently ignored. Jesus did not underwrite the human tendency to establish and exploit authority, in fact he exposed and deconstructed it. Jesus advocated for radical inclusion and egalitarian love, not hierarchy, class, or exclusion. Followers of Jesus do not seek dominion or authority. They do not lord over others, they die for them.


5 Things St. Paul Believed That Most Christians Do Not

Why write a post like this? Not to be negative or contrarian, but to get us thinking. Modern Christians, especially conservative Protestants, tend to consider Paul the authoritative voice on Christian theology and church life. His letters have been read by each passing generation as if they were explicitly directed at that time, place, and audience. It’s easy to forget that Paul inhabited a unique ancient world of thought and practice, that he did not think like us or understand the universe like we do, and that he assumed his audience shared his worldview. We are not smarter or better than them, but we simply cannot imagine that we have the same interests and presuppositions as any Bible author or ancient person.

And so, five things that Paul asserted or taught in his letters which reflect a point of view completely foreign to modern people, including Christians. Continue reading


Take Up Your Cross, Bro

Last night I swiped into a fascinating Twitter conversation that illustrates the divide in American Christianity in an stark way. The context: Rev. Jim Wallis appeared on CNN criticizing Evangelicals for embracing the divisive and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump, and a Twitter user derided him for advocating a stance that would get American Christians “slaughtered” by Muslims. Then came this exchange:


Putting aside the absurd sensationalism of the premise (are American Christians in imminent danger of being “slaughtered” by anyone?), these two tweets say much about the deep rifts in popular Christianity, and illuminate a fundamental question about the entire Christian endeavor. Continue reading


Isaiah 14 and the Real “Lucifer”

It’s not unusual that people disagree about the interpretation of a Bible text. It is very strange, however, that a biblical inerrantist might argue for a meaning which contradicts what is on the page. Yet this happens with some frequency. Here is a case study from personal experience.

Classic Western Christianity reads Isaiah 14 as if it narrates the story of Satan (the angel “Lucifer”), his rebellion, and his fall from heaven. Verses 12-15 in particular might seem to tell the whole story, presented here in the King James Version for maximum impact: Continue reading


We Have Met the Beast and He Is Us

Beast666Somehow this is still a thing. Christian politicians and pundits routinely make fearmongering overtures about the identity of “the beast,” “the antichrist,” the cosmic boogeyman who will bring about the End Times™ and also happens to be their ideological opponent. Just pick a public figure you don’t like, label them “dangerous,” throw in a vague appeal to “biblical prophecy,” and you’re good to go.

Even as we roll our eyes, we think we know exactly which Bible prophecy is being abused: the book of Revelation and its warning of a coming antichrist. But it’s not simply that the words of Revelation are being misappropriated as political fodder, they have been completely misread and misunderstood in the first place. If we take an educated and careful look at the relevant passages, a very different picture comes into focus. Spoiler Alert: there is no singular “antichrist” figure in Revelation. There are several metaphorical “monsters” in the text, but the nearest contemporary analog for the “beast” in question is not a Muslim warrior, a popular Pope, or a socialist President. It’s something much more familiar and far more insidious.

(Actually) Reading Revelation

I get a little twitchy when uninformed Christians rant about “what it says in Revelation” concerning “the antichrist.” For starters, the word “antichrist” never appears in the text. It’s not there. Something like it can be found in John’s epistles, but not here. There is a “beast” in Revelation, a few of them in fact, and to put them into proper context we’ll need a quick overview of the whole thing.

The final book in the New Testament canon, Revelation was written as a coded message to first century churches from an exiled pastor named John. It’s an apocalypse, a sort of ancient political cartoon, imagining the imminent destruction of the Roman Empire and the vindication of Jewish-Christian martyrs who had been killed by the state. Apocalyptic literature allowed its authors and recipients to express their true feelings about Rome without incrimination, using cryptic metaphors and bizarre symbolic imagery instead of openly political language.

Revelation plays out as a pageant of symbolic tableaus. The martyrs entreat the heavenly throne for justice, Jesus (depicted as a slain lamb) opens a scroll containing God’s purposes, and bowls of consuming wrath are poured out onto the armies and superpowers of earth. In the end, the great Whore of Babylon (a.k.a. Rome) is defeated and God’s kingdom is established in its place, a glistening (earthly!) city called New Jerusalem. The end.

So where does “the beast” figure in?

Dragon and the Beasts, This Fall on ABC

The chapters in question are Revelation 12 and 13, wherein the narrative shifts and the Bible suddenly goes all Harryhausen. A “great red dragon” falls to earth and summons two “beasts” (or “monsters”), one from the sea and one from the land, who do the dragon’s bidding. The first monster speaks “blasphemous words” and “makes war on the saints,” while the second one “deceives” the people of the earth into worshiping the first monster. This is the beast that “marks” humans with a number permitting them to “buy and sell.”

The text explicitly identifies the dragon as “the satan,” the evil power which animates the two earthly monsters. The first monster is the Roman Empire, with its temporary authority to rule over the tribes of the earth and its thirst for the righteous blood of the martyrs. Who then is the second beast, the one which so preoccupies dispensationalist Christians that they’ve forgotten all the other apocalyptic critters? He represents the religious and economic systems that feed the ambitions of the first beast. He makes images of his counterpart to be worshiped and brands citizens for participation in the marketplace. And what is the “number” that this beast stamps on the people’s hands and foreheads? 666, the numeric name of Nero, the great persecutor of Christians. This beast dupes God’s people into bankrolling their greatest enemy.

Hitting Close to Home

This is the dreaded beast of Revelation: imperial consumerism that lulls people into working and buying and selling and worshiping against their own interests. Revelation wasn’t a warning to the future about the rise of a bad guy from an enemy camp, it was a clarion call to first century Christians against capitulation and collusion with the powers-that-be. It was an anti-establishment screed, reminding its hearers that Christians do not play at power and war and money like the beasts do. In a bottomless pit of irony, those Christian gatekeepers who most loudly sound the “antichrist” alarm in our own day tend to be those who are most sold out to nationalism, capitalism, and the established imperial order.

In context, the monsters of Revelation confront us with an unexpected threat. It’s easy to exploit weird, cryptic prophecies for personal gain, fearmongering, and drumming up the donor base. It’s easy to imagine some far off, foreign enemy who threatens to take our freedom away and disrupt our lifestyle. It’s quite another thing to imagine that our very lifestyle itself might have all the markings of a beast.

For a more detailed breakdown of Revelation, check out this podcast.


America Under God

one_nation_under_god_phow_corporate_america_invented_christian_americapI’m reading the new book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. The title is provocative but it’s a very well researched historical exploration of America’s religious self-identity. Author Kevin Kruse proposes that contemporary pundits longing for the golden days of “Christian America” have less in common with the founding fathers than with the postwar “Under God” movement of the 1940s and 50s. The book’s central narrative, reconstructed compellingly using quotes from the preachers and politicians involved, begins with America’s recovery efforts after the Depression and World War II.

The “Under God” campaign began, Kruse argues, as a coordinated response of capitalist leaders and clergy against Roosevelt’s New Deal entitlements. The chief insinuation of the book is that opportunistic industrialists appealed to generic “Judeo-Christian values” (ironically, a rhetorical category introduced a generation earlier by socially liberal Christian activists) to baptize their businesses and profits, and that conservative pastors were all too happy to play along in exchange for exposure and influence.

This movement, called “spiritual mobility” or “Christian Libertarianism,” picked up such political momentum that it swept Washington after the election of Dwight Eisenhower. There followed a long series of vague but impassioned religious proclamations by both Congress and the White House – often on live TV with an audience of millions. The president talked about God in his public addresses and preachers talked politics from their pulpits. The era saw the addition of “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance, the inclusion of the motto “In God We Trust” on American currency, and a stream of prayer breakfasts that has yet to subside.

The thesis of the book is fascinating, but the real value of this work for me is the insight it provides into the thinking and rhetoric of the preachers and politicians involved. For example, I did not know that Billy Graham, the great evangelist, first came to national attention by preaching against labor unions and touting the dangers of godless communism. (In fairness, I understand he later expressed regret over those early messages.) More than anything else, though, I am both fascinated and horrified by the way these crusaders interacted with the Bible.

One of many public presidential proclamations described in the book struck me as particularly instructive. In 1953 the National Association of Evangelicals drew up a “Declaration of Freedom” which cleverly outlined seven “divine freedoms” extracted from the famous 23rd Psalm. It looked like this:

Freedom from Want: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Freedom from Hunger: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”

Freedom from Thirst: “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”

Freedom from Sin: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Freedom from Fear: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Freedom from Enemies: “Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”

Freedom to Live Abundantly: “Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

The Declaration of Freedom was signed by President Eisenhower at the 1953 Independence Day Celebration. The genius of the pronouncement was the way it simultaneously scored partisan political points AND recast America’s capitalist ambitions in explicit theistic language. On one level it was a conservative, clergy-endorsed trump card to Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” from a decade earlier (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear). At the same time, it reappropriated the beloved shepherd’s poem as a manifesto for the American dream.

In Psalm 23, the lyricist (traditionally David) celebrates God as a divine shepherd who cares for him, protects him, and meets all of his needs. The shepherd’s sheep does not want, does not hunger, cannot come to harm, and overflows with good things. With minimal rhetorical sleight of hand, the NAE turned those personal, spiritual gifts into America’s birthright, her divinely guaranteed “freedoms” which were to be procured and defended at all cost.  A short leap from personal salvation to prosperity and conquest.

It is one thing to catalog our national blessings and attribute them to divine providence. It is quite another to “name and claim” those blessings as special privileges to be fought for. Does a God-given right to “freedom from want” justify exploitative industry and the reckless accumulation of wealth? Does “freedom from enemies” mean that our military campaigns are blessed by God?  What does it mean for the federal government to enforce our right to “freedom from sin?” The implications are sinister.

I’ll admit there’s something quaint about the memory of these quasi-religious proclamations and their endorsements from beloved celebrities like Jimmy Stewart and Walt Disney. But at the heart of the “Christian America” movement was a flagrant and dangerous misuse of scripture and ideological “values” which run counter to the core of the real Christian gospel. And, most alarmingly, this type of rhetoric is not relegated to some charming black-and-white era of the past. It is alive and raging in our own time.