On using God’s name in vain

Crazy Faith Ministries

It has been spectacular and disturbing to watch Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Senator in the state of Alabama, navigate and manipulate religion for his own purposes.

Moore, accused of sexual misconduct against at least nine women, some of whom were teens when the alleged assaults took place, has taken to defending himself on “moral grounds,” saying that he represents “Christian values.” God is against the policies and beliefs of “the liberals” and “the socialists,” he says, and even challenged late night show host Jimmy Kimmel to a fight over “Christian values,” a challenge Kimmel accepted with enthusiasm.

Some supporters are making him the victim, saying that he is being attacked because he is a Christian. It is a charge that is as sickening as it is inaccurate.

Whose Christian values is he representing? To what “Christ” is he referring?

What has happened in this country and all over the world since the time of Jesus’ life here on earth is an appropriation of what Jesus stood for and taught. Wes Howard-Brook, in his book Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected, 2nd-5th Centuries, clearly argues that the “religion of empire,” which the world practices for the most part today, was from the beginning different from the “religion of creation,” which Jesus taught.

“Christianity” as we know it today, says Howard-Brook, a state religion, was “almost the exact opposite in nearly every respect from what Jesus had proclaimed and for which He was killed.” Early Christian writers, including Origen and Clement and Tertullian, among others, “generated a Christianity that almost completely inverted the gospel of Jesus.”

Evangelicals have had a history of using Christianity to sanction their cultural beliefs and desires. What Southern Christians, and Christians from the North as well, were most interested in was preserving their “way of doing things.” White supremacist beliefs made them adhere to a belief in the rightness of segregation and discrimination against people of color. In the name of the Christianity that they practiced, they worked hard to preserve the “Closed Society” of the South. Blacks were not welcome, and God, they said, made that clear in the Scriptures.

To go against those who believed in White supremacy, then, was to go against God. Christian values included buying into racism and indeed, sexism. The Constitution protected wealthy, White, male Protestants. In the belief system of early American Christians, only those people were fully human; Blacks, Native Americans, women and other non-White, non-Christians were not fully human and therefore not eligible for freedom or dignity or respect.

That Moore is acting like a victim is problematic, but the fact that he is couching his racism and sexism in a so-called adherence to “Christian values” crosses a boundary that has for too long been accepted.

God, the father/parent of us all, was not a bigot, and neither was God’s son, Jesus.

Jesus taught that all people were worthy of love and acceptance, forgiveness, grace and mercy. Moore has been using the language of the “religion of empire,” as he has said that the enemy is the “Liberals,” and the belief of too many in equal rights for LGBTQ individuals, Muslims and immigrants. He has vilified those whose beliefs are different than his and which seem, for the most part, more in line with the words found in the Gospel, as “the enemy.”

He pushes a theology of separation, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and more. He is of the ilk who believe that “freedom of religion” only applies to Christians, since, he erroneously believes, Christians were the only religion in the land at the time of the writing of the Constitution.

His religion is cultural relativism, far removed from the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel that says that who love God must love, protect and take care of “the least of these.”

In the name of Christianity and “Christian values,” many Whites sought to justify segregation, calculating everything that happened “in this life to give advantage to White people and to saddle Blacks with corresponding and unyielding disadvantages,” said Carolyn Renee Dupont in her book, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975. Religion then and religion now – specifically Christianity – was used and is still being used to engage in behavior which is a far departure from what Jesus taught and from what dignity for all would look like.

It is abominable that Moore is denying his alleged pedophilia by acting like a wronged man of God, and it is even more abominable that people are falling for the hype. In the Decalogue, it clearly states that we who believe in God are not to use God’s name in vain. My mother would say that any time one lies about someone – or lies on or about God – that that person is using another’s name in vain, or in the case of manipulating God’s words for our own purposes, using God’s name in vain.

Moore is an insult to decency; this Congress and the evangelical Christian community are an insult to decency as well. The God of us all must be weeping as this masquerade goes on, threatening to cast this country deeper into a maelstrom of destruction in which it is now swirling.

Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Contact her at revsuekim@sbcgloba.net.

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