By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
It is beyond my capacity to understand why it is that some churches have become agents of destructive political ideology and conspiracy theories, resulting in so many of their followers and members to become targets for illness and death caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19.
In Nashville, Tennessee, Greg Locke, the pastor of Global Vision Bible Church, told his members to understand that they will be put out of the church if they wear masks. He has also told them not to get vaccinated, according to The Washington Post. Locke has called people “crack-smoking, demon-possessed Leftists” and is deeply committed to spreading the “Big Lie” and all conspiracy theories that have drawn in so many people, as revealed in a video on a Right Wing Watch social media post.
What is astounding is that they believe their lies, including the one that asserts that it was not Trump supporters who were responsible for the January 6 insurrection but, as stated by Michele Bachmann, were “left wing activists who looked like they had been trained as warriors,” noted a Right Wing Watch article.
This involvement by Christian nationalists and their churches is not new; Christians from the time of this country’s inception believed that God wanted this country to be created as a Christian nation “by and for White people.”
But it is as puzzling as it is reprehensible to those who believe that there is one God who taught that we were all to love each other. God, neither in the Hebrew Scriptures nor in the New Testament, advocated bigotry. Staunch Christians have declared, as did the late Rev. C.T. Vivian and Archbishop Desmond Tutu that one cannot be a Christian and a racist, and Tutu declared in a book that God is not a Christian!
It is difficult to hear the voices of people who believe in the Christianity taught by the Christ in these days where Christian nationalists are storming every part of American society – from its government to its policies and to the Church in general. Those who have declared that they are “pro-life” are pushing and encouraging people not to get vaccinated or wear masks in response to COVID-19, apparently unconcerned that so many people who do not have to die will from this deadly disease. And, just as during the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s where pastors and preachers taught in their Sunday sermons that segregation was sanctioned and approved of by God, 21st century Christian nationalists are preaching their misinformation in their Sunday services and through social media.
It is mind-boggling, confusing and maddening. God’s name and the church are being used to support the murderous lies of people who say they love God, love this country and love police, when in fact their actions reveal that they do not love any of the three, The New Yorker revealed.
It occurred to me that these are the same people who have used the name of God and the church to support ideas that catastrophes of the not-so-distant past are the result of a God who is unhappy with America’s liberalism – i.e., acceptance of the rights of the LGBTQIA community, welcoming of immigrants from anywhere but especially from non-White countries, and of course, the passing of the law making abortion legal. We can all remember hearing Evangelical pastors blaming hurricanes and other disasters on what they defined as the malfeasance of people in power who have allowed too many liberal policies to pass, as noted by Salon.com. But the energy and actions of the Christian nationalists have made even some Evangelicals leery and critical of what that group has been perpetuating and spreading, NPR noted.
What is disturbing is that it feels like the voice of “the church,” not the Christian nationalists but mainstream Protestant and Jewish and other religious groups, has been rendered largely silent. There is not enough pushback to Christian nationalist toxicity, not enough yelling out the “good news” that in the eyes of God, everyone counts, and everyone matters.
Many White Christians have never believed that, however, and those who do believe it have lived in fear of being attacked by vehement Christians who are content with stuffing their version of God down the throats of everyone. In their eyes, God is White, and God supports the causes of White people. The way they see God affects and determines the way they treat human beings, which determines how they relate in society. That reality has been the rule even before Christianity came to America.
I often wonder what the God of weary years and silent tears is thinking, and I also wonder why God – the omniscient, the omnipresent, the omnipotent – doesn’t intervene and shake people into following God and not their political and cultural preferences and inclinations. These Christian nationalists, emboldened by the former president who one might call the Christian Nationalist-in-Chief, are bold with their assertions that they are on the side of God and, more importantly, that God is on the side of racism, sexism and bigotry of all sorts.
I do not understand how this story ends, but it will end. Where will those who follow the commands of the Christ be and what will “the church” look like?
I shudder to even think about it. The church has caused many problems for people in the past who have sought love and instead have received judgment and ostracization, but the darts being thrown out by the church of Christian nationalists are more toxic than ever. “The church” has become an agent of destruction, and it is anyone’s guess how wide and deep will be the fallout.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. And she is an award-winning author for her latest book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America,” available through all booksellers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.