Two things that came across my screen this morning that have me riled up about Christians who seem to be a bit confused about Jesus.
1 – It seems that a bill making it harder for children to be married has been blocked by Republicans in Kentucky. This bill would have made these marriages possible only if a judge reviewed the case to make sure there was no abuse involved, and that the adult was not a sex-offender. Really? This seems to be a civil rights issue for children – no child should be married! And the force behind this failure is The Family Foundation in Kentucky (a fundamentalist “Christian” group). This group believes that a law like this would diminish parental rights. In other words, parents can do anything with their children that they want, maybe even sell their children to the highest bidder. And Kentucky isn’t alone in this – most states allow children under 18 to be married in some fashion or another. Most of these marriages are older men to girls – you know, just like in the Bible.
2 – A book has come out touting President Trump’s deeply held religious convictions. While none of us knows what is in another person’s heart and mind, it has been pretty clear to me that the president, through his words and actions, does not practice faith in a way that I think is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. I have hopes that someday Mr. Trump will find a mature and abiding faith, but his life doesn’t seem to indicate that the time is now. This is not a judgment on his worthiness to go to heaven, just an observation about another imperfect person – like all of us.
My concern about these two things is that the Church is in the midst of struggling for its soul, and the more people who say they are Christians do terrible things, the more of our soul we lose. The same people who say they support Pres. Trump because they believe he is a Christian are the same people who demonized Pres. Obama, who really is a Christian, regardless of what you think about his job performance. The same people supporting the marriage of children are the same people who oppose same-sex marriages of consenting adults. We, as Christians, do not have to agree on everything to be faithful, but I think we should agree that children should be protected from pedophiles – and that is what an adult who marries a child is. We should be able to agree that politicians who approve of taking insurance from children and food from the elderly are not following Jesus’ lead on this. I might be wrong, but I don’t think so.
This toxic faith is killing us from the inside. It is no wonder that younger people are refusing to be connected to the church, even though we are not all the same. I called this 30 years ago when the TV evangelist and pedophile priests were hitting the news in a big way. This death has been a long time to coming, and it will happen – unless we speak out. We need to live out our lives the very best, albeit imperfect, ways that we can. People of faith need to work at curing this poisoning that is happening in all religions. I don’t care what, if any, religion our politicians are. I do care if they are doing their work to make this country better. From where I sit, they are a big part of the problem.
If you believe in God, get yourself to a place of worship that believes in protecting those who have no voice. Find a place that believes all people are equal creations of God. Ask questions about women, the LGBT community, and the nature of God – be an educated consumer. If we who are fair minded faithful people walk away from organized religion, we will be complicit in its death. I vote for being complicit in its life. Peace.
Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA since 1999. He has a B.A. (Religion & Philosophy) from Wilmington College (OH), an M.Div. from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a D. Min. (Christian Ethics) from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a Ph.D. (Leadership) from Alvernia University (PA).