Cruelty in Christ

For years, I’ve oper­at­ed under the deter­mined belief that it’s pos­si­ble for evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians and non-Chris­tians to coex­ist peace­ful­ly with mutu­al respect and empa­thy. There’s an entire series on this blog called “For the Well-Mean­ing Chris­t­ian,” for pity’s sake. I’ve long defend­ed evan­gel­i­cals and fun­da­men­tal­ists alike, insist­ing that if they could only under­stand the harm they’re per­pet­u­at­ing, they would change.

But I sim­ply can’t keep cling­ing to that belief. Not when it’s proven wrong at every turn in the polit­i­cal sphere and my own per­son­al life. I can’t con­tin­ue, in good con­science, telling my non-Chris­t­ian, queer, non-white, dis­abled, and trans friends to give evan­gel­i­cals in their lives anoth­er chance.

I main­tain that Chris­t­ian cru­el­ty isn’t delib­er­ate­ly mali­cious. But inci­den­tal mali­cious­ness is worse in many ways. One of their own favourites, C. S. Lewis, agrees with me on this con­cept:

Of all tyran­nies, a tyran­ny sin­cere­ly exer­cised for the good of its vic­tims may be the most oppres­sive. It would be bet­ter to live under rob­ber barons than under omnipo­tent moral busy­bod­ies. The rob­ber baron’s cru­el­ty may some­times sleep, his cupid­i­ty may at some point be sati­at­ed; but those who tor­ment us for our own good will tor­ment us with­out end for they do so with the approval of their own con­science.

C. S. Lewis

As Members of Society

Meme of the “this is fine” dog. A cartoon dog wearing a little bowler hat is sitting at a table with coffee on the table. The entire room is on fire. The first comic pane, it looks like he is able to say something. The second comic pane, his eyes are open and bloodshot and he is screaming, “THIS IS NOT FINE!!”

It is “with the approval of their own con­sciences” that most Chris­tians in my life — and in the lives of almost every for­mer­ly-con­ser­v­a­tive per­son I’ve ever talked to — sin­cere­ly weep in concern…as they tell you that you’re going to be tor­tured for eter­ni­ty. The cap­i­tal crime varies, but ulti­mate­ly comes down to a dis­agree­ment on the exis­tence of the super­nat­ur­al (or the con­clu­sions drawn about such a thing). Worse, they can’t fath­om that a deity who would sub­ject its cre­ation to eter­nal tor­ment for this is an evil being, not a benev­o­lent one. Cer­tain­ly not a lov­ing one.

These Chris­tians smile as they tell you that God loves you so much — that He butchered His son to prove it.

The devout apolo­get­i­cal­ly remind abuse vic­tims leav­ing their spous­es that the only bib­li­cal allowance for divorce is infi­deli­ty — and even then, don’t you want to be Christ­like and for­give? If not, then you’re no longer wel­come at their church. They can’t have sin in the camp, you know.

The Chris­tians I grew up with, despite being over­whelm­ing­ly white, are often racial­ly inclu­sive! But they whis­per to one anoth­er about how con­cerned they are with peo­ple “mix­ing cul­tures.” After all, won’t that be dif­fi­cult and con­fus­ing? Is it real­ly wise to do such a thing?

As Voyeurs

Con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians treat any­one who’s not a vir­gin and not mar­ried as if they’re delu­sion­al and dis­eased. They can’t con­ceive of a healthy sex­u­al eth­ic out­side of monog­a­mous straight cis mar­riage.

Even if a non-vir­gin is a Chris­t­ian, many con­sid­er all deci­sions made by this per­son to be sus­pect. And if said per­son is com­mit­ted to and/or liv­ing with their partner(s), they deri­sive­ly say that those peo­ple are “mere­ly play­ing house,” as if exer­cis­ing bod­i­ly auton­o­my and shar­ing a life and love with some­one is fake or pre­tend.

They told me to rejoice when I was sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, and chid­ed me for not using the oppor­tu­ni­ty to tell my attack­er about Jesus.

Then, of course, con­ser­v­a­tives become tru­ly afraid and con­cerned if some­one isn’t straight or cis. If some­one is queer, sure­ly they can’t be trust­ed around chil­dren. And if you’re a gen­der they could be inter­est­ed in, it’s not safe for you to be alone with them, either!

It seems that sex is incon­ceiv­able to Chris­tians as some­thing that mutu­al­ly con­sent­ing adults enjoy. It can only be some­thing that a man enjoys with an object of his choos­ing.

As Loved Ones with Prodigals

Meme of a thin black man with natural hair tied back with a red handkerchief, saying “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.”

Some believ­ers, when they hear about one of their own leav­ing the faith, will for­bid their chil­dren to keep in con­tact with the per­son. It’s almost as if there’s con­cern that evan­gel­i­cal belief can’t with­stand out­side scruti­ny or debate.

And heav­en for­bid if that for­mer Chris­t­ian shows up to an event where many of the fold are also gath­ered. Good Chris­t­ian par­ents will clutch their chil­dren and turn their backs. Look not upon the unbe­liev­er.

Noth­ing we for­mer Chris­tians say is con­sid­ered trust­wor­thy. Only true fol­low­ers of Christ can cor­rect­ly inter­pre­ta­tion the con­tents of our lives and souls. No amount of expla­na­tion or demon­stra­tion can change their minds.

When Chris­tians learn some­one who’s “back­slid­den” (or oth­er­wise non­com­pli­ant) is hav­ing trou­ble in life, they offer their love to the strug­gling soul and vow to pray. And they do pray! They pray that the per­son will be fur­ther bro­ken, fur­ther hurt — “what­ev­er it takes to bring them back to the Lord.” Maybe it’s an abu­sive rela­tion­ship. Or being raped. Or los­ing their job. Or los­ing their home. Even if the believ­er could help, they must refuse — because help­ing could inter­fere with the Lord’s plan to win his lost sheep back, what­ev­er it takes.

Go in peace, be warmed and be filled.

Mod­ern Evan­gel­i­cals who are appar­ent­ly unfa­mil­iar with James 2:15–17.

And if such a per­son dies, they weep gen­uine­ly sad tears. They’re so heart­bro­ken over the loss. It’s so sad that this prodi­gal fell so far from grace that the Lord had to take them out of the world lest they defile His name any fur­ther. God must have the glo­ry, no mat­ter the col­lat­er­al dam­age.

Shaking the dust off my feet

I main­tain that evan­gel­i­cals and fun­da­men­tal­ists are well-mean­ing. Full of care and feel­ings of love and com­pas­sion.

But these believ­ers refuse to see the results of their actions for what they are. They refuse to accept respon­si­bil­i­ty for the impact of their words and deeds. They suf­fo­cate us with kind intent and then blame us for not being able to breathe. The impor­tance of a good tes­ti­mo­ny is stressed among the fold, but the tes­ti­mo­ny of the flock is con­sid­ered spot­less when it dri­ves peo­ple away. After all, any­one who leaves is bit­ter and hate­ful and bro­ken. It’s cer­tain­ly not their fault.

With their cru­el­ty in Christ, evan­gel­i­cals demon­strate their pref­er­ence for Barabas. And, like Pon­tius Pilate, it is with the approval of their con­science that they wash their hands of the con­se­quences.


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