Turning Over the Tables of ‘American Christianity’

The reason American Christianity does not stand against the actions of our current president is because American Christianity is not Christianity properly understood as the way of Jesus. It puts a warped view of ‘American’ before Christianity. Christians who live in United States must reject this.

What we are seeing in Christianity in the United States is a battle over whether the way of Jesus will have any real practical influence in the life of churches and in the life of persons who call themselves Christian.

Christians and Christian churches who do not welcome the stranger; who do not seek justice for poor and oppressed; and who do not care for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, and all creation are living in such a way as if the life and teachings of Jesus are wholly irrelevant. They have put nationalism, and in many cases race, before the way of Jesus. They have put fear and hatred and their own desire for security before Jesus’ call to seek justice for all people, to love all of our neighbors, and be not afraid. They have exiled Jesus from their churches – churches that would make Jesus weep that his name is being associated with the very expressions of hatred, fear, and corrupt power that Jesus gave his life to resist.

The news that such Christians and such churches bring to the world is not the good news for the poor and oppressed that was the clarion call of Jesus’ work in this world, rather it is news of exclusion, control, fear, and oppression of the weak and vulnerable in our midst. It is the news of exploitation of the community of all creation rather than its care. The ‘religious freedom’ that such Christians and churches seek is a freedom to discriminate and exclude rather than a responsible freedom that seeks love and justice for all.

Jesus would set foot in such churches for only one reason, to turn over the tables of injustice and to call us all to repentance – to turn away from fear, hate, and nationalism so that we might turn our lives toward the good news of the Beloved Community. The response that such Christians and churches would make to Jesus’ message would likely be similar to the violent rejection Jesus received at the hands of the corrupt power of the empire of his day, and with so many people in our churches carrying guns, a brown man turning over tables and calling out for repentance might not even make it out of church alive.

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About Mark Y. A. Davies

Mark Davies is the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and Director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. He is the Executive Director of the Leadership, Education, and Development (LEaD) Hub North America of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and an Oklahoma Humanities State Scholar. Mark has published in the areas of Boston personalism, process philosophy and ethics, and ecological ethics. Dr. Davies serves on the United Methodist University Senate, which is “an elected body of professionals in higher education created by the General Conference to determine which schools, colleges, universities, and theological schools meet the criteria for listing as institutions affiliated with The United Methodist Church.” He and his wife Kristin live in Edmond, OK in the United States, and they have two daughters. The views expressed by the author in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of Oklahoma City University or the United Methodist Church.
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16 Responses to Turning Over the Tables of ‘American Christianity’

  1. Robin Meyers says:

    Well said, and sadly on target. The church as we have known it is not only irrelevant, but dangerous. It gives divine sanction to the Empire instead of resisting it. Nothing could be more anti-Jesus. A different church is around the corner, but not until the empty facade that is organized religion in America dies, and something worthy of the radical gospel of the Teacher of Righteousness rises.

  2. Thanks for the insight. I am trying to understand this better. Is there a movement called “American Christianity”? I am unfamiliar with it but would like to know more.

    Grace and peace!

    • What I am referring to as ‘American Christianity’ is the tendency of large segments of self identified Christians in the the United States to overly connect a certain understanding of their American identity with their Christian identity. This tends to be a significant issue with self identified evangelical/ fundamentalist Christians in the United States, but it also has some influence across the spectrum.

      • Thanks. Much appreciated.

        Blessings.

      • In secondary school, my history teachers never failed to incorporate the history of slavery into the curriculum. Neither did the English teachers (Uncle Tom’s Cabin anyone?). What we see today is undoubtedly shaped by the fact that half of our country was shaped generation after generation to ignore truths of gargantuan magnitude. This is one reason “American Christianity” is too generalized to be helpful. New England Protestant Christianity and Georgian Protestant Christianity don’t fit into the same mold.

      • Regarding my most recent comment, perhaps a better term would be “Patriotic Christianity”. You make an important point. I just think it would help to have a different term.

  3. Jeffrey L. Hatcher says:

    Be specific and say “Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and whatever other churches are politically organized and anti – intellectual. The United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church, and Roman Catholics, among others are as Christian as any organized religion is anything. They also are not anti – progress, anti – academic, anti – science, and anti – environment. People talk of reactionary ‘christian’ sects as though they represent the only legitimate Christianity. Not so.
    -sincerely,
    Atheist and former member of UCC (non-believer for reasons unrelated to denomination).

  4. Jeffrey L Hatcher, PhD says:

    I agree with all of your intentions, but I would also ask people, generally, to be specific and say “Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and whatever other churches are politically organized and anti – intellectual (I am unfamiliar with the Methodist church). The United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church, and Roman Catholics, among others are as Christian as any organized religion is anything. They also are not anti – progress, anti – academic, anti – science, and anti – environment. People talk of reactionary ‘christian’ sects as though they represent the only legitimate Christianity. Not so.
    -sincerely,
    Atheist and former member of UCC (non-believer for reasons unrelated to denomination).

  5. John Molina says:

    I think what you refer here to, Professor Davies, are the Evangelical Dominionists.

  6. Robert Wagner says:

    This article is very true. Jesus has been tossed out the door into the nearest garbage heap when it is related to the religious that align themselves with the trump fiasco.  It is one reason so many Americans are turning away from religion these days and have been more and more since the year 2000. It isn’t just Christian churches either being portrayed as horrible monsters, the insane and hateful are destroying Islam as well. All these warring religions are destroying their own message and teachings of the good they are supposed to support. I just hope people who have not drank from the poison of false faith can make the choices to make the changes necessary before they are all dropped from society altogether because the greedy and paranoid have destroyed the whole thing.

  7. Kelly Lyons says:

    This article is so articulate and says much about how I feel about what’s happening today. I can’t get around what I want to say without talking about what’s happened since the election. I’ve witnessed anger, hatred and selfishness from these so-called “religious” people. The people that go to church regularly and can quote verses from the Bible yet behave in such a way that is a slap-in-the-face to religion in general. I am not targeting any one church but all churches. I used to believe that most people were good but since this election, I see now that belief is just not true. I truly believe that the Pastors, Priests, all leaders of churches, need to preach to their congregations about what are good behaviors, according to the Bible, and what are not. No tip-toeing around the subject. Let’s call it what it is. It’s hypocrisy and it’s bleeding into everything and everyone.

  8. julius krajewski says:

    picture a scruffy looking man or a long haired tattooed man or even a woman that burst forth preaching that material things are not important and that churches should sell all their art and gold and pay to feed the poor and sick. imagine the reaction from the leaders of all churches. they’d be mocking, stoning and building crucifixes for this person that preaches such blasphemy as what the bible teaches. the 10 commandments are now just recommendations and we now must do it to them before they do it to us. america has lost it’s way, in all ways. religion is the opium of the people has taken on new meanings and i see no way forth that will ever heal the damage done to the religion that used to be a healing entity

  9. Pastor Kim Rapczak says:

    Dear. Dr. Hatcher:

    Thank you for your comment pointing out it isn’t ALL American Christians who have fallen into idol worship. (And make no mistake, militarism, nationalism, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, “me-ism” are all forms of idol worship.)

    • I was devout in my youth, but due to some extremely violent seizures, I had experiences which nixed all but biological beliefs in inner human existence. Nevertheless, I think of my former faith as part of my cultural heritage. Most people don’t like seeing their cultural heritage impugned either explicitly or implicitly. Hence, I feel a bit of annoyance whenever I see people lumping left – leaning Protestantism with right – wing cults.

  10. Interesting notion of idol worship. A good point.

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