Of Politicians and Prayer, or How Rick Perry Showed Me What’s Wrong with American Christianity

As you may have heard, a few weeks ago Rick Perry held a prayer rally shortly before announcing his candidacy for the presidential race. In the weeks leading up to the rally there was quite an uproar, though since the rally things have seemingly quieted down. That being said, Perry did point out something wrong with Christianity in America, though the point he made is quite unintentional on his part.

Perry pointed out the problem of Christianity – particularly traditional, conservative Christians – missing the entire point of the Gospel. He didn’t do this by preaching on us missing the point, nor did he imply it in anything he said. Rather, he, along with those who supported the rally, demonstrated what is wrong with American Christianity.

There’s this idea that the problem with the moral fabric of America begins in the political realm and thus American Christians must take the political sphere back. Some, such as myself, would argue that Christians have never held an exclusive grip on the American political process, but certain historical revisionists would counter that claim. Either way, the claim is that in order to save America now, we must take back Congress, the Courts, and the White House.

Yet, if we contrast such ideals to the original Church or to Christ, we’re hard-pressed to see such theocratic ambitions in our ancestors. In fact, we see Christians almost avoid politics all together until Constantine.[1] Christ was very adamant not to pursue political endeavors and His followers tended to follow suit.

What the early church focused on was helping the poor, the oppressed, and the outcast of society. They made personal appeals to governors to cease persecution, reached out to the rich, and helped those stuck in the slums. There were no political movements that sought to overturn the Roman government and make it a “Christian Empire.” Instead, Christians appealed to people, not institutions. They sought to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors, or to leave their hometowns and make neighbors elsewhere, brining the love of Christ with them.

How far we have come in 2,000 years. Do we need a prayer rally to help deliver the American government into the hands of Christians? Or would it be better if individual Christians fell upon their knees in prayer and delivered themselves to Christ? Is it we who have it right and are fighting against the world? Or is it that only Christ has it right and we need to seek Him out?

America, even the world, doesn’t need another rally, another prayer card, another program, or another crusade in order to save it. It needs individuals who are willing to live the love of Christ. It needs Christians who love Christ more than their political ambitions. Dare I say, it needs Christians who love Christ more than they love their country, so that paradoxically by loving Christ more than their country, they may love their country all the more.

[1] Some kings, such as in Armenia, did adopt Christianity before Constantine, likewise, even within Rome, Constantine’s conversion hardly brought about uniformity within the Roman Empire’s religious pursuits. We can see St. Augustine writing to pagans within Rome even in the 5th century.

5 thoughts on “Of Politicians and Prayer, or How Rick Perry Showed Me What’s Wrong with American Christianity

  1. I’m an ex-Christian who doesn’t have much good to say about Christianity. However, if a person is going to follow that pathway, then I think you have made some excellent points. Would that more Christians would take them to heart.

    IMO, politics and religion should not mix in any way, shape, or form.

  2. Jesus is not in the business of saving America…He is in the business of saving the world, and it will be done regardless of who is in office. Our job is, as you said, to live His love to all people and serve the church. Great post Joel.

  3. This post reflects something I’ve believed for a few years now. I used to be in the camp of thinking we needed to reclaim the political arena (and admittedly, it’s still a temptation at times.) But you can’t legislate “morality” strictly speaking. While I DO believe from my studies of American History that our Founding Fathers were largely influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview (separation of powers being a tip to the hat of the inherent sinfulness of man and that man can’t be trusted with power), I’ve come to the conclusion that change happens at the individual level. As more and more individuals are changed by the power of an encounter with Jesus through the Spirit, THEN change will come at a national level. Bottom up, not top down.

  4. Great post. I agree with you entirely. When I hear conservatives and tea party drones talking about taking back America, I can only assume they mean taking it back from the voters. The christian right is so blatantly UN-Christian that it’s difficult to imagine how so many people can be fooled. The christian right is a purely political movement with no legitimate basis in Biblical teaching and with no spiritual or religious foundation. The leaders of this cult along with most of their accomplices display none of the characteristics spoken of in the Bible. Their world is characterized not by faith, hope and love, but rather, by fear, despair and hatred. Where Jesus’ message was one of inclusion, theirs is one of exclusion. Where he preached Love of God and neighbors, they wage war on our neighbors in the name of their god. Where Christ commanded charity to the weak and needy, they condemn the needy as weak and offer charity to the wealthy instead. They have become so focused on money and political power that they have forsaken the real fundamentals of Christianity.

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