We left off last week with a discussion of the false belief that America is a Christian nation. We presented the evidence that the founders of this nation were not Christians in the usual sense but were Deists. A Deist is a person that believes the creator created all things, but that the creator will not interfere in the affairs of humans. We then connected the dots as to how the founders could own people as property. We connected the dots that if they believed God was not concerned about their behavior, then they reasoned that they could use people of African ancestry for profit. They could take land from the native people and decimate their numbers and limit those same people who were here before them to reservations through military conquest and still sleep at night.
This hypocrisy and duplicity in what a person professes and what that person actually does is at the foundation of the religious tradition here in America. What’s Up with the Church? Look at its foundations here in America, and you will see the seeds of a deceptive spirituality that still has influence on how many Americans express and experience their religious commitment in some convoluted and conflicting ways.
And then there is the impact that the Great Awakenings had on the Christian religion in America. The Great Awakenings: The first Great Awakening happened between 1730-1740. The second Great Awakening happened between 1800-1840 and the third Great Awakening happened between 1850-1900.
These Great Awakenings were Christian revivals that inspired many people to take their faith more seriously and express that faith more emotionally. However, it was during these revivals that the emphasis on personal piety, personal sin and personal redemption were highlighted. This was a time when Hell Fire and damnation preaching proliferated the experience. The fear of spending eternity in Hell caused many to attend church more regularly, confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and live in a way that would keep them out of the devil’s clutches.
My point in raising this point is that Fear is a tool that has been used quite effectively to control people.
Fear is the go-to tool used by tyrants, fascists and dictators. Fear is the main tool in the box used by politicians, want-to-be politicians and right-wing idealogues to convince white Americans that they are being replaced.
Fear is the weaponized emotion by corporations and CEOs to get poor white people to believe that Black people, and immigrants at the southern border, threatened their ability to financially support themselves.
And Fear in the Christian religious tradition of America is not only used by the white evangelical movement to make white people feel comfortable but has been used by many Black congregations and Black preachers to gain membership in their churches.
Fear is the tool of choice in the religious tradition of this nation, and using fear is one of the major reasons why many churches are dying.
I read somewhere that, “The use of the concept of Hell to motivate faith in God is spiritual abuse.”
When poor people, in particular Black and brown people, have lived in fear for so long because of oppression, because of police brutality, because of resources deprivation where food deserts litter the landscape, and because of educational, financial and social inequities, those people become immune to religious fear mongering because they feel that they are already living in Hell.
In the addiction recovery movement, there is a saying, “Religion is for people trying to stay out of Hell, but Spirituality is for people who have already been to Hell.”
You cannot keep shaming, guilting and trying to make people fear going to Hell just to get them to confess to God who said, “For God so loved the world…”
You cannot keep trying to shame people to accept a Savior who said, “You are the light of the world.”
You cannot keep trying to make people feel guilty about not attending your church, or make women feel guilty about wearing jewelry, or not wearing stockings, or wearing pants in church when Jesus said, “come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Using Fear to motivate people to have faith in God and attend church is not only spiritual abuse, but it is also inaccurate according to the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is a tool of control used by people and not Jesus of the church.
What’s Up with the Church? Too much fear mongering has turned many people away from a loving relationship with a Loving Savior whose Love is the central point of His ministry.
As the Commodores, led by Lionel Ritchie, sang many years ago, “Jesus is Love, he won’t let you down, and I know that He’s Love.”
What’s Up with the Church? The Need for more Love that embraces people wherever they are on this journey called Life. You can Love someone into an experience with Christ, but you cannot scare them into that experience.
Be well, beloved, and know above all else that you are loved.
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.” Contact the church by email at [email protected] or by phone at 219-944-0500.
Rev. John E. Jackson
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”