Is Evangelical Christianity The Wizard Behind the Curtain of America’s Moral And Spiritual Decline?

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I am not a fan of being on the communicating end of negative things. Most people don’t enjoy that role, I certainly don’t. As one who has to field a lot of critical knocks on my own door, I know what it feels like to be misunderstood, misrepresented, and criticized irresponsibly. So, as I write about things that are not so positive regarding Evangelical Christianity, I do so with much carefulness to avoid becoming a part of the problem, as I truly desire to be a part of the solution.

As I address issues related to Evangelical Christianity in this writing, I am well aware that many Evangelicals, many of which I have as close friends, have wonderful hearts, do great things for Jesus, and are not aware of any harm in which they may or may not participate by being connected intimately or in part to Evangelical Christianity. That was true of me when I was an Evangelical pastor. In fact, I would suspect many Christians who would fall into the category of “Evangelical” don’t even realize it, nor have they considered any negative ramifications to the beliefs they hold and the Evangelical culture thereof.

Yet, when I observe something so alarmingly and clearly wrong, harmful, and deceptive, I feel a responsibility to at least articulate what I see and believe. Not with a spirit of condemnation, but with one of deep concern. No one person or group is perfect. Certainly, not I. For so many years as an Evangelical, I didn’t realize what I was truly participating in and what its ramifications truly were in people’s lives.

From as early as my boyhood sand box experiences, I have learned that many of the people who are repeatedly pointing at problems and things they don’t like from an aggressive, self-righteous posture are often those themselves who have something to conceal. From the bully on the playground to the podium pounding preacher, behind nearly every harsh, judging, fear-inducing, intimidating, and problem-pointing finger is often a Wizard of Oz like coward hiding behind a curtain, concealing the real issues.

The overarching chorus of Evangelical Christianity for years has been that the world is bad, needs to repent, and become like them. They passionately declare their morals, beliefs, and standards are not only the foundation of America, but that which is needed to reverse, what is in their minds, a terrible, declining culture. There is an inner consensus among many Evangelicals that if people just believed, lived, and acted like them, America would be a much better place.

Spokespersons and leaders of Evangelical Christianity such as Franklin Graham almost weekly, make public statements repeating this rehearsed theme that the world is bad, needs to repent, and become more like them in adopted values and lifestyle. A prevailing sentiment seems to suggest that if we would just return to the days of “Father Knows Best” where everything was seemingly simple and clean, things would be so much better.

Many of these statements, communicated in many and various ways, are often textured with judgement, fear tactics, and condemnation of a world that, in their minds, is not so simple and clean anymore. The underlying message is, “we know best.” “We are right, you are wrong, we have it, you don’t; repent, turn to our Jesus, become one of us, or pay the price.” Like in a scene from The Wizard of Oz, from behind the curtain, as the room fills will smoke and the volume knobs of this rhetoric is turned up with deep, Darth Vader tones, many approach the microphone to communicate their displeasures and religious prescriptions at the world, all while declaring it to be “the Gospel.”

Years ago, this Evangelical wizardry was directed against divorce and remarriage, later the issue became blacks marrying whites, today it’s homosexuality and gay marriage.  All with the same battle cry, “we are right, you are wrong; repent, turn to our Jesus, think, believe and behave like us, or pay the price.” This has been the underlying missional/discipleship philosophy and posture of Evangelical Christianity for decades. “You are lost, we are found, our job is to get you to our Jesus and “disciple” you to think, believe, and behave like us.” The world is our project, people are a notch on the “got saved” belt. Baptism is an initiation rite, and membership is the entry way into our club.

Of course, it’s never articulated like that, but having been an Evangelical pastor for many years, I know this to be true. This is their Gospel, this is their “salvation,” this is the Evangelical “vision.” In Evangelical Christian produced movies, tv shows, concerts, churches, books, and alike, this is the flavor of Gospel being communicated.

Recently, many Evangelical Christians and leaders have turned up the heat on declaring that America is in desperate moral and spiritual decline. As they gaze out into the world and even within their own organizations and churches, they realize there is a growing number of people who don’t believe and behave as they prescribe. In their mind, the world has turned away from their brand of Jesus, Bible, and Church, and therefore is the cause of all things that are eroding our culture. With labels like “lost,” “sinner,” “progressive,” “liberal,” people who don’t fit their mold become the mission to change, and if resistant, become a kind of enemy.

Yet, like in the The Wizard of Oz, things are not always as they appear.

While smoke billowing Evangelical Christianity declares the world bad, those unlike them the source of blame, and the solution being to repent to their Jesus and learn to think, believe and behave like them, there is a coward pulling the strings behind a curtain. In fact, the one pointing fingers at all the problems in the world has in truth, ironically, become a major contributor to the existence of those problems. Yes, pull back the curtains and see for yourself, Evangelical Christianity is perhaps the greatest contributor to the moral and spiritual decline of America they so detest.

Now, this a bold statement that will surely offend many and likely cost me in relationships and otherwise.  But before you write me off, disown me, or label me a heretic, hear me out.

God is love. He loves everyone unconditionally. Love is not a characteristic or attribute of God, it is who He is. God can do nothing else but love.

Out of His nature, which is love, it is articulated in scripture that through Jesus (the personification of Love), the Old Covenant of Law given through Moses has been replaced with a New Covenant of Grace given through Jesus.

As one writer described, “you are not under Law, but under Grace.” Romans 6:14b

This is a cataclysmic, cosmic shift in how God relates to people and people relate to God.  Yet, Evangelical Christianity is super slow to the party.

It is a complete transition away from a conditional relationship with God and life that hinges on some level of our spiritual performance, and the ushering in of an unconditional relationship with God and life that is based solely on Christ’s performance. It is not just a move away from the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law as well. Let me repeat that, “it is not just a move away from the letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law as well.” It’s not just Ten Commandments, Leviticus stuff, it’s any form of work, condemnation, judgement, performance expectation, condition, effort, or striving applied to any spiritual aspect of a person’s life. And let me add this, everything is spiritual.

The Bible in its reading and understanding must be interpreted through this covenant of Grace, whose personification is Jesus. This new covenant of Grace began at the cross.

Grace, with no mixture of the Law (or the spirit of the Law), received through faith, is the pure Gospel.  And Faith, it’s not a work, effort, or doing, it is a rest. It is not a spiritual performance, it is a spiritual awakening to what Jesus has already done, without your faith, worthiness, or participation. It is not “faithfulness,” it is “faith.” And that faith, a gift from Jesus as well.

Because of Grace, Jesus has not only done something  for all people, but also to all people. Beyond having peace with God for eternity, Jesus has made all people into a new creation. At the cross, humanity became a finished work. It was one and done. Period. Jesus didn’t just die as a human, He died as humanity. The old you, was crucified with Christ. Salvation (wholeness) has come.

As a new creation, you are the righteousness of Christ, holy, sanctified, forgiven (past, present, and future), justified, lacking no spiritual blessing. There is no work to be done on your life, you are completely complete. Grace has rendered spiritual growth as something you already are, not something you become or do. The Christian life is not about becoming something tomorrow you are not today through spiritual gymnastics, but about being more of who you already are because of Jesus, through believing. Your performance does not determine you identity, your identity determines your performance. Grace is the beginning and end of everything you are, do, and become. This is the Gospel, that your part is to realize you have no part, only believe. Anything less than this pure Grace Gospel, is Law.

With this in mind, writers in the New Testament, vehemently described how mixing this Gospel of Grace with remnants, portions, or vibes of the Law is not just false and damaging, but evil. Any form of condemnation, work, spiritual performance, earning of intimacy with God, intolerance, judgment, personal striving, finger-pointing, or communication of a God who loves conditionally is to mix the pure Gospel of Grace with Law and to render it a means of death not salvation.

“And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” Galatians 5:4

For this writer, a minimal spiritual performance or act so innocent, symbolic, and simple as circumcision, reflected the presence of the Law and when mixed into a person’s life rendered them severed from Christ. Yikes!

Sadly, knowingly or unknowingly, much of what Evangelical Christianity presents to believers and non believers in regards to the Gospel, discipleship, and the Christian life is a mixture of “Law” at best, if not pure Law. Many of them declare unconditional love with conditions, spiritual growth through personal obedience, sin overcoming through sin management, discipleship through behavior modification and doctrinal unity, and the Christian life an increasing level of personal devotion to Christ. I don’t care how you slice it or how much lipstick you put on that pig, it’s Law, Law, and more Law.

What many Evangelicals declare as needing to have a “balance,” of Grace and Law, one can just hear many of the New Testament writers declaring, “bullshit!” Not because it’s fun to be vulgar, but because of the ramifications of a death cocktail mixture of Grace with Law. Mix the Gospel with any amount, however small, of the Law, and guess what you have? Law. Let me bake you a cake, and drop a wee-little speck of poop into it. Just a smidgen. Don’t worry, you won’t notice. It’s fresh out the oven, you going to eat it?

As one scripture writer discovered, the ministry of the Law is death and condemnation. (2 Corinthians 3:7,9)  That same writer also discovered that it is actually the Law that entices people to sin. (1 Corinthians 15:56) Yes, the Law… in letter or spirit is the great sin enticer; not pornography, Miley Cyrus, rap music, or Play Station.

See first, the Law in all its forms, in letter or spirit, condemns. Find me a person with a sin problem and I will have found you a person with a condemnation problem.

Second, the Law appeals to the flesh. The flesh, is not our evil lustful side as some would have us believe, it is actually when we attempt, through any kind of effort on our part to gain or receive from God something He has already freely given; salvation, forgiveness, intimacy, blessing, favor, righteousness, holiness, sanctification, and the list goes on and on.

This is a futile, evil endeavor. It’s a dead end.

First because God has already given completely that which is trying to be gained, and second, because you can’t gain, earn, or receive anything from God through your performance, effort, pursuit, pressing in, or actions, no matter how spiritual they may seem. To do so, is to fall from Grace and declare the cross as foolish and insufficient, and yourself as capable and worthy at some level or another. That is what it looks like to be deceived, to walk in darkness, to water-down the Law (as you think you can handle it), and therefore, to minimize and marginalize Grace (because you think you don’t completely need it). It is the height of anti-Christ. It is to be bewitched by another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all. And worst of all, it is to entice and imprison people to sin, hypocrisy, and a lifestyle thereof.

The Evangelical prescription for sin is at best, a mixture of Gospel and Law. God loves you, BUT… you need to repent (which in their mind, wrongly means “to change”). Do these spiritual things, apply these formulas, attend these groups, solicit this accountability partner, press into this experience with God, say this prayer, read this book, partner with Jesus, attend this conference, take these steps, believe these beliefs, be all you can be for Jesus, follow these rules etc. etc. Problem is, it not only all doesn’t work, it all makes things worse.

For much of Evangelical Christianity, the Gospel is “behavior modification” through some level of personal effort or spiritual performance. All of this, declaring the Law and packaging as the Gospel, and then wondering why people fall away and morals decline for both nonbelievers and believers.

If you take the Law seriously, if you take Grace seriously, if you take the consequences of mixing any amount of Law with the Gospel of Grace, it is clear that much of Evangelical Christianity has actually been prescribing the cancer, not the cure; at best, withholding the cure. Whether they realize it or not, they have been baking cakes with crap in it, and then wondering why people are getting sick, spitting it out of their mouths, and not getting any better. All while some of them have the gaul to sprout their spiritual feathers, get mad, bark their religious rants, throw up their hands, and act so disgusted (and surprised) when they see a nation that, in their minds, is spiritually dying. Of course it is! That’s what happens when one supplies the cancer as the cure. That’s what happens when you feed people cakes with crap in them.

A few years back, the Barna Research Group showed that the overall divorce rate among Evangelical themed denominations was between 27-34%, while the divorce rate among atheists… 21%.  Evidently, in our country, you have a better chance at having a holy, Jesus-like life out of church than you do in it.  If perhaps the largest Christian representation in America, Evangelical Christianity is engaging in the ministry of the Law, should we be surprised at the amount of spiritual decline we see in America? Should we be surprised that people are seemingly more enticed and imprisoned to sin now, more than ever? That’s what the Law does. Should we be surprised that Christians exposed to Evangelical Christianity don’t get better, and the world that is watching, has become disinterested and “done” with church.

The truth is, the spiritual prescriptions of  much of Evangelical Christianity entice and imprison people to sin, not free them. We can change nothing in ourselves or others. The Holy Spirit does that, and that through pure Grace, not Law or any mixture thereof. The very thing that many Evangelicals declare as too soft (Grace) is actually the one and only thing that has the teeth and grip to change anything.

As one scripture writer discovered, “For the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, teaching us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2:12

What teaches, what changes, what influences?  Grace.

Jesus mentioned that you can sense a certain amount of the quality of a spiritual thing by the fruit it bares.

Much of Evangelical Christianity has sadly produced… 1) selfish, consumer minded Christians who believe that “church” is about meeting their particular needs. Thus, Christianity isn’t growing but is actually in severe decline as believers are continually shuffling around to whatever church has the best show and better meets their needs 2) Christians who believe the Bible is equal to Jesus/God and place their understanding of it over standing with people and declare their particular understanding to be “truly biblical.” 3) churches where Christians mainly talk amongst themselves and judge the world, believing they’re right and everyone just needs to become right like them 4) celebrity pastors and leaders who franchise church, their egos, and a performance-driven, hyped up perversion of the Gospel. 5) churches that might welcome a sinner or two into their mix as they look down upon them as their “mission”, but don’t truly “want” them unless they clean up and adopt their values and beliefs. 6) Christians who believe the Gospel is a mixture of Grace and Law, Jesus does His part, but one needs to do their part, or else. 7) Christians and Christian leaders who believe their job is to point out sin in the world, and declare that God loves people so much that if they don’t say a certain prayer and clean up their act, He will justly throw them into an eternity of torture by demons, flames, and a desire to die that will never be granted; calling it all… good news.

In my humble opinion, no one is perfect, especially me, but that is no fruit.

I believe much of Evangelical Christianity, particularly those who embody a more judgmental, prideful, elitist, legalistic, and performance-driven Christian flavor would do well to repent (which really means to “change your mind”) about Jesus, the Gospel, love, bible, the Christian life, sin, and Church so that these areas and their understanding thereof reflect the pure Grace of God and the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

I believe much of Evangelical Christianity would do well to focus on modeling Jesus who is pure Grace and unconditional love. They would do well to stand with people over and above their biblical stances on the issues. They would do well to learn to rightly divide the word of God between the Old Testament and the New, interpreting all scripture through the lens of Grace as Jesus did.

They would do well to move away from “hating the sin and loving the sinner,” and just loving people, period. They would do well to let the Holy Spirit discern and change people, and instead, concentrate on doing their job, which is to love people, unconditionally. They would do well to direct their finger pointing to the loveliness of Jesus, not to the ugliness they deem to see in people. They would do well to trust Grace to do what only Grace can do, which is most everything they think they are capable of doing and charge everybody else to do.

They would do well to live from a posture of, “all of have sinned and fallen short” as Grace levels the playing field for everyone, and everyone needs Grace equally.  They would do well to stop marginalizing, labeling, belittling, and treating as second class citizens those who sin (in their judgment) differently then they do. They would do well to proclaim that God loves, accepts, embraces, favors, and blesses all people far beyond what they could ever imagine. He is not angry, vengeful, waiting to punish, or licking His lips to pour out wrath, but rather, His love is deeper, wider, stronger, and more generous and scandalous than they ever imagined.

They would do well to teach, preach, declare and manifest Grace, and Grace alone. Shout it from the mountain tops. Let every word drip with Grace. Then and only then, will any one person, group, country, nation, or world change.  This is the Gospel.

It’s all Grace, or it’s not the Gospel.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work… Romans 1:16

61 Comments

  1. michael hailey

    August 8, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Great article Chris! Submit it to “Pathos” BTW who would you identify as the 2nd class citizens here “They would do well to stop marginalizing, labeling, belittling, and treating as second class citizens those who sin differently then they do.”….Excedllent

  2. ckratzer

    August 8, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Thanks Michael! I would identify divorced people, homosexuals, adulterers, alcoholics, transgender, and criminals to name a few. Not that I believe all those are sins, but they typically do.

  3. whew!
    first of all, nothing but truth here. so much truth. I say this not in a spirit of taking sides, but in all humility. your spirit of humility is obvious.
    you hit the nil on the head, but yet I still fear that not many will get it.
    I applaud your efforts, in all sincerity I do, I am just war-weary and beat down. I guess then it is safe to assume that you may also be war-weary and beat down. if so, be encouraged. good job. fight the good fight. continue to proclaim the truth regardless of the seen results.
    All is grace or it’s not the Gospel. Indeed!

  4. Amen Amen Amen and Amen to this Post 1000000 times Chris!!! this hit the nail on the head big time brother 🙂 God bless you and yours always.

  5. ckratzer

    August 11, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    Daniel, thanks for reading this!

    • I find your article very interesting, and I agree with much of it. What bothers me a bit is that you quote the Apostle Paul extensively in proclaiming grace as the very core of the Good News, which is absolutely correct. But what about our response to that grace? Paul addresses that, too. According to your column, there needs be no response, just bask in the sun of life, don’t concern yourself with sin, and soak up the grace. It may not be your intent, but your article reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw: “Jesus paid for our sins…Let’s get our money’s worth”. How about Romans 6:1? If there is no accountability, no attempt to live a better life because of what Christ has done for us, then we have turned freedom from the law into license. I agree that the grace of God is so radical that we often find it offensive and we can never be righteous enough to earn our salvation. Still, Universalism is not bibical, not even New Testament biblical. Although I wish it were.

      • ckratzer

        January 2, 2016 at 1:48 pm

        Thanks Reggie for reading my article. Grace is not a new fad, theology or doctrine. Grace is a person… Jesus. So appreciate your comments, good thoughts!

      • “Continuining in sin” there, means continuing under the Law, (according to the whole context) which is what judged sin, in the first place. Being “dead to sin” doesn’t mean cleaning up your behavior (which becomes stretched into this ongoing “growth process” in practice, that’s supposed to be an instant supernatural work, in common teaching). It means to not trust in your works as proving you’re justified, for all that will do, is lead right back to condemnation (hence, the endless “process”). Then, love will be your motivation to do good, not just doing what’s required, to escape judgment.)
        “License” is an NIV term, and not really a biblical concept. Others “turned grace into lasciviousness”, but these were likely those preaching the Law, who accused the Gospel’s liberty of being exactly what people accuse this of today.

      • R.A., I noticed that your comment did not receive a reply, and your concern certainly deserves a thorough reply. There are some friends who seem to balk at all calls for repentance though (1) that was the core of John’s (the immerser) and Jesus’ message out of the gates of his early ministry and (2) this is what a grateful, grace-filled life results in (“Should we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” To which Paul responds “no way.”) and without which one cannot claim to have been touched by grace.

        Salvation from sin is by grace alone; without salvation from sin, there has been no grace bestowed.

      • You are exactly right R.A. Rushing! And grace was not cheap-it came to us with a great price, not paid by us but Jesus….. nor is it a “do anything you want” card………..that is apostasy! True Christianity discipleship is following (in our lives) what God’s Word says……..not picking and choosing to fit our particular sin or someone else’s….which is exactly how I see in this article. “preachers” that don’t follow the word but help lead others into apostasy will pay heavily “Wide is the gate that leads to destruction…..” and woe to the leaders whom take them there!

      • It is amazing that folks will say “I wish universal salvation were true” without realizing they are wishing God was more gracious than He is!

  6. Excellent article. And that’s coming from a second class citizen 🙂

  7. A wonderful summary of what I have been discovering for over a year. As an “conservative evangelical” minister, I have come to understand that grace is, indeed, the Gospel! It’s good news! I have pulled the curtain down on the Wizard and revealed that Jesus said, “it is finished.” I began to question that if I were a better father than God the Father. As an earthly father, I would not punish my children by burning them forever for not “saying the right words.” As you said, God is love and is totally love. I have discarded my “conservative evangelical” name tag. Actually, I have discarded the name of “christian” Too much baggage!

  8. Screw your silly religion, screw your “sin” which makes people feel guilty and dirty and “unclean” since we were children. Screw this evil religion which rules America with an iron fist and punishes anyone who is not a cis, white, heterosexual male.

    Screw the concept of hell and the evil you supposedly believe is in everyone’s hearts. I used to be Christian, I was raised in a Christian cult and the ONLY thing I learned was to hate myself, to hate who I am, and to hate others.

    I wish I could burn Christianity to the ground for all the evil it’s committed against me and my ancestors and my friends. I cannot wait till Christianity is ripped from this country and where it’ll FINALLY hold no more power and people will stop being allowed to vote away BASIC FUCKING HUMAN RIGHTS.

    What are you doing to undo the evils of your religion? What are you doing to undo the huge amount of oppression your likeminded kinfolk have put upon the LGBT? Upon Marginalized people of color? Have put upon the disabled, the helpless, the mentally unstable?

    • Yes, Christianity is a religion & does not reflect the teachings of Jesus. Chris, I believe is at the start of being part of the solution by what he wrote in this article. I believe he got to the heart of the matter in this article. I highlighted the end of the article, but I believe his whole article comes from a humble posture. “They would do well to live from a posture of, “all of have sinned and fallen short” as Grace levels the playing field for everyone, and everyone needs Grace equally. They would do well to stop marginalizing, labeling, belittling, and treating as second class citizens those who sin (in their judgment) differently then they do. They would do well to proclaim that God loves, accepts, embraces, favors, and blesses all people far beyond what they could ever imagine. He is not angry, vengeful, waiting to punish, or licking His lips to pour out wrath, but rather, His love is deeper, wider, stronger, and more generous and scandalous than they ever imagined.

      They would do well to teach, preach, declare and manifest Grace, and Grace alone. Shout it from the mountain tops. Let every word drip with Grace. Then and only then, will any one person, group, country, nation, or world change. This is the Gospel.

      It’s all Grace, or it’s not the Gospel.”

  9. Wow. If I had been taught this in church I never would have left, never would have spent a minute in fear that I was destined to burn in hell for not being “Godly” enough, never would have told kids in the youth group I worked in that “all the Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus” were going to hell.

    I’m slowly working my way back to church and have applied for seminary. I still have no idea what it means to be a Christian or what grace means to me. I just know I feel called back to help connect people the one planet God gave us to live on and to connect with one another in community.

    Peace
    Dillon Naber Cruz

  10. Richard Lubbers

    January 1, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Marvelous!

    You are echoing what the Spirit is saying to humanity. Sadly, too many Evangelicals are not hearing. But the Spirit continues to break down walls through you and others like Rob Bell, Jim Palmer, Donald Miller, John Shore and many significant “voices in the wilderness”.

    Jesus said, “It is finished.” Nothing can be added to that. God is the savior of all mankind. I Timothy 4:10

  11. Wow. So well said. I’m going to save this article for the days that I feel crazy for standing in the grace of God alone. The days when I’m being labeled a backslider and a heretic for saying these same things. Thank you so much for articulating it so well.

  12. You nailed it Chris. I think if I had read this article a few years ago I could have saved myself days of depression, hours of therapy, and a lot of money paying for that therapy……all just to find out God is absolutely crazy about me….just like He made me to be!

  13. Very interesting, but I am writing an article that takes an exact opposite point of view. Most of the really angry persons I know are not the evangelicals but the progressives, even those who identify themselves as Christian. I read the progressive blogs and there is a continual barrage of anger, accusing big corporations, agribusiness, Wall Street, conservative Christians, of making America a terrible place to live. They continually quote surveys which seem to indicate that someplace far off would be a much better, much happier, much healthier location. Years ago (back in the 30s) we heard about how wonderful the Soviet Union was. When I was in seminary we had persons lifting up the glories of Cuba. Now it seems to be Sweden (with one of the highest suicide rates in the world). Among United Methodist progressives the Church is accused of being hateful, homophobic, racist, and who knows what. In the evangelical world I know I find great community support, lots of happiness, and, despite all of the cultural trends, a hopeful future. I don’t see progressives speaking of a hopeful future. I am not sure where the author’s evangelical contacts are

    • Strange that knowing how many so called Christians are trying to make me live by their values and be miserable makes my anger the problem. Living under constant attack by people who want to force me to believe as they believe, act as they think I should act, etc. is enough to make anyone angry and discouraged. If the extremist will leave me and others alone to live our own lives as we see fit, then this country will become once again a great place to live rather than the battleground they are so determined to have us live in. I believe that America can survive and be a great place to live only if we take the necessary steps to take the extremists right out of public decision making and stop allowing them to control others. The good news is that more and more they are destroying themselves and making a mockery of their own beliefs and lifestyle. People are seeing the hateful, destructive results of the extreme right on their own private lives and are leaving the movement seeking a better life for themselves and their family. As long as the right is preaching hate, control, and loss of self as the way to salvation, they will continue to lose thinking people. Brainwashing only works when the person being brainwashed has no other information to offset the brainwashing.

    • ckratzer

      January 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

      Riley, so cool that you read my post, your comments have some great thoughts too! I would agree that the Progressive movement isn’t without its faults for sure. There is legalism etc. within every segment of faith. Send me a copy of link to your article, look forward to reading it.

    • @Riley – there has been a conflation in our (American) minds of political and theological positions. So a “progressive” must have Monsanto and a “conservative” must love the US above all else. This is horrible! And IMHO, it’s a conscious act by political strategists to create a “base” that will be theirs permanently because they’ve created so many divisive POLITICAL, not religious, issues.

      Christian Progressives may tend to be liberal, but it isn’t a necessity. You can recognize grace in the way Kratzer describes it, and still be in favor of capitalism, GMO corn, and NASDAQ. For me, it’s tougher to be in favor of “conservative” Christians, because rather than separating politics and religion they tend to push their worldview on everyone else (see Kratzer above, again) by fighting Planned Parenthood, transgender people using the right bathroom, and societal discrimination against Muslims, gays, and — God forbid!!! 🙂 — gay Muslims. 🙂

      What I mean to convey here is that there are lots of political liberals who are not Christian, and progressive Christians may co-mingle politics and religion just as conservative Christians may co-mingle politics and religion. Don’t throw out the progressive baby with the liberal bathwater! 🙂

  14. That Evangelical Christianity spawned most of what we know as Charismatic Christianity, I couldn’t help but read Charismatic Christianity back into the article. No Charismatic I know would either see it or admit to it. Which says a lot for the veil they too hide behind.

    Great article, Chris! I would definitely lump myself in with the second class citizens you mentioned.

    • ckratzer

      January 2, 2016 at 1:56 pm

      Tony, great thoughts, and I agree! No problem on my and with reading a bit of Charismania back into the article! 🙂

  15. I was looking for the evidence of the believer in your post as described by what Jesus said would be produced by His desciples but overlooked in your post about the physical evidence that convince the unbeliever. “The blind see” The lame walk” You lay hands on the sick and they are healed. Jesus said “These signs will follow those who believe. THAT IS WHAT A BELIEVER DOES . It is more than talk. It is proof of a ministry .

    • ckratzer

      January 2, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      Paul, great to read your comments, very thoughtful. Grace or resting in Grace is not the absence of action, but the foundation from which action should occur. God defines us, our identity, value etc, not our actions.

  16. Hello Chris,

    Ran across the link to this in a Facebook group, and thanks for your perspective in this post to something I have been thinking about recently. I see where you are coming from and what you are saying, but in your opinion, what is sin and how does that factor into our lives and fit into the salvation narrative?

    Thanks,
    Evan

    • ckratzer

      January 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Evan, great comments and great question. Sin, very simply put, is anything we do to fall from Grace, turning to our flesh for what God has already given us completely through Grace. God shows us this reality through various ways… standards, etc. However, the nature of sin is always a turn to ourselves or other means for what God gives us through Grace. That’s why condemnation and the Law actually serve to increase sin, not heal it. Hope this helps. Let connect further on FB or somehow! Keep the conversation going!

      • “Sin” was a concept developed by religious leaders to guilt-trip and control the people. If God’s plan is unknown to the people then it is impossible to know a deviation from it to “sin.” It’s also a logical conclusion that the absence of that knowledge makes everything a “sin.” But the contradiction is that it cannot be all or nothing at the same time; therefore the premise of “sin” being going against God’s plan, aka a “fall from Grace” must be incorrect, and therefore concocted by man and not God.

        Once one moves past ecclesiastical misconstructs and into actual spiritual constructs that the Christ had correct–the Golden Rule, which transcends all religious mythos, as one example–then you start to get somewhere.

        So says this PGK, who knows better.

  17. Excellent article. So accurate in that Evangelical Christianity is so far from what Jesus taught and is damaging all Christianity in this country. If religious extremists are allowed to continue to determine public policy and law based on their extreme beliefs, America will cease to be a country with religious freedom and Constitutional rights since religious freedom and Constitutional rights are incompatible with extremist requirements that all live and behave in accordance with extremist beliefs.

  18. Chris, I agree with your assessment 100%. Although I would add all mainline Protestant denominations to the problem, not just Evangelical Christians. I left “organized religion” because of all this hypocrisy. Thank you for articulating so well what I feel.

  19. Um, this post itself is FILLED with condemnation and judgment!

  20. Excellent article!

    I have linked it to a post it inspired me to complete that I have been contemplating for some time now.

    https://www.facebook.com/robbie.ousley/posts/10207190576778684:0

  21. I understand your message as being for grace and against the law and I just have a few questions that I would love to hear you elaborate on if you wouldn’t mind. The are both with regard to this quote: “Grace, with no mixture of the Law (or the spirit of the Law), received through faith, is the pure Gospel.”

    By the “Law”, I’m assuming you mean the Old Testament commandments? Do you believe that only the New Testament is of value or do you find any value in the OT? Would you say it is no longer valid with the new covenant of grace? How would you respond to these words of Jesus with regards to the Law, Prophets, and Writings of the OT?:

    John 5:39: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me…”

    These scriptures that Jesus speaks of were the Old Testament books. They were considered THE scriptures in their day because the New Testament had not been written yet. If we throw out the Old Testament because it is the Old Covenant of the Law, we throw out a great deal of information about who Christ is.

    What about 2 Timothy 3:16-17? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

    Again “scripture” here refers to the Old Testament, including the Law of God. The New Testament was not in existence. Paul is telling Timothy that these scriptures ARE useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training – not that they are no longer valid. In fact, in the verse before, he even says these same scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

    I would love to hear you respond to these passages if you would…

    Thanks!

    • ckratzer

      January 4, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Tracy, great thoughts! The whole Bible is written for us, but not all of the Bible is written to us. The OT is there for us, giving us great perspective and wisdom for our our faith journey as we see the entire expanse of scripture through the lens of Grace (Jesus). We are directed to rightly divide the scriptures, realizing it is all for us, but not all written to us. We are under Grace, not Law, nor the spirit of the Law. Contextualizing all scriptures, even the words of Jesus He spoke as a teacher of the Law, is key. We don’t throw any scripture out, but we do need to contextualize it between the covenants. This is my humble opinion, and thank you for the honor of expressing it in response to your questions.

  22. While I *think* I agree with you, Chris, I kept reading to find the end to which your thinking could take you. However, I found so much theologizing in the other direction that I came to the belief that you didn’t finish.

    Theology isn’t bad per se, but when it seems to be the evidence rather than the fruit of the different direction, it becomes almost as tiresome as the theologizing in the other direction.

    What I am getting at grew out of having been raised in a VERY “evangelical” church that failed to understand the Good News (Evangel) that Jesus proclaimed. My question in reading your post is not whether or not you understand what Jesus preached. It is whether or not you (we) are carrying it out.

    I am quite ready to ask all who claim the name CHRISTIAN, “Do you worship the faith of Jesus, or do you obey it.”

    Obedience is something quite different from understanding it and believing in it. That comes close to the same effect as what the evangelicals practice in a somewhat different direction. It requires something quite different from more polemical words.

    Obedience requires that we get out of our comfort zones and out into the highways and byways of life.

    Obedience asks me to get my hands dirty; to get involved in the needs of others. Perhaps it may be a mentally ill person, with medical problems as well, to the point that he cannot work to make ends meet on his disability check. Dave Ramsey says that when you cannot make ends meet, sell your car and drive a cheaper one. Cut out the unnecessary things in your life and get a second job or take on overtime hours. Then, he says, pay your way out.

    BUT what if there is a person like I’ve mentioned above? (And, there is.) How am I required to be WITH that man? Does just encouraging him and praying for him fulfill the call of obedience? I think not. It calls for me to get my hands dirty, taking on the extra work he cannot and using the money to help him pay himself out of a pile of debt, the top of which he cannot see.

    When that same man has little contact with the outside world, obedience calls on me to receive his calls as joyously as I receive calls from my own sons; to stop what I’m doing and sit and be present to his call. It calls me to help him to get to the grocery store, even though I may have other things I need to do.

    As I said, obedience calls on me to get my hands dirty. It doesn’t call on me for more words to show how wrong another approach to faith is. It calls on me to be the family that this man lacks.

    Oh, BTW! I don’t mean to blow my own horn. It’s just a part of how I understand and respond to my call to obey.

    Finally, I repeat myself: Do I worship my God; my Lord; my faith; my Bible, or do I obey them all and “Feed (Jesus’) sheep?”

    • ckratzer

      January 4, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Jack, thanks for your comments and reading my post. In the OT we have the obedience of actions, in the NT we have the obedience of faith. Jesus said, the work of God is to believe. Out of resting in the Grace of God, actions do come, but from a much different foundation. Mary discovered that foundation, Martha was making sandwiches Jesus never ordered.

      • Might I add, the NT we have the obedience to the “fulfilled law,” the loving of our neighbor as ourselves. How that love shines forth is quite up to us, Jack’s fulfillment is impressive. There are so many different sheep out there hungering to fill so many different voids in their lives. As James calls it, faith without works is dead. As Paul says it, God’s work can only be done through the hands of mankind. Thank you, Chris and Jack for showing us both sides of the coin.

  23. Well articulated Chris! The ‘mixed Grace & Law teachings’ maybe because more pastors carelessly ‘Not Rightly Devide God’s Words!’ It’s simply determine, ‘when God’s words said,’ if Before the cross were for those Jews Under the Law, if After the cross for those Under Grace! Jesus’ ministry that time was for the Jews, so as the 12 apostles, and Paul for the Gentiles! Example, in Lord’s prayer Jesus said, ‘Forgive so you will be forgiven,’ that’s for Under the law; for Under Grace, ‘Forgive because you are already forgiven.’ Shalom!

  24. Now go revisit your theory but leave out the citations to the fraud and con-man Saul.

    The real problem is not a problem at all. The so-called moral decline is actually a moral evolution beyond the fundamentalist boxes of evangelical dogmatic nonsense into spiritual karma with a more personal relationship between individual and creator, no matter the label, eliminating the middleman and the money train. That’s what irks these flim-flam artists: the loss of their fiscal gravy. They just hide it under the moral loss rhetoric.

    So says this PGK who knows better.

  25. You can slam evangelicals and bad but by staying in christianity that makes you a hypocrite Im a Buddhist for a reason all the pain and abuse christianity caused Buddhism helped me overcome I disagree with Than nitch hahn and the dalai lama that we can get along with christians cause christians dont believe in equality 4 all it is my right 2 disagree because the 2 i mentioned did not found Buddhism anyways

  26. Christianity left me lempty and hollow and yes a relationship with jesus was no improvement I know this is not my blog and its possible u wont publish what i post I was christian 26 years and I found myself after i deconverted and i know christian wont trust me cause im not one of the flock anymore which is a shame cause i have my own ideas and i think the world is better off without christianity and islam and the other abrahamics zorstrianism and judaism

    • ckratzer

      January 4, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Brianna, thanks for reading my post. Hope we can connect further and keep the conversation going. If you haven’t already, please find me on fb. Love to hear more of your story.

  27. mikechilds54@att.net

    January 4, 2016 at 2:42 am

    What a silly article! It sets up a straw man, and knocks it down. I have never met an evangelical as judgmental and condemning as the author is of evangelicals. The writer drips self righteousness.

    • It seems that you read a completely different article than I read. He comes from a very humble position and raps up the article nicely with nothing but grace. What is judgmental, condemning and self-righteous about that?

  28. A very important article. It shows how Christendom has been confused with Christianity and then grafted on to Jesus. I am basically leaving a seminary and taking a break from Christian churches because their theology is essentially anti-grace, based as it is in Genesis 2 and Augustinian Original Sin rather than in Genesis 1 and Original Goodness.

    As I have said in the past: Because we are created in the image and likeness of God and because we were called “very good” by God at creation, we can leave goodness through our choices, but goodness cannot leave us. Original Goodness is still there and will always be there. We can “leave” God through sin (or more accurately deny God’s grace because our very breath is given by God, not to mention our spark of life) but God remains in us and with us. I believe we can even engage in very sincere attempts to experiment with attempting to “do things on our own”, ostensibly without God’s help, and the end of that experiment is greater appreciation for the wisdom of spirit and God’s creative love. This is the way of radical inclusive, ever-present love, brought by Jesus.

    Unfortunately the church itself, as you have mentioned, has refuted this love and replaced it with egoistic judgment that profanes God’s intentions that all become reconciled in God in love. So now I find myself calling myself a Jesus-follower and not a Christian. This frees me to love and to call out and critique the egoistic, imperial impulse and habit of the church without distancing myself from the transformative, heart-opening and -connecting Gospel of love.

    I say this as someone who did not grow up Christian, and who has witnessed first-hand the tragic corruption, dysfunction, and prodigal nature of post-Christendom Christianity. It doesn’t realize yet that it is wallowing in the pig’s mud of its own spiritual arrogance, and I hope it eventually will. If it does not, it will die, as is the wage of sin and not allowing one’s heart to be broken open to spirit. How ironic that by that which it would judge others would be applied to itself.

    Until there is a return to love, I shall only visit the few humble churches and communities who seem to get that love is the only legacy. I will continue to co-create in spirit with God.

  29. A fascinating and complicated article.

    Chris, I agree with you that:

    –We are saved by grace, not works. It took me years to be free of bad, legalistic teaching on this matter. Thank the Lord that His grace covers me completely.

    –Much evangelism relies too heavily on scare tactics rather than drawing sinners to the sweet fragrance of Jesus’ love.

    –Much time is wasted by evangelicals trying to force non-Christians to behave as though they were Christians rather than loving those people in such a way that they would want to abandon their sinful lifestyle and become Christians.

    However, I disagree with many parts of this article, at least as they seem to be presented. If I’ve misinterpreted anything, I apologize, but:

    –“God can do nothing else but love.” In fact, God is shown in many books to pour out judgment on unbelievers. Of particular note are the prophetic books such as Revelation, where He administers the upcoming final judgment. How and why can a Bible scholar deny all of that? If God is capable of one generic emotion, how did He create people who are we capable of embracing both love and justice as positive concepts?

    This is what motivates evangelists to spread the gospel: the notion that God will not allow sin to continue forever, and that justice must ultimately done to those who do not repent.

    –“Years ago, this Evangelical wizardry was directed against divorce and remarriage, later the issue became blacks marrying whites, today it’s homosexuality and gay marriage.” There’s nothing against interracial marriage in the Bible, but the other two are explicitly condemned. You are free to celebrate those things if he wishes, but you shouldn’t identify yourself as following the Bible when doing so.

    –“Because of Grace, Jesus has not only done something for all people, but also to all people.” The implication of this paragraph is that all people are saved regardless of if they believe in Jesus or not. This idea is nowhere to be found in Scripture. Indeed, the disciples who were persecuted for their faith died for nothing, if everyone was going to heaven anyway even if they didn’t believe.

    Should the worst murderous tyrants throughout history get a free pass? Conversely, is everyone going to heaven to spend eternity in the presence of God even if they don’t want to?

    –” Evangelical Christianity is perhaps the greatest contributor to the moral and spiritual decline of America they so detest.” So the problems with the world aren’t terrorism, rape, murder, child slavery, etc., etc., but Christians attempting to tell people that they need Jesus to save them from their sins? *That’s* the reason for moral decline? That’s a backwards and upside-down statement.

    If we’re acknowledging a moral decline at all, we’re appealing to some notion of morality. If our mutual frame of reference for morality is the Bible, then why would all the evil acts condemned in the Bible and still being committed today (perhaps in greater numbers) *not* be an example of moral decline, but Christians following Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19) *is* an example of moral decline?

    I would have less problem with this article if it was an atheist or agnostic saying that they don’t believe in the concept of evangelism, but for an article extensively using Scripture to back up their points, it’s contradictory to hold on to some points of Scripture while denying others.

    I wanted so much to like this article. I lived under fear and bondage for so many years, due to pastors wielding scripture verses improperly (such as much of the book of James). I’m all on board with the concept of grace, and how Christians attempting to add anything to their salvation through works is offensive to God. Christ paid it all for anyone who will come.

    But that’s the key. People still need to come to Christ to acknowledge the error of their ways and to admit their need for Jesus as Savior. In the second chapter of Acts, Peter tells the people on the day of Pentecost that they indeed have fallen short of God’s standards and that they need to repent and turn to Christ.

    However, what you seem to be saying is that there is no such thing as sin (or at least not anymore), that every lifestyle and behavior should be equally celebrated, and that Christ’s death means that everyone will live with Him in heaven even if they hate Him like Satanists do or deny Him like atheists do.

    Again, while you’re free to believe that if you want to, that is not a concept that is backed up anywhere in Scripture. Yes, Jesus loved the world and His grace is available to everyone, but people must repent and receive that grace, and it is a Christian’s duty to tell others that this repentance is necessary.

    If I have completely misread this post somehow, again, I apologize.

  30. It’s “gall” not “gaul”

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