I know, because it was me.
I’m the guy—I’m the pastor who once embodied the very evils that often become of those who sit at the feet of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
I was seduced, deceived, and wasted years of my life adopting and exuding a kind of religious hate and harm that levels nearly everything in its path. Little did I know, the person I had become while nursing at the cold steel-plated breasts of conservative Christianity. What I thought was the way of Jesus, was no way at all—a twisted gospel so sinister and callous only Grace could free my soul and break my fall.
To those who have ears, let them hear the alarms sounding from the halls of heaven—these are the evils, the darkness that will surely become of those who eat of the demonic fruits glistening as they dangle from the tree of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
It wasn’t my fault, and surely not my intention—neither is it yours, or anyone who becomes a conservative Christian. We are good people with good intention, tractor-beamed by the Death Star of conservative Evangelical Christianity.
Search your soul, let honesty rule the day—are these the dark, diabolical things you are subtly becoming?
A Person Who Makes Faith An Exclusive Club- For at the feet of conservative Christianity, “making disciples” who simply awaken to the Grace of Jesus has sadly eroded into the pursuit of “making people into people just like us.” New converts don’t become free-thinking, free-living “learners” of Jesus, but spiritual lapdogs—molded to submit and serve conservative churches, denominations, and faith constructs. Instead of falling in love with Jesus, they are led to fall in line with conservative Evangelical Christianity. Faith becomes, not a journey to be traveled but an ideology in which to be conformed. People are intentionally evaluated based on their willingness to comply and manifest the prescribed behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Nothing could be clearer than the lines that are drawn by many conservative Evangelicals as to who is in, and who is out—who is faithful, and who is not. Proud of this exclusive privileged club, conservative Evangelicals excel at the use of control, fear, guilt, and power to herd the cattle, milk them for all they’re worth, and brand them into the fold. There is perhaps no greater darkness than one who rejoices in an exclusive, pretentious, and people-manipulating faith.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare embrace a faith that makes Jesus into an elite cult of conformity and limited accessibility?
A Person Who Embraces Collateral Damage- For in the halls of conservative Christianity, people are not the primary purpose. Rather, preserving the conservative Evangelical institution trumps all other pursuits. If in this process of furthering, protecting, and extending conservative Evangelical Christianity, a person is harmed—so be it. Doctrine, power, and dominance are lifted above all things. When push comes to shove, theological submission, creedal conformity, institutional preservation, an ideological alignment are determined to be far more important than serving, sacrificing, and putting the needs of others above ones own. If, in order to preserve and prosper conservative Evangelicalism, people must die in war, sinners must be condemned to hell, disagreers must be demonized, non-conformers must be cast out, and people must suffer emotionally, spiritually, or physically—that’s just a part of the cost of following Jesus. Easy come, easy go—there is perhaps no greater darkness than one who could be so callous and ruthless in the name of Jesus.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare participate in a faith that allowed and fostered such religious oppression, brutality, suffering, and violence?
A Person Who Belittles Jesus and Sin- For at the center of conservative Christianity is the fundamental tenet that sin is actually manageable, spiritual growth is possible, and holiness is attainable through the exertion of human performance in concert with Jesus. Faithfulness is seen as a team effort—God does His part, but we must do ours. Sin is softened to a depravity that is within human capacity to overcome through spiritual disciplines and the harnessing of our will. Jesus is belittled into a life-partner who bestows his presence, favor, blessings, and power in as much as we spiritually perform correctly. Jesus didn’t die on the cross because sin is so sinful that only He could manage, conquer, and destroy it and give us righteousness, holiness, and sanctification as a free gift. Rather, Jesus died because sin isn’t so sinful and He isn’t so powerful, the best He could do is offer its management, conquering, and destruction through a conditional contract of mutual performance between us and Him. Therefore, at the table of conservative Christianity, self-righteousness is not only a thing, it’s the centerpiece of ones entire faith. It’s a living hell of rule-keeping, sin-managing, and do-gooding in fear and pressure to meet expectations, never truly knowing when enough is enough. But not just that, it’s the imposition of this hell onto others through the judgmental, condemning, and people-measuring attitudes that surely grow when self-righteousness is the meal upon which you are feasting to stay alive. There is perhaps no greater darkness than one who replaces Jesus and His Grace with a self-righteous, judging, fear-driven, legalistic, Jesus-minimizing and sin-minimizing faith.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare belittle Jesus, the cross, and the power of sin?
A Person Who Demonizes God- For in order to justify the very existence and legitimacy of conservative Evangelical Christianity, one must choose an interpretation of hell that is filled with eternal torment for the unbelieving and disobedient, and a picture of God who is willing and just in sending His creation there. Without this Dante-inspired characterization of hell and a God who is complicit in its rendering, the house of cards that is conservative Christianity crumbles to the ground. To accomplish the ultimate end of conservative Christianity where the unrepentant are damned to an eternal suffering beyond human imagination, God must be demonized into the most diabolical parent in all the cosmos and an impotent deity who loves His own creation less than the devil himself.
With the sure presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that view God as pure Love. With the sure presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that see Jesus as the One who overcomes the dark systems of the world for all humankind. With the presence of alternative, scholarly, and faithful interpretations of Scripture that understand hell to be an eternal existence in the presence of God, where Grace is so fully, powerfully, and inclusively extended that it becomes unbearable to the religious who would limit it with condition. With all the many faithful interpretive options, believing in a hell of eternal torment and a God who allows it, is not just a convenient interpretive choice, it’s an affront to the cross and a murdering of God. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a willing blasphemer who warms their self-righteousness around the religious bonfire of a hell-loving conservative Evangelical Christianity.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare to error on the side of demonizing God and misrepresenting the wondrous life and future He has secured for all people?
A Person Who Steals Life, Joy, And Freedom- For on the horizon of conservative Evangelical Christianity there is always a sin to point out, a behavior to avoid, an issue to stand against, a debate to be argued, a rule to keep, an expectation to meet, and a “to do list” to accomplish. With so much to be against, so many battles to fight, and a life lived in a constant state of trepidation—all joy, enjoyment, rest, and true surrender to the Spirit is quickly and thoroughly snuffed. The blackhole of conservative Christian living not only sucks the life out of its adherents, but many of the bystanders who get caught up in their downward spiral. Deep within, the unsettling reality constantly rears its ugly face—the truth is, you’ll never measure up, your faithfulness eventually breaks down, you’re doing more damage than good, and all you can do is pretend and hope it’s enough to fool God, others, and yourself. The freedom that you’re convinced exists because of the confines and obediences of your conservative faith is in fact the very prison in which Satan has seduced you—believing that life is found in what is in reality, a ministry of death. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a strung-out, exhausted, judging, sin-focused, and performance-driven Christian.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare to waste your God-adorned life bewitched by Satan into living a life that is no life at all, bringing death to every good thing in and around you?
A Person Who Has Made An Idol Out Of Their Understanding- For there is perhaps no Christian faith-expression on all the earth more insistent that their beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Scriptures possess the exclusive divine stamp of approval, accuracy, and authority than conservative Evangelical Christianity. With a kind of callous arrogance, there is little consideration among conservatives that perhaps their understandings of the Bible are not exclusively faithful and could even be flat out wrong. With cocked and loaded phrases like, “the clear teachings of the Bible,” many conservatives sit on the thrones of their biblical interpretations eagerly waiting upon anyone who would dare challenge their long-held perspectives. With interpretive blinders restricting their view, many seldom see their evil idolatry of Scripture. For if our understanding and revelation of Jesus is restricted to the Bible, we have not only fashioned the Scriptures into an idol, but have silenced the mind of Christ within us and the work of the Spirit. There is perhaps no greater darkness than an arrogant, ignorant, bible-worshiping believer who builds their house upon the sands of their interpretations.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare lean on your own understandings of Scripture to the squelching of the Spirit, the dethroning of Jesus, and the detriment of other people?
A Person Addicted To The Accessories- For in order to feed the fleshly addiction of conservative Christianity to “get more Jesus” and prove yourself to be “sold out” for Him, one must be constantly consuming from the spiritual drug lord that is conservative Evangelical Christianity. With every book, conference, worship chorus, building project, concert, revival, retreat, group, event, and prayer marathon, many conservative Christians see faithfulness as moving from one spiritual fix to the next. Because Jesus isn’t enough, Grace isn’t sufficient, and Love doesn’t win, conservative Christianity creates famished consumers hopelessly addicted to the accessories. Mesmerized by the latest Christian fad, worship album, book, mega-pastor, or “secret” to taking your faith to the next level, adherents to conservative Christianity are stripped of their cash, drained of their souls, and imprisoned to a life chasing after a God who is already there and a peace you can’t fabricate. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a spiritual junkie addicted to the consumerism of Jesus.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare turn Jesus into a corporate franchise and good people into the spiritual addicts that fuel it?
A Person Who Spiritualizes Arrogance and Greed- For it’s not enough for evangelical Christianity to worship, believe, and express their faith within the framework of the freedoms of our country. It’s not enough that they enjoy the rights that all others do under our Constitution. It’s not enough to follow the call of Jesus to serve, sacrifice, and consider others as more important than self. Instead, in every arena of life, society, our nation, and our planet, conservative Evangelical Christianity is aggressively insisting on its own way to the discrimination, the reducing and restricting of rights, and the suffering of other people. Greed and arrogance drive conservative Christianity to be a brand of faith whose ultimate goal isn’t to lead the way in serving the world, but to lead the way in dominating it. There is perhaps no greater darkness than a religious glutton whose heart and aspirations have been poisoned with the cancer of conquering.
To those who have ears, let them hear—is this the person you are becoming, one who would dare turn Jesus into a world bulldozer driven by religious pride and the desire for power?
Search your soul, let honesty rule the day—conservative Evangelical Christian, is this the darkness you’ve become?
Grace is brave. Be brave.
So much of my life was characterized by these attitudes and behaviours! How amazing is this life of Grace now that my eyes are opening to the loving smile on God’s face! It’s people like you, Chris, who shake up our stinking thinking so that we can begin to embrace more fully the scandal of the Gospel of unconditional acceptance and inclusion. It’s much more fun telling people they are IN than prescribing hoops they must jump through to get IN and stay IN. As Geoffrey Birtill sings, “We’re not alone in the Universe. We’re at home in the Father’s (Mother’s) good pleasure! (My parentheses)
Paul, so well stated. Our journey’s have been so similar, and it’s an honor to know you and enjoy together the changes God has made in our minds and hearts through His Grace. What a honor it is to call you friend, even if you are Canadian. 🙂
Your tolerance for Canadians is praiseworthy!
This has spoken to my heart this morning so much… I need some time to digest this but also to repent… thank you for my wake up call… I’m going to go and some talking with Papa, Jesus and Holy Spirit now as I have some planks to be removed from my eyes… Thank you!
Debs, thanks for giving your openness to this article. We are all on this walk of faith together and in need of moments of deep reflection. Every time I write, I am confronted and beautifully awakened to areas of needed healing in my life. This is the bravery of Grace, to be continually open to the Spirit of God and His fresh revelations.
Chris … thanks for this.
Karl, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Sure appreciate you.
Good stuff, Chris, as usual. There’s just one tiny point on which I respectfully disagree. I too used to bemoan the time I “wasted” as a conservative Christian, and especially regretted the way I would sometimes treat people who weren’t in the club (I still do, by the way). But I believe that the Spirit eventually showed me that the deep emersion in the darkness was the only way I could someday really see the glory, grace and freedom of the light. It seems like it took a large part of my life to get to this point, but once the (ongoing) lesson is really learned, false spirituality is odious and there are no boundaries to the goodness of God. Maybe it’s not the same for everyone, but for me the years of deception were an integral part of the greater lesson – that God is love, and we have nothing to fear.
Joe, thanks so much for reading and sharing your story. I agree, all is not wasted as I too have learned a great deal and that experience has enabled me to bring a source of perspective and hope to others. However, for me, the damage my beliefs caused in relationships, personal stress, family, and energy is something I do regret and consider wasteful.
I’m with you, ckratzer. I so feel you. And the awakening was a painful experience. I’m all the better for, at this point in my life, though.
Keep writing Chris. I may not ever be able to reclaim faith, but your excoriation of Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christianity identifies the most evil element in Christendom today. It consumed my soul, and after decades I still can’t recover from it. I can’t even conceive of a Christ that isn’t identical with “the Word of God.” I can’t reach out to a Jesus of love, only to harsh, sacrificial doppelganger of bloodthirsty, rule-loving Yahweh. I despise the notion of God today because of the straightjacket of “faith” I lived in, the lies I believed in, and the monstrous nature of evangelical “love.” And, deep down, I still believe I’m a worthless sinner, damned gleefully by a God who wanted my damnation from the beginning. Your version may not be any truer, but at least it’s kinder.
Andy, thanks so much for reading and sharing your reflections. Appreciate your perspective.
Chris, I’m with you. I was there, too. Gratefully, greater grace freed me, and I feel closer to God than ever. I see Jesus much more clearly now, than when He was obscured by all that ‘stuff’ we call ‘Christianity.
Bravo. I do not share your system or your savior… but I have long known that among those who claim to speak for Jesus there are those who must secretly worship what could only be the corrupting and tempting devil.
I believe in People. I believe in mercy. I believe it is in each one of us to make the world a better place. And I believe that any glory in any life after this can only be earned by what we, as individuals, have done for and not to, our brothers and sisters. Our paths are different, Chris Kratzer, but the destination of our desires may be the same. Be blessed!
Daniel, thanks for reading and commenting! Sure appreciate you.
Chris Kratzer is another hater of Christians like Richard Dawkins, Bill Mahr and other TV hosts on late night TV . Maybe even worse because he thinks he is doing good and is filled with good intentions. Full of logical fallacies of projection and straw man arguments this essay is fodder for those who hate Christians.
NOWHERE IS ANY ESSAY IS THERE THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST EXPRESSED FOR CHRISTIANS WHO VIEW THE WORLD AND BIBLE DIFFERENTLY THAN HE DOES. Way to demonize and hate on people using religious language.
Good for you sowing discord among bretheran.
I grew up in the evangelical community — and Chris’ words ring true for many people who were once blinded by the cult of evangelicalism. The only person “hating”, here, is YOU.
Richard Dawkins is just one example of someone who grew up in the Christian faith and realized the true logical fallacies of the Bible. People read his books because they’ve come to the same conclusion. That’s not hatred, that’s just reality.
great stuff. Your side-links aren’t working.
That’s weird, seems like they are working on my end.
~ The Separation Of Church And Hate:
There is a good reason why Church and State must always remain separate. Let’s get something straight, right from the start: A theocratic state is not a free state, and never will be. I’m sure it was never Jesus’ intention nor was it His will that anyone should be dominated in His name, the name of Christ. That is the will of men. To be accurate, the concept in itself is anti-Christian. You can only follow Christ by choice, not by legislation.
It seems some people are more intent on casting stones at perceived sinners than propagating the love of Christ. ~ “Above all else, I command you love one another”. ~ This was the message that Jesus preached, and as far as I can see, the worth of a soul will only be measured as such. But I can assure you of one thing, when your time of judgment comes, you won’t be asked to recite scripture, but rather, if anything, the question will be: Did you get the message and live by it?
For all of you people out there on the religious right, you should try to remember that looking for sins to condemn, and people to persecute in the name of God, is simply Satan’s way of keeping you from seeing what is good and praiseworthy. It’s Satan’s favorite means of deceit; getting people to hate and kill each other in the name of God and Christ Jesus. Twisting scripture to incite hatred and division.
Understand this; that by doing so, you are defaming the name of Christ, associating Jesus with bigotry and hate. Jesus was never cursed with these feelings, these sins that you commit in His name. It’s widely agreed that He rose above it all, and to use His name for the justification of spreading contempt and hatred for anyone is true heresy. It isn’t Pro-Christ by any means, but clearly Anti-Christ.
~ It doesn’t really seem to matter at this point if you believe in God and Christ or not. What we have are Anti-Christians, the antithesis of the persona Jesus, and they are attempting, through legislation, to declare America to be a theocratic state and nation, legitimizing discrimination under the false guise of “religious freedom”. If you’re not one of the “chosen” you’re fair game for persecution, oppression and abuse. It’s a perfect “us” and “them” scenario. If you express opposing views to the “Order” or you’re a non-believer, or in any way perceived as a “sinner”, they’ll be coming for you.
~ Anti-Christians ~ The scriptures flow as sweet as honey from their lips, seducing and robbing in the name of God. These are the ones Jesus spoke of that would come in the End Times and deceive many in His name. Anti-Christians: You will know them by their bigotry, their hatred, and their contempt for “others”.
Gary, thanks for sharing your insight. Sure do appreciate you reading and taking the time to share in the conversation.