I trust you know you are not alone, and I hope you are aware of progressive Christianity as a new (actually old) take on how Christians should live in a sinful world.
In my formative teen years, 1977-1984, all Christianity was progressive and mostly evangelical. We accepted all, LGBTQ+ included. All meant all. And we had very clear ideas about things like abortion and gay rights. Condemn the sins, inform the sinners, and give people the choice. That’s what Jesus did.
If it was God’s will, Jesus would have gone to Rome and made all sin illegal. Right? Do you doubt he could have done that? Of course he could have.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he condemned sin, preached to the sinners, and offered salvation to those that would choose him.
Salvation is possible, he said, and it comes from faith alone, not works. And you don’t have to do anything but humble yourself and accept Jesus into your heart. But it’s your choice. Without choice, there is no salvation.
It was very easy to be engaged and at peace with the world back then. Condemn, inform, show the way, then just accept what people do. We struggled with the 1st commandment, but our false god was money, not political power or Republicanism or America. If a Trump would have tried to win the support of Christians in my teenage years, he would have been universally condemned, and there would have been a million prayers for his soul to be changed.
I could write so so much more about this topic, and my own conflicts and issues with my church. Someday, I will.
But for now I just want to let you know two or three things that I hope will bring you hope.
First, there are some very real external forcing functions that lie behind the rise of white, conservative-Republican flavored Christianity. Jerry Falwell convinced the Southern Baptists to start a political Christian crusade to save America in 1979. There were literally lists of favored candidates, and our preachers told us who we should vote for, and the explicit goal we shared was to elect Christian politicians. Once in place, the thought was that they would impose Christian values on the laws of the land. This fractured the church, and to this day I greatly admire Jimmy Carter for calling them out on their worship of political power and for quitting the Southern Baptists. Real Christian, there.
Second, Fox News and other conservative media started in 1980s. They did and do engage in actual propaganda. And there was and is a game plan to promote individualism and individual rights over the common good, and draw more and more power to the presidency. They hoped to win the presidency, get a friendly Supreme Court, and load the presidency itself with so much power that Congress would not be able to stand in the way of anything. This was and is the conservative business elite using conservative Christians more than actually partnering with them to achieve political power.
The takeaway is this: If we removed Fox News and Facebook from the picture today, your lost WRCs would grow back into Christians again. They really would. It has taken lots and lots of manipulation over time to bring them to where they are. It takes daily fuel to keep them in the hypocritical and morally flawed place where they are — worshipping Jesus and Trump in the same breath, and America and the Republican Party as much as God. It isn’t natural. It isn’t coming from within.
Related to this, I’ll add that the effect of conservative media propaganda stoking up conservative Christianity over 40 years has been large and clear. All of us are far to the right of where we were in 1980. Nothing as far right as today’s Republican Party has ever existed before in America. Today’s Democratic Party is positioned to the right of the centrist parties in Canada, Germany and France. When I was a teen, TV was everything, and TV was filled with incredibly liberal and groundbreaking shows like All in the Family, One Day at a Time, Welcome Back Kotter, MASH, Maude, Alice, and Good Times. These are shows that no networks would dare to make today. Hair! is one of my favorite movies, from 1972. And Jesus Christ Superstar, too. These are movies that no one would dare to make today.
I hope these comments help you in some way. Today’s situation is not natural at all. Christianity in America was in a good place, theologically, in 1978. As was culture at large. The Christian-Republican-American brand was built by conservative media, and if the propaganda were stopped, the brand would undo itself.