4 Reasons Why You & I May Not Be Following the Same Christ
Updated: Jan 15, 2019
I recently journeyed with fellow activists to Washington, D.C. for the Poor People’s Campaign, a “national call for a moral revival”. As I stood on the lawn of the National Mall before the looming Capitol Building, I heard testimonies from workers and poor people from every walk of life. Building upon Dr. King’s work, we were all standing against the four great evils of society today:
1. Racism 2. Poverty 3. Militarism 4. Environmental devastation
At the rally, Rev. William Barber challenged Christians to repent and change the way they think. He said: “They claim to have a Jesus agenda, but they don’t do or say what Jesus said. ‘When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was a stranger, did you take me in?’” In the same spirit, if you consider yourself an evangelical Christian, here are four reasons why you and I may not be following the same Christ. 1. Christians who see racism as just a personal issue and not a systemic sin
Maybe you view racism as sinful, but if you are one of those people who say, “Racism isn’t an issue anymore. There are just racist, sinful people,” then you are part of the problem. Racism is not just your Nazi flag-wielding neighbor, or the crazy, cross-burning folk in the next town over. No, the sickness of racism is embedded in the very fabric of our national and local policies, in our economic practices, in our education systems, in our prisons, and so much more, which is why it is a systemic, corporate sin—not just an individual sin.
Even as a Christian, you might be thinking, “God loves everyone, so I do too! I see everyone as equal and I don’t see color!” That is problematic, too. I’ve written about the “Color Blindness” approach before, and for Christians, it’s just an excuse to whitewash people’s lives and obscure their physical identities for personal appeasement. In contrast, Jesus and his disciples loved and engaged people from other ethnicities/nationalities, like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), or even like Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8), and many others, despite their skin color, origin, or differences.
As followers of Christ, I get it, we don’t always get it right (oh, I’ve written about that too), but come on, we memorialize and idealize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and mission as a “Christian”. And yet, we can’t call out racist policies, like Trump’s travel ban or his zero tolerance border policy that is tearing families apart and imprisoning children today.
We have to do better. The movement is waiting for us to stand in the gap against racism.
2. Christians who see poverty as a lack of individual responsibility rather than a community failure
If you think poor people are just lazy, slothful folk who leech off society by utilizing SNAP benefits and other social welfare programs, once again, you are part of the problem. You don’t know how many Christians I have met who think poverty in Third World countries is “actual poverty”, while poverty in the U.S. is just a choice made by drug addicts and alcoholics. These are the same coffeeshop Christians who will spend thousands of dollars on “mission trips” to take selfies with poor children of color in rural parts of the earth, but who scurry past the homeless living in their own city.
The sickness of wealth and capitalism has infiltrated the Church for far too long. Sure, your church might have a soup kitchen, or a clothing/supply closet, but if you are making people sit through a thirty-minute “Come to Jesus” sermon before you let them eat or get supplies, then you are missing the point. During the feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14), Jesus did not force the crowd to sign up for his newsletter or ask them to pray the sinner’s prayer to receive God (himself?). No. He simply saw that they were hungry, so he fed them. The gospel of Christ—the “good news”—is good because it is unconditional.
As followers of Christ, we have to stop accusing individuals for their economic circumstances and instead see systemic poverty as an incrimination of our community failure. Let this statement sink in for a second: If there are Christians in your area (neighborhood/city), then there should be no lack among you.
3. Christians who celebrate militarism rather than disown violence and the war economy
Jesus was against war and the sickness of violence. Period.
“But Micah, what about blankety-blank verse”—let me just stop you right there.
Christ constantly calls us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27) and to put down the sword (Matt. 26:52), because living in an “eye for an eye” world doesn’t work. Violence just breeds more violence, and Christians have justified countless wars because they viewed them as “just wars.” Tell me, was there anything just about Obama killing hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in the Middle East with drone strikes? Was there anything just about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars altogether? Tell me again how trillions of dollars of war debt has expanded the kingdom of God?
The reality is the military industrial complex exploits low-income families with promises of college scholarships and sustainable living, but for a bloody price. As followers of Christ, we can no longer condone a war-hungry U.S. that is incessant on policing and dominating the entire world rather than just protecting its own borders. A country that would rather develop 6,800 nuclear warheads to demolish the planet a thousand times over rather than invest in healthcare or education is not a Christian nation.
Stop worshipping the “Saving Private Ryans” of the past and start worshipping the God of Peace, my peeps.
4. Christians who see the environment as something to subjugate rather than steward
This one seems pretty simple to me. I am sure you’ve heard the expression, “Don’t shit where you eat”, and I am pretty sure God feels the same way about us and the planet. In Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve stewardship over the earth, meaning to cultivate and thrive within it—not destroy it.
And yet, I have met atheists, agnostics, and humanists who care more about the environment and our planet than Christians do.
These “Christians” justify factory farming, oil production, hydraulic fracturing, deforestation, and more because they would rather exploit earth’s resources until they get to heaven. To those folks, I ask this: what is salvation for, if not for the life of the world? That includes the actual world, not just people.
Christians should be the ones teaching the world how to cultivate resources in sustainable ways rather than scourge the land for greed and gain. We should be the first ones to defend the earth, because we know it is God’s creation and we are meant to restore it.
These four great evils—racism, poverty, militarism, and environmental devastation—are at work in our society and everyday lives. Simply put: do not claim to worship Christ if you are not actively confronting these corporate sins. If Jesus is our litmus test for how to radically transform ourselves and our communities, then we should confront these evils just like he would.
If we do not, then we we may not be following the same Christ.