Opinion: The American "Christian Agenda" Does Not Follow the Teachings of Christ

Walter Rhein

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Everybody should be allowed to believe whatever they want provided those beliefs don’t cause harm to anyone. Unfortunately, the United States of America has become a hostile and divided country. The “Christian agenda” is only furthering this hostility and division.

Christianity has long been the dominant religion in the United States. Therefore, the beliefs of Christianity should be held accountable for many of the problems we face today.

Christianity has always had a huge influence. Why isn’t our society in a better place? Religious advocates will say that the problems in our society stem from going away from religious teachings. However, that’s only a hypothesis.

With something as important as the spiritual well-being of a whole country, it’s important to have a healthy debate. There’s nothing inherently disrespectful about saying that the way Christianity is currently structured, it’s not doing our nation any good.

Why shouldn’t we discuss how our religious community could do more to serve the needs of all the people?

The problem is that when you ask a simple question like that, your comments section is flooded with people who accuse you of being “Satan” or any other of a list of nasty insults. There’s no evidence to support this accusation. Yet, members of the American Christian community are happy to throw that insult around.

What part of “loving your neighbor” entails declaring that your neighbor is the devil?

I don’t believe that Christ himself would want his followers to lurk around the internet accusing people of being the devil. Consider the arrogance of making that decision.

Above all things, a religious philosophy should entail humility. Truly religious people know that they are not supposed to judge. We are all mere mortals. We don’t have the divine knowledge or wisdom to cast judgment on other people. We’re supposed to worry about ourselves and leave final judgment to God.

But that’s not what you see in the modern United States of America.

In our country, the religious community is so sure that they are right that they react with hostility to any breath of criticism. How can they possibly justify their certainty?

They accuse anyone who wants to discuss certain issues of “working for the devil.” Once somebody says that, it signifies the end of a polite conversation.

However, it’s important to take a step back and consider that scenario for a moment. If there is no polite discussion, there’s no change. If there’s no change, things can never get better.

Why does the Christian community think that everyone in the United States should have to put aside their reason and listen only to them? Why do they insist that they have all the answers? People who possess true wisdom know that we cannot be certain about anything.

When a person makes the personal choice to follow a religion and aspire to be a better person, that’s good for society. However, when a person presumes that they are the ultimate authority on all morality in all situations, that becomes a problem.

It has gotten to the point where religious beliefs are putting people’s lives at risk. One example can be found in the recent restrictions on reproductive health care.

Rational people understand that healthcare decisions should be made on the advice of healthcare professionals who have years and years of training. A person who has spent a lot of time at home reading a centuries-old book doesn’t have any valid advice to offer.

Think of how absurd it would be if somebody said, “Well, I think you should base your daughter’s treatment on what’s written in The Canterbury Tales.”

That statement would rightfully be dismissed out of hand. It’s an offensive thing to say. However, when people decide to determine medical advice based on The Bible, somehow it’s taken seriously.

The problem with absolute certainty is that it makes a person easy to manipulate. When you’re certain that you are right, you end up causing harm without even realizing it.

This is the problem when people turn around and label anyone who disagrees with them as “Satan.” They know that this insult isn’t accurate, yet they do it anyway and it informs their behavior.

Our society has come to perceive people who hurl such insults as hysterical. Usually, we step aside and allow them to scream and yell to their heart’s content. The problem is that somebody is listening to those temper tantrums.

There has been an increased push to establish government-mandated prayer. The modern Supreme Court also seems to be strongly influenced by religious thinking. If religion is going to determine legislation, then we must have a responsible discussion about how effective it is.

My concern is that people who are so focused on labeling anyone who disagrees with them as “the devil” might inadvertently bring evil into our society. The problem with absolute certainty is that it corrupts absolutely.

To have a productive and healthy religion, that religion must be open to criticism. That religion must evolve. That religion must be adapted to meet the needs of specific, modern scenarios.

Be careful about who you label “the devil.” You might just be revealing yourself.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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