I used to think I was a Christian. I have been a pastor in the local church for twenty-five years, and a believer for most of my life. I have spent decades studying and teaching, working in the church, leading retreats and mission trips, caring for the needs of people, and working to emulate the Jesus I found in the Gospels.
I have tried to perpetuate the compassion of his teachings, his heart for the poor, his love for the vulnerable, his ferocity in the face of injustice. I’ve been burdened to expand the table of hospitality and opportunity to include more people. I thought that was the point, here.
I was either wrong about myself or wrong about Jesus. MAGA Christians tell me so.
Every day I get Christian family members and former church friends and total strangers, writing to let me know me they feel sorry for me, that they are worried for my soul, that they are praying for my immediate repentance, and to remind me that I’m not a “real Christian.”
That used to bother me. Now, it encourages me. Now I see that their “real Christianity” isn’t anything I want to be a part of anyway.
I know that they are worried for and offended by me, because I am trying to live out the teachings of a Jesus they no longer seem interested in listening to, because they have embraced the very kind of movement Jesus spent his life opposing.
They still read those Bible stories imagining that they have the heroes, no longer seeing that they would have really had a problem with Jesus. They would have despised his pigmentation, abhorred his calls to love their neighbors, and sickened by his socialist leanings. They would have lamented how “woke” he was. They would have justified his murder.
I know that the Jesus of the Bible would be least welcomed by these red hat-donned professed patriots out here waving their truck flags and thumping their Bibles and rattling their constituency — for a bigoted theocracy that looks more like the violent might of Rome than the interdependent, generous community Jesus was building.
I see that they are living an inverted religion that is antithetical to his teachings and morally upside-down when compared with his example. Now, I realize that whatever worldview they embrace is not something I have any interest in holding onto.
If being a Christian means embracing a man who boasted that he could grab women by the genitalia, I am out. If being a Christian means denying the votes of people of color or justifying their executions at traffic stops, I will pass.
If being a Christian means nurturing mindless conspiracies and shunning safeguards and stoking hate crimes, I’m gonna opt out. If being a Christian means pretending a deadly terrorist attack on our Capitol was just a “group of tourists,” I denounce it as a my former religion.
I am going to keep pursuing a life of goodness and meaning; one marked by love, one burdened to be helpful, one resembling the open-hearted compassion of the Jesus I read about. But if this malignant MAGA hate-cult is practically speaking “Christianity” now, if this is by default what this religion is, then they’re absolutely right about me not being a Christian.
Then again, if they are now the standard bearers, then Jesus would not be considered a Christian either. Guess the two of us will be out here together fighting for a love they have no interest in.
The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com