For Religion News Service, David Gushee writes today about how the hopeful view of how Christian communities relate to the world around him that he learned from his professors Glen Stassen and Larry Rasmussen, both indebted to Bonhöffer, has had to be complemented over the course of time with a more somber assessment of what Christian communities can really be capable of. As he has reflected more on the real role Christian churches played during the Holocaust (a much more ambiguous and shameful role than many Christian apologists would like us to see), on the role that Christian communities have played in promoting racist ideologies in the U.S., and the role many Christian groups are now playing in spreading Islamophobic ideas, he has had to revise the hopeful understanding of Christian ethics he learned from Stassen and Rasmussen.
A faith that stands with the crucified ones of this world is very different from a faith that does the crucifying. The question becomes not whether you say you follow Jesus, but which Jesus you follow.
Here churches, pastors, or individuals interpret Scripture or faith in such a way that they do harm they would not do if they were just good old-fashioned pagans. I never anticipated that I would think: "If we could just keep people out of (this version of) church, they would be better people."
Christian leaders often puzzle over why Christianity in America is declining so badly. Here's a reason: some highly visible versions of Christianity are so abhorrent that reasonably sensible people want nothing to do with Christianity or the people who practice it.
And, of course, many of us who are LGBTQ have had no option to cherish illusions about how Christian communities always influence the world in benign ways. We've frequently lived with the effects of a very different manifestation of Christianity in our lives. The face the church has often shown to us is demonic and not salvific, and it has long been evident to many of us who are queer that the church has, throughout history, frequently played a demonic and not redemptive role in the world.
What else can one possibly conclude as one looks at the spate of hate-filled laws now sweeping state legislatures in the U.S., spurred on by Christians — in Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, and other places — except that, as Gushee says, some Christians are capable of doing serious harm that they might be less capable of if they were "good old-fashioned pagans"?
David Gushee's photograph is from his faculty page at the website of Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology.