It surprises no one that a.m. talk radio hosts ridicule the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, blame liberal socialists for insisting that it is, and laud Trump for his decisive leadership of the federal government’s response. Sadly, it no longer surprises me that so many believe them, preferring their propagandistic screeds to verifiable facts and informed commentary.
What troubles me more are the number of so called Christian figures doing the same, claiming the name of Christ along the way. They call the pandemic a fraud, assert it’s punishment from God, blame homosexuals and socialists, and deny there is a need to go on with the foolishness of social distancing. Falwell may be the most well known. Mormonish Beck is a fellow traveler with a large radioland following. Paula White,Trump’s spiritual advisor, peddles pseudo Christianity promising miracles and money – for a fee. Some, such as Jimmy Baker, sell fake cures. Lesser known are a smattering of mega church pastors refusing to cancel large Sunday gatherings for a disease conjured up by liberals, or is it a Chinese plot, take your pick.
It troubles me more because they do not faithfully represent or follow where Jesus has led, or what the Church has struggled to truthfully proclaim for two thousand years. They and their specious theologies are not Christian no matter how often they use his name. They’ve deceived thousands who have become devoted believers and beguiled funders.
The immediate response, of course, is: “How dare you! Who do you think you are? What gives you the right to challenge my faith? How arrogant! What makes you think you know better?” Unlike Ms. White, I can’t claim God has spoken directly to me, nor can I claim to be an authoritative and respected theologian. At best I’m a second rate theologian, and an enthusiastic if mediocre student of most everything else.
I dare and claim the right by the words and deeds of Jesus as recorded in the gospels; by the epistles reporting how early congregations of the eastern Mediterranean struggled to understand them; and by the writings of the ethical prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. I dare and claim the right by the writings of the pre and post Nicene ‘fathers’ of the Church, by the great reformers, and by the inspired writings of today’s deep thinkers.
Centering them are the Sermon on the Mount; the two greatest commandments on which hang all the law and prophets, and the new commandment to love one another as Jesus loves us. From this center has emerged an abundance of room to express genuine Christian faith in an abundance of ways: genuine even in contention with each other.
If what is said and done cannot connect directly with the center, they are not of Christ. I’m reminded of something Jesus said: “Woe to you…hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt 23).
They’re tough words from a loving Christ, not to be taken lightly. If you want to follow Jesus, say and do as you are able for the loving good of yourself and your neighbor. At least do no harm, but I think we can each do more than that. Ignore those who would have you do otherwise, no matter how often they use the name of Jesus. They are not of Christ.