In her 2010 book, Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean coined a phrase to describe what she and her colleagues were seeing in their research in American youth groups at the time. The phrase, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, pointed to the fact that teens they observed were practicing a form of “Christianity” being modeled for them that emphasized the need to be good, the need to come to church to feel good and the need for God to be on the edges but not transformative to their manner of living. The primary thesis behind this book of course points to the fact that these teenagers were living out what was being modeled for them in their daily lives. And although I’ve mulled over this phrase for over a decade now, I think what’s being practiced today has grown to be even more complex in the past seven years and if I may be so bold I would add to original phrasing. What the American church is suffering from today is now Moralistic Therapeutic American Nationalistic Deism.
Now I realize that is a huge mouthful, but I can’t seem to get away from this version of “Christianity” that I am seeing practiced all around me. People claiming the name of Christ while also making grabs at political power. And not just political power, but the limiting and control of people who often don’t look like them or believe/behave like them. And honestly I don’t think anything could be further from Christianity. When Christ was tempted by political power by the adversary, his response was simple, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” – Matthew 4:10. In the same gospel we later read, “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” – Matthew 16:26 And yet, I’m afraid because of this version of pseudo-faith the church in America has lost its’ very soul in pursuit of the whole world.
I know this seems like I’m just throwing stones, but I know what it means to recover from this. There was a time when I would have willingly added my voice to those in support of congressional and gubernatorial candidates from my home state of Georgia who equate “Christian” values with God, Guns, and Hating the Gays. But this is not of God. In fact, this is Anti-Christ. And this “practice of faith” actually destroys the message of the cross that defies worldly political power for the sake of the other. It spits in the face of the message that calls us to give up our rights, even our lives, for those who don’t believe or even look like us. If your version of Christianity isn’t calling you to a transformative lifestyle that makes you cringe at the misalignment of political candidates and Jesus then might I ask you to take to heart this message that I often hear from one of my wife’s favorite podcast; call your dad, you’re in a cult.