What is the central theme of all of Judeo-Christian faith according to the writings protestant and Catholic believers alike call their holy scriptures—the greatest commandment from God, the central tenet, the core, the essence and centerpiece of all of Christianity? I’m assuming my conservative, religious friends know the answer to this. It came directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ when he was asked what the greatest commandment is. The scriptures state it explicitly: Love the lord your God with all of your heart.
Jesus Christ goes on to state that the second greatest commandment is much like the first one above: Love your neighbor, your fellow people, like you love yourself.
This is easy. If we boil all of faith practice down to the most important two things, according to the “head guy,” it would be to love God with all your heart, and love other people just as you love yourself. That sums it all up. We are to think no more of ourselves than others and both within a context of loving God.
How far organized Christian faith practice has moved from these, the greatest, most important commandments.
When I think of Christianity today, sadly, I think of religious hucksters trying to dominate the media landscape*. I think of the merging of church and capitalism and politics. I think of “it’s all about me,” theocracy, lies and deceit, hate and anger, subjugation, mega-churches with unprecedented entertainment-focused services and extraordinary lifestyle centers. I think of a Machiavellian adherence to a political and social agenda that will vastly enrich and empower a few while spiritually bankrupting a nation. But above all, I think about money. Big money. Massive amounts of money, money, money.
But, at the same time, I think of good people, decent people who sincerely want to do what is right, want to love God, who believe they need to help others but are being misled.
Forty million Americans are currently worried about feeding themselves. Many are children. Why isn’t the Christian church leadership spending vast resources placing this issue before believers as a cause for substantive action? Millions of Americans have lost their homes because of broken government and economic greed. Why isn’t the Christian church leadership spending a vast amount of its resources placing this issue before believers as a cause for action?
Perhaps the Christian church today is a bit over extended with huge debt of its own? Perhaps the Christian church today is pre-occupied with divisive issues as it tries to win their so-called “culture wars” in America. Perhaps the Christian church today finds it easier to continue a well practiced pattern of dismissive condemnation of real people rather than following the more demanding commandments of Jesus Christ himself.
I fear that the Christian church today is reaping what it has sown for the past three decades—failed leadership . Its emphasis on mega-facilities and the contentious and political have rendered it irrelevant and have made it impossible for the church to address Jesus Christ’s second greatest commandment: treat everybody else as well as you treat yourself. People are in the streets with no food or shelter or medical attention while churches argue over what lattes and ciders to sell in the mega-vestibule while the carolers sing among the 30 live Christmas trees. We pretentiously dismiss the needy as reaping the results of their own sin rather than doing the hard work of that second commandment from Jesus. Is 50% of the church’s income meeting the very real and pressing needs of people in the community outside the congregation? Would that be in the spirit of the second commandment?
When our nation desperately needs the due diligence of sincere and meaningful faith practice to address the real needs of real people with enormous problems, the church is over-extended, out of focus, and incapable of stepping up to the call of Christ. Christianity only represents one third of the people on this planet, and it is failing that one third!
Perhaps the church is more healthy than I think it is. Perhaps the religious, fundamentalist, ultra-conservative, “it’s all about me” shill that dominates the media landscape is only a tiny fraction of the Christian church made to appear larger and more mainstream by its volume, its persistence, and its annoying divisiveness. I certainly hope so.
So I’m advocating for a populist movement. I’m advocating for good people everywhere to turn it off, stop giving it money, stop walking in the doors of those self-serving churches that are not focused on doing Jesus’ commandment. I’m advocating for good people everywhere to start helping others one on one if need be, to do the work of the first and second greatest commandments. Return to the central theme, the core, the essence of faith practice.
“They will know we are Christians b y y o u r l o v e.”
*I’ll spare everyone the examples of each of the items in this list. Most people could think of their own from the media.
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