Gerhard Lohfink writes, “When the church is criticized among the nations because of its bad example, the holy name of God itself is dishonored” (p. 179).  Those thoughts go through my head every time I hear of a Christian likening President Obama to the anti-Christ. Do these people have even the remotest conception of the testimony of Christ they despoil with such screeds? As Lohfink points out, there are many in the church, myself included, who decry the identification of the church with the corporate structure of America that seeks to reduce millions of people to economic slavery so the powerful can dwell in luxury. “This understanding of the church is marked by a profound embarrassment at the history of the church since Constantine as a dominating institution; it is also characterized by an aversion to elitist and triumphalist thought, [and] a longing for solidarity with all of humanity” (Loc. 809). This ‘longing for solidarity with all of humanity’ is most keenly felt by those of us who have lived in the Majority World for any length of time and have seen the damage that an “America-First” form of Christianity has inflicted on the developing countries of the world.

How did we get to such a destructive and elitist Christianity in the West? This certainly did not come from Christ, and scripture tells us that He would have condemned such attitudes in the strongest possible language (cf. Luke 4:18; 11:42; 19:46). However, it is not merely the words of Christ we need to look at, but his actions which sprang from his character. As Lohfink notes, “It was characteristic of Jesus that he constantly established community precisely for those who were denied community at that time, or who were judged inferior in respect to religion. Jesus made clear through his word and even more through his concrete conduct that he did not recognize religious-social exclusion and discrimination” (Loc. 1104). Yet the church in America does not merely recognize religious-social exclusion, it promotes it by supporting economic structures that oppress and persecute the poor and minorities.

Franklin Graham, who clearly ought to know better, recently reduced all of this oppression and exclusion to a simple matter of acceptance of tyranny (Woods 2015). As Martin Luther King pointed out years ago “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice” (King 1963). Graham, and other Christians who so callously dismiss the suffering minorities should pay better attention to their own history.

Lohfink, Gerhard. 1984. Jesus and Community: The Social Dimensions of Christian Faith. Philadelphia, USA. Fortress. Kindle Edition.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Letter From Birmingham City Jail.” thekingcenter.org.            http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/letter-birmingham-city-jail-0

Woods, Mark. 2015. “Franklin Graham branded ‘crude, insensitive and paternalistic’ for Facebook comments on police shootings.” Christianity Today. 20 March 2015.            http://www.christiantoday.com/article/franklin.graham.branded.crude.insensitive.and.            paternalistic.for.facebook.comments.on.police.shootings/50387.htm