We’re in a tough spot here in the United States. In the midst of a pandemic, millions of Evangelicals are saying they won’t get the vaccine against Covid-19, putting our lives, and our national security at risk. Why won’t they get the vaccine? Because they’re also devoted followers of Donald Trump, and even though he got the vaccine, they have embraced his hatred and mistrust of science.
There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S. About 45 percent said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against Covid-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so, according to the Pew Research Center.
Evangelicals are also the group that supported Donald Trump’s racism, his xenophobia, and relished in his bullying. This surprises those of us who embrace reality. Almost everybody knows that Jesus was adamantly opposed to all of those things. So why, in God’s name, would Jesus’ followers be so opposed to his teachings?
It’s complicated, but to simplify it would be to say, “It’s not Jesus they follow, it’s Christ.” And that makes a UGE difference.
Sometime circa 4 b.c.e, a baby was born in Galilee, a hamlet so small and remote that it’s never been mentioned in the Jewish Bible. Nazareth probably consisted of a hundred or so residents, all of them poor and illiterate land workers. Almost nothing is known about this Nazarene, though there is slightly more information available about his younger brother, James.
In the mid-to-late twenties c.e, this young man would become the disciple of an incredibly famous preacher known up and down the Jordan as John the Baptist. After John was captured in a raid by Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, Jesus would branch out on his own, proclaiming himself a prophet of the order of John. A short time after that, he would take on the moniker of messiah (Son of Man) … a Jewish savior sent to restore Israel to its former glory and deliver them from Rome.
Following Jesus’ death, a young man, probably a Temple mercenary, would proclaim he had a vision of a resurrected “Jesus” on the road to Damascus. He would use this vision to turn the Jewish messiah into a Christ—a Hellenized demigod. With this new Christ, he would go on to create a whole new religion, canvassing the Mediterranean and most of the known world until his death, which legend says happened in Rome, 64 c.e.
Shortly after Israel’s utter destruction, an author who identified himself as John Mark would take quill to paper, and pen what would be the first gospel, the Gospel of Mark. About a decade later, authors who identified themselves as Matthew and Luke would copy Mark, along with another document known to us as Q. Finally, at the beginning of the next century, circa 110 c.e, the final gospel, the Gospel of John would go into circulation.
These gospel writers would ultimately write about two different characters: Jesus the Jewish messiah from Nazareth, and Christ, the Grecian demigod, created by Paul. Thanks to the destruction of Jerusalem, it was Paul’s story that would win the day. And here’s what differentiates Evangelicals from Christians: Jesus, the messiah from Nazareth, verses Christ, the Greek demigod and creation of Saul.
Jesus the Jew taught that salvation was through doing good to others, and obedience to the law.
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only one who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
~ Matthew 19:16-17
The Christ disagrees:
We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
~ Galatians 2:15-16
Jesus the Jew taught us to “love our enemies.”
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
~ Luke 6:27-29
Whereas Christ was perfectly comfortable condemning his enemies to torture.
…hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:5
Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
~ I Timothy 1:20
And herein lies the rub… Evangelicals love Christ, not Jesus. Christ is the creation of Paul, himself a racist homophobic misogynist bigot, who created “Christ” in his image. Whereas Jesus was a Jew who used the law as an excuse to do good to others and treat others with compassion based on the Jewish God he understood from scripture.
Jesus spoke at length about God’s kingdom—a kingdom here on earth (Matthew) which we all participated in. He proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promise to restore Israel—the nation—and the Temple to its rightful place as God’s throne (Synoptic Gospels). The Christ had no interest in earthly kingdoms at all but spoke of a heavenly kingdom… a “new heaven and a new earth.” Jesus preached repentance—cleaning up the mess made by bad behavior. Making things right by the people we harmed. The Christ wasn’t interested in any of those. For Christ, all that was needed was faith—believe in his name, and that was it. Not to mention that Jesus was a Jew, and Christ was white.
Paul, the creator of Christ, never once spoke of Jesus’ life, his family, his upbringing, his ministry, or even his spiritual philosophy. Instead, he spoke only of three things: his death, his resurrection, and the communion. Paul ignored Jesus altogether and only mentioned repentance once:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
~ Romans 2:4
We are often confused by Evangelical behavior because it so often goes against Jesus. But there’s a reason. Evangelicals seek a God after their own heart, whereas Christians seek to emulate Jesus. And let’s face it, Jesus’ teachings are extreme—hard-core—even dangerous. Which is why Evangelicals choose to follow Christ instead. Jesus had contempt for the elite; he placed high value on how we treated others; he insisted that repentance was the way to God’s grace; forgiveness from God came through our forgiving others first; and that the poor in God’s kingdom were more valuable than the rich.
Jewish Jesus demanded a lot from his disciples, and Evangelicals aren’t willing to subject themselves to his extreme ideas. So instead, they turn to Christ.
Christ courted money; Christ argued that slaves should be subservient to their masters; Christ had no problem letting people suffer if they couldn’t find work:
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.
~ II Thessalonians 3:10
Christ, in other words, is more like us, and we don’t have to sacrifice anything to serve him. All we need are words—not actions… a.k.a. thoughts and prayers.
Jewish Jesus looked into the universe and he saw something wonderful—something he called God. This something valued him—so much so that he could say, “I and my father are one.” But that value God placed on Jesus, he also placed on Jesus’ enemies, which would prompt Jesus to say:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors adoing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
~ Matthew 5: 43-47
So how does this tie into the Evangelical anti-vaxers? Paul himself was charismatic, able to sway millions to his way of thinking, but he was also paranoid, devoid of human decency, and created a cult following who would believe anything he said, even if he said that the insurgents at the Capitol Building were making out and being all kissy-faced with the cops. Paul had no interest in what Jesus had to say about human life, and Evangelicals emulate him. Paul gave us the Crusades, the Inquisitions, Evangelicals, and ultimately Donald Trump.
While they love the words “pro-life,” they aggressively promote the destruction of humanity. Thanks to Paul, and especially thanks to the Christ of Revelation… petty, vindictive, and vengeful, they denigrate human life to support their own destructive ideologies. And it’s up to us to call the on this. It’s imperative that we stop letting them pretend they’re followers of Jesus. It’s up to us to stop enabling them. We must plant our flag on that hill. It’s time for those of use who value the teachings of Jesus to elevate those teachings over the Evangelicals. Jesus was Pro-Life. He was a healer. And he would use any opportunity to save a life. Even if that meant two shots in the arm to prevent a virus form destroying us all. Christ, on the other hand…