Saturday, June 15, 2024

#500: Musings on Why Most Churches Ignore the Moral Teachings of Jesus

By Rudy Barnes, Jr., June 15, 2024


Much has been written on why churches ignore the teachings of Jesus.  After all, Jesus called his disciples to follow him; but Jesus was a Jew who never went to a church.  Thomas Jefferson was a deist and child of the Enlightenment who considered the teachings of Jesus to be “the most sublime moral code ever designed by man,” but he detested church doctrines never taught by Jesus.


The moral teachings of Jesus as the word of God are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves.  Those altruistic and universal teachings of Jesus were never popular, and as social institutions in a democracy, churches measure their success by their popularity.


Democracy makes people the masters of their political destiny, but majority rule has allowed unprincipled politicians like Trump in America, Putin in Russia and Netanyahu in Israel to promote divisive tribal politics that subvert the common good to populist nationalism and greed.  That has allowed the depravity of human nature to subvert the altruism taught by Jesus. 


As a retired UMC pastor I have accepted the sad reality that most churches have sacrificed Jesus on the altar of populist radical-right politics, giving corrupt demagogues like Trump moral primacy over Jesus.  Democracy has made popularity the measure of  success in both politics and the church, giving human depravity primacy over the altruism taught by Jesus.


David French is a progressive Christian for whom I have great respect.  Recently French and his family were subjected to harsh treatment by many in his family church over the conflict between his progressive politics and the radical-right views of most in his church; but French should not have been surprised by his church denigrating his progressive views.


I continue to attend my ancestral UMC church even though my views are similar to those of French.  I offered to teach a course on the relevance of the teachings of Jesus to politics, but my pastor discouraged the idea.  Apparently he believes that emphasizing the moral teachings of Jesus would create divisive controversy that would run off members of the congregation.


With popularity the measure of success in politics and the church, the moral teachings of Jesus are no longer prevalent in America (if they ever were); but the church remains a strong social institution so long as it supports current social values.  It will take an emphasis on the greatest commandment as a common word of faith to give Jesus priority in Christianity. 


It seems highly unlikely that the altruistic values in the greatest commandment will ever become popular in a materialistic and hedonistic culture like America; but there should be an emphasis on the the teachings of Jesus for the minority of Christians who believe that those teachings were God’s truth--whether or not they are supported by an institutional church.

     


Notes:


David French lamented that The Day My Old Church Canceled Me Was a Very Sad Day.   

He recounts that his home church of the Presbyterian Church of America deemed him “too divisive to speak to a gathering of Christians who share my faith. I was scheduled to speak about the challenges of dealing with toxic polarization, but I was considered too polarizing.” See  

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/09/opinion/presbyterian-church-evangelical-canceled.html.


Other commentary on the dismal future of a church that has lost its moral compass:

(4/5/15): Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/seeing-resurrection-in-new-light.html

(4/19/15): Jesus: A Prophet, God’s Only Son, or the Logoshttp://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/jesus-prophet-god-only-son-or-logos.html

(10/4/15): Faith and Religion: The Same but Different

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/10/faith-and-religion-same-but-different.html

(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/07/back-to-future-race-religion-rights-and.html

(8/5/16): How Religion Can Bridge Our Political and Cultural Divide http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/08/how-religion-can-bridge-our-political.html

(9/17/16): A Moral Revival to Restore Legitimacy to Our Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/09/a-moral-revival-to-restore-legitimacy.html

(9/24/16): The Evolution of Religion and Politics from Oppression to Freedom

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/09/the-evolution-of-religion-and-politics.html

(12/31/16): E Pluribus Unum, Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2016/12/e-pluribus-unum-religion-and-politics.html

(1/7/17): Religion and Reason as Sources of Political Legitimacy, and Why They Matter

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/01/religion-and-reason-as-sources-of.html

(1/21/17): Religion and Reason Redux: Religion Is Ridiculous

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/01/religion-and-reason-redux-religion-is.html

(1/28/17): Saving America from the Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/01/saving-america-from-church.html

(4/15/17): Easter and the Christian Paradox

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/easter-and-christian-paradox.html

(4/22/17): The Relevance of Jesus and the Irrelevance of the Church in Today’s World

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/the-relevance-of-jesus-and-irrelevance.html

(4/29/17): A Wesleyan Alternative for an Irrelevant Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/a-wesleyan-alternative-to-irrelevant.html

(6/24/17): The Evolution of Religion, Politics and Law: Back to the Future?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/06/the-evolution-of-religion-politics-and.html.

(7/1/17): Religion, Moral Authority and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/07/religion-moral-authority-and.html.

(7/15/17): Religion and Progressive Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/07/religion-and-progressive-politics.html.

(7/22/17): Hell No! 

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/07/hell-no.html.

(8/12/17): The Universalist Teachings of Jesus as a Remedy for Religious Exclusivism  

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/08/the-universalist-teachings-of-jesus-as.html.

(10/7/17): A 21st Century Reformation to Restore Reason to American Civil Religion http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/10/a-21st-century-reformation-to-restore.html.

(12/23/17): If Democracy Survives the Trump Era, Can the Church Survive Democracy? http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/12/if-democracy-survives-trump-era-can.html.

(3/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Holy War

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(3/17/18): Jefferson’s Jesus and Moral Standards in Religion and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/03/jeffersons-jesus-and-moral-standards-in.html

(3/31/18): Altruism: The Missing Ingredient in American Christianity and Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/03/altruism-missing-ingredient-in-american.html.

(4/7/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for a Moral Reformation

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-need.html.

(4/28/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Virtues and Vices of Christian Morality

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(5/5/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Nostalgia as an Obstacle to Progress

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/05/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(7/1(7/14/18): Musings on Why Christians Should Put Moral Standards Over Mystical Beliefs

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/07/musings-on-why-christians-should-put.html.

(8/4/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Problems and Solutions in Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(8/11/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Changing Morality in Religion and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_11.html.

(9/1/18): Musings on the American Civil Religion and Christianity at a Crossroads

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/09/musings-on-american-civil-religion-and.html.

(9/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Resurrection of Christian Universalism

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/09/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(10/6/18): Musings on Moral Universalism in Religion and Politics http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/10/musings-on-moral-universalism-in.html.

(11/3/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist: Has God Blessed Us or Damned Us?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-has-god.html.

(12/1/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Mystical Logos

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(12/15/18): Musings on the Great Commission and Religious and Political Tribalism

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/12/musings-on-great-commission-and.html.

(12/22/18): Musings on Faith and Works: The Unity of All Believers and The Last Judgment

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/12/musings-on-faith-and-works-unity-of-all.html.

(2/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Hypocrisy of American Christianity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/02/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_9.html.

(3/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Post-Christian America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-post.html.

(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/03/musings-on-degradation-of-democracy-in.html.

(3/16/19): Musings on the Evolution of Christian Exclusivism to Universalism

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/03/musings-on-evolution-of-christian.html.

(3/23/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Thinking Outside the Box

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(5/4/19): Musings on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/05/musings-on-good-bad-and-ugly.html.

(5/11/19): Musings on the Relevance of Jefferson’s Jesus in the 21st Century

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/05/musings-on-relevance-of-jeffersons.html.

(5/18/19): Outsiders Versus Insiders in Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/05/outsiders-versus-insiders-in-religion.html.

(5/25/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Divinity and Moral Teachings of Jesus

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/06/musings-on-military-legitimacy-and.html

(6/8/19): The Moral Failure of the Church to Promote Altruism in Politics 

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/06/the-moral-failure-of-church-to-promote.html

(6/15/19): Back to the Future: A 21st Century Pentecost for the Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/06/back-to-future-21st-century-pentecost.html.

(6/22/19): The Universal Family of God: Where Inclusivity Trumps Exclusivity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/06/the-universal-family-of-god-where.html

(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country 

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/07/musings-on-sovereignty-and-conflicting.html.

(8/3/19): Musings on the Dismal Future of  the Church and Democracy in America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/08/musings-on-dismal-future-of-church-and.html.

(8/10/19): Musings on Christian Nationalism: A Plague on the Church and Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/08/musings-on-christian-nationalism-plague.html.

(8/31/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Politics of Christian Zionism

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(9/7/19): Musings on the Self-Destruction of Christianity and American Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/09/musings-on-self-destruction-of.html.

(9/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Chaos as a Prelude to a New Creation

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/09/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-chaos.html

(10/5/19): Musings on the Moral Relevance of Jesus to Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/10/musings-on-moral-relevance-of-jesus-to.html.

(11/9/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Virtual Alternative to a Failing Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_9.html.

(11/16/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irrelevance of Morality in Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_16.html.

(11/23/19): Musings on Jesus and Christ as Conflicting Concepts in Christianity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/11/musings-on-jesus-and-christ-as.html.

(12/7/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religious Triumphalism and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html

(12/14/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Prophets, Scripture and God’s Truth

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_14.html.

(12/28/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the End as a New Beginning

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/12/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-end-as.html.

(1/11/20): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Christians as a Moral Minority

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/01/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/02/musings-on-sacrifice-of-jesus-on-altar.html.

(6/13/20): Was Jesus the Prophet of the Gospels or the Christ of the Church?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/06/was-jesus-prophet-of-gospels-or-christ.html.

(11/21/20): Democracy Has Survived Donald Trump, but Can the Church Survive Democracy?

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/11/democracy-has-survived-donald-trump-but.html.

(12/19/20): Musings on Finding a Path to Reconcile America’s Polarized partisan Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2020/12/musings-on-finding-path-to-reconcile.html.

(1/16/21): Truth and Reconciliation in Politics and Religion in a Maze of Conflicting Realities

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/01/truth-and-reconciliation-in-politics.html.

(2/20/21): The Moral Corruption of Christianity and Democracy in the Trump Era

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/02/the-moral-corruption-of-christianity.html.

(3/20/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Radical Moral Teachings of Jesus

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(3/27/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Civil Religion in a Divided America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-civil.html.

(4/17/21): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Future of the Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-future.html?

(4/24/21): How a Fading Church Could Help Reconcile America’s Polarized Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/04/how-failing-church-could-help-reconcile.html.

(5/15/21): Musings on the Moral Failure of American Christianity and Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/05/musings-on-moral-failure-of-american.html.

(5/22/21): Musings on Morality and Politics and the Need for a Civil Religion in America

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/05/musings-on-morality-and-politics-and.html.

(7/17/21): Christianity and Politics: Separated by Irreconcilable Differences

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/07/christianity-and-politics-separated-by.html.

(8/14/21): Musings on Conflicting Concepts of God’s Truth in Christianity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/08/musings-on-conflicting-concepts-of-gods.html.

(10/16/21): Musings on a Malevolent Malaise Infecting American Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2021/10/musings-on-malevolent-malaise-infecting.html.

(1/15/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on America’s Morally Muddled Mainstream

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/01/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_15.html.

(1/22/22): Musings on Popularity as a Corrupting Influence in Democracy and Christianity

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/01/musings-on-popularity-as-corrupting.html.

(1/29/22): Musings on the Inadequacy of Religious Moral Standards in American Democracy   

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/01/musings-on-inadequacy-of-religious.html.

(4/23/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Why Americans Are Losing Their Religion

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-why.html.

(4/30/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Obsolescence of Christianity in Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/04/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(6/25/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Church and the Greatest Commandment

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/06/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-church.html.

(7/23/22): Musings on Moderating Extremism in American Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/07/musings-on-moderating-extremism-in.html.

(8/6/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Moderating Hatred in Partisan Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(8/13/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Religion and the Wisdom of God

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(11/5/22): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Jesus, the Church and Christian Nationalism

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/11/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-jesus.html.

(11/12/22): Musings on the Need for a Civil Religion in America’s Dysfunctional Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/11/musings-on-need-for-civil-religion-in.html.

(12/10/22): Musings on the Evolution of  Christianity into the American Civil Religion

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2022/12/musings-on-evolution-of-christianity.html.

(3/11/23): Musings of a Maverick  Methodist on the Future of Christianity and Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-future.html.

(3/18/23): An 18th Century Preview of America’s Political and Religious Schisms

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/03/an-18th-century-preview-of-americas.html.

(3/25/23): Confessions of a Maverick Methodist Skeptic on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/03/confessions-of-maverick-methodist.html.

(5/6/23):  Musings on Christians Uncomfortable in Churches Without a Moral Compass

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/05/musings-on-christians-uncomfortable-in.html.

(6/24/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Cost of  Discipleship to the Church

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/06/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-cost.html.

(7/22/23): Musings on the Need for Altruism in Christianity and the American Civil Religion  

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/07/musings-on-need-for-altruism-in.html.

(8/19/23): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on a Universal and Altruistic Jesus

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/08/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on.html.

(9/2/23): Musings on How Christianity Has Corrupted American Democracy

http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/09/musings-on-how-christianity-has.html.

(10/7/23): Musings on the Demise of America’s Dysfunctional Democracy and the Church

https://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/10/musings-on-demise-of-americas.html.

(12/23/23) Musings on the Advent of Jesus as the Light of the World and the Universal Logos

https://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/12/musings-on-advent-of-jesus-as-light-of.html.

(3/2/24):  Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Need for an Unconventional Faith

https://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2024/03/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-need.html.

(3/27/24): Musings on Going Back to the Future on the Evolution of Christianity

https://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2024/04/musings-on-going-back-to-future-in.html.