THE COOPTATION OF CHRISTIANITY
                                                Jerry S. Maneker

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)  
This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their
lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain do worship me, teaching for
doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

One of the definitions of the term, “co-opt” is the following: “to assimilate or
win over into a larger group.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1997)  
It is quite easy to be co-opted by all sorts of rewards for conformity to the
status quo, to the ways and means of virtually all institutions in secular
society.  Indeed, to its detriment, the Church may be seen to have gladly
allowed itself to be co-opted resulting in the great loss of members in mainline
churches, and the loss of many intelligent, sensitive people both from the
Church and from even the likelihood of them taking Christianity seriously enough
to even consider it as a viable way to have a relationship with God.  Indeed,
the cooptation of Christianity, frequently resulting in no Christianity at all,
may well have had the effect of having many people not even want to consider God
at all in their daily lives!

Rhetoric that is called “Christian” is frequently a downright embarrassment in
its hateful stupidity and studied ignorance where godliness is considered to be
synonymous with rank prejudice, xenophobia (fear and/or hatred of foreigners,
and anyone or anything viewed as different from the person him/herself and
his/her ways of doing things) and, increasingly, blatant advocacy of
discrimination.

For example, as you know, I have a burning passion for full and equal civil and
sacramental rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  That
passion mirrors that which I had in the 1950’s and 60’s in regard to the rights
of Afro-Americans.  When I read and hear hateful rhetoric, which contributes to
suicides, bashings, and murders of our gay brothers and sisters, I can’t help
but recall the naked hate on the faces of professing Christians who carried
placards and screamed at little black children going to a hitherto white
elementary school, all the while citing select and distorted biblical passages
to justify their prejudice and hate.

What makes the current climate of hate, as with the climate of hate that existed
during the civil rights era, so tragic and shameful is the brutal fact that the
major impetus for that hate, the rhetoric that fuels that hate, is largely
coming from the leadership and their blind followers in most of Christianity’s
denominations.  Clearly, some denominations are much more moderate than others
in their hateful rhetoric and animus.  However, apart from the United Church of
Christ (ads for which the major networks won’t air because they are deemed to be
“too controversial”), I am not aware of any mainline denomination that seeks
full civil and sacramental rights for gay people.

Jesus seems to make it very clear that divorce is only to be had in cases of
fornication, and that when one divorces and remarries, he or she is committing
adultery. (Matthew 5:32)  Yet, if “the sanctity of marriage” and “the well-being
of the family” are the real concerns of clergy and others who rail against
same-sex marriage, why don’t they deal with the actual threat to those
institutions: our very high heterosexual divorce rate, and not deal with
same-sex relationships that have absolutely nothing to do with these
institutions?  The reason they don’t spew their rhetoric (nor should they)
concerning this rational reason for the threats to marriage and the family is
that many in their congregations are divorced and have re-married and the clergy
don’t want to bite the hands that feed them when it comes time for the
offertory.

Diverting our attention from the real threats to marriage and the family by
scape-goating a minority group that, by any stretch of a rational imagination,
has absolutely nothing to do with those threats, are tactics that most clergy
use to please most of their constituents, just as many politicians scapegoat gay
people to hustle votes and for purposes of diverting attention from a failed
foreign policy and innumerable domestic fiscal and other policies that have
considerably eroded quality of life and civil liberties in this country.  

The Church is called upon to be the voice of the poor, the displaced, the
marginalized, the hurting, and be a vehicle of compassion and ministry to see to
it that our light so shines that God is given the glory for our ministries of
love.  However, the “Church” has allowed itself to be co-opted by opportunistic
politicians and clergy where the name of God is used to hurt, demean, condemn,
discriminate, ostracize, and even kill others.

That co-optation has ignored the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit Who puts
love in the hearts of all those who have Jesus in their hearts, and that is one
reason why I strongly feel that we are entering a post-denominational age where
God’s love will trump the Church’s co-optation by the most reactionary forces in
our society, and where Christians worthy of the name will, once again, not be
embarrassed by the selling out of Christianity by those who have eagerly sought
to align themselves with opportunistic and reactionary secular and “religious”
forces in society.




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