beliefBy John D. Pierce

Many American evangelicals have radically redefined Christian ethics in terms of mere political opposition to legal abortion and same-sex marriages. Basic biblical, moral standards such as truthfulness, character and compassion have been pushed aside for political expedience.

It is baffling what those who claim a high allegiance to biblical truth will now accommodate and advance.

Narrow and naïve political maneuvers — though well intended by some — to “save the babies” and “protect traditional marriage” are the faulty foundations on which this misguided understanding of Christian ethics is built. The overemphasis on these two issues permit the rationalization needed to move away from long and widely held understandings of biblical morality.

As a result, most anything else — pride, racism, exploitation, false witness, etc. — is easily excused as long as one proudly and loudly stands in opposition to persons with same-sex attraction who wish to live in committed relationships with the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples and legal access to safe abortion procedures regardless of one’s means.

These two ill-informed ethical perspectives now define what it means to be “Christian” for many Americans who are eager to foist their political perspectives on all others in the name of Jesus.

Bench the Beatitudes and toss the Great Commandment! These proponents have a better plan than that silly stuff Jesus came up with.

Forget human dignity and equality, mercy, grace and salvation — long known to be central themes of the biblical revelation.

Let justice roll down?

Nah, these gatekeepers have a much simpler litmus test — that suits their propensity for exclusion — than the faithful prophets of old.

Ethics has long been understood to mean the matching of one’s professed belief with one’s actual moral behavior. Therefore, it is sad to learn from this behavior what many “Christians” actually believe to be most important.

And such beliefs/behaviors simply don’t square with the fuller biblical revelation and the Christ they claim to love and obey. In fact, such politicized “Christian ethics” is neither.

A most challenging quest and question is to determine what it even means to be “Christian” in America today — at a time when those responding the loudest offer bad answers and misguided examples.

One must wonder how much of this redefinition the larger Christian community will continue to allow.

Will the many others who have passed through baptismal waters and confessed the lordship of Jesus sit quietly while humility, love and service get relegated to secondary or tertiary status — behind attitudes and acts of exclusion and exclusive claims of righteousness built on allegiances far from anything Jesus uttered or did?

American Christianity is blowing its Gospel witness for decades to come. And that tragedy will be traced to faulty claims of morality that sacrifice the Way of Christ on the altar of political expediency.

At stake is nothing less than what it means to be a follower of Christ — and how that call is presented to and perceived by those who see a lot more arrogance and self-service among many evangelical Christians than love, mercy and grace.

John Pierce

About John Pierce

John D. Pierce is editor of Nurturing Faith Journal — the signature publication of Baptists Today, Inc. He is also publisher of Nurturing Faith Books and Resources. Previously he served as managing editor of The Christian Index and as Baptist campus minister at Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State University. A native of Ringgold, Ga., he is a graduate of Berry College (B.A.), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Columbia Theological Seminary (D.Min.). He speaks frequently in churches, consults with congregations concerning communications and holds interim pastorates.