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Why we hate Jesus

By Ross Reitz

I’ve noticed an interesting trend as I’ve driven around Suffolk lately. There’s something missing from church billboards. Churches are advertising their music style, that they have two services, even their political leanings. Yet, I have not currently seen an evangelical church in the area interested in advertising Jesus.

We Evangelicals have worked for years to eliminate Jesus from our services. I know many people will think that maybe I just drove around at the wrong time, or maybe the fact that Jesus is missing is just a coincidence. But listen to any Christian contemporary music station. There are songs to tell you that you’re special. Songs to tell you that you are free. Songs to tell you that God loves you. But there are no songs on contemporary Christian radio that address the teachings of Jesus Christ. According to the Billboard Christian contemporary charts, since 2010, there have only been two No. 1 songs with Jesus in the title, and only one other clearly about Jesus. There have been no No. 1 Christian songs this decade about our responsibility to love others or to follow any command of Jesus.

We Evangelicals have been clever about how we have silenced Jesus. First, we have correctly focused on Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins and the path to restoration with God. However, we have incorrectly relegated Jesus to the role of a weak, ineffectual whipping boy. He is our sacrifice in the same way a young child or female virgin would be sacrificed to the gods in early pagan cultures. Jesus, to us Evangelicals, is a tool or password; He is not also the teacher who directs us in how we should live.

To get away from the teachings of Christ, we have found ways to make church-goers think they are following Christ when they may be doing the opposite of His words. We have made our congregants “calendar Christians.” Instead of reading the actual words of Christ, we get carefully selected phrases from calendars or journals. Then we produce books based on human thoughts and psychological surveys to study in our churches. I have attended five Evangelical churches in Suffolk. Every single one has had small groups that studied books by supposedly Christian authors. Not one of these small groups studied the Bible itself. When I worked with the youth group in one of these churches, it was announced that we would study the book of James. However, even that study was edited to take out any part of the Bible that disagreed with the political beliefs of the church.

The disregard of Jesus has made it unclear if Evangelicals are even still Christians. The Bible is clear about how someone becomes a Christian. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” We Evangelicals have replaced this with rituals like bowing your head and saying, “God I need you,” or raising your hand and saying, “I want God to be my friend.” These rituals and sentiments are never used in the Bible to describe salvation.

While most Evangelicals would agree in believing that Jesus died and was raised by God, the crux of the matter comes with saying, “Jesus is Lord.” The word “Lord” is the same term used for the Roman emperor. In other words, early Christians were saying that Jesus’ words were their law, even over the laws of the state. This is a very different view of faith than what is presented when we are led to believe that we can just friend Jesus on Facebook.

The actual teaching of Jesus Himself is radically different from what is presented in many of our Evangelical churches. In fact, if we started to obey Jesus’ words, our churches would have to change our views about money, immigration, foreign policy, gun rights and even religious freedom. No wonder we don’t want to advertise Jesus on our billboards any more.

Ross Reitz has been a Suffolk resident since 2009. Prior to that, he taught the Bible in Africa for two years and spent six years as a teacher at a Christian school in Philadelphia, Pa.