Christianism’s usual idols.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 March

Christianism is a socially-acceptable outward form of Christianity. Whether there’s any actual Christianity underneath it, isn’t for me to say. Sometimes there’s a real live relationship with Jesus, an actual indwelling of the Holy Spirit, resulting in some of his fruit, mixed in there somewhere. But the reason I still call it Christianism is ’cause there are glaring errors in the religion. Way too much fake fruit. Way too many compromises with the gospel.

Compromises, I should add, made for the sake of accommodating other gods. Christianism creates a façade of Christianity, but underneath it there are a lot of other religious practices which don’t follow Jesus much. They support other ideas. They seek other powers. They promote other movements. And if Jesus teaches otherwise, they mute him, reinterpret him, or ignore him, in favor of those less-than-Christian goals.

In a word, it’s idolatry. And since it’s everywhere, and plenty of other “good Christians” believe and practice the very same thing, Christianists assume it’s part of Christianity, and never ask themselves what the Spirit really wants ’em to do. Even when he’s given them serious doubts about popular Christian culture: They suppress those doubts and embrace the culture. They feel very pleased with themselves for turning off their brains, figuring that’s what God expects us to do when we “love the Lord your God with all your mind.” Mk 12.30 Makes ’em righteous Christians.

This resistance kinda exacerbates the problem. Because the Spirit is shouting so loud, in order to quench him Christianists try to keep themselves too busy to listen. They focus on public displays of piety. They pray and meditate less often, and when they pray in public, it’s always at God or towards God, never with God. (Lots of ’em aren’t sure he talks back anyway.) They claim the Spirit illuminates what the scriptures mean when they read their bibles, but in reality they look for meaning in their study bible notes, or in their favorite preachers and books.

If you don’t listen to God, of course there’s gonna be way less fruit. Less repentance, change of heart, internal struggle against sin, or pursuit of holiness. Less worship.

And more idolatry.


What do Christianists worship? Depends on the Christianist. Most of ’em worship the very same things pagans do—which again could be anything and everything. It’s why people on the Christian Left get along with left-wing pagans way better than they do with anyone on the Christian Right. Their common bond isn’t Christ; it’s their politics.

(And don’t get the wrong idea this isn’t just as true of the Christian Right. Look at the various Southern Baptists who wanna penalize Southern Baptist Convention leader Dr. Russell Moore just because he dares to critique the president.)

Human nature, thanks to our inherent selfishness, bends us towards worshiping ourselves. So that’s the motive for a lot of Christianism: People wanna feel like Christians. They wanna feel righteous and holy, instead of unclean and unsteady.

No, not enough to actually be holy: Not enough to truly separate themselves from the world for God’s purposes. They still kinda like the world. They figure it has a lot to offer. Namely sex, power, wealth, or comfort. They don’t care to stand fully apart from it, and deny themselves. They only wanna stand out a little. Just a little. Just enough to feel holy, and get applause from others for taking any kind of stand.

Of course it’s not real holiness; it’s hypocrisy. It’s fraud. But they’ll defraud themselves. They’ll lie to themselves, psyche themselves into thinking their behavior counts as holiness, psyche themselves into feeling like they’re full of the Spirit, and make themselves believe their act is all part of the process. Fake it till you have it, right?

In this way, you’ll discover a lot of Christianists actually value hypocrisy: All they gotta do is keep their inner thoughts secret, and never expose ’em to a world that’d be horrified by them. That’s why we see so many Christianists loudly condemn anybody who’s exposed as a hypocrite: Why can’t these people do a better job of hiding their dirty secrets? Why, people might get the idea such things are widespread, and next thing you know they’ll be found out! Everybody shush. Keep the act up.

But their lack of fruit tends to out ’em.

I’ve watched many a Christianist speaker on TV. They claim they’re Christian. Their fearful, angry, impatient, joyless, unkind, impulsive behavior indicates they’re certainly not good Christians. When they’re called on it, they’ll try to justify the behavior: “Okay, I admit I’m not acting all that Christian right now. But the important thing is the stuff I’m saying is true. Truth is the most important thing.”

Actually it’s not. Love is the most important thing. Truth is a close second. But if you don’t have love, you don’t have God. 1Jn 4.8 And since love rejoices in truth, 1Co 13.6 but these TV personalities lack love, we really can’t tell whether there’s any truth in ’em either. More likely they’re only telling people what they want to hear, Ro 16.18 hoping they can get our worship and devotion out of it.

And unwittingly, we Christians will give it to them. Especially when we ignore their misbehavior, their lack of fruit, because they please us so much, and make us feel validated and right. Though we’re wrong.

The pursuit of honor and authority.

Other Christianists aren’t in it so they can feel good about themselves, but so they can gain, or make a profit, off Christianity. They covet power and wealth.

If you can get into a position of leadership in your church, and if you can convince naïve Christians the purpose of leadership isn’t to serve others but be served, Mk 10.42-45 you can make ’em your slaves.

Fr’instance. One bothersome trend I see in too many churches, is this desire to create schools. Not real schools, where the students are trained to minister, graduate, then go forth and actually minister. More like programs where the “students” never really graduate, ’cause new classes are always created so they can learn more stuff. Where the “students” perpetually stay in the program, at the church which sponsors it, and wind up serving the pastors which teach it.

Where the students wind up doing all the grunt work which the people of the church won’t do. All that stuff ordinarily falls upon the pastor. (Shouldn’t, but does.) When the toilet gets clogged, and nobody else is around, pastors shrug, roll up their sleeves, and go deal with it—but some of ’em create “schools” and “internships” so they can delegate all this stuff away. They justify it by pointing to the apostles’ example: They delegated the food closet, while they focused on teaching and prayer. Ac 6.1-6 So why can’t these pastors delegate their grunt work? Somebody’s gotta unclog toilets. Or vacuum the auditorium. Or babysit their kids.

Then there are “armor bearers.” These’d be interns whose job is obviously to do grunt work, but they have a really biblical-sounding title. However, their duties… I pulled this one list of duties off a church’s website. The “officer” is the pastor, I assume. Some of these are redundant, but this pastor wants it made clear he expects his armor bearers to have his back. Armor bearers are:

  • To strengthen his officer.
  • To exalt and uplift his officer.
  • To respect his officer.
  • To agree with and submit to his officer.
  • To repel any kind of attack against his officer, especially his back.
  • To rescue his officer from difficulty and hardship.
  • To keep watch while his officer rests.
  • To care for his officer’s belongings.
  • To react, with total intolerance, to any false accusation against his officer. (This would include rumors, gossip, and talking behind his back.)
  • To aid his officer in spiritual combat.
  • To demonstrate extreme loyalty.

Does this sound like an intern? Not really. A worshiper, though.

See, that’s the real reason churches exploit their interns: Their pastors wanna be treated like royalty, and want courtiers. They want their position to be an exalted one. And they don’t want people to forget it: Note how armor bearers must “exalt and uplift his officer.” It flies entirely in the face of what Jesus taught his students.

Matthew 20.25-28 KWL
25 Summoning them, Jesus said, “You know the leaders of other nations lord it over them.
Nobles wield authority over them.
26 This is not for you: Your would-be nobles must instead become your servants.
27 Your would-be princes must become your slaves.
28 Likewise the Son of Man didn’t come to be served, but serve.
He gives up his soul to ransom many people.”

Churches which fixate on titles, on the pastor as CEO, on corporate business models, on legalism, on obeying the wishes of “the LORD’s anointed”—all of these indicate an unhealthy fixation on authority. I’m not saying we need to replace the leadership structure of any top-down church; I happen to believe a top-down arrangement is biblical. But bad leaders can corrupt any arrangement, and power-hungry leaders can warp any church, no matter what safeguards were constructed to hinder them.

The pursuit of worldly power.

Another bothersome trend is found in certain kinds of activist churches.

There’s nothing wrong with a church who condemns the evil in our society, and tries to do something positive to combat it. Nor is there anything wrong with meeting with politicians, seeking their advice, or seeking their help. The trouble is when churches get mixed up in political solutions to these problems: They think the solution is to pass a law. To get their guy elected. To get their party elected. To bring God’s kingdom into the world through legislation.

Yeah, they’ll claim they’re not really doing that: They’ll claim they expect Jesus to inaugurate his kingdom when he returns, and all they’re really doing is trying to fix some of the woes of society. Of course, all their talk about how “this is a Christian nation” exposes their true goal: They wanna make this nation, as much as possible, look like they imagine the kingdom to be. They want their God’s will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

That’s where Christianists go too far. We’re meant to change the world using only God’s supernatural power. Using any other power means we’ve set aside God’s power, ’cause either we don’t trust it (or him) enough to try it… or the Holy Spirit’s not doing as we want, so we’ve decided to go around him.

So instead they work the wards. Promote and run candidates. Permit politicians to speak in Jesus’s pulpits, to proclaim their kingdom instead of his, and in so doing blatantly (though “unofficially,” which is a hypocritical way to describe it) endorse an alternative kingdom to Christ’s. Transform Christ’s churches, which are supposed to be the local headquarters of God’s kingdom, into unofficial headquarters for the Democratic or Republican Party.

But worldly power takes many forms, and it’s not merely political. Money’s a form of power. Those who worship money will still go to church. But they won’t tithe, won’t give to charity, and make darned sure their pastors never preach about offering grace and generosity to the undeserving poor. Or there are the prosperity-gospel churches, who claim God wants his people to have material, worldly wealth—but as a result they likewise reject the poor, ’cause if God considered them worthy, he wouldn’t leave ’em poor!

Various other idols.

We can identify all sorts of other idols Christianists follow.

Plenty of ’em worship their families, and only go to church ’cause they don’t want their kids to grow up pagan. But if youth soccer gets scheduled at the same time as Sunday morning worship, guess which one takes priority. And if anything, God forbid, happens to their kids, they drop their faith immediately… ’cause didn’t I just say “God forbid”? God was supposed to forbid.

Others worship their bibles. Or their denomination, which is why they figure anyone outside their network probably isn’t Christian. Or certain specific doctrines, which is why they insist people aren’t saved by grace, but by “faith,” by which they really mean orthodoxy.

The easiest way for a Christianist to get away with idolatry: Pick something we oughta see in Christianity, and prioritize that above God himself. For that matter, it’s the easiest way for a Christian to slip into idolatry. It’s why we have to carefully guard ourselves against it.

So if you’re worried you may be more Christianist than Christian… well, the very fact you’re worried is a good sign. Start tightening up on your relationship with God instead of taking it for granted. Temporarily deprive yourself of a few of the things you love just a little too much. Work on that fruit of the Spirit. Read that bible and work on your prayer life. See what God shows you.