Why Christianity Should Not Be Politicized

Would you feel comfortable going to church with somebody from a different political party? In America today, many people wouldn’t — because they feel self-righteous disgust, even hatred toward people on the other side of the political divide.

Polling data reveals a nation of people filled with partisan anger and convinced they are morally superior to those who disagree with them about politics. For example, over 40% of both Democrats and Republicans believe members of the opposing party are “downright evil.” About 20% of people in both parties believe that people in the other party are “like animals” and “lack the traits to be considered fully human.” And perhaps most disturbingly, 20% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans believe “we’d be better off as a country” if most people from the other side “just died.”

These polls were taken before the incredibly divisive year 2021, which has polarized Americans even further. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that seemingly the only thing many people can agree on is that if the wrong party controls the government, it might be appropriate to resort to violence. In early 2022, according to a Washington Post poll, more than one-third of Americans said they believe anti-government violence is sometimes justified — including 40% of Republicans, 41% of independents, and 23% of Democrats.

A second civil war or a Rwanda-style genocide might be in America’s future, if we continue down the path of mutual hatred, dehumanization, and escalation of tensions between opposing political factions. Is there anything Christianity can do to help reverse this terrifying trend?

New Beginnings: The Future of Christianity and Our Church

A year ago, I started the Universal Church of the Restoration. With the help of my friend and fellow liberal Christian, Colin Mills, we began weekly video services and online small group meetings last January. We continued this for six months, then cut back to once per month. In total, during the year 2021, we produced 28 video services with sermons and stories of spiritual heroes, and we held a similar number of online meetings for prayer, fellowship, and discussion.

Starting a nondenominational church is not easy, even when the leaders do a good job of creating inspiring and meaningful content. Colin and I believe we have done that to the best of our ability. Despite our best efforts, however, the UCR has not attracted an audience as large as we hoped it would during the first year of its existence, and there are few signs of growth or increasing engagement with our church and its message.

After much thought and prayer, we have decided to stop producing videos, which we have learned is an inefficient way to spread our ideas. We have also discontinued the small group meetings for now. We will be continuing the ministry as a blog about religious teachings and issues from the perspective of Restorationist Christian Universalism.

Ascension

From our service on May 16, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Last Thursday, May 13, was the Feast of the Ascension, the holy day in the Christian liturgical calendar commemorating the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, forty days after his resurrection from the dead on Easter. The first chapter of the Book of Acts describes how the resurrected Jesus ministered to his disciples and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and then, at the end of the forty days, he rose into heaven and has never publicly returned to the earth again.

As we call to remembrance the departure of Jesus, in his glorified and exalted state of immortal perfection, from this imperfect world to the eternal world beyond, it is an appropriate time to consider what it means for any human soul to ascend from the earthly plane to heaven. Going to heaven to live forever with God — salvation, as Christians call it — has been characterized in various ways. Some believe we go to heaven if we have the correct religious beliefs. Others believe we must live a Christlike life of love and service to our fellow human beings if we wish to attain the heavenly state of salvation. Still others believe everyone will go to heaven no matter what, even if they had the wrong beliefs and lived a life of sin.

May 16, 2021 Service: “Ascension”

What is the meaning of salvation? Some say that people are saved if they have the right beliefs. Others say we must live a good life, following the example of Christ. And some believe that in the end, everyone will go to heaven. But how do we really ascend from the sinful world of the flesh to the heavenly world of the Spirit and attain to eternal life with God? In this week’s service we explore these important questions. We also tell the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century minister and martyr who taught that true faith can be costly.

Triumph

From our service on March 7, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Many Christians believe that all we need to do to get to heaven is to say the magic words that “Jesus is Lord.” You know the type: the Christian who focuses more on professing beliefs about Jesus than living the faith of Jesus. Such believers are especially common in Evangelical churches, where Christianity is seen as something of a tribal identity group to which we must belong if we wish to be saved from damnation — and within which, we can rest easy in the knowledge that confessing Christ with our lips will cover a life of habitual sin.

But as easy as it is to criticize Evangelicals nowadays, a loose and largely meaningless view of salvation is also increasingly common among liberal Christians. As the teaching of universal salvation has grown more popular in recent years, and as liberal churches struggle to fill the pews in an increasingly irreligious age, there is a tendency to shy away from challenging our brothers and sisters in Christ to aspire to high standards of religious discipline, spiritual growth, and a life of extraordinary sacrifice for the cause of God. If God loves everyone as they are, why do we need to do anything?

March 7, 2021 Service: “Triumph”

The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of athletic training and competition to inspire us to live a disciplined life of the spirit, striving to win the eternal crown of glory with Christ. The world of sports offers profound lessons for our spiritual quest.

In this week’s service, we focus on the Triumph of the soul that is possible when we understand salvation as more than just believing in Jesus. We also remember Eric Liddell, an Olympic athlete and missionary whose deep religious principles propelled him to a truly triumphant victory.

The Ministry and Teachings of Jesus: Charity, Healing, and Forgiveness

From our service on January 17, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Two thousand years ago, in Israel, there lived a very special man. Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter, was put to death for claiming to be the Son of God, the Jewish messiah. He was one of many men at the time who made such a claim and died for it. But he is the only one who became the founder of a great world religion. Today, Jesus is remembered not only for his bloody death on the cross, but for what he said and did before the crucifixion — and the Christian religion he founded is a source of moral and spiritual guidance for over 2.4 billion people, nearly one-third of the world’s population.

January 17, 2021 Service: “The Ministry and Teachings of Jesus: Charity, Healing, and Forgiveness”

Two thousand years ago, a Jewish teacher of humble origins became the founder of a movement that has grown to become the largest religion in the world. There are many different interpretations of the man and his message — but who was the real Jesus Christ, and what did he really teach?

In part one of this two-part series, we focus on the themes of charity, healing, and forgiveness. And we tell the story of Lillian Trasher, the “Nile Mother,” a brave and devoted servant of God who lived up to the calling of Christ by serving people in need.

Stepping Out in Faith

From our service on January 10, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Last week, we celebrated Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus. On the Sunday after Epiphany each year, Christians celebrate the Baptism of the Lord — also called Theophany — when Jesus, as a grown-up man, chose to be baptized in the River Jordan by the great prophet known as John the Baptist.

January 10, 2021 Service: “Stepping Out in Faith”

In this week’s service, we commemorate the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we talk about the importance of taking action and making sacrifices in our lives to follow what we sincerely believe to be God’s will. We also celebrate the life of Anne Hutchinson, a courageous religious leader in colonial America who faced trial for heresy.