Further, I maintain that those of us who insist on adjudicating the Christianity of others in the public sphere are only serving to reinforce the Christian supremacism that is so baked into American society that too often we don’t even notice it.
This Christian supremacism, however, which is very much white Protestant inflected, overlaps heavily with white supremacism. Inasmuch as the two are intertwined, it’s impossible to dismantle the one without tackling the other. It may seem like an innocent reaction on the part of progressive Christians to denounce their authoritarian coreligionists as “fake Christians” or “not following the teachings of Jesus,” but it’s neither innocent nor accurate, as I have previously discussed on my blog and at Playboy.
The Jesus portrayed in the Bible is a complex and contradictory figure, and there’s nothing resembling a universal consensus among Christians about how to interpret the teachings attributed to him. Christianity has, since the fourth century, frequently gone hand in hand with imperial power, and the existence of liberationist strains of the faith does not negate the existence of these punitive, power-grabbing strains.
Finally, when Christians deflect from addressing the bad behavior of other Christian individuals and groups by writing them out of “true” Christianity, they’re essentially equating Christianity with goodness at the direct expense of nonbelievers and religious minorities who are afforded no equivalent deference. Christians are as capable of atrocities as members of any group and adherents of any ideology, and so long as polite American society proceeds as if this isn’t the case, polite American society is complicit in the normalization of Christian extremism.