For a long time now, I’ve talked about this idea Christians have: that if they just Jesus harder, they’ll improve some major thing in their lives. I even subscribed to the idea when I was Christian myself. It’s a powerful piece of indoctrination and conditioning, especially in authoritarian circles. But as we’ve seen this week in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Jesus-ing harder doesn’t fix anything at all. It never has. All it does is keep Christians chasing a dragon they can never actually catch, then blaming themselves for never catching it.
Why Christians think people need to Jesus harder
Christians tend to think that their belief system teaches them how to behave in all aspects of life. In other words, they can solve any problem and approach any situation using lessons from Christianity.
When something goes wrong for someone, anyone, whether Christian or not, these Christians almost always think that that person’s life would go so much better and be so much easier if they’d only follow the same system. You’ve heard the joke, right? “That person needs Jesus.” One of my favorite examples of the meme is a delighted Pope Francis declaring, Y’all motherfuckers need Jesus:
But Christians take that’s absolutely the case.
When they say someone “needs Jesus,” they’re demanding that person Jesus harder to improve their life. They think religious devotions and behavior will stop that person from messing everything up.
If you ever want to feel dismayed at how quickly Americans are willing to destroy basic civic liberties, take a look at the search results for “America needs Jesus.” You’ll find countless YouTube videos, Etsy homemade products, and blog posts sincerely declaring that forcing everyone to behave as ideal Christians would solve everything they see as wrong with the country.
Obviously, we’re talking about authoritarian people who cannot even imagine that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ could ever be cosmic fuckups and colossal hypocrites. We’re talking about authoritarians who are completely incapable of recognizing that what works for them might not work for others.
That point comes home in a major way when we consider a 2017 Crosswalk post from none other than Ronnie Floyd.
Ronnie Floyd thinks Jesus-ing harder fixes everything
Regular readers know who this guy is already, but let me whisk through it. Ronnie Floyd is part of the Old Guard faction. He’s grown more alarmingly theocratic and extremist over the years. He was the SBC’s president from 2014 to 2016. Around the end of that time, he also worked for Donald Trump’s election campaign. In 2019, he was elected president of the SBC’s top-ranked Executive Committee. Then, he quit in a snit in the fall of 2021 over how his enemy faction was handling the SBC’s sex abuse crisis.
In 2017, then, he was at loose ends for a bit. So, he wrote this post for Crosswalk, which is a Millennial-focused evangelical site. It’s called “America Needs Jesus Now More Than Ever Before.” But he’s very clear about what “Jesus” means and what it doesn’t. He writes:
Religion is not the way to God. Morality is not the way to God. Goodness is not the way to God. Money is not the way to God. There are not multiple ways to God. There is only one way, and it is through Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ is the only way to know God personally.
If he’s not talking about religion or enforced morality and goodness, or even purchasing religious favor, then gosh, what could he mean?
He means Jesus-ing harder. He never explains what he means by reaching his god, if it’s not any of that stuff. Nor does he even need to, not with Crosswalk’s audience. They all believe just as he does in the idea of Jesus-ing.
What it means to Jesus harder
This post by Ronnie Floyd is just perfect for today’s topic. Not only does he assert that if America only Jesus-es harder, then everything will be fine, he even drills down on what he thinks it involves. You ready for this bullshit level 9000?
The good news is that we can be saved when we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone. We can be delivered from the way we are living and the choices we have been making. When we believe Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead on the third day, we can be saved from our sin. Faith is believing in and trusting Jesus Christ and Him alone for our salvation.
When this happens, Christ forgives us of our sins, comes into our lives, and promises us eternal life in heaven when we die.
That is why I strongly believe that Jesus Christ is still the answer for every person in America and the entire world.
We can learn something about how authoritarian Christians think from this post. Ronnie Floyd thinks that Jesus-ing involves mentally apologizing to Jesus for being human, then convincing oneself that Jesus totally did have a bad half-weekend to assuage his own rage and bloodlust at humans for being human. Then, people must not lose that self-convincing. Floyd also thinks constant earnest prayer for recruitment improvement figures in here somewhere.
That’s apparently all it takes to Jesus hard as a rock.
Tom Buck: The sex abuse crisis would be totes solved if everyone would just Jesus harder
At the 2022 Annual Meeting, Ronnie Floyd’s pal in the Old Guard extremist faction, Tom Buck, had something to say about how he thought the SBC should handle its sex abuse crisis. (For those keeping track of posts, this is what landed this exact topic on our dance card in the first place.) It was just such a hilariously off-base and willfully-ignorant thing to say, but it perfectly encapsulates what kind of wackadoodles the Old Guard really are. Here’s what Washington Post quotes him as saying:
[Buck] said a 2019 SBC vote calling critical race theory and intersectionality useful “analytical tools” is evidence of a problem.
“Anything you elevate will be problematic,” he said. “There is what I’d call a lack of confidence and commitment to sufficiency of scripture.” [. . .]
He calls current norms, which say any pastor who allows “unrepentant” sexual abusers to stay in their church should be booted from the SBC, sufficient.
“And it’s not just sex abuse, but there are lots of other issues with people living in unrepentant sin that need to be dealt with,” Buck told The Washington Post.
Of course, Tom Buck is still raging and lashing out trying to figure out who leaked his wife’s book draft about his abuse of her. But now, he is extremely upset that his denomination might do something besides Jesus-ing to deal with racism and sex abuse. He’s trying to force people to use a belief system that hasn’t even worked in his own life to make him a halfway decent human being.
Of course, the SBC has been demanding harder Jesus-ing for decades now as a way to fix racism and sex abuse, and it’s always done fuck-all to help.
The questions that go unanswered about Jesus-ing harder
But wait, one might well ask: Why are there so many Christians who Jesus really hard and yet are still horrible hypocrites? Oh, well, you see, they didn’t mean it. They were faking.
Or one might ask: Why are the most religious parts of our world also the most dangerous and dysfunctional? Oh, well, you see, they just didn’t Jesus hard enough. If they only would, then everything would be just fine. Insufficient Jesus-ing as at the core of every single problem people and societies have ever had.
Or we might even ask: Who’s gonna make Christians Jesus hard enough to fix these problems? Well, they’ll want to Jesus as hard as they possibly can, right? To be Christian is to want to Jesus.
But no really: who’ll make Christians Jesus hard enough if they’re not already wanting to Jesus harder? And all you get is the infamous Blue Screen of Death on that Christian’s face.
Nobody can force Christians to Jesus, and that’s kinda the actual problem here. Ronnie Floyd, Tom Buck, all of these authoritarian Christians, they have created a completely dysfunctional system with an imaginary friend in the top ladder rung. That imaginary friend can’t do anything, can’t make anyone do anything, can’t even make someone want to do anything. He’s imaginary.
And they like it like that. Nothing is better, to an authoritarian aching for power, than an imaginary superior.
The roadmap that does not lead from here to Point Jesus-ed Hard Enough
Because authoritarian Christians believe in their heart of hearts that their belief system is good instruction for all parts of life, they want to address all problems and situations in life with that as their focus. That’s what Tom Buck and Ronnie Floyd are alluding to here.
In a very real way, religious leaders present their followers with a roadmap. Point A is always where they started when they converted. The destination is the perfect state of being a decent human being who is entirely acceptable to Jesus.
These leaders tell their followers that by Jesus-ing really really hard, they will follow the route as marked. They will end up at the destination without fail.
Unfortunately, the belief that the belief system is all-sufficient is not true. It never was true.
It’s only when the beliefs are combined with actual self-improvement and self-discipline and self-fulfillment that someone can actually become a good person. And at that point, the actual religious beliefs become superfluous. They don’t matter. That’s why we find good people in atheism and in every religion under the sun. When a truly good person changes their religious opinion, they don’t stop being truly good. They’re just truly good something elses now, that’s all.
That’s why I say that our beliefs tend to be just window-dressing for the way we see the world, the way we see our best selves, the way we want to be and behave and become. We fall in with groups that align with our aspirations and core beliefs.
Way too many Christians try to Jesus harder as a substitute for difficult work
There’s a quote I love from a book called Divided By Faith. It’s about how evangelicals relate to race and racial tension in America. Here’s what they say about human nature:
If they [meaning people in general] can go to either the Church of Meaning and Belonging, or the Church of Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging, most people choose the former.”
Nowhere do we see this truth reflected more than in how authoritarian Christians use Jesus-ing harder as a substitute for hard work.
If you hadn’t noticed, when I say Jesus harder, there’s no real work involved at all in that. It’s just believing claims that lack any real-world evidence and mouthing particular words at an imaginary friend living above the ceiling.
Actually being a good person involves a lot of actual work. It involves learning to discipline oneself, to manage one’s emotions, to learn to communicate, to avoid causing unwanted pain, to prioritize and budget our time, attention, and resources for the best long term benefits, and so much more.
Jesus harder to get into the Church of Meaning and Belonging
If you could phrase all of that hard, time-consuming, fun-denying adulting stuff in religious terms, it would be Sacrifice for Meaning and Belonging. But when Christians Jesus harder, they’re trying to join a whole other church: Meaning and Belonging without all that ickie, grody Sacrificing.
And so Jesus-ing harder will always look much more appealing to authoritarians, who more than any other group are always looking out for the fastest and easiest way to get anything done, especially if it gets them a leg up on the schmucks who are out there sacrificing for their meaning and belonging.
What fools! If those poor dumb maroons only knew they could get ahead without all the work! All they hafta do is Jesus harder, and they’ll get everything!
And when they don’t, well, the answer will still always be to Jesus harder. Because it’s not real, there’s no real way to quantify it or even identify it. So there’s no way to tell if someone’s doing it right or not. If someone isn’t at Point Decent Human Being Who Is Completely Acceptable to Jesus, then obviously they have not yet Jesus-ed hard enough. They must Jesus harder still.
See how easy that is?
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