Amy Butler on Remembering the Christianity of Jesus, Not an Empire

A protester and a police officer shake hands in the middle of a standoff during a solidarity rally calling for justice over the death of George Floyd, on June 2, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The Rev. Amy Butler served as the seventh senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York City. Connect with her at

It seems that in America these days, any resemblance American capitalist Christianity might have once shared with the actual message of Jesus has officially faded to nothing.

By way of review, Christianity, the general name for the religion that purports to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, is based on the stories of his life chronicled in the Bible, in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These authors recall that during his time on Earth, Jesus kept busy healing people who were sick, feeding people who were hungry, and insisting that injustice and oppression have no place in healthy human communities.

He talked a lot about giving away possessions instead of hoarding wealth, about loving your enemies and about practicing peace. He said things like “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In other words, if Jesus were here today he’d be wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while he held a sign and marched at a protest.

There never was any gray area when it comes to claiming you follow Jesus, of course, but for the sake of politeness, or because we don’t have the courage to actually do what Jesus taught, many of us who call ourselves Christians have long  looked the other way while our faith was used to prop up power, enrich those who already have too much and strengthen systems riddled with injustice.

It was kind of like: “Well, that’s just crazy Aunt Karen. What are you going to do?” We didn’t like it, but sometimes you have to give a little to get a little, right?

Wrong. The last week has stripped bare the fact that the message and teachings of Jesus have been co-opted by empire: hijacked and skewed to perpetuate the very real injustices, pain and death that he spoke against. We’ve somehow come to accept these things as just another day in America and have become part of the problem. Under the leaders we elected, “Christianity” has become synonymous with toting guns and scolding protesters and waving Bibles around upside down as if we actually read them.

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Source: Religion News Service