Some people say that actions matter more than belief. My Jewish upbringing taught me the same thing. A loving God, I learned, would judge people by the way they treated others than whether they followed the correct religion.
I’m torn about this. The thing is, theology matters — it matters a lot. Theology shapes what we believe about God, which shapes how we live. Theology shapes the choices we make, how we treat others, and how we prioritize our time.
There is no doubt in my mind that many of the self-professing Christians chanting “Send her back!” at Trump rallies and who think the treatment of immigrants at the border is justified are motivated in part by theology.
Bad theology, but theology nonetheless.
At the end of the day, it’s likely that I’ll be in heaven with people who unapologetically support Trump and continue to make excuses for his racist behavior. I have no idea how God deals with Christians who believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins but produced no good fruit. Ultimately, Jesus is the gate we must pass through.
The question of who “counts” as a real Christian gets harder and harder to answer the longer that Trump is in office. I don’t want to include racists and bigots as my brothers and sisters in Christ, but history is full of Christians who used Scripture to justify hateful, violent deeds; I can’t ignore that. I also can’t ignore that many of the Christians who were instrumental in shaping my theology as a baby believer are some of the most unapologetic Trump supporters I know. Some of them are no longer my friends, as it became revealed over time that we were no longer morally compatible.
I don’t recognize their Jesus and I’m sure they don’t recognize mine, but we profess to follow the same faith, and I don’t know how to come to terms with that.
Theology matters. But so does the fruit. The dead branches of a tree must be cut off, so says the Bible. Faith without works is dead. I know all that. The posts I see on social media are not a complete picture of a person’s spiritual life, let alone their character; I know that, too. All these truths jumble together in my mind, confusing the hell out of me and making me grateful that it’s not my job to judge who is a True Christian and who isn’t.
But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to navigate a world in which a person can identify as Christian, but that tells me absolutely nothing about who they are or what they value. I have no idea whether or not they are safe.
The news of impending ICE raids reminds me of my seven-year-old self asking a neighbor friend if she would ever hide my family from the Nazis — Mom always said that was how we knew who our real friends were. In that situation, it wouldn’t have mattered to me whether or not this friend believed I was going to heaven; I just needed to know if I would be safe with her. Somewhere in the United States today, another child is asking her friend if her family would hide hers from ICE.
You would think that “real Christians” would give the same answer, but we know they won’t. Their answers are divided, as is the Church.