Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?

By Tim Rymel, M.Ed. | 11 May 2017
The Huffington Post

Since Evangelical Christianity began infiltrating politics, officially in the late 1970s, there has been a disturbing trend to limit or remove rights from those who don’t meet the conservative idea of an American. Many of these initiatives come in the form of “religious freedom” laws, which empower discrimination, while other legislation targets immigrants who believe differently. The result has been a sharp division in American culture, and the redefinition of Christian theology.

Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?

Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).

We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.

Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento said after the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” This “minister of God” showed no compassion for the families of the men and women who died. He appeared incapable of laying aside his religious beliefs for even a moment of shared human connection to a tragic event.

And recently, Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, according to her website, wrote a public blog called “Giving Your Child to the Devil.” She claimed, “Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.” She listed Matthew 10:37 as justification, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

In a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, martyr’s rant, she claims her son turned his back on God, and she was left with no other option but to abandon him. It turns out her son is gay and – it turns out – the day the diatribe was posted was his wedding day. Sharon Hambrick, a Christian writer, posted a wonderful response to this mom.

But mostly, rather than calling these people out for sociopathic behavior fellow Christians agree. Many of the comments on Higginbotham’s website say, “So sorry for your loss,” or, “Praying for you and your son.”

It’s common for us to avoid cognitive dissonance, when our beliefs dictate one thing, but our experiences show us something else is true. We call this living in denial, and we all do it on one level or another. But when we choose our “truth” while coldly watching a fellow human being suffer, we’ve crossed a line of mental health.

The 2016 election demonstrated an especially high level of insincerity, shamelessness, poor judgment and pathological egocentricity among Christian evangelicals. James Dobson, who once said of Bill Clinton, “Character does matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world,” and then said of Donald Trump, “I’m not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”

The evangelical Christian message is loud and clear. They care for no one but themselves. Their devotion is to the version of Christianity they have created, which calls for ruthless abandonment of immigrants, women, children – even their own – and anyone else who doesn’t fall inline with their message. Social justice, which is mentioned in Bible verses over two thousand times, has been replaced with hardline political ideology. Principle over people. Indifference over involvement. Judgment over generosity.

Every generation redefines what it means to be, or belong to a religious group. Religious ideologies, interpretations, and doctrines are fluid. But whatever it is, or whatever it becomes, is made by the people who belong to the religion and what they collectively decide to make it.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Tim Rymel, M.Ed., is the author of Going Gay (2014), and the upcoming book, Rethinking Everything When Faith and Reality Don’t Make Sense (2017). He is a former minister and a member of the American Psychological Association, APA Division 15 Educational psychology, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transexual Issues. Buy Going Gay at: http://GoingGay.net. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRealTimRymel

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46 COMMENTS

  1. We need to be so very careful about these things! The way we answer may say more about us than about the thing we are discussing.

  2. I do see more and more sociopathy in the Evangelical churches. It’s growing at a horrible rate. But I can’t say everyone and every church in that spectrum is sociopathic. I still know a decent number of exceptions; there really is a small but vital Evangelical Left. Long may it wave…but I fear a lot of those folks will, sooner or later, just give up.

    • I see more and more sociopathy in liberal churches. It starts with the refusal to listen to other points of view. It continues in suing fellow Christians, something that Jesus said should not happen. It is also seen in the participation in violent protests. I don’t see much, if any, love in much of liberal protestantism.

    • What is chilling to me is that liberals don't seem the growing sociopathy in their own churches, but are so quick to condemn others.

      • When someone’s “point of view” is, “I wish more of those people were killed,” there’s not much room for discussion. Christofascists condemn themselves. Where did Jesus say Christians shouldn’t sue other Christians?

  3. More foundational reasoning for treating Christians as mentally ill and worse, as people whose belief causes violence and destructiveness in society. All that remains is for our secular social engineers to call for the ‘cleansing’ of our culture of this cancer called faith. Christians are not accusing unbelievers of mental illness, (even though God’s Word declares, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”), but now the cultural dictates that Christians be deemed sociopathic.

    • I could cite countless of “Conservative Christians” calling Liberalism a mental illness. As a gay men, I can also vote many examples of grotesque violence perpetrated against my community in the name of Christianity. And again, no one here is suggesting that Christian faith itself is destructive. They are talking about a specific set of behaviors practiced by a certain set of “Christians.”

  4. And then there’s that pesky “Just not lest ye be judged.” The more self-righteous pastors and their churches seem to be, the less they seem able to recall that God loves even the least of us, and will judge them by how they exhibited virtue, piety, and charity toward the least. And, quoting centuries of mothers saying to their children, “I Am Not Cleaning That Up!”

  5. It depends upon the word "Christianity." Christians in the USA overwhelmingly reject the teachings of Jesus— in fact they have an insane livid hatred for what Jesus taught. But they still call themselves "Christians:" are they really Christians even though they hate Jesus?

    • As someone with roots in evangelical Christianity, I have some sensitivity to this discussion.
      One of the things I note is many evangelical Christians do no share the

  6. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for writing this and for including the vile #SevenMountains videos. I’ve been documenting how Christ annually predicted Church future since 02/16 (See my Matt24 playlist in Youtube, starting at 42nd video, since the prior ones just establish the methodology of parsing the Greek text). I had NO idea what Seven Mountains was.

    But to test my interp of ‘our’ time, which is Matt25:11’s ‘Lord, Lord’ (2015-18 in the meter, style goes back to Moses, used in either Heb or Greek mss), I did learn of their existence. Been a real shocker every day since, to see the accuracy of the prophecy.

    So now look at Matt25:12, which runs in the meter from 2024-2041 AD. So God will be judging these people, and we need it to take that long cuz there are so many.

    #ThirdRome in Russia holds to the same doctrine, #Putin being their candidate for ‘Last Emperor’ (a myth going back to Constantine, but imported to Russia via a fake thingy called Pseudo-Methodius).

    So:
    COOLING period comes by 2100 (weather cycle, ask any climatologist)

    CRUSADES come by 2030 (cuz these apostate groups think their politics will bring Christ back, and Muslims look for that same return but as Mahdi, by 1500AD aka 2076 AD);

    CHURCH CIVIL WAR from now through 2041.

    God orchestrates time in 490+70+490 increments, Genesis 1 is the first to map it. So these trends characteristically close a 490 period as well. See my Pass The Salt videos in vimeo, in the howgodorchestratestime playlist, where I go through the history. It’s just Bible dates, no outside stuff, so you can vet it. Lemme know if you find errors.

    Thank you again for this article, and your TIME!

  7. I dont think the author understands what “evangelical” means.

    He seems to be confused about how evangelicalism is separate from fundamentalism.

    Evangelicals cross every protestant denomination, and many are liberal and inclusive.

    So basically we have a person with a degree in education, and no religious or history background, ranting against religion because he’s mad at dad, or something

  8. Hi, this article and many of the comments are a good example of trolling. The definition of sociopathic involved some very extreme behaviours and symptoms. Then, you guessed it, some extremes quoted. No balanced argument demonstrating the movement’s contribution to some of the world’s active social justice movements. Yes – different discussion if we are talking fundamentalist but that probably does not meet the important categories of evangelicalism. This is a troll piece thinly veiled as “superficial” intelligence.

    • Matt, I agree. Very poor choices for illustration, It looks as if the writer started with a premise and then looked for examples that supported his premise. This post is not at all balanced.

  9. There is a basic problem in the Christian religion in that Jesus disliked the ultra religious of his own day. I am not sure it is fair to say that evangelicals ‘hate’ Jesus but when was the last time you ever heard a sermon when the text came from Luke 6 Jesus said “the most High is kind to the wicked and the unjust”. Christians have always tended to shy away from a kind face to God. Yes he is forgiving [so long as one repents] but it is dangerously weak to be actually kind. He is not kind however to those who think they know better than God. [otherwise called Pharisees etc etc ]

    • You are conflating kind with humble, and their meanings do overlap. People often think that being humble is a weakness, but they are tragically wrong. Humility facilitates a more comprehensive understanding and maximizes objectivity. The fool tells himself he has all the answers, and the belief that we can possess absolute knowledge and power like God is an illusion. "A wise man learns more from a fool, than a fool learns from a wise man." – Cato the Elder.

  10. Simple – Of course – by definition!
    They lie!
    They believe their lies!!
    They enforce their lies with threats and punishments!!

  11. “Principle over people. Indifference over involvement. Judgment over generosity.” – these are the same slippery slope irrational assessments of the ideology you are criticizing in the article. It is easy to confuse people with these very same ideas when we make gradients binary, or we refuse to acknowledge details and nuances. And it is lazy thinking that leads people down the wrong road. The lazy thinking is a result of the demands of modern day society.

  12. I keep returning to this because it is a central issue for North American Christians in the 21st century.
    One of the key discovery points for me is that there are many "evangelical" Christians who do NOT share the hateful message laid out in his article. Jim Wallis is one; I've taken the "Matthew 25 Pledge" Sojourners is encouraging people to follow. Another is Doctor William J. Barber II of North Carolina's "Forward Together Moral Monday Movement."
    I think it is important for us to recall there are Evangelicals who are faithful to the teaching of Jesus and those who have decided to follow "the world." I find it troubling so many people who cannot recognize the differences those differences.

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