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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151 COMMENTS

  1. When any religious group of any kind starts trying to interfere in politics they have become extreme. Personally I'm tired of those well intentioned people telling me what I can and/or should do and/or believe in. I know I have more moral and ethically conviction than most so called good christians. I wouldn't even consider joining any christian church…they compromise my ethics and morals.

    • You evidently know very little about Christianity, so I suspect you have not attended very many churches. It actually is the opposite of your claim, most churches are exceedingly silent regarding politics …. I believe to a detriment. Everyone should be encouraged to engage in our political process and Christians are no exception. At the very least churches should offer their congregation information on each party’s platform so they have an understanding of how a specific candidate will likely vote on issues.

      • I always have to smile and people that say,”You evidently know very little about Christianity, so I suspect you have not attended very many churches. That is very typical of fundamentalism, be it ISIS, or any other so called belief system. You make a statement that because you disagree, rather than dialogue where you might learn something. I grew up in the oldest Episcopal Church in Alabama and once was a Candidate to the Episcopal Seminary, so there are many of us able to talk about Christianity with some credentials. What are yours? Most fundamentalist use the bible as a “cookbook”, looking only at what confirms their own ideas, not the fact that Christianity is a religion of ‘action’. Do something, and not “prayers coming your way”. I have had the privilege of seeing all 7 continents, having recently seen the Antarctica Ocean and mainland. I have had many Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, and indigenous friends. I was married to a Jewish lady so also exposed to Judaism. I find good people in all, as well as bad, but when people like yourself assume, “you are right” and believe like me or else, you become another ISIS type. I find nothing wrong with religious beliefs but when people us religion to rationalize racism, misogamy, xenophobia with religion, they become the tools of hate. My guess is, I may be wrong as I have no prob with being wrong as that is a step on the ladder of learning, but my guess is you did not like Obama or either Clinton. Care to qualify?

        • B.J. Oneil, I’ve been a Christian all my life and grew up in the church with many influences under the “Christian” umbrella. I’m not sure where you go to church but the “Christians” who are supporting Trump and a political agenda are doing just that. They value politics over the Bible. They value their way of living over anyone else’s and believe this country should be under the Christian umbrella in all areas including politics and legislation. Despite the fact that our “founding Fathers” set up this country to specifically ensure one person’s belief’s did not trump or infringe on other’s rights, the Christian “right” have embraced greed, deceit and hate over the premises of Christian teaching if we’re looking strictly at the Bible. 30 years ago someone like Trump, a habitual adulterer who gambled his way through life with zero integrity, a belief that no one is better than him, who said himself that he has never needed to ask forgiveness from God because he has never done anything to warrant forgiveness – this sort of man would never have been backed and supported by Christians. The shift over the past few decades has embraced valuing certain politics over sound ethics and integrity. This is a chronic problem and it should be clear to anyone who sees the “Christian” church stand up for people like him.

        • That is ridiculous! People can read & listen to candidates issues! You receive a mailer from the Voter Registration listing their pros & cons locally! I suspect that you don’t belong to an Independent Evangelical Baptist Church. They are 180 degrees different than any other denomination! They are extreme and they essentially, if truth be told, are cults. I know that’s hard to swallow, but it is true!
          They follow they teachings of Bill Gothard of IBLP who is currently being sued for thousands of dollars for sexually abusing girls that worked for him! He also preaches the Quiverfull movement which is child abuse! These people use his materials to home school their children…the very thing that Betsy De Vos is pushing for in her position! They are all sick…
          http://gawker.com/quiverfull-of-shit-a-guide-to-the-duggars-scary-brand-1706557073

      • Really? Remember Calvin the tyrant, remember Calvinists in the Netherlands Murdering the n eating the Brothers de Witt? Remember Cromwell committing regicide green putting Ireland to fire, sword and slavery for 400 years and doing almost as much damage as was done in Ireland? Remember the war on science that continues to this day Galileo. Giordanu Bruno. Remember the Inquisition. Remember Christianity’s being the hamdmaid To colonialism? Remember the crusades? Remember fundamentalists being proponents of slavery and carrying out pogromsN after all the Bible says “let his blood be on us and our children”. Remember the wars on heretics the old believers, the cathars, the Albigenses?
        Remember soldiers going to war for god singing these are the days of Elijah the prophet and claiming the promises that no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper and a thousand may fall at thy side and 10.000 at thy righhand but it shall not come nigh thee? Christianity is a vile tool for control of the masses. Do your bloody homework before you pop off about Christian sewer sludge.

        • Charles,

          I hear your frustrations. I would contend that the things you mentioned happened CONTRARY to the clear teaching of Jesus and what Christians (those who follow Jesus and the apostles teaching) actually believe are moral and ethical wasted of living in the world.

      • I have been in almost every kind of church – and you are all alike = follow them or go to Hell = I chose to follow none of you – I refuse to believe some invisible god is running around making us Great!

    • You don’t have to attend a church to be a good person.
      A good portion of America consists of people who care, have good intentions, and give back. And don’t attend church. It’s human nature, something that evolved over the millennia, inherited, and instinctual. Cave people cared about other cave people. We have a heart too.
      Religion doesn’t own that.

  2. While the author points to real and specific examples of what he is describing, he is painting with a very broad brush. I think many of the things he is describing need to be rooted out of the church, but I continue to believe that there are far more true disciples of Jesus quietly working outside the spotlight.

    From the days of Jesus until today and continuing until He should return, there has always been and will continue to be a divide in the “religious” community between those whose religion is a vehicle for drawing nearer to God and those who use religion as a means to their own ends (political, etc.). Even among the 12 disciples one was a traitor with political motives. That doesn’t mean that all of the disciples should be judged by Judas’s actions. I also think that the actions of this loud and hateful minority are magnified by the attention they receive from the outside. How many people had ever heard of Pastor Roger Jimenez or Kim Higginbotham before reading this article? Neither of them nor Franklin Graham can speak for all Christians.

    Finally, I think it is important to apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 here. We should all spend more time dealing with the plank in our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck In someone else’s eye. I have to ask myself if my Christianity is a cover sociopathy before I can try to point it out in others. My issues may not be what this author is describing, but there are ways I am failing to live by Christ’s example. Loving and accepting everyone may not be my problem, but what about pride and greed and purity and temperance…. There are plenty of things wrong with me. To limit the issues with Christians to the things described in this article is to underestimate the problem of sin. The sins he described are what is currently socially unacceptable (and they should be), but society doesn’t get to define holiness. We are called to be holy as God is holy. That’s a tall order. I’m gonna work on me, walk beside others on the same journey, love everyone always, and let Franklin, Roger, and Kim work their issues out with a God big enough to sort it all out.

    • Oh that is all very nice but it is the silence of people like you that paves the way for creatures like the ones mentioned in the article. If you don’t agree with the moral decay of these hateful bigots, it is on you to take a louder stand against them, otherwise you come across as one of them.

    • Judas’s actions, yes their is always one who will bite you like a dog and never let go, no matter how happy one is in a same-sex marriage. He said I was equal to a child molester, he said I could not be Christian and Gay. I spent 3 years trying to convince Paul he was wrong so others who might be questioning their own sexuality could have hope. I gave up cause Paul will always be a bigoted evangelical playing a one sin song.

  3. Amen Brother Gary, I totally agree with your perspective on this issue. I have never heard of any of the people mentioned in this article with the exception of Franklin Graham. As an evangelical Christian, my God calls me to love as I would like to be loved and forgive my offenders. I am not perfect, as none of us are, but trying to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

  4. No, it has always been sociopathic, as by definition they are hostile to “the world”. It is high time this religion leaves civil society alone.

  5. Western Evangelical Christians have false image of Christianity(they have intellectualized Christianity) it needs to be spiritual, they are brainwashed zombies, well most of them at least.

  6. Not sociopathic at all when you consider that evangelicals have founded a completely different version of Christianity. Their new version repudiates the message of Jesus and even denies the words of Christ. This is a very unique version of the Christian religion but is it still Christianity?

  7. One must first understand what the true meaning of ” sociopath ” really is and thus judge accordingly. You have to get your head out of Hollywood to understand any of it. Humans are around us in all walks of life..even as preachers and presidents. Some good… some not so good. Judge not lest yea be judged seems to have fallen by the way side. We have far to many people playing judge and jury when it comes to faith and the lives of others as well as all that goes with it Not many stop to take a good hard long look at themselves and the ten commandments for if they did they would not act nor speak too or about others the way that they do. Just because you don’t drink or do illegal drugs does not mean you don’t abuse these things or see yourself as above God and his the scriptures by simply NOT thinking. The thing that has always turned me away from churches, not God, has been the heart ache and judgement passed on by others who are attending. Read the book and judge for yourself..not for or about others..

  8. Gary said that Franklin Graham doesn’t speak for all Christians. But on the contrary, he has been set up as the spiritual advisor to presidents, to the nation. Every president, it seems, must bow down to his superior spiritual knowledge. It’s as if we had a state-approved pope or head of spiritual affairs for the stste. Because the
    Evangelist brand had aligned itself with policies and bumper stick “patriotic” religious meme of the right. They’ve branded themselves as the true patriots of the U.S., while pushing such unconstitutional and in -Christlike hateful policies of anti-immigrant, anti-gay, zenophobic, misogynist, racist themes. Intolerance to other religions and groups, the fierce embrace of gun rights and nationalistic behavior, the willingness to curtail other group’s rights leads right in the direction of fascism. Who have we seen who used Christianity as a justification for murder and civil rights abuses? Hitler, for one, who thought he had a mission from God to hunt down and kill the Jews, the Southerners who justified slavery and Jim Crow laws and lynchings by their crooked interpretations of the Bible. That’s pretty far away from the messages of Christ.

    • I also am concerned about Franklin Graham’s “spiritual advisor to the nation” status. What’s ironic to me is … Franklin Graham’s own ministry, called Samaritan’s Purse, is based on the biblical story. It extends itself all the time to countries in need, all over the world, including the ebola outbreak of a few years ago. And yet, to him, immigration in this country now is not a Bible issue? Syria, where so much violence has been wrought that a large percentage of that country’s population chose to go on a long walk. may have been helped by Samaritan’s Purse also, although I am not sure. If ever there were a time when current events and the Bible seem to coincide or overlap, it would be now, in my book… Jesus was a Syrian.

  9. Why are you so intolerant towards Christianity and its doctrines alone? ISLAM IS RULING ABOUT TWO DOZEN MAJOR ,HIGHLY POPULATED ,NATIONS WITH ITS ” ISLAMIC SHARIA. ” ..THESE NATIONS ARE CONTROLING WORLD ECONOMY WITH ITS WAST AMOUNT OF LAND MASS AND RESOURCES LIKE PETROLEUM AND URANIUM. ETC…BUT ARE ANYONE ANYBODY OF YOU INTOLERENT ABOUT THEIR SYSTEM OF PENALCODE AND THE STATUS OF THER WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND ESPECIALLY THE GIRL CHILDREN ETC.???. IN CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES PERSONAL OR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS ARE IN HIGHEST STATE AS NOW IN THE GREAT BRITAIN OR FRANCE ,THE USA OR SCANDINAVIA .,IN MY WORD ,THESE COUNTRIES ARE IN SELF MOLESTING PATH.BECAUSE THEIR COUNTRIES ARE NOT ENCOURAGING THE CONCEPT OF A TRADITIONAL FAMILIES… FAMILIES AND HOMES ARE SUBVERTED INTO LODGES AND JUST SHORT STAY DORMITORIES… IT IS WHAT THE LIBRRAL SYSTEM IN RELIGION T YOU’RE ADVOCATING FOR..

  10. I am distressed that Christianity insists that we are all inherently evil, and that only through communing with its God can we rise above this state of disgrace. Often, organized Christianity then compels itself to define evil by its own often half-baked self-interests. In particular, evangelistic Christianity has reduced the tenets of its faith to a simplistic “my way or the highway” pattern of thought. This mindset invites the contempt it so richly deserves. Other philosophies are not wrapped in this cloak of sanctimonious hegemony. I have never encountered an evil child; evil is a learned behavior. We become expert at wickedness at the knee of parents, peer groups and clergy.

  11. I was brought up in the Congregational Church and occasionally I go to a Sunday service in my town. The message I always walk with is: help others when you can, forgive others, and love each other. There is never any gay bashing, immigrant bashing or politics. I always thought when you went to church, you should walk out feeling better and hopeful, not angry and hateful.

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