There is a phrase that has been thrown around quite a bit lately called “Toxic Masculinity”. This term usually refers to a stereotype of men as dominant, aggressive, unemotional and sexually aggressive, both collectively and as individuals. Obviously this term has been used by many as a derogatory term any time a male figure does something that offends the status quo of group-think.
Masculinity in itself cannot be toxic, neither can femininity. However, we can’t deny the effect this term has and its use in our current culture as a perceived problem to some in the world around us.
What I want to talk about though is Toxic Christianity. If we insert religion into this definition we see the idea that Toxic Christianity is a stereotype of Christianity as dominant, aggressive, unemotional etc…
Everyone whether Christian or not has experienced some form of Toxic Christianity. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of this and in other cases you have been the one dishing out this toxic form of our faith but toxic Christianity may not be exactly what you are thinking of.
Some may consider this to mean those who are adamantly preaching “Hell-fire and Brimstone” to anyone who will listen with no regard to grace or compassion. To others Toxic Christianity may mean those who preach “God is love” only, leaving out vital pieces of Biblical doctrine or theology. I present to you that it means both.
Toxic Christianity is any type of purposeful or accidental misrepresentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason it’s toxic is because without a full presentation of the truth, the gospel either saves you from nothing or offers no grace. When we present the Gospel without the compassion and understanding of what God has done, in love for His people we have a tendency to do so with malice or dare I say hatred in our hearts. The Gospel is presented like a weapon of threat. It becomes a presentation of God’s wrath over sin with little to no redemption.
If we present the Gospel in the sense of saying that “Jesus loves you” and wants to be your friend or companion we miss the importance of the wage of sin that we all owe to God, which is eternal death. We give people a false sense of life, love and joy without knowing why what we’ve already experienced isn’t true life, love and joy. The world is already in pursuit of their version of these things. For many people there is no need for further life, love and joy when what it would mean to the hearer is actually restrictive.
In other words, if my secular pursuit of the things that make me happy are tangible things I can see and experience, then the promise of further increase of that happiness means I have to “deny my flesh, pick up my cross and face persecution”, well I’m not interested. Without hearing of the pending wrath of God over my sin, there is no danger to the continued pursuit of the things of the flesh. I may as well continue with Earthly pursuits because it’s already something I’m working toward.
Even Paul stated this concept. That when the law came he died. He considered himself alive apart from the law and when sin was introduced, he died. (Rom 7:9). Paul wasn’t saying that if he would have died before hearing the law that he would have gone to Heaven. That would have certainly been contradictory to his emphasis on evangelism. Instead what Paul was saying that before he had heard of the law and the things of God, he had no reason to believe he was anything other than good to go.
Without a full presentation of both the wrath of God and his loving redemption, Christianity is toxic. It becomes a false representation of who God is and what he does. We must always be careful to assess ourselves and the way we represent the cross and the faith that has saved us. Move too far to from one end of the spectrum to the other and you enter into a territory that teaches of a God who is either too loving to judge our sin, or too wrathful to love. Neither of which are true.