The Judeo-Christian Scriptures are constantly warning us against syncretism, when aspects of one religion are assimilated into another thus changing the purity of the original faith. The Old Testament warned the Jews of not allowing the neighboring religions to blend with their following of Yahweh. A hallmark of Greek Hellenism was syncretism, and the Jews before and during Jesus’ time were constantly battling the urge to blend the political aspirations of Hellenism with Judaism. Jesus and his followers warned that syncretism is just another form of idolatry. Paul wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
One of the biggest problems in American Christianity is syncretism. We evangelical Christians have allowed the “American Dream” to blend into our Christian faith—so that now Jesus is a means to the end of prosperity and our consumerist “pursuit of happiness.” All one needs to do is look at the titles of many of the best-selling Christian books to see what we believe the Christian faith is all about (Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen is a run-away best-seller).
Another major form of syncretism in American Christianity is in our allowing the politics of the Right to blend into our Christian faith. Most Christians I know cannot differentiate between the politics of Rush Limbaugh and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is fueled by the very conservative political agenda of leading evangelicals like James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, and Tim and Beverly LaHaye. And it shows itself the ugliest when those on the more radical side of this syncretism that’s called the “Religious Right” (i.e., the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world) say outrageous things that show how this syncretistic religion warps Christianity so that it no longer reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The most recent incident: Pat Robertson (on The 700 Club), while commenting on what the United States should do with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, said, “You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it…It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop.” (see BBC news story here)
With statements like this, I can understand why many non-Christians are suspicious of evangelicals that we are the American version of the Taliban. But know this: It is not the pure religion of Jesus Christ speaking here—it is a syncretism of Christianity with American capitalism (because of the oil interests in Venezuela) and extreme right-wing politics (because of Chavez’ leftist agenda). This syncretism has taken Robertson “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition” so much that he is no longer following Jesus Christ—it is no longer Christianity.
What’s sad is that he does not even know it. What’s sadder is that many of his viewers don’t know it either.