Will The Real Christians Please Stand Up

Judith Valente
5 min readMar 3, 2024
Cross in black ashes against a purple background, symbolizing Lent.
The Scripture readings this Lenten season offer a clear roadmap for living a fuller life.

This week marks the mid-point of Lent. I’m actually sorry to see Lent passing so quickly. So far, it’s been a particularly meaningful and — dare I say- even an exultant time for me. That might sound paradoxical. Traditionally, Lent is the liturgical season associated with self-denial, with taking a hard look at our sinfulness, with trying to “get right with God.”

Although Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the rather dour reminder that “You are dust and to dust you shall return,” the Lenten readings overall this cycle are filled with reminders of God’s mercy. What God asks of us in return are hearts full of love.

That message shone through the very day after Ash Wednesday. In the readings for Morning Prayer, the Book of Wisdom reminded us, “God did not make death, nor does God rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God fashioned all things that they might have being.” In that day’s first reading for the Mass, Moses sets before the Israelites a clear choice between sinning and spreading love. “Choose life, then,” he says.

Fortunately, the Lent readings also give us some clear directions for traveling toward a fuller life. We hear in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

“Exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep … Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.”

That “if possible” caveat on living at peace “with everyone” is an interesting insight from St. Paul. He seems to recognize that we might not always live up to our own ideals and aims. We are all human and likely to stumble at times. (Paul is quite frank about his own stumbles). To me, it says God doesn’t expect perfection, only that we keep trying.

Cloth fabric banner with swirls of purple, blue, black, yellow and pink, depicting the liturgical season of Lent, created by Sister Monika Ellis of St. Placid Priory in Washington state.
A fabric liturgical banner offering an abstract depiction of the liturgical season of Lent by Sister Monika Ellis of St. Placid Priory in Washington state. (Photo by Judith Valente)

Even as I reflected on St. Paul’s words, I was saddened by a recent news report about a speaker at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) who called for “the end” of democracy. “We will endeavor to get rid of it. We’ll replace it with this right here,” he added, holding up a metal cross on a neck chain.

The speaker was Jack Posobiec III, a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist, anti-immigration and anti-transgender activist, election denier and espouser of Christian nationalism who has praised the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Perhaps most disheartening of all is that Posobiec’s comments were met with rousing applause from his audience (albeit a smaller one than in past CPAC meetings).

That response came from the some of the same folks who advocate cutting taxes for the privileged, while reducing help for the needy. Who deny climate change. Who paint asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees as frauds, or worse, as hardened criminals. Who want the U.S. to turn its back on Ukraine, where the U.N estimates some 30,500 civilians have been killed or wounded as a result of Russia’s deadly invasion — and that number doesn’t include the tens of thousands of soldiers lost on both sides.

What Scripture are the Jack Posobiecs of the world reading? Certainly not this passage from the First Letter of John the Apostle:

“If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth.”

Sometimes I feel like shouting, “Will the real Christians please stand up.”

I am not so bold as to describe myself a “real Christian.” I have too much respect for the true Christians I’ve known to say that. I’m perhaps a wannabe Christian at best. One who tries. Still, I think it is incumbent even on us wannabes to resist the hijacking of the gospel message for dubious and decidedly non-Christian ends. This will become even more critical as we move closer to the election this November.

Speaking about the rise of this kind of false Christianity, author and Christian historian Diana Butler Bass writes in her blog “The Cottage” that “the hardest partner to recruit” to this slanted view of Christianity has been Pope Francis.

She goes to say, “The election of Pope Francis in 2013 proved a major stumbling block for the emergence of a right-wing global order. The new pope eschewed all such schemes in favor of opening up the church to the poor, outcasts and the marginalized with a social vision that questions capitalism and the destruction of the earth.”

Thank you, Diana Butler Bass! And thank you, Pope Francis!

The Benedictine sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, where I am a lay associate, have been offering reflections on each week’s Lenten gospel infused with insights gleaned from their lifetimes of seeking and serving God. In one such reflection, Sister Angela Ostermann referred to the words of St. Paul in a letter to the Ephesians: “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

What it takes, Sister Angela reminds us, is embracing humility, gentleness, and patience, seeking self-knowledge, and most of all, demonstrating love.

The Scripture readings this Lent, like Sister Angela’s reflection, give a clear picture of what our call is and how we are to act on it. When we do, the prophet Isaiah tells us, “The light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like mid-day. Then the Lord will guide you always.”

This week, how can we become that light in the darkness? How can we start leading a life worthy of the call to which we have been called?

Will the real Christians please stand up.

(To read the Lenten reflections of the Benedictine sisters of Mount St. Scholastica Monastery, please visit www.mountosb.org)

A wooden cross draped with a purple cloth and surrounded by cactus plants and candles serves as the Lenten display in the chapel of Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, S.D.
Lenten display behind the altar in the chapel at Mother of God Monastery, Watertown, S.D. (Photo by Judith Valente)



Judith Valente

Author of 4 spirituality books & 2 poetry collections. Award-winning reporter for Wall Street Journal, PBS-TV, Washington Post & 2 IL public radio stations.