>American Christianity


Sweet America, Pikes Peak Mounatin from Garden...Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr
If you like some of the stuff I’ve been posting, stop right now.  Really, stop.  And click on over to Richard Hall’s blog, Connexions.  He’s a Methodist minister in Wales and he reads the books I wish I was reading and he writes the posts that I wish I was posting.  I’ve generously borrowed…each time citing where I’ve found it…but it’s good stuff.  

The following is his post from earlier today, all about American Christianity…which is just wild since he’s writing from Wales.  It’s a very large excerpt from Bill McKibben’s “The People of the (Unread) Book”.  I’m just going to quote bit of it.  You’ll have to to to Connexions to read the whole thing.  Really.  Go and check it out.  Stop reading and click here….

But, if you’re still here, this is the quote:

“Only 40 per cent of Americans can name more than five of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the gospels. Twelve per cent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Judeo-Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation’s educational decline, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three-quarters of Americans believe that the Bible says ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in holy scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin’s wisdom not biblical, it’s counter-biblical. Few ideas could be farther from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans – most American Christians – are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.  Bill McKibben, “The People of the (Unread) Book”, in Peter Laarman, ed., Getting on Message (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), pp. 13ff.

So, here we are in America.  Many of us are pretty sure this is a country that sits at the right hand of God, or, at least it is more Christian than most of the other godless nations we can think of in the world.  But our Christianity is in trouble because it is so interwoven with the American story and American values — hard work, self-actualization, the free market — that Jesus, at times seems co-opted by some sense of nationalism.  And it’s not that we shouldn’t pray for our nation and try to hold our leaders accountable and work to be more Christ-like in our social and political realms.  We should.  And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love and appreciate the blessings of where we get to live.  Hey, it’s a great place.  America had been good to me and I pray I’ve been good for it.  However, we need to ask whether or not this we’re starting from an understanding of Jesus and holiness and faithfulness and justice that has been shaped by who we are as a nation.  (This almost sounds like it could be some of Shane Claiborne’s thoughts as well.)

And, as said above, go over and check out Richard Hall’s blog.  I’m enjoying the exercise of checking it out.

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