The recent issue of Geez Magazine was one I was really looking forward to. Geez is a fresh perspective on faith and each issue has challenged me to consider a different perspective and a new way of thinking. The latest issue: Let’s Get Evangelical, was exciting for me because I was hoping to see an articulate take on Christianity and “Evangelicalism” that would help me put some of my own thoughts into words.
Overall the articles were good, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for. Geez seems a little more on the skeptic fringe then I thought they would be. However, I was just reading the last article in the magazine, and I got through the first paragraph and realized it deserved a post.
Here’s Bill McKibben on How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong:
Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our 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 the Bible teaches that “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 further 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. Asking Christians what Christ taught isn’t a trick. When we say we are a Christian nation–and, overwhelmingly, we do–it means something. People who go to church absorb lessons there and make real decisions based on those lessons; increasingly, these lessons inform their politics. (One poll found that 11 percent of U.S. churchgoers were urged by their clergy to vote in a particular way in the 2004 election, up from 6 percent in 2000.) When George Bush says that Jesus Christ is his favorite philosopher, he may or may not be sincere, but he is reflecting the sincere beliefs of the vast majority of Americans. And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior. That paradox–more important, perhaps, than the much touted ability of French women to stay thin on a diet of chocolate and cheese–illuminates the hollow at the core of our boastful, careening culture.
What’s your take?