Grant’s Rants on American Christianity
According to a 2018 Pew study, four in five American adults say they “believe in God.”
Of these believers, 70 percent say they believe in the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible, while 30 percent say they believe in another higher or spiritual power.
Among self-described Christians, a full 20 percent believe in a higher power but don’t believe in the God described in the Bible. That number goes up to 26 percent for mainline Protestants and 28 percent for Catholics. These results suggest that the religious tapestry of America is more complex than it may seem.
Many would argue that formal, organized Christianity [read: Churchianity], emanating from America, has probably done more to retard the ideals that were its Founder’s than any other agency in the world.
Consider the following viewpoints as expressed by such diverse individuals as:
1. A South African pastor: “American preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white and blue myth. You have to expose, and confront, the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion and caring of most American people, and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them. This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good, but it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.”
— Former president of the Methodist Church of South Africa, Peter Storey
2. A Romanian Christian who spent 14 years in Communist prisons because of his faith: “I suffer more in the West than I did in Communist lands. … My suffering first of all the longing after the unspeakable beauty of the Underground Church … The Underground Church is a poor and suffering church, but it has few lukewarm members. … Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the Underground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the [spiritual] emptiness of some Western churches. … There are endless discussions about theological matters, about rituals, about non essentials.”
— Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs (VOM)
3. An activist rock star: “Goals like clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty … are the Beatitudes for a globalized world. A wise man told me “Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing – because it’s already blessed. …God is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what he’s calling us to do. …I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did – or did not do [for the poor of the world.] … History, like God, is watching what we do.”
— From Bono’s Address to the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC
4. A Christian pastor, author and speaker: “[When believers become numbed to social injustice or spiritual half-heartedness] a prophet would arise and tell the people that God is downright disgusted with eternal religious observance that rolls along without heartfelt sincerity and without commitment to social justice and practical compassion for the poor and weak. Consider this passionate example from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Stop bringing meaningless offerings! … I cannot bear your evil assemblies. … They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them … Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.’ (Isaiah 1:11, 13-14, 16-17)”
— Brian D. McLaren, Christian pastor, author and speaker
5. The Founder of Christianity: “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men. …They sit before you as My people … with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness.
“This people draw nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
“Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord”, and do not the things which I say? Not everyone that says unto Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that does the will of My Father which is in Heaven. And then will I profess unto the hypocrites, I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity.”
—The Lord, as per above excerpts from the Bible (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33: 31; Matthew 15: 8, 9; Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21, 23)
It’s been said that Church membership does not make you a Christian any more than owning a piano makes you a musician! And if a person’s faith doesn’t involve helping the poor then maybe that person needs to take a closer look at what their religion teaches. Believers should ask themselves, “How much do the teachings really intersect my life? Do I feel compelled to do something with what I learn from reading my Bible, or from the sermons I hear?”
From another perspective, one ponders how the world at large measures America’s religious values based on the ever-increasing margin between what it says and what it does. America was once known for its mission work to the poor of the world, and U.S. policy likewise reaching out to people on a human level. This was more recently replaced with the War on Terror, which has not exactly resulted in stellar success as far as winning hearts and minds, let alone being interpreted as “Christian” by most of the world’s population.
When America is equated with reaching out to help others internationally, it goes a long ways. Take two examples of large, predominantly Muslim countries, Pakistan and Indonesia:
– The number of Pakistanis with a favorable opinion of the US doubled from 23 percent (in May 2005) to more than 46 percent after earthquake aid was received from America (January 2006).
– At the same time, the number of Pakistanis who disapproved of Osama bin Laden doubled at almost the exact same percentage as those who became favorable to the US.
– The effects of American aid in response to the Pakistani earthquake were clear: 78 percent of Pakistanis said that American aid to earthquake victims has made them favorable to the US – a figure that held even among bin Laden supporters.
– This data from Pakistan is buttressed by similar findings from Indonesia. After the tsunami, 65 percent of Indonesians had a favorable opinion of the US as a direct result of American assistance, while support for terrorism declined in tandem.
Grant Montgomery – Grant’s Rants on American Christianity