America - Christian Paradox

America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior.

This article really summed up a lot of my feelings about what is wrong with that vast majority of Americans that call themselves Christians. I wish I had Harper's to read it in its entirety, but instead I will just quote a huge swath of it here:

Christ was pretty specific about what he had in mind for his followers. What if we chose some simple criterion�say, giving aid to the poorest people�as a reasonable proxy for Christian behavior? After all, in the days before his crucifixion, when Jesus summed up his message for his disciples, he said the way you could tell the righteous from the damned was by whether they�d fed the hungry, slaked the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, and visited the prisoner. What would we find then?

In 2004, as a share of our economy, we ranked second to last, after Italy, among developed countries in government foreign aid. Per capita we each provide fifteen cents a day in official development assistance to poor countries. And it�s not because we were giving to private charities for relief work instead. Such funding increases our average daily donation by just six pennies, to twenty-one cents. It�s also not because Americans were too busy taking care of their own; nearly 18 percent of American children lived in poverty (compared with, say, 8 percent in Sweden). In fact, by pretty much any measure of caring for the least among us you want to propose�childhood nutrition, infant mortality, access to preschool�we come in nearly last among the rich nations, and often by a wide margin. The point is not just that (as everyone already knows) the American nation trails badly in all these categories; it�s that the overwhelmingly Christian American nation trails badly in all these categories, categories to which Jesus paid particular attention. And it�s not as if the numbers are getting better: the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported last year that the number of households that were �food insecure with hunger� had climbed more than 26 percent between 1999 and 2003.

This Christian nation also tends to make personal, as opposed to political, choices that the Bible would seem to frown upon. Despite the Sixth Commandment, we are, of course, the most violent rich nation on earth, with a murder rate four or five times that of our European peers. We have prison populations greater by a factor of six or seven than other rich nations (which at least should give us plenty of opportunity for visiting the prisoners). Having been told to turn the other cheek, we�re the only Western democracy left that executes its citizens, mostly in those states where Christianity is theoretically strongest. Despite Jesus� strong declarations against divorce, our marriages break up at a rate�just over half�that compares poorly with the European Union�s average of about four in ten. That average may be held down by the fact that Europeans marry less frequently, and by countries, like Italy, where divorce is difficult; still, compare our success with, say, that of the godless Dutch, whose divorce rate is just over 37 percent. Teenage pregnancy? We�re at the top of the charts. Personal self-discipline�like, say, keeping your weight under control? Buying on credit? Running government deficits? Do you need to ask?

1 Response to America - Christian Paradox

  1. Virginia says:

    The article is right on. I can send you a copy of the full article if you email me your address.

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