Tuesday, August 24, 2010

American Christians Are Wusses

 (From Huw's blog

Increasingly, I think American Christians are weak and fearful.

In Communist countries the persecution is as bad as it ever was. In the Arab countries, where permission is needed to celebrate the Eucharist, Melkite, Orthodox, Baptist and Anglican communities fellowship freely because there is so much hatred that any priest will do – much to the scandal of Americans who want a “pure” church. Christians in Israel put up with Islamist suicide bombers on the one hand and Jewish people stealing their homes on the other, Jewish Soldiers and Islamists shoot at them. Muslims own the holy sites and adjacent land and Israelis can and do close them at will. And we worry about Christmas trees and manger scenes.

We’re distracted with what Wal*Mart employees get to say or do not say in the “holiday season”, yet we forget to feed the poor, visit the prisoner, to offer hospitality in God’s name. We’re terrified of a new mosque being built in out town or city, yet we put more import on rebuilding “touchdown Jesus” than we do on learning how to love like Jesus. We put more concern behind rebuilding a destroyed Church than evangelizing to fill our empty, but already existing Churches.

We confuse ethnic and political battles (both present, and in recent or ancient history – Byzantium, Russia, Turkey) with God’s promises that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. And while we daily relive our resentment about those secular battles, we forget to turn the tables ourselves, asking how, as Americans, we benefit from enslaved Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists in China and Indonesia and India or how we’ve been stealing land from Natives – and continue to harvest profit form the theft.

We confuse our drive for revenge for wrongs imagined against us – or against our recent and ancient ancestors – with preaching the Gospel in our actions, with our very lives. We forget to forgive, pray for and love those we imagine to be our enemies. Instead of forgiving them, we castigate them in the press and on our blogs. We file lawsuits against them. We demand our RIGHTS! We demand JUSTICE! So we call it but what we want is REVENGE.

We confuse attacks against the country in which we accidentally live with attacks against our God. We confuse secular policy with Christian conduct (ie, same-sex marriage, prayer in schools), yet we only do so when it makes us happy (ie, divorce laws) or gives us pride of place – no one seems to want to begin a football game with the Shahada. We don’t want our baseball players yelling “Allahu AKbar” even if they’re Arab-speaking Christians.

Martyrs had their tongues cut out, their intestines spooled on the masts of ships. Martyrs lost their eyes and their hands and their feet. Martyrs were pierced and stoned and shot at. Martyrs were taken from their families, imprisoned, enslaved. We lament the loss of “freedoms” which do nothing for us but distract us from the Gospel.

We have the freedom to do pretty much anything we want, including to hate our neighbour, to despise our fellow Christians, to abandon the historic faith to the left or right (and still call ourselves Christian) and even the freedom to inflict our moral judgement on our neighbours with, in most cases, the blessing of civil authorities so long as it furthers their own political agenda.
Yet we call this persecution.

Let us assume it is, just for a moment. The evolution of marriage laws actually is an attack on our faith. The inability to wear a cross to work actually is a martyrdom. The taking down of manger scenes on public land actually is a state-sponsored oppression. OK, lets say all of this and more is true.

Which of the martyrs ever filed a lawsuit for their rights?
Which of the martyrs ever organised a protest march for their freedoms?
Which of the martyrs ever had petition drives?
Which of the martyrs ever demanded anything of the country in which she happened to live other than the chance to glorify God with the loss of her life?
None of them.

Every one of them “made Eucharist in all things” even the bad things. Every one of them gave glory to God for the chance to glorify God in their life or in their death. Even if all they could do was sit quietly and wait for the soldiers to come and kill them. Some of them – perhaps insane to our eyes – even went out and actively sought persecution to make up for their sins.

But we have no sins here.
We’re afraid, pure and simple.
We’re afraid of losing the one thing Jesus never offered us: power.
We’re afraid of giving up the one thing Satan has distracted the Church with for 1600 years: civic position.

We’re afraid that we won’t be special any more in the eyes of the world. Listen to the Pope and the Orthodox bishops talk about Europe – we do the same thing in the USA. We’re whinging over the loss of the one thing we were never to have – a kingdom in this world. We’re the bullies on the block that suddenly has all the kids in the neighborhood fighting back and we’re scared because maybe we deserve it all.

Sadly, like bullies everywhere, we probably won’t learn our lesson and join the human community as equals: we still want to be special.

37 comments:

Lazarus said...

Thank you for reposting this.

Dianne said...

This is one of the best things I've ever read on Christians and American politics. Preach it.

Allan said...

AMEN!!!

VSO said...

By the words of Macho Man Randy Savage, "OOOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH!!"

matthewmoore said...

Love this post. I've been saying this for a long time, when all the conservative Episcopalians and Lutherans are down in the mouth and claiming to be persecuted: 'Oh? Is the so-called presiding bishop having hooks dragged down your back and burning you in oil?' People need to get off it, for real.

Cameron said...

As I'm wont to do, I started to comment here and ended up writing way too much for your comments section. I think I have a disease. :)

My response is here: http://liveandmove.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/re-american-christians-are-wusses/

s-p said...

Cameron, yours is a worthy dissenting voice. Particularity and generality are strange bedfellows when it comes to "preaching" (and talk radio)... the "choir" is a mixed bag. Huw hit a couple exposed toes on my feet, but the only toes I can talk about are my own. I'd encourage the reader to check out Cameron's response.

Ranger said...

Cameron's IS a great rebuttal. I agree that in many ways we can be seen as weak, but than again not all of us are blessed enough to be faced with true persecution. I think that in some ways Steve is right, but I think it is more of a refocus on what we CAN do, and yes that starts first in our personal lives and parish lives as Christians.

To say that everything political and all political dissent is not productive and contrary to the Gospel is simply not true. My children go to public school, I would love to send them to a private Orthodox school, but A.) I think the nearest one is in the State of Washington and B.)Like I have the money anyways.
Point being, the redefinition of something as profoundly important as Marriage will effect my children's education in many ways, I cannot get around that fact. Does it mean I go out and campaign against something akin to Prop 8, no, it actually means that in my private conversations with those who support the redefinition of marriage I advocate for civil unions. Why, because it is not calling something what it isn't and it does protect the rights of those who have chosen that lifestyle, without infringing upon mine.
Yes, some of the things we do are counterproductive, and no, I never plan on joining the tea party movement, but there are practical solutions to so many issues, that DO affect not just us, but our kids and grandkids, and YES, I will gladly fight for them anytime I am given a chance.

Chris

J.D. said...

Does anyone know the Greek word for Wuss? Just curious.

Symeon said...

To J.D.:
according to the Google translation from English to Greek, the translation for "Wuss" in Greek is "Wuss".

J.D, said...

Symeon, I was afraid of that. I was desperately hoping it was "oompah". Thanks for the research.

Melanie said...

I'm not sure that I understand that thesis of this post, but it won't be the first time that something is over my head! The point, based on the title, seems to be that Americans are cowards, so what are "we" being cowardly about? It makes it sound that we should be out there protesting, standing up for our beliefs and making our voice heard in an uncowardly way, yet the author then goes on to say that the martyrs did no such thing. Confused. Cameron you are spot on!

MR said...

The same conclusion dawned on me last year when I heard two gents on Christian radio discussing the healthcare debate. They said "Obamacare may "force" a Christian doctor to perform an abortion. Can you imagine?! What is he to do?" How about he quits? Namby pamby...

Huw Raphael said...

@Ranger:

Political dissent is not beyond our means. In fact, I'd like to see more of it! But we seem to be afraid of the cost.

One would rather file a lawsuit, backed with a lot of expensive lawyers and maybe some Fox news coverage than accept discomfort (firing, etc) for the name of Christ.

If saying "Merry Christmas" is somehow important to your faith, then say it. Period. Don't send out a press release!

Somewhere, when we start to try to push our rights over those of others, I think we're crossing the line beyond "turn the other cheek".

Regardless of our tactics in dealing with such things, though, as I tried to point out in my post, when we start to call such things "persecution", I think our Spiritual Fathers and Mothers, not to mention our living brothers and sisters in many parts of the world have a right to point at us and laugh.

s-p said...

I've always thought that the quest to keep America a "Christian nation" and all the rhetoric and fringe elements that go into it (from "God hates fags" to the Aryan Nation) set up an illusion that if we can keep the legal and power structure and politicians "on our side" it will somehow "save" (or at least make it easier to save) us, our kids, our neighbor or our nation. Seldom do we consider who we are crucifying in order to "save our place and our nation" (look it up). No laws make me a Christian and no laws keep me from being one. Certain political hot button laws (like against abortion and same sex unions) are merely the symptoms of a philosophical sickness and battle that was lost decades ago for the mind of the culture. The cure is evangelism, not legislation, being a Christian to one's neighbor, not enacting laws that everyone who wants to "sin" is already ignoring anyway (for example, almost all states had "sodomy laws" but that didn't stop the "gay tide" nor did abortion laws keep women from getting abortions, at least not in my high school in the 60's). I think MR is right. One of the arguments against same sex unions by Christians is the trickle down effect: if a Church refuses to perform a gay marriage then the IRS might be able to yank its tax exempt status. This is similar to the Massachussets Catholic Adoption center closing after 100 years because the state was forcing it to qualify and adopt to gay couples. Well, the issue is money, not being Christians. The answer is not to close the doors it is to be a Christian even if it costs you money. Stop taking United Way, State and Federal support and step up and pay the bill out of Christian's pockets to stay in business. Economic persecution of Christians is nothing new in history. For sure Christians can vote and run for office etc. to keep "our views" and moral lifestyles somewhat in the face of our culture (at what expense?), but ultimately our laws do not keep ME from being a Christian even if they jack up the cost of it. Persecution is not being told to remove your gold, diamond studded cross necklace at work. Its getting your neck removed because you act like a Christian who crucifies himself daily. No lawsuit to get you the right to wear your Christian jewelry will convince anyone at work you are a Christian.

Dianne said...

s-p, a great comment following up on a great post. To add a little observation to your point about the possibility that churches might get their tax-exempt status yanked, besides my agreement with you that we shouldn't expect such benefits from the government anyway: I think all the hand-wringing over the notion that clergy will be "persecuted" for not blessing gay marriages is a big red herring.

Currently, clergy refuse to marry couples all the time for many reasons, and it's not a matter for legal action. I don't think anyone has a legal right to be married in any church. Clergy may exercise discretion in this, as they do, say, when they won't marry a couple who show a lack of readiness for marriage in the pastor's opinion, or the couple is openly disobeying the church's teachings, or anything at all. Even if the pastor is acting like a jerk or being unreasonably discriminatory in some of these cases, he's not breaking the law, because the state has no say in how the church decides to perform its rites.

Huw Raphael said...

S-P, you said:

"Well, the issue is money, not being Christians. The answer is not to close the doors it is to be a Christian even if it costs you money. Stop taking United Way, State and Federal support and step up and pay the bill out of Christian's pockets to stay in business."

In this we are 100% in agreement. I don't think the State of MA forced the Roman community out of the adoption business. Someone else will fill that gap posthaste. I think the Romans backed out b/c they couldn't make enough money to support themselves.

Sate support for Churches is always a quid pro quo. Even our tax exempt status is suspect in this regard and I would that Churches would return their certs and get on with being Churches.

In this, I know, I'm a bit radical so I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I would love a church that was free of serious economic ties to the state to be able to freely live the gospel and, unlike Ancient Roman Virtues, I think there is much in American culture we'd have to reject - and we'd be free to reject outright.

oruaseht said...

"The cure is evangelism, not legislation" --- EXCELLENT quote!

David Lindblom said...

Well, to be harsh, the same could be said about the Orthodox in Russia and Muslim countries. Where the early church exploded in population when under persecution the Orthodox in communist Russia and the Muslim countries shrunk to almost nothing. Are they wusses too?

s-p said...

David, I'm not sure the Orthodox situation under Islam and Communism is apples to apples with our current religious/cultural climate. When America can lay claim to millions of Christians being murdered and we show up for Church on Sunday and find our priest/pastor crucified on the front doors, then I think we have a talking point about who is a wuss.

Ranger said...

Huw and S-P
I agree. My point was more along the lines of non-political dissent. Common-sense in the market-place of ideas so to speak.

David- The Orthodox in Russia far from disappeared. Immediately following the toppling of the Iron Curtain, it is said that there were 80 million practicing Orthodox in Russia, and I believe that number has increased in recent years.

Roxanne said...

I have nothing to say except that you said it already.

David Lindblom said...

You know, I actually agree w/ most of what was said in the original article. I've even made the same points myself over the years. I guess I was in a mood or something. I apologize for what I said, it was wrong. Thank you for posting this...and I just proved that American Christians can not only be wusses but buttheads too!

River Cocytus said...

I think it goes without saying that you don't act to cause yourself suffering, but if it comes you must accept it.

Judgments aside Steve, it remains to be seen if American Christians are wusses or not. We may yet see if they are or not; but seeing how even the devout Orthodox tended to fair against the depredations of the Communists, I'd rather see it continue as it is.

There is enough suffering in the world, to not ask for more. If this makes American Christians cowards, it makes peoples across the world cowards too - the difference is we have a better situation. The difference between a brave and wise refugee and a coward is often just a generation. I would also prefer that gay marriage does not become a reality nor abortions become more prevalent and so forth, but I have long accepted that the federal government itself has become a tyrant, mad and syphilitic like George the third. The point of democracy these days is less to draw on the wisdom of the common man or the landowner (they no longer exist) but to spread the blame for failures.

My supposition is that this article is mainly a shot against conservative Christians (particularly 'right-wingers') and their so-called 'culture war'. On the one hand it is, in comparison to much of what is happening in the world, kind of a farce, involving no death or threats thereof and so forth. But then, this is a good thing if we can argue about abortion and gay marriage without blowing one another up or forcibly settling each other's land.

As an aside, It doesn't follow automatically that if we as a nation suffered more we'd be more holy or brave. I think it's obvious that it would provide a chance for holiness that we may not be experiencing, but it also might provide a chance for greater debauchery and evil.

I think that in particular on this issue we've totally over-thought it. Perhaps our constant food of dramatic shows and stories has made us think that only in crisis does life have meaning.

s-p said...

River, "Perhaps our constant food of dramatic shows and stories has made us think that only in crisis does life have meaning." That is profound. Most media survives on reporting, discussing, portraying crisis. St. Paul tells us to pray for all so that we may live a peaceful life, so no, "drama" is not the goal of the Christian life and creating it often gives people a sense of purpose and meaning because they don't see "ordinary life" as a blessed state of existence and purposeful in itself. When I listen to "Christian radio" I find it disturbing the number of people who have created organizations and profiting on the "crises" the Christian community creates and they promote in the courts and political arena. But that's another issue...

J.D. said...

David--go to the front of (my) class
River--good objective stuff
S-P--"Christian Radio" yuckyit yuckity yuck, barf (in general).

orrologion said...

The prophecy of Elder Ignaty of Harbin: "What began in Russia will end in America."

But, of course, we haven't experienced that type of persecution, at least not yet - unless one includes the more insidious kind of acidic, materialistic erosion of spiritual sensitivity.

JCS said...

Sorry but I don't understand. I don't think there is any persecuted Christian (or persecuted Buddhist for that matter) anywhere who would come to this country and live in this freedom and religious tolerance and then yearn to be back in their home country where they can't even get a good night's sleep because of the constant fear.

Of COURSE American Christians are "wusses" - by that standard. If you don't want to be a "wuss," why are you still living here instead of moving to Cuba or China?

You paint with rather a wide brush. There is no lack of people (Christian or not) who care for the poor in this country. Heck! We have set up entire systems to take care of our poor through the state and on top of that there are countless non-profits (both religious and non-religious) that tend to the needs of others. And to add to that there are countless millions every day who without notice offer sacrifices of love to the hungry and poor.

Your assessment is as accurate as any liberal news broadcast. The whole point of the meek is that they don't seek recognition. Your failure to recognize them speaks volumes.

Thank God that all we have to worry about is Christmas trees and manger scenes rather than bullets and bombs.

Jesus (and others like him) simply lived "simply" and demonstrated the heart of God where he was. Do you really think that having a decent job and loving the people at your place of work just as Jesus did is of less value than living in Calcutta and caring for the poorest of the poor? Is buying diapers and food for a struggling neighbor less laudable than casting out demons?

This post and all comments are closer to the heart of Limbaugh or Prager than to the heart of Christ.

J.D. said...

JCS, I have to assume you are a Methodist right?

Huw Raphael said...

JCS - you make my point with far far less words and yet, happily, just as much acidity:

Thank God that all we have to worry about is Christmas trees and manger scenes rather than bullets and bombs.

I could have saved my self a morning of blogging with that sentence!

S-P - while I don't normally like whole-cloth importing of my posts, I'm thankful you did: this is a great discussion.

I suggest those who worry about the generality of my post take a look at the conversation at Cameron's blog. where he and I seem to have come to an agreement on this.

Y'all have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

Baptists and Anglicans? Priests?!?

JCS said...

It literally grieves me that you read any acidity into my comments just as it grieves me when one condemns his brethren for any reason. Why is it so important to any of you to compare "American Christians" (as if all Americans who call themselves Christians are the same or actually would be recognized as Christians by any of the originators of the faith) to anyone else? Do you also lump all blacks and Latinos thus? Why is one considered being "racist" (and therefore bad) and yet there is no outrage against lumping all "American Christians" together?

It was my understanding that you Christians have been commanded not to judge at all - lest you too be judged.

It breaks my heart to see so much self-righteousness and "right-ness" among those who claim to follow the one who was filled with Joy, mercy, and a love that is unfathomable even today. Those who live in that Joy, mercy and love would have no thought to classify people thus and condemn them as we see here.

Jesus never went looking for a fight. Nor did he have any political commentary to offer. Indeed, like a lamb to the slaughter he did not open his mouth when he was being tortured and murdered. And among the few words that he did speak were "Father forgive them" on behalf of those who were unrepentant and who thought that they were serving God but who did not have the Father's heart.

How can anyone sing "Amazing love, How can it be, That though my God shouldst die for me?" and then come out into the world and condemn his brothers like this while others cheer him on?

Indeed, I should very much like to know your definition of "Christian." Seems to me that you are not talking about those who are imitating Christ but rather those who have joined some club named after him.

s-p said...

JCS, "Jesus never went looking for a fight"... and yet He was indeed crucified for calling out the Scribes and Pharisees, cleansing the Temple, insulting the High Priest, criticizing the religio-social culture of His day etc. Today we celebrated the beheading of St. John the Forerunner who called out Herod and followed in the footsteps of the Prophets whom the Jews murdered for their criticism of the culture of their day. Not all prophetic voices are "unloving judgmentalism", disguised racism and prejudices etc. Sometimes the shoe just fits. If it does not fit you, thank God. It fit me and I judge no one elses' feet.

I believe it was Isaiah who condemned the false prophets, "You heal the wound of my people slightly saying, 'Peace, peace' where there is no peace."

I am not elevating Huw to the rank of prophet, nor am I denigrating your call to "love", I'm just saying BOTH are "Christ-like" and it is wisdom that validates whether one or the other is the spiritual, correct and healing response to a situation.

JCS said...

That's not why he was crucified. He was crucified for claiming equality with God. Blasphemy was his crime.

I disagree with your assessment of "calling them out."

It took me a long time to reconcile this idea that he was "calling out" or bagging on the pharisees while at all other times he was showing compassion and mercy to the "sinners" until I realized that this was not at all what he was doing. He was simply speaking to them in the only language that they could understand and that could move their hardened hearts. And yet his ultimate purpose for even the Pharisees was to see them repent - not in some slavish manner after much brow-beating but with the same sense of awe at the incredible heart of the Father that others saw. There was no need to say the words "Father forgive them" except as a witness to those very men that you say he was "calling out."

If the teacher says and lives "pray for those who persecute you," "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies" then his words and actions that seem to be "calling them out" have to be weighed with those motives in mind. And until you or I live as he lived, love as he loved, and truly have the heart of God, we have no business calling anyone out lest we do it from wrong motives.

Show me a man or woman who freely forgives, who with a word casts out demons, who heals the sick, and who sends the person caught in their sin off with an "I don't accuse you either" on his/her lips and I will show you a man or woman who does not say things like "American Christians are Wusses" or cheer for those who do make such statements but rather over at such.

JCS said...

...but rather over at such...

...but rather weeps over such things.

s-p said...

JCS, Personally, I agree with everything you say except "Blasphemy was His crime", it was the charge and when it wouldn't stick they resorted to politics. The High Priest and Sanhedrin met and their explicit concern was not blasphemy but was "The whole world is following Him, if we do not stop Him the Romans will come and take away our status and our nation." But that's hermenuetics, and not the point here... I assume the higher motive of Huw and "the others", that they are not casting stones but looking toward the repentance of sinners, including themselves. I extend to you the same judgment. If someone is self-righteously calling for blood, then your voice is prophetic to them. Jeremiah wept, Jesus wept. We need to be sure we are weeping over the right things too, and if we are not weeping for our own sins we have no true place weeping over everyone elses'.

JCS said...

Good points. I'd offer, though, that we have no business even evaluating anyone else's sins until we are perfectly imitating God. And once we are perfectly imitating God, we will find that we have no thought toward finding fault - only in drawing people into the heart of God. The world is not in need of a Jeremiah or Isaiah or Jonah. It is need of Christs who live among the sinners, who often slip away to pray, who meet the needs of each individual, who have no thought of political commentary, who and who live out the unfathomable love of God.

It has always dumbfounded me when I read the account of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus never forgave that woman - though she was caught in the very act. Her accusers dispersed, beginning with the oldest, because they were made aware that they were not without sin.

When they were gone, Jesus did not say, "Your sins are forgiven you" but rather "I don't accuse you."

Pause a moment and think about that.

Hold on. I know you are already formulating an answer. But think about it for a good 30 seconds.

I know to the core of my being that to accept the facts of this case as they are stated will tell you everything that needs to be known about the heart of God.

Some will say that this "I don't accuse you" was a form of forgiveness. That is not a rational conclusion. A judge does not dismiss a case and then file a ruling on it.

Others will say that the woman was repentant even though she never asked forgiveness. Who knows? She was certainly terrified. But what does that matter? Even if she had been begging for forgiveness, who would have expected "I don't accuse you at all. Go your way and don't sin anymore"?

This is too much for the Christian mind to accept, though. "There has to be forgiveness." Really? Then explain this account. What if he had told a child molester "I don't accuse you. Go your way and sin no more"? Would a Christian rejoice or be outraged? (or does one think that this woman cheating on her husband affected no one but herself?)

Being a former Christian, I find these things difficult to discuss with Christians and am constantly amazed at the Christian portrayal of God. Still, I keep looking, hoping to find someone whose heart is actually akin to Christ's. For I find that seeking God is not a one-time deal. One does not find God and then relax. Rather, when we seek God truly, we find Him in all the most unlikely places. And each time we find Him, it's a joy! One that compels us to keep looking so we can find him some more.