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08 July 2010

How Do European Christians Perceive American Christians?

Another opinion essay that I found.  This one I found particularly amusing/enlightening.  I have never been theist in my life, but I have traveled a great deal.  And in all my travels, I have found that pretty much everyone has a rather concerned opinion of the US christian right movement.  There is a reason that they are compared to the Taliban so often (NOT Al Queda, which is a different organization with different methods...).

The Taliban is an anti-modern, strictly religious political organization intent on having everyone follow their crazy mix of shaira law and Pashtun tribal codes.  The US christian movement?  Well, they seem intent on having people adhere to a view that the earth is 6000 years old, and are supposed to hate the people they hate.  At least with the Taliban, they are up front and honest in their goals and crazy.  The crazy we get from the US christians is insidious through the school boards and politics.  Particularly political activism that they could care less about those who don't adhere to their beliefs would be subject to...

So, this opinion essay was one that I found interesting:
One of the signs that American Christianity is as much defined by American political and economic ideology as it is by anything "Christian" is the degree to which American Christianity differs from Christianity in other nations. European Christians for example -- including European evangelicals -- sometimes look upon American Christianity with a mix of horror and disbelief. They just don't understand how Christianity can come to look like it does here.

An ex-Christian writes about conversation he had with a French Christian who may be becoming an ex-Christian -- in part because of his bad experiences with American Christianity:
Top on his list: the confluence of faith and politics, maliciously attempted social engineering and the obsession with power and influence.

He simply could not understand how the American Church had taken something so deeply personal and introspective, and turned it into a daily public spectacle. The desire for personal piety had been transformed into a need to impose and ensure the piety of others, whether they believed it or not.

In his view, these were the tenets of theocracy. American Christians had taken the ideals of liberty and freedom for granted; looking to foist their particular expression of liberty on those simply trying to exercise the very same right.

Yet, this is what happens when one becomes engrossed in a myopic culture that takes an all or nothing view of truth, and as a result, any semblance of humility is thrown straight out the window.

At the end of the day, I believe that this stubborn certitude and general lack of humility is what has become so incredibly off-putting to so many of my generation. In the land of the liberty and religious freedom, the faith of the supposedly meek and humble has become the billy club of the oligarchical and the hegemonic.

Source: Diary of a Beleaver
I'm not sure that "certitude" is necessarily off-putting. Confidence can actually be a lot more attractive than being so "humble" that you no longer look like you definitely stand for something. Certitude isn't necessarily a problem, but certitude combined with constantly being wrong is. Lack of humility isn't great but not necessarily a killer; a lack of humility in the face of constantly being wrong is.

And it's clear that conservative, evangelical Christianity is constantly wrong -- but I'm not even talking about theological matters. I'm talking about political matters: wrong about their opposition to gay rights and gay marriage, wrong about their opposition to contraception, wrong about their opposition to women's equality, wrong about their anti-environmentalism, etc.

Younger generations are recognizing how wrong conservative evangelical leaders are on all these political issues and I wonder if this is leading them to ask harder questions about the theological issues as well. It's reasons to ask how the evangelical leaders could be so right in their religious claims when they get so much so wrong in their political claims. This is one of the problems with combining religion and politics from the religious perspective: political error and political corruption all reflect back on religion. It leads to unnecessary alienation and dissatisfaction -- in other words, it leads to a massive "own goal."

Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

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