Thursday, August 18, 2005

Woe Unto You That Are Rich

"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," writes Bill McKibben, in Harper's. "Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife."

Every Sunday School teacher knows this (and unlike a lot of "Christians" in the public arena, McKibben is a Methodist Sunday School teacher, as well a a writer and environmentalist). But his point isn't merely that the 85% of Americans who call themselves Christian often know little or nothing of what their purported faith teaches. It is that, as a nation, we routinely make choices that are explicitly opposed to the values of the Gospel, in our personal lives as well as our political ones.

For example: "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." Yes, his definition of "the Gospel" is a little reductive, and certainly works-based. But show me your works, as St. James says.

The link only gets you an excerpt. But do yourself a favor: go to a newsstand and but the magazine (August, 2005 issue). It also features a too-scary-for-words piece on the stolen election and our servile press.

1 comment:

Ben Daniel said...

I've been xeroxing McKibben's piece and handing it out at church. It's that good.