According to the Barna Research Group, 75 percent of Americans believe the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves.”
Try again, America. The actual author of that quotation is Benjamin Franklin. Feel free to check your Bibles, but I am fairly certain you will not find a gospel according to Benjamin Franklin.
The overwhelming majority of the U.S. citizens self-identify as Christians. That is, they profess a belief in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures. Maybe I am jumping out on a limb here, but I would also assume these same people would agree that Jesus Christ is the ultimate model for leading a Christian life. With that in mind, please consider the following few examples of problems in this Christian-majority nation:
Year in and year out, we are constantly arguing about the amount of taxes each person and social class should be made to pay and even the validity of government taxation. While about 18 percent of all children in the United States live in poverty (y’know … hungry, without proper health care, etc.), the Washington bigwigs are arguing over whether or not to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Now, I am all for people enjoying the money they earn, but when the decision comes down to feeding hungry kids or giving a wealthy person a larger check so that he or she can buy a bigger yacht, should that even be a question?
Do not misunderstand me, this is not an argument in favor of a theocracy either. Dear Lord, that’s probably the last thing we need. It simply seems that if more than 80 percent of American citizens are Christians, as surveys have shown repeatedly, we should not have such a poverty gap between the rich and poor, and we should not force politicians to make decisions that appease fat cat campaign donors but send children into the streets to live.
We are a nation of gluttons. I think that by now everyone’s familiar with the super-size phenomenon, and I can certainly remember the old Dr. Pepper commercials that said, “Give me more, more, more of that Dr. Pepper taste.” However, the problem is not confined to food. The need for “more, more, more” pervades all aspects of our society.
It is unusual to find an American that does not have dreams of driving a nice car, owning a big house and holding a high-paying job. Raised in the culture of the “American Dream,” it’s almost impossible to not dream of those things.
Desiring these things is not a bad thing in and of itself. It is when this desire overwhelms you and the want is never satisfied that it becomes problematic. There will always be houses that are bigger than yours, cars that are fancier than yours and jobs that are better than yours. If the American population would focus more on making sure that everyone had a house, job and means of transportation, then we might be closer to fulfilling the goals that Christ set before those that want to follow him.
In all of my political exploits, I cannot recall encountering a single person who does not think all children should have access to health care, or a person who seriously believes the physically disabled should be left out in the cold to fend for themselves. Indeed, it is unconscionable to even suggest it. Why then is the U.S. plagued by problems like this?
Mostly, we are too self-absorbed to even think about the problems that others face. Maybe this does not seem like a huge problem to you, but this truth should send up red flags for any Christian who has given the Bible even a cursory read-through. Remember that part about loving thy neighbor as thyself? I think that Jesus was pretty serious about that.
The bottom line is that for being a self-proclaimed Christian nation, we suck at imitating Christ-at least the Christ depicted in the Gospels. Maybe we have come to a day and age where the Christ that we Christians actually follow is also known as Mr. Moneybags.
I will be the first to admit I am not doing a good job of following Christ’s example. For example, when I get my tax refund check, I am already halfway to the store to upgrade to a nicer iPod instead of donating the money to the United Way. One example from the life that I am familiar enough with (from leading one of my own) that I could indict it in the preceding paragraphs.
Talk is cheap. Ultimately, Christians are going to have to make a decision here: either we can start feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and sheltering the homeless, or we can petition the various researchers to add “Hypocrite” as a category under the heading “Religious Affiliation” in order to more accurately categorize ourselves in these surveys.