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Sunday, February 07, 2010

American Hypocrisy

You probably missed this a few years ago. The Times of London, a reputable tabloid (if there is such a thing) based in the United Kingdom, reported on a study of the relationship between religion and societal health. The headline read, "Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side.'" (Read the article at

Essentially, the story isn't too blatant about it, but generally points to the failure of morality in America. Let's look at a few examples that have been cited in this respect. (Let' see if what they're saying about us is true.)

During the presidency of George W. bush, who asserted his Christianity, taxes were slashed on the very rich, millions more people were allowed to fall into poverty, staggering debts were passed on to future generations, Medicare and Medicaid for the elderly and poor were cut, and a questionable war was launched. these are antithetical to the teachings of Christ.

The U.S. (as I've blogged before) has the highest incarceration rate in the world. A 2003 Justice Dept. report found that about one in 37 adults living in the U.S. have either been in prison or were in prison (at the time of the study). That ratio, according to the U.S. Justice Dept., is at least 25% higher than any other nation on earth. A 2003 report to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said that the U.S. "now locks up its citizens at a rate 5-8 times that of industrial nations to which we are most similar, Canada and Western Europe."

An academic, cross-national study of the correlations of societal health with religion and secularism (referenced above) pointed to a striking contrast between the U.S. and other democratic nations (which aren't so religious). In America, it said, "a strong majority believe that religion is beneficial for society and for individuals." In the other developed democracies, however, religion continues to decline precipitously and avowed atheists often win high office.

What is so striking about this particular study is that the negative correlation between religion and societal health is unmistakable. "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies." The report concluded that, "the most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies and always scores poorly on the basic measures of societal health."

What are these people saying? They're saying that the U.S., as the world's wealthiest nation - with some of the worst social conditions, is therefore least efficient western nation in terms of converting wealth into cultural and physical health. In other words, their view is that wealth should translate into better cultural, societal and physical health. That it doesn't seems to point to a vast problem (at least in the experts' opinion).

So here's the thing. According to other studies I've read, something like 85% of the people in America profess to be Christians. But that appears to have little impact on how they live. In fact, in nations where the ratio (of Christians) goes the other direction, the behavior of the people is notably better. They live more modestly, are more disciplined and generally make a more positive impact on the rest of the world around them. What's up with that?

I've always been frustrated myself with the televangelists who tell people that, "All you have to do is say this simple little prayer and ask Jesus to come into your heart." Seriously, when I hear that I want to scream. It is a lie. That is not "all you have to do!" In fact, there is considerably more that you must do.

For starters, when you become a Christian, you have to change your priorities. You have to change your playground and your playmates. You have to give everything up - including your free will - and surrender it to the lordship of Jesus Christ. And you have to love and serve others sacrificially. Honestly, the list goes on. Christians are supposed to look markedly different than the world around them. If all you do is say the simple prayer, this blogger believes you will simply become a hypocrite.

One author I read stated it rather well, I think. He said, "(American) Christians are sayers and not doers. It is because they have been persuaded by the religious leaders in America that if they say they accept Jesus, what they do doesn't really matter. There is little to motivate them to act on behalf of others if they think there is already a spot saved for them in Heaven."

He continued, saying, "I know many Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, as well as many agnostics and atheists who are far better followers of the teachings of Jesus than are vast numbers of people who call themselves Christians." Ouch! That hurts!

And there it is. The condemnation of morality in America. Despite the fact that I think this author is a heretic himself. Despite the fact that there's much he says which I don't agree with. I know what he was saying is true. I know many of those same people myself.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the evidence and see that many more people who don't believe in Jesus Christ live more like Jesus than the people who do say they believe in Jesus Christ.

So, American churches and religious leaders - what are we going to do about that?

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