Dear Christian Nation (continued):
The other day I pulled up one of the large, mainstream news sites (probably to check on how Paris Hilton is doing) and was greeted with the headline of the moment, something about the economy being healthy because American spending is strong. Now, I’ve probably seen a hundred similar headlines over the years, but this time it really struck me what it was they were saying: we judge the health of our country by how much we spend.
Now, I took economics in one of the handful of colleges I passed through, and I understand the basics. I know about GNPs and Trade Deficits and why it’s occasionally necessary to help overthrow a government or two if it helps our economic stability. I understand the Fed (actually, as my Econ Prof told us, “no one understands the Fed”) and interest rates and how in a free market system, it is the movement of cash that is the foundation of our economy.
And, it’s not just the basics. It’s not just about buying essentials, like affordable housing, food and clothing. No, it’s about buying bigger homes, SUVs, 40 pairs of shoes and gluttonous amounts of junk food. It’s large screen TVs, Xbox 360s and thousand-gig iPods. It’s crap, most of it. Seriously. Does it really add to the quality of your life? Well, yes, perhaps it does; but that’s really beside the point.
Now, tell me this: What does buying stuff have to do with being a Christian nation? What fruit of the Spirit does spending come under? Or is being able to buy cool stuff the real point of Jesus’ parable of the Talents? How did “give us this day our daily bread” grow into, “and a really hot stock portfolio?”
If America was really a Christian nation, wouldn’t we measure the strength of our economy on how much we were able to give to third-world countries? (By the way, that’s “give” as in assistance, not by building up a military presence.) Wouldn’t that, in fact, be one of our primary goala?
I think I’ve already established that we’re not a Christian nation. The real issue, however, is this: as Christians living in this so-called great nation, what are we called to do? If we believe in the Sermon on the Mount, if we believe in having “the mind of Christ” and reflecting the glory of God to the world, what should we do? Voting Republican is not enough; for that matter, it may not even be relevant.
We’ve got to stop imagining that America is the Promised Land and that the Kingdom of God starts here. As I’ve mentioned, America isn’t mentioned in the Bible. American can be a blessing to the world; we all know we can afford it, and that there are places that need (as opposed to want) it. And, it’s not just about evangelism; we’ve got to remember the words of Jesus:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35, 36, 40
Let’s stop pretending to be a Christian nation, and just start trying to be Christians.
The part you quote on Matthew 25 was one of the most important passages of the Bible for me when I was a Christian; and it seemed to me as a Catholic a section that was a better guide for our religion than the constant activism on so-called pro-life issues.
I find myself guilty of a deal of envy that I don’t have some of the things that other people have, but I have learned that it would be silly to value myself on what I have. People at my Dad’s birthday party were asking me how I was doing and I could respond “I feel emotionally and intellectually far richer than I ever have been, even if my checkbook makes me feel poor.”
There is so much more to life than stuff. And some of it is very fun to have; I know, I have indulged when i could. But it never really adds to to anything more than temporary happiness in its new stage. Soon everything ages and we need new “stuff.”