It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything. The truth is I’ve started three different blog posts, got half way through them, got stuck, and started another one. Now here I am, three unfinished blog posts later, and I came to the realization that all three posts actually kind of go together! So I decided to re-work them a little and make them into a series about Christian culture in America. I’ve been writing about my frustrations with the church in America for quite some time now. So I decided to just sit down and get it all out so we can all move on from it and on to better conversations. So this post, and the next three will be my definitive survey on American Christianity and my own thoughts on the matter. I hope you enjoy it. Though if you are fully immersed in American Christian culture and love it, you’ll probably hate me for these blog posts.
(The irony of that last sentence will become more clear in the last post of this series.)
American Christianity 101
Americans are really good at branding everything as “American.” We take things from other cultures and make it our own. We have Italian food in America, but it’s American-Italian food. We do this with everything in America.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like other countries kinda have their own culture. I’m not dumb, though. I know all culture is borrowed elements from other cultures. But other cultures are much older than America, so I just feel like their culture is more legitimate than ours. But we don’t just borrow elements from other cultures; as Americans, we butcher elements from other cultures. It’s almost as if we, as a country, have a mission to tell the world that we are Americans and no one can tell us how to do things. We just seem to have a strong sense of arrogance and pride that other countries don’t have…except for maybe France..But that’s another conversation.
If America butchers every element of culture it takes, then it is no wonder we would take Christianity and dramatically alter it from it’s older state. We took ancient traditions and either changed them or threw them out all together. We took it’s message and rewrote it to fit our ideas of life, love, and happiness. We took it’s Jesus and used white-out on the parts of Him that challenged our success, and emboldened the parts that encouraged our condemnation of others. All the while, we forgot what Christianity is…or isn’t. But this is how culture works in America, and in many parts of the world. It’s not so much a localized problem as much as it’s a human problem. We can’t help but be very self-centered, so we are very preservation-minded and make sure that anything we commit ourselves to is looking out for us. This doesn’t jive well with most of what the Bible says, what Jesus says, what the Father says, what Paul says, or what the disciples say. That means we cut out A LOT of the Bible in the name of the American dream, and even add to it our own empty ideals and phrases and call it our “interpretation.” But this is a problem. And it’s a problem we have to acknowledge before we go any further so that we can know where we are starting from in this critique and survey of American Christianity.
*Speaking The Language 101
In our progression as the church, we have lost the meaning of many of our commonly used words and phrases in the church. The reality is that with the introduction of the “heaven and hell framework” that became such a central theme of Christianity for so many years. This framework worked within the confines of a very guilt ridden faith. Though I believe there are very genuine people with good hearts and intentions within this framework, the reality is that they were misled by manipulation that caused them to misunderstand much of the language from the Bible that was misinterpreted through this lens. Words like salvation, saved, sacrifice, redeemer, redemption, righteousness, repentance, mercy, sin, forgiveness, born again, second coming, God, Jesus, and even Bible have all been vastly misinterpreted over the years. I’d also include to this list the words creed, Lord’s Prayer, and especially liturgies.
The list could go on…
We will explore many of these words and how they are misunderstood in future posts of this series. But this is a bit of an introduction to the language that will hopefully get you thinking and considering that maybe even you have misunderstood the meaning and intentions behind some of these words, as spoken/written by the writers of Scripture. (ah! Scripture is another word.)
The Christian Life 101
When we look at American Christianity and are able to understand that maybe we don’t actually know what the Christian life looks like, we begin a journey into faith, love, and Jesus that can have an amazing effect on who we are. If we are able to shed the cultural standards we put on ourselves and come to Jesus humble, naked, and hungry, we will see a very different Jesus than we were taught in Sunday school. We will experience a very different faith than we may have been pressured into at an altar call or a crusade revival, and we will know a very different God than the one that is expressed in the hearts and minds of today’s American Christian leaders that often have a very sinister agenda behind their “gospel”.
Maybe it’s time we all consider that we don’t actually know anything, and start over. Maybe it’s time we look at Christianity with fresh eyes and start asking those questions we were discouraged from asking in church when we were kids. Maybe its time we regain our child-like sensibilities and start asking why? In the next few weeks, I hope we can all come to the table and ask why together.
What is your experience with American Christianity? Is there anything you’ve noticed that seems to be a little off from the Bible in a church you’ve been to? Or maybe something a fellow Christian or pastor has said? Tell all in the comments below! I’d love to hear your story! (PLEASE NO NAMES OF CHURCHES OR PEOPLE! Thanks!)
*Marcus J. Borg wrote a book called “Speaking Christian”. This book explores the reality that Christian words have lost their meaning over time in America, and thus their power and authority as well. But his book argues that they are not too far gone that they can’t be redeemed. The section “Speaking The Language 101” pulled a lot from his book, while being intertwined with my own thoughts on the matter. I just didn’t want to take credit for all of it.