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What does it mean to be Christian in America post-Katrina?

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09/05/2005

This is a long article addressing what is going on in the here and now. No apologies offered for its length.

It is also the first in a series which will make a closer examination of what it means to be Christian in America at this point in time.

As I write this we citizens of the United States of America live in a country that has nurtured and sheltered the growth of religion within its borders - buttressed by what has become a constitutional mandate to keep state and religion officially separated.

As I write this I'm aware that there is a movement toward abolishing the legal separation of church and state - a movement that of itself is legally part of the rights of citizens to advocate for legal and governmental change. The U.S.A is a country dominated by Christianity but remains by no means the sort of Christian Nation some advocates encourage.

Advocating for change and reform is part of what it means to be American, like baseball, apple pie and Mom. Seriously considering change and reform must include a sense of what "being American" really means on an individual level. But politics and religion seem to remain among a majority subjects of social discussion most frequently made taboo or avoided, primarily because I suppose, politics and religion bring out our passions.

Today it is time for our passions to speak. In the absence of our own passions, we are passively allowing our society to slide toward being told by others the correct answer to "What does it mean to be Christian in America."

For me being an American Christian equates to believing in Jesus Christ as the founder of a global religion that has become the predominant spiritual philosophy in this country. Christianity as a global religion is not the product of a historical religious imperialism that proved itself the most successful force behind its growth (although religious imperialism is part of Christian history.)

Were such true, global Christianity would already look more like what the most aggressive right wing Christian agitators are attempting today in America.

We then are either spectators of or participants in a conflict in this country about whether or not a "Holy (or Wholly) American Christian Church will rise and separate itself from the original. In light of today's most important happening, death and destruction on the Gulf Coast, those who remain part of the original global Christianity find themselves curiously upstaged when exhorting all Christians to be the Good Samaritans by those whose view remains steadfastly focused on separating the country and its people from reality.

Numerous of these pastoral agitators have stepped to the plate - ignoring the suffering - and exploiting the tragedy for ideological desires. Use a search engine and plug in "Katrina God's punishment" and your hits will be in the tens of thousands. One example:

Dr. Rick Scarborough of Vision America, in his most recent weekly email newsletter blames Katrina on gay marriage, man-on-horse sex (I`m not kidding), and Israel for evacuating Gaza "with the full support of the United States government. Could this be a playing out of prophesy (`I will bless that nation that blesses you, and curse the nation that curses you`)? "

What being Christian ought to mean

If I follow Jesus I follow the ultimate portrayer of human goodness. I follow Him who taught me that love of God and each other, that compassion and understanding are the highest spiritual virtues to be sought. I follow Him who modeled perfectly what it means to be Christian in America and the World.

Jesus tells me to love and be concerned about the poor, the suffering, the weary, and to learn and practice compassion.

Christian Celebrity Agitators (CCA's) tell me that such is not as important as this stuff:

-Being seriously frightened by the threat of my children being indoctrinated in the homosexual lifestyle,

-Being more concerned about a plot by judges to assault my right to publicly acknowledge God.

-Being outraged by media slander of Christians which is in reality a media slander evoked by slanderous agitating right wing Christian celebrities with big mouths who bring negative responses on because of their own actions.

-Being disgusted by Hollywood attacks on Judeo-Christian ethics which, as defined by CCA's, are distinctly separate from common sense ethics, personal morality and sense of goodness - thereby inferior to CCA-defined values for the rest of us.

-Being very worried that America is about to experience the lifting of God's hand of protection and the imposing of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel.

CCA's express this in a form that assumes that we all - like they - have glibly accepted the notion that America is special above all other peoples;

that God has maintained some sort of holy curtain of protection from natural and man-made disasters and attacks historically because of our supposed holiness;

that America has enjoyed some vague status in the eyes of God as an especially chosen people and nation more worthy than the rest of the world.

-Being "fearful" of God in a way that recognizes God's capacity for wrath and punishment to those who stray, backslide and slip into immorality. The God of the CCA's is perfectly capable of destroying the innocent with the guilty as evidenced during the 9/11 attacks and the godly fist of Katrina expressing His displeasure with an entire city that has supposedly mocked God for too long.

This is the stuff of which an American Christian separation from global Christianity is made.

You tell me, gentle readers. What does it mean to you to be Christian in America at this time in our history?

A large portion of those who are Christian in this country are not politically nor religiously/evangelistically active and will not be aware of the points - pro or con - upon which this article is based.

Although many Christians are not actively and outwardly religious except perhaps on rare Sundays, special holidays or family events, there are millions who sit in congregations and outwardly celebrate their religion in a spirit of worship and fellowship every week. Yet many of these do not cross the line into the politics-and-religion discourse. They are content in their lives but are they content with what they are told from the pulpit or see and hear on television and radio?

The citizens of this country named in the above two paragraphs comprise those who hold the power to impact the political and spiritual direction in the U.S. and the time is coming when it will be unavoidably necessary to willfully and powerfully express themselves as to meaning in all our lives.

Two days ago I listened as a network reporter on-site in Louisiana concluded his report about frustration with governmental delay in rescue operations with "This is not the America I grew up in."

This weekend, author Tim Wise published an article in Counterpunch.org, A God with Whom I am not Familiar in which he wrote of sitting in a restaurant booth next to uninhibited and openly practicing Christian diners.

[excerpts]

"I watched you as you held hands with your tablemates at the restaurant where we both ate this afternoon. I listened as you prayed, and thanked God for the food you were about to eat, and for your own safety, several hundred miles away from the unfolding catastrophe in New Orleans.

You blessed your chimichanga in the name of Jesus Christ, and then proceeded to spend the better part of your meal--and mine, since I was too near your table to avoid hearing every word--morally scolding the people of that devastated city, heaping scorn on them for not heeding the warnings to leave before disaster struck. Then you attacked them--all of them, without distinction it seemed--for the behavior of a relative handful: those who have looted items like guns, or big screen TVs.

...Did you ever stop to think just what a rancid asshole such a God would have to be, such that he would take care of the likes of you, while letting babies die in their mother's arms, and old people in wheelchairs, at the foot of Canal Street?

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar.

... But no, it isn't God who's the asshole here, Skip (or Brad, or Braxton, or whatever your name is).

God doesn't feed you, and it isn't God that kept me from turning around and beating your lily white privileged ass today either.

God has nothing to do with it.

God doesn't care who wins the Super Bowl.

God doesn't help anyone win an Academy Award.

God didn't get you your last raise, or your SUV.

And if God is even half as tired as I am of having to listen to self-righteous bastards like you blame the victims of this nightmare for their fate, then you had best eat slowly from this point forward.

... Oh, and please, I know. I'm stereotyping you. Imagine that. I've assumed, based only on your words, what kind of person you are, even though I suppose I could be wrong.

How does that feel Biff? Hurt your feelings?

...What was it you said as you scooped the last bite of black beans and rice into your eager mouth? Like zoo animals? Yes, I think that was it.

Well, Chuck, it's a free country, and so you certainly have the right I suppose to continue lecturing the poor, in between checking your Blackberry and dropping the kids off at soccer practice. If you want to believe that the poor of New Orleans are immoral and greedy, and unworthy of support at a time like this--or somehow more in need of your scolding than whatever donation you might make to a relief fund--so be it.

But let's leave God out of it, shall we? All of it.

Your God is one with whom I am not familiar, and I'd prefer to keep it that way."

Is your God one with whom we are all familiar?

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Arthur & Lietta Ruger 2002-2008. The American Choice is a  political internet journal based in Bay Center, Washington. The views expressed not authored by Arthur or Lietta Ruger are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of The American Choice or SwanDeer Productions. Permission of author required for reprinting original material, and only requests for reprinting a specific item are considered.

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