While the skeptic inside would like to begin with things like, the despicable idea of Hell or the problem of Biblical consistency, or the cult of judgment, a snapshot of American Christianity tells me that there are other underlying problems that are rarely talked about and much more important.
One such problem is the word Christian itself, and how, for many years, it has become a synonym for a host of positive traits–good, faithful, trustworthy, well-raised, etc. In “Why I am not a Christian,” Bertrand Russell even stopped short of saying he was not “Christian,” by reminding people of this definition (and that he rejected it). It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that, in America, the term “Christian” is even closely tied to the status “American.”
Aside from the basic untruth that proclaiming Christianity (or even actually believing in it) makes one a moral person, we see a large population of Americans who feel that it is more important to assert their Christianity than to assert their better values (like moral, generous, or honest).
And why not? If a person can just say that he is a Christian and get around doing all of the difficult or selfless acts that make one a genuinely “good” person, why not?
The evidence is everywhere. People will step up to defend illegal religious symbols or laws on public land to “defend Christianity and Christ,” but do the same people stand up to help the poor in their communities? Do the people who slap the Jesus Fish on their bumpers volunteer their time to solve community problems, or do they just stand behind a false term that tells others they are good people. The spent untold amounts of money to build giant churches and decorate them with giant crosses–but how much is wasted on such grandeur that could be better placed in human hands–that could have been used to fix up a bad neighborhood? Will they stand behind the candidate who proclaims most strongly that he or she is a Christian, or will they stand behind a candidate that actually does good for the world? Do they take the time to raise their children and instill actual values in them? Do they even teach them what Biblical principles are, or just teach them to defend anything Christ? As an atheist, I obviously can’t speak for a Christian, but research in the form of surveys and polls–some done by religious groups–show that Biblical knowledge is slipping, even among those who claim to be Christians.
So, if a Christian is reading, and, not to diminish your Bible’s commands to spread the Gospel, ask yourself, “Did I get my bumper sticker to distinguish myself as a Christian or to spread the gospel?” And…”How does it spread the gospel?” Ask yourself, when you are at the pearly gates and talking to Jesus, “Is he more impressed by the charity my church gave or the giant structures we erected in his honor at the expense of giving to charity?”
I’m personally interested in your answers to such questions, so feel free to share.