My friends over at RedLetter Christians have done it again. They have put the major problems with our current version of American Christianity into an almost perfect shell. The words below were some of the thoughts penned by Stephen Mattson. See all the complete text by clicking here. I see no reason to add any additional words. I will be using the next two posts to bring their message forward and then a third one to talk about them from a personal veiwpoint. In order to keep the posts around my self-imposed 500 word or so limit I have done some slight editing.
America is wonderful! We have religious freedom to express our beliefs and worship according to our preferences, but there are also very distinct problems associated with American Christianity. Here are some of the main ones:
1) Infighting — Instead of unifying believers, Christ has become a symbol of discontentment and divisiveness. Theologians publicly humiliate each other, pastors hatefully condemn those they disagree with, denominations split over minor differences, Facebook is used as a platform to spread hurtful comments and derogatory memes, Twitter accounts are used as vicious tools of attacks, and people spew degrading opinions and gossip—often without provocation. Disdain reaches hyperbolic proportions, and accusations of being a “heretic” and “false prophet” are freely given to various individuals who simply have new, bold or different ideas.
American Christians have forgotten how to dialogue and respectfully disagree. We’ve abandoned concepts like grace, humility and love and have devolved into critics instead of encouragers, instigators instead of peacemakers, debaters instead of friends, and reactionists instead of innovators.
We crave independence and avoid teamwork, and prefer communities who share similar theological, political and social beliefs. Exclusiveness is preferred over acceptance, and we religiously bolster our personal ideologies instead of readily listen to others. Meanwhile, the rest of the world watches as we destroy ourselves and the gospel we represent.
2) Unfair and Inaccurate Associations — American Christianity is obsessed with labels. We ascribe names, descriptors and titles for various theologies, denominations, movements, political ideas and social ideologies.
We judge individuals based on the flimsiest of associations in order to fulfill our superficial stereotypes. Therefore, someone who likes Rob Bell must be a “Liberal Universalist,” while someone who admires John Piper must be a “Calvinist.” Mystery and ambiguity is mistakenly perceived as ignorance, and so we categorize everyone—including ourselves.
We live in an age where the term “Christian” means a million different things to a million different people. To make matters worse, non-Christians have their own associations—often warranted. Therefore, an individual claiming to be Christian can be misinterpreted as being Homophobic, Conservative, Anti-Science and Sexist, even though those descriptions may be completely inaccurate.
Christian groups and organizations reinforce negative perceptions through campaigns, lobbying efforts, institutionalized doctrines, public comments and actions, making it harder to break down preconceived stereotypes that our popular culture and media continue to associate with Jesus.
For believers, the term “Christian” is just the beginning label, a generic description meant to be broken down and dissected. What type of Christian are they? A moderate? Liberal? Egalitarian? Lutheran? Charismatic? What style of worship do they prefer? What translation of the Bible do they use? The classifications could go on forever.
American Christianity is a complex and diverse array of beliefs and ideologies, and every individual is unique, but we prefer to reduce everything through labels, forfeiting truth for the sake of compartmentalization and simplification.
Next time I will present the final four…