Friday, February 6, 2009

Quotes - plus a response

"Fundamentalists blame the entertainment industry for breeding a culture of selfishness and entitlement, where personal choice is worshipped. But those same messages can be found in modern notions of conversion. Rather than see salvation in the sum of a person's life, it focuses on a split-second transaction in which an eternity of bliss is exchanged for a onetime commitment, a simple mental act. It's fast-food religion (page 65).

"According to a study by Purdue University, fundamentalists are the fattest religious people in America. In 1986, the obesity rate among Baptists was 24 percent; by 1994, it had risen to 30 percent, the same as the national average. By comparison, Catholic rates of obesity during the same period held steady at 17 percent; Jewish obesity remained at 1 percent, and rates among other non-Christian religious groups rose but remained below 1 percent. When it comes to overeating, fundamentalist are far more worldly than their non-Christian neighbors" (Page 85).

These two quotes are from the book "In the World But Not of It: One Family's Militant Faith and the History of Fundamentalism in America," by Brett Grainger. Although I believe that many aspects of so-called Christian fundamentalism are not compatible with the Christianity described in the New Testament and demonstrated by Jesus when he was here on Earth, I also question the usefulness of the second quote. The author, or those who did the study at Purdue Univ. seem to be saying that fundamentalism and Baptists are synonymous. There are different groups of Baptists in this country and some are fundamentalists and some are not. Even within the largest and perhaps most conservative of Baptists, the Southern Baptists, some members are not as fundamentalist as others. Nineteen ninety-four was 15 years ago and I believe the obesity problem has increased significantly in the interim, so it's possible that the information from that study is only of mild historical interest, and may not be relevant today.

However I believe the first quote is accurate. So much about conservative Christianity; and I use that term with the understanding that it is probably an oxymoron, reflects the influence of our fast-food, or instant gratification, society. Everything from believing in an "instant creation" to "instant salvation," is grounded much less in the Bible than in contemporary US culture and materialism. The Bible clearly teaches us that salvation is a process, and the Bible as well as history and science teaches us that creation is also a process. Spiritual growth is as much a process as physical growth. Worship, forgiveness, righteous living, etc., are all traits or skills we develop by trial and error. We are not automatically skilled at those by simply becoming a Christian. It could be argued that even the efforts made by God to develop a meaningful relationship with humans has been a process, a series of trial-and-errors, peaking in the assignment of sending his son into the world as a human to demonstrate how we should live.

"Fast-food" Christianity is evident in much of what passes for "Christian" in today's world: Church services in which people are expected to simply show up for the service and contribute financially to the congregation, but make no commitment to service, community, or outreach is one example. A Christianity that denies the obligation of Christians to care for God's creation by protecting endangered species, helping clean the environment, and simplifying our lives so we are less a part of the problem, is another example. A Christian church that does not call its members to also be environmentalists is failing to be faithful to Christian teachings. There is much evidence of religion and Christianity in our country today with very visible churches, church institutions, media, etc., but unfortunately very little evidence of actual Christian discipleship or responsible living.

1 comment:

Marsha said...

That's simply too much to digest before I've completed my morning latte. While I think I agree with you on every level, I just can't stand to think that deeply before noon.