Worst things about American Christianity?
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matthew 6:24
American Christian Stephen Mattson gives a very eye-opening look into what he sees as the six worst things about the current state of Christianity. Writing for Red Letter Christians, his article gives a lot of insight into what we can improve on in the Christian Community.
His first issue, and probably the most important, is the infighting that occurs between different Christian groups. He writes, “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.”
He insists that the respectful dialogue between the faithful has dissolved, and therefore distracted from the true calling of Christ. No longer is it about universally spreading the word of God, but more about making sure that we’re the ones to be heard saying it.
The second issue involves the inaccurate and unfair associations that many within and without the Christian community feel compelled to make. He states, “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.
This sort of labeling, he argues, distracts from the message of Jesus by allowing those outside the Christian community to focus on the general stereotypes that Christianity embodies. It doesn’t allow for an accurate depiction of what Christianity actually is.
The third issue has to do with the speed and shallowness with which we consume information and interact with one another. He writes, “Our fast-paced culture of celebrity, noise and entertainment has trumped our ability to patiently meditate, pray and reflect. We ignore meaningful content if it’s boring. Time is money and we value being engaged in the here and now. Our country is addicted to technology, and we use our smart phones, tablets and laptops to constantly interact—but we fail to take the time to process our actions.”
As Christians who are supposed to be “in” the world but not “of” it, Mattson says, that we are too distracted to take the time and consideration for the people and things that really matter. Instead, we sacrifice for our insatiable desires of interaction and entertainment.
The fourth issue, he claims, is that Christians are too privileged. He writes, “Many American Christians defend their position so passionately because the greatest beneficiaries of their worldview are themselves. But when people are persecuted, abandoned, ignored or powerless, their perspective changes and they become open to different paradigms. These new paradigms are invisible and seem illogical to those that live comfortably.”
His assertion is that unless there is persistent or necessary need to change, we won’t. He states that, “any theology, idea or sermon that challenges people to sacrifice or reach beyond their comfort zones isn’t easily accepted.”
The fifth issue is that of consumerism. He writes, “The message of Christ should be available for free, to everyone. The best worship, pastors, teachers, ideas, inspiration and resources should not be reserved for only those who can afford to pay for the latest albums and books, buy tickets to conferences, pay tuition for Seminary, or submit a fee for retreats—you get the picture. As Christians, we need to be intentional about fighting our cultural habit of commercializing everything, and be willing to generously offer our gifts and resources freely to everyone—with no strings (or charges) attached.”
His assertion here is that receiving the word of Christ should not be cost prohibitive or lucrative. Jesus didn’t set out to create a church with the intent of charging a cover at the door – and quite frankly, would be appalled at the idea.
The sixth and final issue he sees has to do with obsession and power. He writes, “Power-hungry Christians view their faith as a battle, a series of wins and losses. Control and influence is valued above all else, and Christianity’s success is measured by research, statistics, attendance and the success of church-supported laws at the state and federal level. Success is hardly gauged by the fruits of the Spirit or by how well we’re following Christ’s example. He asserts that the message of Christianity shouldn’t be spread through coercion and forced legislature, but through personal interactions and love.
You can read his full article here.