Brian McLaren will be starting a series on his site, of letters from christian around the world, called 'Letters to Christians in the U.S from your Sisters and Brothers Around the World."
Letter from London I have had the privilege of traveling to the US several times a year for the last ten years, for work, study, and vacation. Through all those visits I am still amazed at the sheer size, and diversity of the US, and have delighted in every experience I have had, in visiting twenty states so far. Indeed the US has been our favorite place as a family to visit and stay, especially for a two-month sabbatical.
One year I stood sweating in 95 degrees of hot sunshine in Houston in January and that same to day traveled on a short flight to Atlanta, where I had to scrape Snow off my hire car. Itâ€™s an experience that reminds of the difficulty in trying to make general statements about the USA. The more I visit, the harder it is to â€˜sum upâ€™ what Americans are like.
So knowing I will have to visit much more to begin to understand the US, I offer these few thoughts and observations, a someone who loves the USA. I see how the US has provided so much for the rest of the world, and pray for it to thrive, and hope you read these thoughts in light of that hope.
The Religion of Politics Amongst of our friends in the US, we have noticed a growing trend and change. People we love who are republicans and democrats are becoming increasingly hostile to each other. There has been a polarization in politics fueled by religion that has distressed us; mainly due to the way it has affected the character of people we love.
I have sat in meetings with Christians who are convinced George Bush is Godâ€™s man, and every Christian must vote for him or be part of some left wing conspiracy against God. I have been in meetings with left leaning Christians, where I thought it would be easier to admit to murder than to say I liked republicans.
Now I believe our faith should inform our politics, but the co-opting and polarizing of faith by politics, seems ugly and wrong. Or has politics been co-opted and polarized by faith? Surely there is another path, a way where Christian faith informs and critiques the left and right. The US could lead the rest of the world in walking that path.
The Environment Every time I post an item on my web site about global warming I usually have a Christian from the US comment that there is no such thing, and it still shocks me when they do. In UK and Europe we believe in global warming, we believe we are consuming energy and pumping toxins into our atmosphere in a way that cannot be sustained.
The environment is a huge and growing issue in the UK that politicians on all sides are responding to, and making part of their policies. Yet the US, the largest polluter of all nations seems to prefer to pretend it isnâ€™t happening, or just ignore the problem.
Yet with the sheer numbers of Christians in the US, if they all engaged in tackling global warming, they could make all the world of difference, and set an example that our children and history would remember. At present Christianity in the US seems more synonymous with consumption.
Al Goresâ€™ video â€˜An Inconvenient Truthâ€™ is currently making waves in the UK, and by the sounds of it is doing so in the USA. Yet I suspect that, as he is a democrat vast swathes of the US wonâ€™t ever take the movie seriously let alone watch it, out of political bias and prejudice.
â€˜God Bless Americaâ€™ We hear George Bush say it regularly; in fact in all our imported US TV and films, the phrase â€˜God Bless Americaâ€™ is a very natural and normal expression in the USA, as well as talking about praying. The use of God and prayer in public life by public people is a question of your sanity in the UK. The US has a separation of church and state, yet has a very religious society. The UK has a state church, but a very secular society.
But if the UK prime minister used these phrases, there would be outcry; they are inconceivable in public life, except maybe for our Queen. In deed earlier this year Tony Blair in an in-depth and wide ranging interview referred to his belief in God in guiding him, and there was a public outcry, and fear that he was a religious maniac.
Even our Queen, can only make a statement of broad general spirituality, rather than a definite claims of God being for us as a nation, and an appeal to prayer.
There is a voluntary principle in the USA with no tradition of church-state, yet the US is a country that claims â€˜One Nation under Godâ€™ and that â€˜in God we trustâ€™. Whilst 40% claim to attend weekly in the US, with people seemingly anxious to be seen as churchgoing, in the UK the claim for church association is 5-7%. It is 1% in many of our largest towns and cities.
Religion in the UK was imposed until recent times, but we can now choose our religion. In the USA, religion has always been personal choice. Iâ€™m not sure if that qualifies us to make any observations, but it might explain some of the ways we see things taking shape in the USA, and I hope help you understand us better.
So I will continue praying that the Christians of the US would unite under God, and lead the way in caring for our planet, and no partisan engagement in politics. There are enough of you to make all the world of difference.
Jason Clark London, UK http://www.jasonclark.ws