Christianity Today just published a fairly alarming article by Ronald J. Sider entitled “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience”, which very pointedly reveals that Christians may “talk the talk”, but we rarely “walk the walk” (pardon the cliché). Despite claiming to adhere to the loftiest of moral and spiritual ideals, we are still human — sometimes even moreso than our “pagan” neighbors.
“…evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general.” Divorce is more common among “born-again” Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe. White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Josh McDowell has pointed out that the sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their nonevangelical peers.
No wonder Christians are a joke in this country. No wonder people look at us strange when we protest gay marriage, abortion, or any other hot-button issue that has us all in a huff today. No wonder people don’t take our claims of moral authority seriously. It doesn’t look like we have any!
Early on, Sider refers to some interesting insights from scholar Alan Wolfe as a possible explanation for why this is.
Today’s evangelicalism, Wolfe says, exhibits “so strong a desire to copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had.” Wolfe argues, “The truth is there is increasingly little difference between an essentially secular activity like the popular entertainment industry and the bring-‘em-in-at-any-cost efforts of evangelical megachurches.”
When I first read this, I was fully prepared to make some pretty sarcastic remarks about the hypocrisy of modern American evangelicalism, hypocrisy that I’d seen firsthand, having come from an evangelical background myself. I was fully prepared to say “That’s a great article, Mr. Snider, by DUH! Anyone with half a brain knows that modern Christians are poor examples of Christ in today’s society.” And then I remembered that I am one of those modern Christians, and chances are, I’m a pretty poor example of Christ myself.
I can pride myself on not being as racist or ignorant of the poor as other Christians, that I’m not as liable to get caught up in the fervor of the typical American Christian who votes Republican, watches Fox News, and generally forgets about the rest of the world outside their little bubble.
But just thinking that reveals me as the falsely humble individual that I am. I may not be (as) racist and prejudiced as most, but I still have my own struggles. I’m nowhere near concerned with the poor and downtrodden as I should be, despite concern for the fatherless and widow being described as the essence of Christian religion by no less an authority than James. I rarely tithe, and I certainly don’t give until it hurts (unless there’s a sweet special on DVDs somewhere, that is). And I’m certainly as prone to immorality, lust, and whatnot as the next red-blooded male.
So, I guess I’m saying that I’ve got just as far to go as the next guy. Thankfully, I’m not going at it alone. None of us are. And hopefully, maybe we’ll learn to think a bit before decrying someone else’s sin, and make sure we deal with our own first.