Polls show Americans have a high degree of church attendance and most consider themselves Christians. A nation of citizens living Christian ideals sounds like utopia. In practice, it’s somewhat different. Religious leaders in the U.S. currently seem more concerned with promulgating one or two cherished dogmas than in promoting the well-being of their members or of the nation as a whole.
Catholic bishops fight to keep church schools and hospitals from giving employees contraceptive coverage in health care policies—although the majority of American Catholics use birth control. These same bishops threatened to scuttle the entire Affordable Health Care Act over contraceptive and abortion funding—which seems odd since a major tenet of the Catholic faith is to provide basic care and needs to the poor. The injunction to care for the poor can be easily traced to the Bible. Opposition to contraceptives is less easily supported from scripture.
Mormon leaders spent millions and urged members to contribute time and money to defeat Prop 8 in California—galvanized by the fear that same-sex marriage is a threat to traditional families. The fear tactics used by church members fighting gay marriage are now employed by Utah politicians who oppose the humane stance of the church toward illegal immigrants.
Evangelicals are so militarized on the abortion issue that they support Rick Santorum, the candidate with extreme views on family planning and homosexuality, who either completely misunderstood or deliberately distorted JFK’s 1960 speech to Protestant ministers.
If we are a Christian nation, where is the love Jesus taught? Not in the rhetoric of church leaders who argue about who is and who isn’t a Christian or who has and who hasn’t the truest gospel.
Where is Jesus’s concern for the poor? Not in the discourse of radio talk-show hosts or television pundits who insist that those advocating the über-rich pay a fair share of taxes are trying to steal from people who honestly earned their fortunes and have the right to spend their millions supporting politicians who promise to keep their tax rates low while working-class families struggle to keep a roof overhead and food on the table.
Where is Jesus’s admonition to do to others as we would have done to us? Not from senior citizens who insist their government benefits be preserved even if it means young, working people going without affordable health care insurance and retirement plans.
Maybe it’s time we Americans quit preaching Christianity and started living it.