Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Are Christians Anti-American?

An internet friend of mine wrote an essay about how religious people-- he mentions Muslims, but also pulls in Christians-- are opposed to American values, specifically the values of liberalism (not "leftist" values, but values of American freedom).  You can read his full essay here  My response is below:

In principle, I would agree with you, Froham.  The pure forms of all religions would strongly stand against American values, if, by that, one means capitalism and liberalism.  I find it disappointing when Christian pedagogues say that the laws of the United States are based on the ten commandments.  That either shows a lack of knowledge of the ten commandments or a complete ignorance of the constitution.   Contradiction #1: "You shall have no other gods but me."  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".  One restricts religion, the other opens it up.  Laws against idolatry, taking the "Lord's name in vain", breaking the Sabbath-- just can't be done on a national level.  And, according to the constitution, shouldn't be established on any level (although historically, we know that such laws existed).

Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha were all opposed to capitalistic and liberal principles.  Moses imposed an extremely high socialistic tax system-- 33% just for the priesthood and the poor.  Governments took a tax out on top of that, and there was an additional "gleaning" tax for the poor.  Buddha's psychological principles call for the denial of desire, which denies capitalism completely.   Muhammad clearly opposed worship of any god beside Allah.  And Jesus called for the surrender of all unnecessary wealth to the poor.   All these are in opposition to American values.

However, to say that the religions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism are opposed to American values is to overstep.  What I have found in this thread again and again is an ignorance of how world religions work, as if they are each one singular thing, with a unified set of doctrines and similarly unified set of morals and values.  Wow, are they not.

The majority of religious Americans are completely in agreement with American values, whichever world religion they adhere to.  The fact is, the constitution and capitalism have been much more successful in evangelism and conversion  than the strict adherents of any religion.  The majority of religious adherents hold to the principles of a generally free market and liberal values more than they hold to the values of their holy books.  And the reason American values have been so successful in promoting their ideals to those who should be opposed to them is many: American values promise freedom and define the term to be pleasing to the ears; American values convince the religious that  they can live in compatibility with religious values, even to the degree of the religious reinterpreting their holy books so that they sound more like Rand than ancient religion. 

One time I had a thousand dollars stolen from me.  The policeman caught the thief, but I refused to press charges because Jesus says to "love your enemies."  (He was charged and convicted on other thefts).  The officer said, "I hope not many people believe like you."  I responded, "Well, I try to teach it, but don't worry, no one listens to me." 

We all tend to adapt.  American culture is pervasive in certain nations.  The pervasive culture will always win out amidst subcultures that really want to fit in. Mennonites have wanted to remain separate for centuries, and did so.  But since WWII, they got tired of the separation and decided to assimilate, for the most part, except for just a couple values.  Thus, I find myself fighting a business-oriented board that runs my denomination.  Sigh.  Sometimes it makes me want to be Amish.

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