The American Christian Scandal

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Here’s an interesting tidbit for you, from Books and Culture:

“If American Christians just tithed, they would have another $143 billion available to empower the poor and spread the gospel. Studies by the United Nations suggest that just an additional $70–$80 billion a year would be enough to provide access to essential services like basic health care and education for all the poor of the earth.

“The evangelical community is ready to live more simply—if the evangelical leaders will model it. Of course, they aren’t.

“To say there is a crisis of disobedience in the evangelical world today is to dangerously understate the problem. Born-again Christians divorce at about the same rate as everyone else. Self-centered materialism is seducing evangelicals and rapidly destroying our earlier, slightly more generous giving. Only 6 percent of born-again Christians tithe. Born-again Christians justify and engage in sexual promiscuity (both premarital sex and adultery) at astonishing rates. Racism and perhaps physical abuse of wives seems to be worse in evangelical circles than elsewhere. This is scandalous behavior for people who claim to be born-again by the Holy Spirit and to enjoy the very presence of the Risen Lord in their lives.”

Kind of sobering, isn’t it?

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5 thoughts on “The American Christian Scandal”

  1. Mick–Of everything I’ve read since the tsunami disaster, this piece in Books and Culture hit the hardest. I read it late one night in bed, fell asleep and dreamed about it, and had it on my mind first thing in morning. I even wrote a blog entry to encourage tithing (done in a good-natured, non-judgmental way, I hope) which you can find at http://www.fallible.com . The entry is called “Dirty Word.”
    Isn’t it astounding to imagine what a vastly different place the world could be if Christians simply adhered to basic Scriptural principles like tithing? The far-reaching (like, maybe, all the way to the ends of the earth, perhaps?) implications are shocking to consider.
    Thanks for posting this, Mick. I personally think this is an area that is not addressed sufficiently in the Church. Of course, there’s a palatable way to teach tithing without making congregations feel “pressured,” but on the other hand we Christians are letting ourselves off WAY too easy on this issue.

  2. Mick, when I read your excerpt, I immediately thought of this one church I heard about where one of the members was sleeping with his step-mother–openly. The whole church knew about it, even bragged that they were so tolerant. You’ve probably heard of them, too.
    I bring up the church of Corinth to make the point that our rose-colored view of the church is off. Sin has always been in the church. Neither that nor the statistics in this article should shock anyone. No study has been done, to my knowledge, in Kenya or Urkraine or Japan, but I know you will find the same things there (at least that’s what I gleen from my missionary friends).
    On top of that, God’s Word says, there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words …That was 2 Peter 2:1-3.
    So we know sin is among us. Does that knowledge change anything? Should I feel more anxious about the world or the church? Should I trust God less? Follow the world more?
    No. I thought the conclusion of that article had a lot to say–about the effects of a Biblical worldview on behavior, for one; about the hope we have because we trust in an omnipotent, unchanging God, for another. It is He we should keep our eyes on, Mick. Not the failure of sinners among us.

  3. Mary, I think Scripture is clear about that, too. It’s not an easy road, but that leader needs to be confronted. If he still does not repent, another “confronter” needs to approach him. If he still does not repent, he needs to be “told on” to his governing body. I don’t know if you’re in a position to do that. Even if it’s not a person you know one-on-one, I still think you can go to him and let him know that his sin is known, and his lack of repentence is a barrier to his ministry–if nowhere else than in your life. (Again, if this is someone you only know about, it is possible he has repented, but the story of his repentence hasn’t caught up to the story of his sin).
    But besides dealing with that one instance, I think we can do a lot more for our leadership through prayer. I know I have been too lax in this area. But the article Mick linked above had significant things to say toward the end re. the solution side: >
    I’m reminded of Nehemiah who took on the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after the exile. Before he started, he prayed and repented of the sins of his people, even though he hadn’t even been present in the land when those sins were committed. Hmmm.

  4. Yes, Mick. Very sobering. Your post brings to mind Daniel’s prayer for Israel. “WE have sinned.” He included himself in his confession and prayer for mercy and revival.
    So here’s my confession. I way too easily justify my own selfishness while condemning “spotlight sinners” for theirs. The church is desperate for repentance. I am, too. But even as I pray for it, I know I’m closing off sections of my heart. I pretend they aren’t there in hopes God will let me keep my pet securities and comforts.
    Isn’t my willful blindness as much a part of the problem as another’s adultery?
    Sobering indeed.
    I can’t say this feeling is pleasant, but thanks for stirring it.
    “O LORD, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy.” Hab. 3:2

  5. Mick, that’s an interesting article but not shocking to any of us, I think. Many Christians are not really saved and that is as it has always been. In the Old Covenant most weren’t saved—they took on the sins of the society they lived in, even to the point of sacrificing children to the flames. (The article didn’t give statistics on how many Christians aborted their babies—I wouldn’t be surprised if that is also right in line with divorce and stinginess.)
    So it is no surprise that “God’s people” look like the world. But it is good for us to be reminded because it is not only the rest of the church that has the problem. We, ourselves, often look like world.
    The one thing I didn’t like about the article was the implication that volunteering and giving money should be done with a nonprofit organizations. I would have failed the biblical worldview test because I have not volunteered or given cash in the last week to an organization.
    We should start to make disciples by loving those in our neighborhood. If you cherish your wife and sacrifice time for your family then the neighbors will see. If you give up the conference you have been looking forward to for months so you can stay home and nurse the old man next door who has just had surgery, your kids and your wife and your neighbors will be affected.
    Giving money and time to organizations is not the best use of our time or money. Feeding, and doctoring, and housing those injured men God puts in our paths is a better thing. How many of us have picked up the man with the sign on the corner and brought him home for dinner and given him a bed to sleep in? I’d like to see that question on the Barna polls. I’ve never done it.
    There is a time to give to other countries hit with famine (or tsunamis) but day by day we are to help those in our paths. Jesus walked with the dirty, the useless, the sinful. He reached out and touched those with infectious diseases. He ministered to the demoniacs everyone else was afraid of and he loved the prostitutes everyone else despised.
    And he still does walk with the poor and needy. He doesn’t sit up in heaven pouring money into Biblical Worldview Christian pockets so we, in turn, can give to an organization and end world hunger, though he who fed the multitude could easily do that. Instead he tells us to attend to widows and orphans in their distress and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And you are right to say that love is suffering. Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends. Love always costs us—our pride, our time, our comforts, our lives.
    Thanks for the thought-provoking post and thanks to all the thoughtful posters. This is a great board.
    Sally
    PS now how is this all related to our writing? I’m eager to see where you are going with this. Are you just ranting against Jesus junk in the CBA stores or are you suggesting we force a change by self-publishing quality books and giving them away? =0)

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