A rumbling has begun among the populace and is growing with those who have decided enough is enough — God is dead, or at the very least mortally wounded.
While the notion of abandoning God may seem shocking and even disturbing to many, it really comes down to honesty. How much does belief in God impact one’s life? Is America a nation of devout theists living each day in the fear of God? Hardly!
The vast majority of Americans may espouse a theoretical belief in God but few make an earnest attempt to practice a Christianity reflective of New Testament ideals. They champion an intransigent belief in the inerrancy or divine inspiration of the Bible but fail to make a concerted effort to implement its teachings in their daily lives. Explicit teachings against divorce, materialism, pride, worldliness, premarital sex and greed are treated with mild displeasure rather than the contempt accorded them by the New Testament writers. While mandates to love unconditionally and feed and clothe the poor and disenfranchised of society are largely ignored.
After being immersed and largely psychologically sequestered in the evangelical culture from age seventeen until my early thirties, my entrance into the real world was an eye opener. I expected women to be vixens, sexually manipulating men like Eve did to Adam (as I was taught), and men to be rabid sexual predators bent on exploiting women. I thought I was entering an environment fraught with immorality and wickedness where God was maligned and Satan worshipped. I truly feared whether I would be able to cope in this world I had left so long ago. To my shock, I found non evangelicals no different from evangelicals, except perhaps in rhetoric.
I realize my experience is atypical because I chose to spend a decade in evangelical institutions. Also, I was totally invested in my faith abstaining from watching television to avoid being tainted by its low moral standards. Furthermore, I was repeatedly disheartened by the rampant hypocrisy among evangelicals I encountered at school or through ministry. But I never imagined the disparity between the sinful and redeemed would be so small if any at all.
I would like to suggest, apart from church attendance and verbal declarations, a general goodness at best pervades much of evangelicalism and passes for godliness and holiness. Many aspire to The Golden Rule as their moral guide. So the big question is what’s the point of believing in God if you are not going to live up to the standards he has clearly revealed throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament?
The answer: Being an evangelical has little to do with the here and now and everything to do with the here-after.
Evangelicals are in it for the promise of heaven. The fear of death and the uncertainty of the afterlife locks them into this belief. Evangelical teaching stresses an easy, instant and permanent salvation which is guaranteed. The only caveat: A complete rejection of God is a final step most are unwilling to take. The risk of losing this hope is unfathomable for many. For this reason, evangelicalism breeds half hearted believers reluctant to make significant personal sacrifices. They have one foot in heaven and one on earth.
Another phenomenon of this bland style of faith is an over emphasis on external societal reform to the neglect of personal piety. Instead of focusing on righteous living, evangelicals turn their attention to forcing others to conform to their version of biblical morality. This conveniently absolves them from their own moral responsibilities by substituting social, political and environmental issues for personal sanctification.
The exalted position the Bible has enjoyed in Western Civilization for two millennia is unquestionable. Why it continues to occupy so prominent place in politics and people’s lives can be reduced to ignorance. Society as a whole is either biblical illiterate or biblically misguided, the latter being far more dangerous.
It seems everyday misconceptions about who Jesus was grow and become more entrenched in our psyche. Space prevents us from delving into this issue other than to say, the world in general sees Jesus as portrayed by non Jewish Christians. The man from Galilee would be aghast at how he is represented by Christians.
The Bible is quite simply religious propaganda or to soften this term, religious advertising. It was written by religious fanatics who were convinced the God they wrote about was the only God or the only God worthy of worship in the case of ancient Israel. Unfortunately, what should never have made it beyond the Middle Ages continues to exert great political influence. Herein, lies the problem.
One’s religious faith should be immensely private and personal. Today, it is neither. The sacralism of politics and faith have created a cancerous climate which threatens the health of society, the environment and political stability abroad.
As long as we continue to indulge a faith of irrationality and fantasy that takes priority over science and reason, we are in danger of succumbing to its ancient prejudices.
All major religions have one thing in common — inherited faith. Because region is often rooted in a cultural context, passing on the faith of the parents to the children in not solely about transferring religious beliefs but also cultural identity. There is a nationalistic component as well. In America these believers might be described as Apple Pie Christians where patriotism and faith merge and blend into one.
Conservative Christians will often appeal to, “A nation founded on Christian principles” defense to justify the extolling traditional family values. This is evangelical speak for their interpretation of biblical virtues and specific moral causes they choose to champion such as abortion, gay rights or social justice.
Hypothetically, “What would America look like tomorrow if it gave up God today?”
I can tell you evangelicals and conservative Christians believe society would devolve into anarchy and moral debauchery if religious constraints (read absolutes) were removed. People would marry their pets, sexual predators would cruise children’s bathrooms, school curricula would push the homosexual agenda, Satanic worship would increase, transgenderism would burgeon and the institution of family would disintegrate. Also Israel would be abandoned to her foes and as a result of failing to defend her, God would enact the curse of Genesis 12:3 and America would spiral into financial chaos having lost God’s blessing.
Narratives such as this are pushed on American evangelicals daily to coalesce support for right wing leaders who pledge to defend their religious freedoms and values. Creating the monster of secularism and liberalism is a favorite ploy to frighten their constituents into a lockstep conformity. The fear of surrendering cherished American exceptionalism helps motivate and solidify support which is then channelled where needed.
Everything goes back to the role biblical authority plays in influencing the direction policy and legislation take. Can we really afford to allow an untested book of ancient superstitions dictate anything meaningful in our lives or that of the government? The Bible deserves to be heard but it equally deserves to be challenged at the highest level of rational scrutiny. If it passes the test of critical analysis and logical consistency performed in an unbiased and objective forum, it should be allowed a preeminent position in people’s lives and perhaps politics. If, however, it fails to satisfy the criteria of rationalism, it must be demoted as a divine guidebook and relegated to an inferior place in society.
I sincerely believe many “believers” are looking for an excuse to give up God but fear holds them back. As long as we allow the Bible to hide behind the wall of religious protectionism, thereby exempting it from the most rigorous inspection for fear of offending its adherents, it will continue to exercise unchecked power wherever evangelicals and conservative Christians deem expedient.
The battle for the hearts and minds of America may well be fought on the sacred ground of biblical authority. God’s days may be numbered as more see the futility in subscribing to an irrational faith that serves as a delivery system for racism, sexism, bigotry and anti-intellectualism.
The path to truth is paved with knowledge. Lies hide in the dark shadows of faith, while truth basks in the glaring light of reason.