The Ugly Christian
Back in 1958 Eugene Burdick and William Lederer wrote the book The Ugly American. It told the story of the hapless efforts of the United States in a fictional country in Southeast Asia (widely regarded to represent the US efforts in Vietnam) in the attempts of America to fulfill its quest to “contain” Communism and therefore continue to implement Truman’s famous doctrine.
Originally, the desire of the authors was to write a factual study, but the publishers persuaded them to transition to a work of fiction. In doing this they were afforded greater creativity and even more freedom to both apply their version of “truth” as well as greatly expanding the means by which their work could be disseminated among various competing ideologies. In other words, the work became a tool for those who espoused a decidedly anti-American and anti-Western philosophy.
Sadly, Burdick and Lederer accurately portrayed the reality of the American efforts in this region of the world. Neil Sheehan in his book A Bright Shining Lie further highlights the incredible incompetence spawned by unchecked bureaucracy during the Vietnam War. The cold reality dogging American efforts was reflected in the words of the Apostle Paul, our “good was evil spoken of.”
In many ways, Christians today are far too often and too easily viewed as ugly. In my own denomination, there seems to be this almost puerile obsession with the habits of those outside of Christianity yet all the while they are oblivious to the ugly and insidious nature of the accepted behaviors within Christianity. What is sad is many of these unattractive attitudes and practices come from those who are regarded as leaders and pastors.
Many of the problems arise from the assumptions made of those professing the name of Christ. A whole industry has been built to fortify an almost revisionist-style history portraying the United States as a country began with solely Christian values. While the underlying philosophy of our founding fathers was a definitely a Judeo-Christian paradigm, we were not and are not now a Christian nation.
There were many of our founders and leaders who were familiar with Christian nomenclature and philosophy—some even reared by strongly Christian parents—yet for every reference point given to “prove” the evangelical bent of these men there are equally as many proofs countering those claims. Even though evangelical Christianity did not infuse every one of our founders, there were many genuine Christians among our founders.
So should those who are Christian handicap themselves by not referring to the importance of Christianity on the formation of this country? Not at all; yet Christians cannot continue with their arrogant attitudes and patronizing actions if they (including myself) truly desire to reach those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I wouldn’t want you to think I am immune from such silliness either. Far too often I “catch” myself thinking some incredibly stuffy thought and then something inside me (I believe it is the Holy Spirit who resides in all who have a relationship with Christ) points out my foolishness. My plan is to write a “series” (I usually can’t stand multi-part anything; I’m making attempts at maturity here so bear with me . . . . .) dealing with the subject began in this post.
My desire is the same as the United States Senator Adlai Stevenson: “Today, I come to you with the task of speaking; your task is that of listening. Let us hope we all end at the same time.”
Hey, it’s a hope!