Saturday, March 05, 2005Courtesy of Michael Spencer at the Boar's Head Tavern, I found this post over at the Thinklings discussing some recent comments made by Bono of U2:
"[Bush needs to] clear up some confusion about America's basic beliefs. Americans are overtly devout. And yet Europeans, who inhabit a more secular world, give more per capita than Americans to what the Bible calls "the least of these" - the world's poor. The United States is in 22nd place, last in the class of donor nations. (Add private philanthropy and it's up to 15th.) Europeans see the discrepancy, and they smell hypocrisy."
There's a lot to chew on in this quote. To begin with, Bono's initial exclusion of private philantropy gives up the ghost in a hurry. The majority of Americans - even some liberals - do not see the government as the chief means of accomplishing some task. It's not the way we work. We work for ourselves; the government only works when we commonly agree that some task cannot reasonably be performed on our own. (Think roads, briges and street lights) It has been this way since our founding. You would think that after two hundred something years, the Europeans would understand this. For all his time in America, Bono cannot see this.
Secondly, Bono should know by now that depsite the faith of our President and our religious heritage, America is not a nation of Christians in the sense that every American is a practicing Christian. This is the danger of some on the religious right who insist that America is a "Christian nation." The implication to those around the world, then, is that our nation will act in the manner of an individual Christian. This is nonsense for a nation in a hostile world. America is a huge nation, with vast land and a tremendous population. We have our own to care for in addition to those overseas. Bono has seen the plights of those in the Delta and surely he is aware of the poverty in the inner city. We must help those within our own borders, in addition to those around the world. Given our population and the needs of the American poor, surely a gap will emerge somewhere.
Here's an offbeat example. Last football season, every single NCAA Division 1 football program in the state of Alabama played in a bowl game. That's 100 percent, and it may very well be the highest percentage from that season. The catch is that Alabama only has four such programs. Imagine the same scenario in Bono's statistics. A small nation with high taxation handed over to the UN's relief programs will quickly outdo the U.S. Bono's using the stats to say whatever he likes, but he's ignoring reality.
These are gaps in ideas between Europeans and Americans, and it is a difference that may have to exist between evangelicals and Catholics on both sides of the pond. I'm not sure there's much to change this in the near future. Still, American Christians should be very cautious in labeling America a Christian nation. The problem does not lie in our defintions; the trouble comes with everyone else's definition. Unless we're prepared to move beyond the Dobson-esque cliches, and defend the American approach to government, economics and charity, to say nothing of condemning our materialistic culture, we're going to live a world of confusion that will only grow worse with time.
I concede that there is always more to give. There is always one material thing we can do without, and there is another one, five, ten dollars we can spare to ease the plight of those suffering in America and around the world. Yet let us not be lulled into a sense of guilt and anxiety over the self-righteous misunderstandings of the rest of the world.