Tuesday, July 26, 2005

You Got the Wrong One, Baby, Uh-Huh
If you find yourself standing at the magazine rack in the next few days wondering what to buy, put down that self-improvement rag and pick up the August Harper's, where Bill McKibben contributes "The Christian Paradox: How a faithful nation gets Jesus wrong." Just when I think about letting my Harper's subscription lapse, they'll print something like this, and I'm reupping for a couple more years.

McKibben isn't so worried about the fundies who think Jesus will be back any minute--he's more concerned about the influence of suburban non-denominational mega-churches, because they're the ones who are distorting Christianity to a massive extent. They might claim to be preaching truths unchanged for 2000 years, but they're really selling self-improvement therapy, just like the rest of our "culture of unrelenting self-obsession." (Professor de Zengotita, call your office.) This focus on the self warps the teachings of Jesus, who demanded that people love their neighbors as themselves--in other words, to focus on the needs of others just as carefully and intensely as they focus on their own. It's hard to square such an unambiguous command with support for wars that kill civilians indiscriminately, tax policy that screws the poor, or unthinking environmental degradation. But as McKibben notes, many American Christians don't know much about Christianity. Fourteen percent of them think Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Quote of the Day: John Aravosis at the inestimable AMERICABlog, responding to a poll saying that a majority of Americans now believe we won't win the war in Iraq, but that sending troops wasn't a mistake: "They didn't vote for John Kerry because he basically enunciated the same position they all hold today--they're against the war and they think it's a failure but they're glad we tried. Uh huh."

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