The Scandal of American Christianity

In response to Candace Chellew-Hodge’s recent interview question about religion and wealth, progressive Christian scholar Marcus Borg offers these wise words:

The scandal of American Christianity today is that it is deeply divided not only about issues like biblical inerrancy and evolution, but it’s deeply divided between a conservative vision of Christianity that emphasizes that what really matters morally is personal morality, the behavior of individuals . . .

On the other side of the great divide in American Christianity are progressive Christians for whom moral behavior does matter, but moral questions extend to economic issues, to social justice, war and peace.

This orientation flows from seeing the political passion of the Bible and the God of the Bible and the political passion of Jesus himself. The Bible is one massive protest against the ancient domination system, which makes it a very political document.

And we need to remember that Jesus didn’t simply die, he was executed by the domination system that ruled his world. He was executed because he had become a radical critic of the way that world was put together and he was beginning to attract a following. To be very blunt, it’s difficult for me to imagine how anybody who has seen what the Bible and Jesus are about could vote for policies that actually maintain or increase the wealth of those at the top in our day.

So What?

From the Occupy movement to the talk of the possibility of real reform as the fiscal cliff approached, Americans are increasingly aware of the shifts in wealth distribution that have served the wealthiest few percent of Americans quite well in recent decades.  People of faith must live out their faith in all areas of life, including the political.

  • Which “side” of Christianity are you on (the conservative emphasizing personal morality or the progressive emphasizing the interconnectedness of personal morality with larger issues of economics, social justice, and war and peace)?  How does your location within this group shape your view of the current distribution of wealth in the United States?
  • Borg claims that the “Bible is one massive protest against the ancient domination system.” Do you agree? What about this protest is most instructive for people who follow the way of Jesus in the current domination systems of the world?

AN INVITATION: Readers in or near Southwest Florida are invited to hear Marcus Borg speak at Naples United Church of Christ on February 8-9-10, 2013.

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