If asked to describe our country, most Americans would refer to us as a “Christian nation.” These people say this, I assume, because they actually believe it. Most, however, have probably never really thought what the term “Christian” really means.
A high percentage of our citizens attend church on a regular basis, consider the Bible to be sacred, and say they believe in the teachings of Jesus and believe him to be the Son of God. These same people observe that Jesus taught the qualities of love, kindness, generosity, humility, and peace. They eagerly ascribe to the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments and urge their children to follow these time-honored precepts.
But many religious Americans frequently choose to ignore their religious beliefs when they put on their “citizen” hats. The values learned after years of religious education are quickly forgotten when faced with real world challenges. We, almost like magic, can allow outside influences to override our morality and value system.
A shameful example of this is our country’s love affair with military force and our ungodly belief in “might makes right,” regardless of the result.
A recent study was performed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). In it, an accounting was made of all monies spent on military armaments worldwide. Their findings are disturbing and should make all moral Americans recoil with shock, awe and shame.
Worldwide, $1.46 trillion was spent on armed forces in 2008. The U.S. spent a total of $607 billion, more than the next 14 countries combined. Our country spent seven times more than the second largest spender on the list, China, at $85 billion. Russia only spent $59 billion. U.S. defense spending has increased by 45 percent since 1999. During the recent Bush administration, defense spending increased a whopping 71 percent, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan costing $903 billion.
Is this the action of a Christian nation?
For the last three years, a study has been done by the Institute of
Economics and Peace called the Global Peace Index. This study looked at the comparative peacefulness of 144 countries in the world. Peace, by its nature, is difficult to define. To do this, each country was measured using 23 different quantitative and qualitative parameters. When all these were tallied up, the U.S. scored a very mediocre 83 out of 144.
The measures that hurt our score most compared with other countries included such things as number of conflicts fought, number of deaths from these conflicts, respect for human rights, child mortality, our education system, percent of our population who is jailed and many more.
Among the surprising countries who scored better than the U.S. were the Czech Republic, Oman, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, South Korea, Botswana, Vietnam, Laos, Libya, Ghana, Cuba, China and the Ukraine. All the European countries greatly surpassed us.
What does this say about who we are as a people? To me, it says we are winning the arms race, but losing the race for peace and justice.
Another recent survey done by Pew Research also discovered an interesting fact. When Americans who attend church on a regular basis were asked if they could justify the use of torture, the majority of the respondents answered in the affirmative. Does this mean that we, as Christians, have decided to take the moral low road?
Is this what Christianity is all about?
As Christians, is it not our moral obligation to encourage our political leadership to rearrange our national priorities, away from war and in search of peace?
Do we not have more pressing needs for this money?
Has our country not prioritized military spending over programs to help the needy, the people Jesus referred to as “the meek”?
Does our country’s preoccupation with war pass the “What Would Jesus Do” test?
If America is indeed a Christian nation, isn’t it time that we, as Christians, muster the courage to wage peace instead of war? Is it not past time that we replace mindless nationalism, spend-thrifty militarism and belligerent patriotism with moral law?
Or is saying you’re a Christian and being one two different things?