Challenging the American “Script”

An excerpt from Beauty Will Save the World: Rediscovering the allure and mystery of Christianity by Brian Zahnd, (Location 165-187), Strang Communications, Kindle Edition, (emphasis mine – P.G.)

“The stories of evangelicalism and America are deeply intertwined in much the same way that the stories of Catholicism and the Roman Empire are intertwined. Evangelical Christianity came of age during America’s rise to superpower status on the world stage… and evangelical Christianity has flourished in the American environment. So far so good. But there is always a particular temptation faced by the church when it is hosted by a superpower. The temptation is to accommodate itself to its host and to adopt (or even christen) the cultural assumptions of the superpower.

This is nothing new. The long history of the church bears witness to the reality and seductive power of this temptation. The historic problem the Greek Orthodox Church struggled with in the East sixteen hundred years ago was the temptation to be too conformed to the Byzantine Empire. At the same time, the historic problem the Roman Catholic Church struggled with in the West was the temptation to be too conformed to the Roman Empire. And I dare to suggest (or even insist!) that the problem that is distorting American evangelicalism is that it has become far too accommodating to Americanism and the culture of a superpower. This is fairly obvious. You don’t have to be a sociologist to recognize that the American obsession with pragmatism, individualism, consumerism, materialism, and militarism that so characterizes contemporary America has come to shape (and thereby distort) the dominant form of evangelical Christianity found in North America. It becomes American culture with a Jesus fish bumper sticker. If we are unwilling to engage in critical thought, we will simply assume that this is Christianity, when in reality it is a kind of Christianity blended with many other things.

To be born in America is to be handed a certain script. We are largely unconscious of the script, but we are “scripted” by it nevertheless. The American script is part of our nurture and education, and most of it happens without our knowing it. The dominant American script is that which idolizes success, achievement, acquisition, technology, and militarism. It is the script of a superpower. But this dominant script does not fit neatly with the alternative script we find in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So here is our challenge: when those who confess Christ find themselves living in the midst of an economic and military superpower, they are faced with the choice to either be an accommodating chaplain or a prophetic challenge. Over the last generation or so, evangelicalism has been more adept at endorsing the dominant script than challenging it. And in conforming too closely to the dominant script of Americanism, the Christianity of the American church has become disfigured and distorted and is in desperate need of recovering its true form and original beauty through a process of re-formation. We need to bear the form and beauty of the Jesus way and not merely provide a Christianized version of our cultural assumptions.”


4 thoughts on “Challenging the American “Script”

  1. Very nice … I love your blog. Of course, I’m on your list and get it by email. I send people to your Red Moon Rising site now and then when I mention your work on my blog. God bless.

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  2. Heard an author from CBN on a talk show today – he has a book out about the tea party and the many evangelicals in it – he calls them, and not in a tongue in cheek way but rather with praise – Teavangelicals.

    We worship the flag now.

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  3. Yes, I have heard about the teavangelicals. They had an article at Charismamag.com about them. I even posted a comment.

    “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…” -God

    By the way, I like your radiofreebabylon site. Keep up the good work!

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