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Christianity in USAmerica

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 12, 2007

image Today is Veteran’s Day (actually it was yesterday, but we celebrate it today).  I suppose I could post about pacifism, militiarism, or any number of “stick-it-to-the-empire” themes.  But I won’t.  Instead I want to start a “Christianity in USAmerica” meme.  Here’s how it works:

Below, I’ve got 10 questions about Christianity in America.  If you are up for it, answer the 10 questions on your blog and also leave your list of 10 in the comments section below.  I hope to get some good discussion out of this.

  1. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?
  2. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?
  3. Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why?
  4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?
  5. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence?
  6. What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica?
  7. What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church?
  8. What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church?
  9. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith?
  10. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith?
Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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    HERE ARE MY ANSWERS:

    1. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?

    I would have to say that the Church’s role in the Civil Rights movement after its despicable complacency during the time of enslavement stands out as one of Christianity’s brighter moments. Without the theological conception laid out by individuals such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I do not believe the movement would have garnered as much power and respect as it did. (Although the Church, in some segments, also stood in the way of progress in the area of civil rights.)

    2. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?

    As already alluded to above, I believe the time of African enslavement in this nation and the subsequent feeble attempts at “reconciliation” through Jim Crowe and reconstruction, the Church’s largely silent voice, or vocal assent, marks the darkest point in American Christianity.

    In addition, I would also add the time of colonization and the “missionary” activities among Native Americans, without regard for culture or land, is another dark point–possibly even darker than the time of enslavement.

    3. Which U.S. president demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why?

    Wow, I’m not sure I can really answer this question due to my own personal beliefs about cooperation with the “empire.” I’m not sure any of the U.S presidents really can truly be “Christ-like” while serving in such a role.

    Yet, if I am forced to choose, I would have to say Abraham Lincoln, simply because of his desire to heal the divisions created by slavery and states’ rights, as well as his own acknowledgment of his mistakes and responsibility.

    4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?

    I would have to say that groups such as The Simple Way, and those like them, within the “New Monasticism” movement have the most positive influence in American Christianity today.

    5. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence?

    I know this may rustle some feathers, but I would have to say churches such as Willow Creek, Saddleback, Lakewood, etc. in the “mega-church” movement currently have the most negative influence on both American Christianity and America as a whole. This is due to their influence and “respect” which so many pastors and churches give them–respect which I am not sure is warranted.

    6. What is the biggest challenge facing the Church in USAmerica?

    Well, today, I believe it to be the Church’s continue draw to power–political, social, or theological power and control. The Church, in large part, has decided to cooperate and collude with the “empire” more than to be the voice of resistance to all that the “empire” stands for.

    7. What is the biggest gift we can offer the global Church?

    To discontinue cooperating with the “powers and authorities,” and instead, begin to speak up for the oppressed and marginalized–because they have been oppressed and marginalized in large part to secure the lifestyle we all enjoy.

    8. What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church?

    The biggest gift we could receive is the acknowledgment that worldly possessions, power and security are not that necessary among the people of God.

    9. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith?

    Consumerism and greed.

    10. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith?

    Those segments of the culture, with no religious affiliation, which have, on their own, rejected the mindset of greed and consumerism which plagues our nation.

    SEE: Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping
    • ^
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    Why don't you all ask those questions of the presidential candidates? To reach them, I would invite you to check out Straight2theCandidates.com.

    Our set up a) allows you to simply film yourself directly via our platform with your webcam, b) allows you to address a particular
    candidate directly (and not all candidates at once), c) enables you to
    post/look at questions by category, d) and does not skew the
    ranking by indirectly favoring the most recent submissions.

    I would invite you to check out the video function in particular, and
    then send Romney
    (or anyone else) a message by clicking "video" once his portal loads.
    After that, have your friends and colleagues vote the question up in the rankings to make sure it gets to his (or her respective) campaign!
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    great post
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    I'm going to answer these questions "from the hip" so to speak. I don't claim to have any authoritative knowledge about American history, or Church history, but these are my impressions... feel free to debate.

    1. Brightest moment for Christianity? Probably our founding. I think our Founding Fathers had more of a sense of making sacrifices to follow Christ than any subsequent group of leaders.

    2. Darkest moment? 50s and 60s... an entire generation stricken with victory syndrome, nationalism, entitlement and affluenza. The door was left wide open for the rebellion that followed.

    3. Most Christ-like U.S. President? Abraham Lincoln... integrity out the wazoo.

    4. Church with most positive influence? That's tough... so I'll answer generally, not specifically. Any church that is constantly being shaped by God and His Word, not trying to do the shaping themselves. Any church that truly loves the community around it, and is not afraid of constant change at the behest of the Holy Spirit.

    5. Church with most negative influence? My answer would simply be the opposite of number 4.

    6. Amercian Church's biggest challenge? Complacency and Consumerism.

    7. Biggest gift we can offer? Sadly... the biggest thing we actually HAVE, that we can give to the global church is money. I wish I could answer differently.

    8. Biggest gift we can receive? A perspective on what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ, and live a life of sacrifice.

    9. Most toxic element of culture? Narcissism and Vanity.

    10. Most helpful element of culture? The re-kindling of interest in spirituality and Jesus.
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    Also a little off the cuff:

    1. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?

    I think most of the brightest moments have been mostly overlooked. But I'll give the honor to things like the Moravian missionary effort to the Native Americans, the underground railroad groups and the catholic worker movement.

    2. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?

    Been a few. Native American genocide, African enslavement and Hiroshima and Nagasaki stand out.

    3. Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why?

    How about Jimmy Carter. Why you ask? Because he served for a short time, was disgraced, and was better after a resurrection of his public life.

    4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?

    I'd have to go with The Church of the Saviour in DC for this one. They kind of become the definition of what a missional church would look like.

    5. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence?

    Any and all groups that preach the prosperity gospel or blindly support government violence.

    6. What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica?

    The transition out of christendom and to keep the church from going full on into postmodern consumerism.

    7. What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church?

    Using our American privilege on their behalf.

    8. What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church?

    A perspective from outside the dominate empire of our day.

    9. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith?

    Violence and Consumerism

    10. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith?

    Diversity
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    1. Which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?
    The Second Great Awakening. A time of Christian revival from 1800-1830 which emphasized woman's rights, abolition of slavery and devotion to Christ's way.

    2. Which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?
    The history of racism, unjust prejudice and hatred that goes on in the name of Christ.

    3. Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness?
    Perhaps LBJ. He was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and often employed the theme of Christian redemption when pushing for social change.

    4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?
    Tough call. But, without singling out any group, I'll just say those who have the greatest impact are those who desperately seek the glorification of Christ.

    5. What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica?
    We're too attached to our things and foolishly think we know what is best for every one us.

    Wish I had more time to answer the rest. Every blessing!
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    Good questions, some of which I confess to being too ignorant to answer.

    1. Brightest moment: It's a toss-up between the Great Awakenings and the founding. I would probably go with you on this one, Ryan.

    2. Darkest moment: I would say the Native American genocide, although I don't have the hard facts on to what extent the church actually collaborated or neglected to resist this.

    3. President: I am grossly ignorant of American history in general, and completely ignorant of Presidential history. I have absolutely no opinion on this one.

    4. Positive church: As crazy as this sounds, I'm going to go with Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, because I believe John Piper has done more in the last 30 years to ignite a passion for the supremacy of Christ than any other pastor or theologian. I don't think the ecclesia of any church has had a very widespread, positive effect.

    5. Negative church: It's a toss up between Willow Creek/Saddle Back and liberal churches as a group--for different reasons, obviously.

    6. Challenge: Maintaining a distinctive, communal, and orthodox faith amidst social and economic pressures to live the American dream.

    7. Gift to offer: This may be a copout, but "all of the resources at our disposal--financial, professional, theological, and authoritative."

    8. Gift to receive: A better perspective on life and God, in light of suffering, contentment with less, cultural diversity, and the bigness of the missio Dei.

    9. Toxin: The notion of allegiance to empire, which so often opposes the living out of the Gospel.

    10. Help: The spirit of critical inquiry and free speech.
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    I suppose I should answer my own questions:

    1. Bright moment:

    The founding of the Catholic Worker Movement or, perhaps, the Asuza Street Revival.

    2. Dark moment:

    There are too many to choose from...but the Apalachee Massacre is indicative.

    3. Most Christlike president:

    Gerald Ford

    4. church with positive influence:

    Church of the Savior in Washington DC

    5. church with negative influence:

    The Crystal Cathedral (a forerunner to the seeker movement AND opened the door for the mainstreaming of the so called "health and wealth" movement)

    6. biggest challenge facing US church:

    Our addiction to power and money.

    7. biggest gift we can offer:

    Giving up our power and money.

    8. biggest gift we could receive:

    For the rest of the world to have some of our power and money.

    9. most toxic element of American culture:

    Consumerism.

    10. most helpful element of American culture:

    Our diversity.
    • ^
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    In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity? Definitely the establishment of this place as a safe haven for those who wanted to worship God Almighty.
    In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity? The last 50-100 years, which have included a watered down Gospel, the seeker sensitive and emergent movement, the prosperity preachers, and liberal theology all of which have seeped in and rolled us downward towards apostasy.
    Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why? George Washington, who stated that it is impossible to govern without God and the Bible.
    What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence? Any church that preaches and lives out the Good News of Jesus Christ, unadulterated.
    What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence? Seeker Sensitive or any other movement that basterdizes scripture or deconstructs orthodoxy and the Bible.
    What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica? Awareness of our true condition (Miserable, wretched, poor, blind, naked)
    What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church? The example of our repentance and allowing Jesus Christ= the BIBLICAL Jesus back into our churches.
    What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church? The persecution so many have suffered for practicing the true Word of God so that we would be forced to repent and trust in Christ Alone.
    Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith? Prosperity and government protection
    Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith? The freedoms we enjoy right now are a blessing and a curse, a curse in that we take our freedom and our access for granted and use them to deconstruct scripture and cheapen grace. A Blessing, because we still have time to repent in this culture and complete Christ's commission in freedom.
    • ^
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    here are my answers.

    1. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?
    Probably the Christians role in the civil rights movement, the Catholic workers movement, and many other missions like those.

    2. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?
    Slavery and manifest destiny

    3. Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why?
    Grover Cleveland, because he was resurrected. Sorta. (come on, that was funny, admit it.)

    4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?
    Probably intentional communities. Because their voice is so needed.

    5. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence?
    Well, this is a many-way tie. Cultural capitulation. manifesting itself in the Religious Right, theological liberalism, prosperity gospel, seeker sensitive, and a myriad of others...

    6. What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica?
    Well, the biggest problem that I see with Christianity in America is that we have defined Christianity as something that you cognitively believe (i.e. that Jesus rose from the dead) rather than something you are and live within (i.e. "come follow me")

    7. What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church?
    Money, for one. Secondly, America has some of the best resources for training in theology and pastoral leadership.

    8. What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church?
    The reversal of the false dichotomy that we have created between our "faith" and our life or "ethics".

    9. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith?
    Greed. and complacecy

    10. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith?
    the free exchange of ideas.
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    As a european, I'm not going to comment on what applies to the US because I'm not qualified. However, to

    7. What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church?

    My (European) answer would be firstly in line with Dustin:

    "To discontinue cooperating with the “powers and authorities,” and instead, begin to speak up for the oppressed and marginalized–because they have been oppressed and marginalized in large part to secure the lifestyle we all enjoy."

    Added to this:

    Listen to us. Don't assume we are a bunch of pagan hippies, married to the welfare state and just waiting for the American church to send the next initiative come over. If you are a missionary, long or short term mission trip, know that a lot of US based missionary concepts aren't that effective here: instead of saying we are all 'cold' come and listen. You may be surprised what you find. Learn about who we are before you start preaching (and don't preach in english). Be prepared to drink the odd glass of wine.

    Please remember we have a church here which is indigenous and which for all its many faults has deep roots in our culture and many people who are desperate to reach their neighbours and if you come church planting with consumer churches it won't help one bit. In fact it will probably just annoy people. It may be hard for a "Home church" to realise this, but your "Church plant" may have to be inside an existing church that you don't agree with in the finer points, but it can get into the culture faster than you can.

    What you bring which we need is enthusiasm, ideas, openness to ideas and energy. You are great at encouraging, at volunteering, at making a big push to change something you percieve isn't good. We need this enthusiasm and freshness and your outside view for the things we've become so accustomed to we don't realise it's culture, not bible, andthe things we know are not good but we are too apathetic to change. We need this more than money (we're stuffed to the eyeballs with it anyway, and spending it in the organ or the stained glass windows) Kick us out of our apathy about that, please!

    As to what we could give you? I see our diversity as a gift. I'd add that to our relational culture and slower way of working, and the learning and wisdom we have in our churches and pastors.
    • ^
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    http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com/2007/11/late-...

    1. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the brightest moment for Christianity?

    "Separation of church and state" That concept alone is the single brightest moment of American history as it relates to Christianity.

    2. In the past 231 years of USAmerican history, which event stands out as the darkest moment for Christianity?

    There are too many dark moments to choose from, and even in the darkest of moments there where glimpses of light, individuals and groups who shone despite corruption all around them. To pick one, I would nominate the notion of Manifest Destiny, especially as espoused by Taft:

    The day is not far when 3 Stars & Stripes at three equidistant points mark our territory; one at the North Pole, another at the Panama Canal, and the third at the South Pole. The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally.



    3. Which US president best demonstrated Christ-likeness? Why?

    Truth be told, I don't know enough about all the Presidents to give a halfway-informed reply. I would say that despite his priority being the preservation of the union (whether by setting slaves free or keeping them chained), Abraham Lincoln's influence in officially liberating slaves has helped set the stage for true freedom for African and other immigrant/slaves.

    4. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most positive influence?

    Greg Boyd, the Emergent conversation, the JPUSA and other groups where believers are gathered together to live like Jesus to those around them.

    5. What church or community in USAmerica do you think has the most negative influence?

    Those that embody a "Christian supremacist fascist" agenda, or those completely married to American consumer culture, without regard for how this poisons the well their members are drinking from.

    6. What is the biggest challenge facing the church in USAmerica?

    Realizing the church is not just in America.

    7. What is the biggest gift that we can offer the global Church?

    Unity, putting aside pettiness and striving for holiness.

    8. What is the biggest gift we could receive from the global Church?

    Perspective and humility

    9. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most toxic for the Christian faith?

    A sense of entitlement and the concept that one has a right to remain 'unoffended'.

    10. Which part of USAmerican culture is the most helpful for the Christian faith?

    The idea that America has a responsibility to the world. The way politics uses it can be perverse, but it is a concept with some truth in it, and it can be redeemed.

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