Tuesday, August 30, 2005


American Weirdness and Europe-Envy

This will engender knee-jerk "love it or leave it" reactions from some, but I have to confess that I sometimes wish I were European. Perhaps it's a version of the grass-is-greener thing, but it often seems like Europeans are just more...sensible, by and large.

Something like 65% of Europeans are atheist or agnostic, for one thing, versus the weird combination we have here of people who both a) profess religious belief and yet b) are almost wholly ignorant of it. Seventy to 85% of Americans (depending on whose poll you're reading) say they are "practicing" Christians and 45-55% claim to be "born again," yet only 14% can name more than half of the Ten Commandments. The vast majority cannot answer simple Biblical questions like "Who was Lot?" Or, "Where did Jesus go on Palm Sunday?"

This reached an amusing reductio ad absurdum in one of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments on his Tonight Show. Jay asked a young woman--a professed Christian--what the holiday right before Easter was called. The woman said she didn't know, so Jay gave her a bit of a hint. "C'mon, it's the Friday right before Easter. It's a really good holiday. A really good Friday." Our Christian still didn't have clue.

I would have thought that even the average American Zoroastrian (if there is such a thing) could answer that question correctly. Weird.

Even weirder, the current evangelical "movement" takes a hard-line stance against secularism--and yet is itself almost entirely a secular movement. This obvious fact appears to be completely lost on evangelicals themselves. Not only is it almost wholly a political movement, but it barely even adheres to the teachings of Jesus. For instance, the great project of the Evangelical community at the moment is a great mass apologia for business success and monetary prosperity. Which is fine--except that it directly contradicts the teachings and preachings of Jesus. And then of course there's the whole family values thing. What did Jesus actually teach? Leave your father and mother and follow the Lord (or words to that effect--I'm reaching waaay back to childhood Sunday-School memories here). Hardly in sync with the religious right's family values orthodoxy, one would think. That's probably lost on evangelicals too.

But I bet a lot of Europeans get it.

The Quotidian Meander.

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