At long last, I have finished my manuscript for "The 80% Solution: Getting Christians to do Right." The Name has changed several times and this may not be it, but all the remains are some small editing needs and footnote corrections. I decided to post an excerp that explains my premise that if their are any problems with ethics and morality in the United States, they are Christian problems. I've included the temporary cover design, which a friend says is too harsh. Any way here's an excerpt.
The 80% Solution
I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do.” [i]—James Baldwin
Raising the Bar
Considering ethics and morals, any claim to a higher standard necessarily bears the added burden of living to that standard, or providing evidence that supports the assertion. Christianity has long accepted the praises granted it by its many followers, but with religion, what glitters often is not gold. There is no satisfaction in revealing the horrible acts that Christians do to themselves and others, but the unending litany of “prayer in school,” “the Ten Commandments as common law,” “America is a Christian nation” and the endless banter about God in schools, slipping American morality, plus the pronouncements of the Religious Right drives me to say—enough!
If the Religious Right accomplished anything in 30 years, it placed Christianity center stage where all Americans could see it and realize they are the problem. Although I would never expect Christian conservatives to see anything humorous in the matter, but it is difficult to overlook someone slamming themselves in the back of the head with a hammer and continuously ask, "Who hit me?" With 76 percent of Americans claiming Christianity, it seems that any preaching about the country's moral condition clearly overshoots the choir.
The 80% Solution
As an unbeliever, I can view any Sunday professional football game at any stadium in the United States and know without a doubt, the majority attending are Christian. It is not because Christians like football more than other faiths. The simple answer is that almost 80 percent of the country is Christian. A note telling Christians to stay home would be necessary for it to be any other way. Of course, eight of 10 means that every bar and strip joint has a good chance of Christians providing the most attendees.
What it looks like is that Christians have a problem with other Christians, giving new meaning to the words, "preaching to the choir." Nearly eight of ten Americans self-indentify as Christian, a point that obviously goes unnoticed as Christian leaders scold entire groups and even the nation for behavior or actions they judge incompatible with their faith. Lost in the majority status of Christianity is that in any instance the likelihood of Christian involvement is not only high, but also nearly guaranteed.
Admit Your Success
Once, Christianity registered close to 90 percent of the population or nearly nine of 10 Americans. Although it has dropped to 76 percent, Christianity is easily the dominant religion in the United States. To illustrate the preeminence of the faith, Christians fill American penitentiaries as witnessed by the number of prison ministries tending the spiritual needs of those incarcerated. That there are more Christians in jail than any other faith is not the point. It is that with nearly 80 percent of the country claiming Christianity the possibility of it being different is almost nonexistent. On a similar note, most of the United States esteemed soldiers is Christian. Again, it is not that Christians are more patriotic. Instead, it is simple math. In a country of mostly Christians, the military will reflect that fact, as will just about any other gathering of individuals.
Ignoring the Spotlight
Christians seem unaware of their religion’s dominance. Marked by the sheer number of adherents, Christians speaking or writing about any topic address mostly Christians. To avoid it is nearly impossible. Unless Christians directly address the Muslim, Hindu, agnostic or humanist population, pro or con, they lecture, praise, criticize, and complain about other Christians. Again, with ratio of Christians compared with the “rest” so dominant, there is no way to avoid it. When Christians criticize homosexuals, they speak of other Christians, although considering their treatment how long that will last dwindles each second.
For all of those seeking to deny abortion services, a little education would tell them 70 percent of those receiving abortions are Christian, which is a problem with a solution closer to home.[ii] Of the thieves, liars, adulterers, pornographers, pedophiles, cheaters, abusers, perverts and more, the majority will be Christian. They may not fit the mold Christian religionists wish, but they are part of the 76 percent no one wants altered and risk claims as a Christian nation.
Observation of the Observers
My awareness of the ratio is acute. As a trained observer, it is nearly impossible ignore discrepancies in stated belief compared with behavior especially with the instant communication made available by today’s technology. A huge example of belief being out of balance with behavior is the Christian unawareness of their protected status guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Many Christians regularly complain, criticize, and even protest the same status of other groups, especially those of which they do not approve; unaware they sit in the same pew.
When stated belief and measured behavior differ widely, it draws my attention. In the United States, when it comes to religion, observation provides a full-time job as there is no shortage of hypocrisy or pretense among the American populace. Eight of ten people self-indentify as Christian, but there are many brands of Christianity in the United States. Christianity differs in denomination, practice, observances, and even style. Despite evangelicals and fundamentalists voicing differences about what makes a real Christian, a Christian is a Christian, is a Christian.
Over the years, I have watched as Christian accountants try to erase other Christians by giving them names that imply they are not real Christians. Today, there is a clear discounting of faith as fundamentalists, evangelicals and born-agains take the lead in claiming judgment standards. Nowhere is it more obvious than in the Conservative Evangelical Movement, which seemingly dislikes everything, everyone, and even one another. Conservative Christian evangelicals set themselves up as the gold standard of Christianity and they are too glad to let others know while passing along unsolicited criticism.
Watching is Easy
Many of my observation topics are obvious, such as homosexuality, abortion, and abstinence-only sex education, but I also research other subjects associated with Christianity such as divorce, adultery, and even prosperity preaching, areas that most Christian leaders avoid because of the negativity or embarrassment associated with them. Just as technology allows widespread proselytizing, it also provides easily accessible information for observers like me.
With 8 out of 10 chances for observation, even little items capture my interest such as the club-like nature of American Christianity, or the resume status of Christianity. With the constant beating of praise for Christianity, as an observer incongruity of such unctuousness is overwhelming. Most of the information is propaganda mindlessly spouted by followers that have no idea of its veracity. With so many opportunities presented by a majority Christian nation, my observations even extend to vehicle drivers, the workplace, business leaders, politicians, sports, news, friends, and family.
Those observations and study lead me to believe that Christianity, despite its status as the chosen faith of nearly 80 percent of the country, has little or no affect in regulating, modifying, or altering behavior in the United States. It is a stance shared by various religious sources with a stake in seeing the faith survives.
Observations of the Faithful by the Faithful
A report from The Barna Group presented research indicated that people’s faith does not make much of a difference—especially among non-evangelical born-again Christians.[iii] In fact, misbehavior is so widespread among the great mass of those who call themselves evangelicals that evangelical author Ronald Sider calls the statistics devastating.[iv], [v]
"American Christianity has largely failed since the middle of the twentieth century," Barna concludes, "because Jesus' modern-day disciples do not act like Jesus."[vi] This scandalous behavior mocks Christ, undermines evangelism, and destroys Christian credibility.[vii]
Despite the renewal movement's proud claims to miraculous transformation, the polls showed that members of the movement divorced their spouses just as often as their secular neighbors. They beat their wives as often as their neighbors. They were almost as materialistic and even more racist than their pagan friends. The hard-core skeptics smiled in cynical amusement at this blatant hypocrisy. The general population was puzzled and disgusted. Many of the renewal movement's leaders simply stepped up the tempo of their now enormously successful, highly sophisticated promotional programs. Others wept. This, alas, is roughly the situation of Western or at least American evangelicalism today.[viii]
The findings in numerous national polls conducted by highly respected pollsters like The Gallup Organization and The Barna Group are simply shocking. "Gallup and Barna," laments evangelical theologian Michael Horton, ". . . hand us survey after survey demonstrating that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered, and sexually immoral as the world in general."[ix]
Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, or neglect of a biblical worldview, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians. [x]
The Failure of Christianity in the United States
Christianity ranks as a major failure as a behavioral change agent. Too often, I've heard that without God, man would be free to do as he pleases, including murder, steal, rape, gamble, molest, cheat, lie and more, but from my view it seems that man does as much regardless of God. The dominance of Christianity in the United States guarantees Christian involvement in whatever happens in this country—good or bad. If 80 percent of the country is Christian then either 20 percent of the population is responsible for all of what ails the country, or, the more likely answer is that Christians are just as involved as anyone in the country’s issues.
For me, none of it is an issue other than being unable to escape the lunacy of Christian Conservatives unaware of volume control or that one reason people leave the faith is their intolerant shrillness and their imagined lock on moral rectitude. To me, the Christian Right did what an army of atheists could never do and that is cause serious or possibly fatal injury to a faith so many claim. As ambassadors for Christ, Right-Wing Evangelicals are without a portfolio propelled by bursts hatred for life and the living.
Nevertheless, it is not my fight. As I mentioned before, with eight of ten Americans at least vocal Christians, the so-called values war is strictly a battle between Christians that despise the way other Christians behave. I am not a member of the club and the constant shrieking of the Religious Right are nails dragging across the chalkboard and squeaking Styrofoam cups that motivated me to say I am tired of it. Realizing the implications of eight of ten Americans being Christian, points the finger where X marks the spot in the majority's home.
[i] James Baldwin, goodreads, James Baldwin, Quotes, http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/10427.James_Baldwin
[ii] The Landscape of Abortion, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=2
[iii] Faith Has a Limited Effect On Most People’s Behavior, the Barna Research Group, May 24, 2004, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/188-faith-...
[iv] Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? BakerBooks, 2005, Page 17
[v] Christine Wicker, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Chrurch, HarperCollins Publishers, 2008, Page 80
[vi] George Barna, Think Like Jesus: Make the Right Decision Every Time, Integrity Publishers, 2003, Page 40
[vii] Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? BakerBooks, 2005, Page 15
[viii] Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Don't Christians Live What They Preach? Christianity Today, International Books & Culture Magazine, January/February 2005, Vol. 11, No. 1, Page 8, http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2005/janfeb/3.8.html
[ix] Beyond the Culture Wars: Is America a Mission Field or a Battlefield?, Moody Press, 1994
[x] Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World? BakerBooks, 2005, Page 17