Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Ugly Face of Christ

I'm sitting in my room, watching the Live8 concerts on VH1. For those who don't know, Live8 is a series of concerts happening across the world over the course of 24 hours to raise awareness for the desperate plight of Africans, especially in regards to poverty and AIDS.. Will Smith, U2, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Alica Keys, Paul McCartney, and other big name artists are participating just as the G8 conference, (which incidentally, my Bishop, Peter Weaver, is attending) begins on Wednesday, where some of the richest and most powerful countries in the world will discuss how they should aid or not aid Africa this coming year.

VH1 and MTV has interviewed artists performing in London and Philadelphia talk about the cause. Their spirit is absolutely inspiring. They talk about how it is wrong that people will live or die based upon where they are born. They speak in outrage about how during the Live8 concerts, 30,000 African will die from lack of the basics of life and drugs for AIDS that we take for granted in the United States. These celebrities with passion about how it is the duty of the fortunate to help the unfortunate, even sometimes using Christian language, such as talking about “our brothers and sisters in Africa.”

The Live 8 concerts depress me.

They contrast painfully with the general apathy or even hostilty from Christians in America towards those who are less fortunate. While concerned non- religious people are preaching about justice just as Jesus would, Christians in America concentrate on supporting tax cuts for the rich, picketing the funeral of gay soldiers with signs like “God hates fags” and “This fag is burning in hell”, and making it impossible for those who have nothing because of medical costs not covered by our horribly insufficient health system to declare bankruptcy and start over.

I agree with most fundamentalist Christians that America is in the midst of a serious moral decline. However, I feel that Christians have often been the cause of this moral decline. We reframed religion as a consumer product, implying God exists solely to serve us and by preaching that you can be a Christian and still follow “everyone for themselves”, law of the jungle mentality. By espousing hate towards the marginalized and consciously choosing to oppress the poor, Christians simply promote our culture’s conviction that the self is the ultimate end of life, and that pleasing the self, regardless of the cost to others, is a worthy way to live.

It is not surprising that voices for justice and morality now come from outside the Church more often than from within it. It is now movie stars, athletes, and musicians who are trying to awaken a sense of selflessness and charity in our nation, in direct opposition to the most prominent and powerful Christian leaders and denominations.

In the midst of this decline, many people in my generation realize that America’s values are hollow and meaningless. Many grow cynical, become dissatisfied, and are starting to look for an antidote to this cultural poison. In their search, many will look for signs of something bigger themselves: the face of God, even the face of Christ. They will look at Christians to see if they can see God within them, if there is anything true in the miracle of Jesus Christ.

We are the face of Christ to the world.

Right now that face is harsh, unforgiving, judgmental, and self centered.

And sadly, irrelevant.