Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Europespeak and American Christians

posted by Scot McKnight

Europe.jpgI tweeted this two days ago: I’m embarrassed at how American Christians talk about “Europe.” Embarrassing. That tweet then appeared on my FB account and drew a conversation — some 74 comments. I appreciate the zeal of these folks; I appreciate their love for the USA; I appreciate, too, their courage to express their mind. But…

Why are Americans drawn to use the words “Europe” and “European” derisively? Why do they want to use the word “European” and mean “socialism”? [Do you know what the word "socialism" means?] Have these people been to Europe? More, have they lived there? Are they relying on FoxNews for their stereotype or do they know what it is really like to be there?
On happiness scales, Europe does well. Yes, their taxes are much higher than ours. But… but … but …
The big question: How should American Christians speak about Europe? How should they speak about European Christians? Here are a few comments that illustrate for me the problem:
Scot, why are you embarrassed? I spent the first 20 years of my life in Europe…it’s a horrible place to live and raise a family…a place where Statism is the religion of the day and the population lives to serve the whim of government.

On the post by Stephen Holmes about “biblical” family, here was one comment. 

But what should we expect from European Christianity anyway…..sheesh!

Of course, it’s more than appropriate to disagree with the economic policies and theories of European countries. Yes, those countries have higher taxes and they have more governmental intrusions in the economic life of an individual. Yes, disagree with that. But the issue here is our character coming through when we speak.
I’m concerned about is how we are talking about Europe. Isn’t a Christian to follow the words of the Apostle Paul as much as possible?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things (Phil. 4:8).


Might I suggest that we begin right there: What’s good about Europe ought to proceed the negative.



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Rachel H. Evans

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm


Wow, Scot. This is a really fascinating subject. I’m always amazed at how many fresh ideas you manage to come up with in a week! ;-)
What I think is interesting about this subject is how many of my friends/relatives from Europe are equally perplexed by American Christianity! They find it odd that we have “Christian” t-shirts and “Christian” music, and they express skepticism about the degree to which we use God’s name in the context of wealth, health, prosperity, and politics.
It seems to me that the beauty of Christianity is that it thrives in so many different environments. The result, of course, is that it might look a little different in Africa than it does in America, a little different in England than it does in China, a little different in Mexico than it does in Haiti. I think the best approach is to try to learn from one another…with the assumption that no single culture has Christianity just right, and no singled culture as Christianity all wrong.



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Morten Miland

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm


Thanks, Scot. Really a word in time.
We have the same problem over here on the eastern side of the big pond. “American Christianity” is very often used as a derogatory phrase by European Christians. We seem to think that it is mostly a very thin ‘religious’ coat of paint to cover an essentially egoistical political ideology, made to protect the lifestyle of the middle class.
I often have to point to blogs like this one to convince Danish Christians that something good after all might come from America…
I have lived in Denmark all my life (53 years), and I would not under any circumstances consider raising my family outside the Scandinavian countries, certainly not in the USA – but ObamaCare may be a step in the right direction.
We are not ‘Socialists’, but we value the degree of interdependent fellowship given to us by 11 centuries of Christian culture.
Come and visit us – it’s really not a bad place :0)



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Morten Miland

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm


Thanks, Scot. Really a word in time.
We have the same problem over here on the eastern side of the big pond. “American Christianity” is very often used as a derogatory phrase by European Christians. We seem to think that it is mostly a very thin ‘religious’ coat of paint to cover an essentially egoistical political ideology, made to protect the lifestyle of the middle class.
I often have to point to blogs like this one to convince Danish Christians that something good after all might come from America…
I have lived in Denmark all my life (53 years), and I would not under any circumstances consider raising my family outside the Scandinavian countries, certainly not in the USA – but ObamaCare may be a step in the right direction.
We are not ‘Socialists’, but we value the degree of interdependent fellowship given to us by 11 centuries of Christian culture.
Come and visit us – it’s really not a bad place :0)



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Peter P

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm


I find it hilarious that anyone can use the word ‘Europe’ to mean any single idea.
Europe is a continent made up of 44 countries.
Each country has its own unique heritage, culture and social situation.
Each country also has its own prevalent religion and is in its own individual spiritual state, be that a positive one or a negative one.
To throw the religious beliefs and situation of the Polish, Swedish, French, Germans, English, Irish, Welsh, Italians and Portuguese into one all encompassing category is ridiculous. Not to mention of course the Lithuanians, Dutch, Scottish, Spanish, Angolans, Swiss… shall I go on?
There are 24 countries in the continent of North America, from Greenland to Guatemala, Canada to Costa Rica. No-one would ever dream of grouping all of those together and make a statement about the state of Christianity in ‘North America’.
It would be absurd to talk about the state of Christianity in Cuba and the USA as if they were one place.
Likewise, it’s absurd to talk about the state of Christianity in ‘Europe’ as if it is one big country.



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jjoe@gmail.com

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm


Unless it’s all about how much you die with, you make money to increase your quality of life, and the quality of life is overall higher in many of those European countries as shown by the happiness index.
If I can generalize and editorialize a bit, I think my taxes are basically redistributed upward here in the U.S., making the rich richer (quoting yesterdays’ NYTimes “The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.”) and providing corporate welfare for insurance companies, Wall Street and the like.
Lobbyists at the US public trough consume WAY more public money than unemployed people ever dreamed of, but we’re told “Look over there! It’s a lazy unemployed welfare baby-maker” to keep our attention off the real thieves who get away with $billions by invoking the name of the sacred Free Market, in which profit is equivalent to holiness.
And I’m not so sure that my disposable income wouldn’t increase, even if my taxes went up, because of things that would be cheaper, like health care and public transportation. I did the analysis for Canada and it looks like I’d save money by moving there, actually.
I think a lot of the disparaging comments about Europe come from those who are subconsciously are ashamed that our so-called Christian country has created a society in which everything from health care to justice to political representation to education is based on wealth. You cannot serve two masters and Mammon-worship is out national religion. IMHO.



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Rachel H. Evans

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm


Great point, Peter P! Even “American” Christianity includes everything from Canadian Christianity to Peruvian Christianity to Cuban Christianity.



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Native American

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:51 pm


American Christians can’t easily separate their allegiance to the state and their allegiance to Christ since they fervently believe God has blessed the USA in a manifest destiny sort of way. The kingdom of God defined by American shores is a special place. It is this blending of American polity and christian faith that makes conservative evangelicals apoplectic when discussing Us v. Them. Europeans (the new ethnos) are the unregenerate; we should think of all of them, no matter what their heritage, in these sadly pejorative ways.
Someone needs to help folks think about the meaning of the Kingdom of God in biblical ways that don’t confuse God’s reign with any earthly state. Then maybe we’ll stop lumping people into faceless blobs of scorn that make us feel better about ourselves.



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John D'Elia

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm


Thanks for initiating this conversation, Scot. I’m an American pastor, serving a church in London, and in the 3+ years I’ve been here I’ve heard all kinds of nonsense from my friends (and family) in the States. Of course the health care debates have ratcheted up the intensity quite a bit, but the anti-European sentiment was there already.
I fully agree with your challenge to lead with the praiseworthy when we speak of the various nations that make up Europe. They still have a lot to teach us, and even if they didn’t, they would still be made up of precious children of God. I was reminded of one of the questions in the Presbyterian Catechism about how we should treat the ‘other.’ Here’s the answer:
?As much as I can, I should meet friendship with friendship, hostility with kindness, generosity with gratitude, persecution with forbearance, truth with agreement, and error with truth?I should avoid compromising the truth on the one hand, and being narrow-minded on the other. In short, I should always welcome and accept these others in a way that honors and reflects the Lord?s welcome and acceptance of me.?
Shameless plug: I posted some comments related to US vs. UK health care here: http://ministryintheuk.blogspot.com/2010/03/reasonable-comment-on-health-care.html



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JamesG.

posted March 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm


I’m not really sure the taxes are really much greater in most of Europe, when you start really adding up sales, income, property, school, etc. USAmericans in states like NY, MA, and CA pay nearly as much as the Dutch, effectively. What Americans should be asking is why we pay nearly as much, but get so little…and if we don’t want the services from government that many EU countries provide, the question should be why aren’t we getting HUGE tax cuts?
————–
It’s also true that most USAmericans don’t have a proper working definition of “socialism” or “communism” or “dictator” if the email forwards I keep deleting mean anything.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:19 pm


I echo Peter P #4. Europe is diverse. I’ve always enjoyed the joke that heaven is British government, German engineering, and French cuisine. Hell is British cuisine, German government, and French engineering. :-)



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Deets

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm


People are just afraid of anything different. Europe is different from the US. They have new and different ideas about how to live that we generally accept in Evangelical US. We think of Europe as the historical residence of Christianity. But now we see some anti-Christian values in European media, government and culture. These make American Christians even more sceptical that anything good can come out of Europe.
Recently, I was talking with some senior members of our Church. I was surprised that a good number of them are still quite racist. I forget that their perceptions of the world were formed in the time of World War 2. In fact, several of them men talked about their time in Europe. They used words like Kraut to describe the Germans. They talked about the French women who were bimbos. Of course, that would be their perspective. I’m sure the more value-driven French women didn’t chase the American soldiers around the bars.
These images still effect our perception as a nation. Good church-going Americans would never want to live in a culture that brought Hitler to power. Never mind that most Germans have learned not to trust such a person.
I was in Italy last November. It struck me that too many Italian church leaders were effected by a Fox News sort of negativism. They didn’t have Fox News, but they do read many American sources, reformed writers and others who are quite afraid of the growth of post-modernism. No matter how much I praised the Italian church leaders for the good work that their churches were doing, they too could only see the negative. One leader kept turning on me and saying, “you don’t know how easy you have it in America. All American are Christian.”
The Enemy is at work in Europe and that’s scary. Christianity is being ripped from the culture. I don’t doubt the pastor who made this point. Worse yet, he’s at work in the US making a sub-culture that is Christian, and isolates itself from any other idea. This subculture is afraid of anything different. Different means to be the enemy, not the people that God is calling us to love.



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Jason Derr

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm


I encounter the same problem as an American living in Canada. My American friends keep telling me that the country I live in and my wife is from is communist with terrible health care and no freedom of speech. Or they quote FOX news to me with some really silly stuff. I’m still looking for this Canada. I’ll let people know if we find it.



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MarkW.

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm


Does anyone else find it inconsistent that American Christians are focusing on the word “community” and “social justice” more than ever, but are opposing community and social justice when it appears as legislation because it is “socialist”?



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kent

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm


Where is this maligning of europeans happening? I don’t listen to fox news, or cnn for that matter. I have not heard people speak in such terms and would think it was goofy if they did. When did this become a thing?
I guess I need to pay better attention.



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Ryan

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm


Scot,
For the second time in a matter of days you have suggested that people who disagree with you do not even know what the word “socialism” means. Given that there is disagreement about how to define concepts like communism, socialism, and fascism, it would be helpful if you would explain your understanding of the term. Unless you elaborate, it is difficult to understand what you are saying.



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Billy

posted March 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm


Thanks for pointing this out Scott! I think sometimes that we let our “Americanism” cloud our view of the gospel of the Kingdom that is being lived out faithfully all of the world even if somewhat differently than we are used to!



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Amanda

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:16 pm


Thank you so much for posting this! I have mentioned before that I have recently moved to Sweden, and have since been bombarded with reasons why this was a bad decision ( “godless, socialist, and xenophobic” were few of the countless words that were often used to describe my new home by a number of different people). I began to feel as if I had done something wrong by either a) loving my new home or b) loving and listening to the people that spewed such harsh words in the first place. By moving to Sweden, and worse, loving my new family, friends, and surroundings, have I, in turn, become godless, socialist, and xenophobic as well? Said comments sparked quite an anger in me. It’s a relief to know that there are American Christians that have a heart for the European countries and see them for what they are and what they should be, countries and people loved by their creator.



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Matt Glock

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm


Hey Scot,
Thanks for putting this up. Andrew Jones once said that every culture has a gift that is to be shared. I’ve always felt a good way to start is trying to figure out what the gift is… From my perspective (remember this is one man’s point of view) the French offer the world an unmatched aesthetic style. They also have an uncanny ability to get stuff done without big budgets. I’ve seen this time and again in the French church were projects come together with everyone pitching in. Major (5000+) youth rallies are organized with no paid staff… One last gift, their sense of social justice. This plays out on macro level in the social system. Yes, it has big problems but they are trying to give everyone a fair chance.
I think a better measure of this is the Micah Challenge, http://www.micahchallenge.org/. Most evangelicals in France know what this is about and really do care and really do believe they can make a difference.
Again thank you for your faithful ministry to us through this blog. What a blessing.
Matt



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Rick Cruse

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm


I’m wondering if Peter P and Rachel have ever been in Europe, at least for any length of time, even Michael Kruse (with a K). Having lived outside the USA for 25 years and in Germany (7) and England (4), I can say that most European Christians (yes, they actually “bend the knee” to Jesus big time) roll their eyes when they hear what American Christians have to say. And I know of no one, absolutely no one, who would think of Peru when they hear “American Christianity” mentioned. Such a statement is ludicrous. I’m certainly not advocating one locale over another. I’m just suggesting that xenophobic and narrow perspectives need to be challenged. Peter P: Europeans between the ages of 15 and 30 have much more in common with each other than with older folks in their own countries. I always tell friends, “I’d move back to the US except there are too many Americans there.”



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Richard

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm


@ 19 Rick Cruse
What I heard you say was that “Europe isn’t as diverse as we might think just because there are a lot of countries that make it up”. Am I understanding you correctly? If not, could you clarify that for me?



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JHM

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm


I’m so glad Europeans are devoid of misconceptions about Americans. :-)



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Rick L

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:47 pm


I think it is reasonable to observe that their is an equivalent sneering tone present at least part of the time when references are made to “American Christians” or “American Christianity”. In #19 above, Rick tells us American Christians are worthy of rolled eyes and that Americans are the problem with the USA. Billy suggests that being both American and living out the gospel of the kingdom are irreconcilable. Mark (13) says that Americans are “inconsistent”. James (9) simply says most American Christians are stupid.
If “European” were substituted for “American” in any of those remarks, the tone would be leapt upon and “foul” would be cried. But we live in a time when many people find any and all criticisms or charaterizations of mericans and American Christians to be justified.
Rachel (1) says no culture gets Christianity all right or all wrong, but it seems most of your posters believe that America is the exception. American Christians have it all wrong.



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Peter P

posted March 24, 2010 at 3:56 pm


Rick,
By most definitions, I AM European. Although being English I like to distance myself from the mainland nations as much as possible.
I’m not sure I understand your comment though. Are you saying that it is possible to make a sweeping statement about the beliefs of ALL European Christians based solely on the fact that they live in the continent of Europe?
I never suggested in my comment that any beliefs that Americans have about europeans are correct, in fact my entire comment was attempting to say that you simply cannot say “European Christians are…” because European Christians are extremely diverse and simply cannot be labelled based on their geographic location.



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Rick L

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm


Peter P #23,
3 of the last 4 posts were from Ricks – Rick K, Richard, and Rick L.
To which are you speaking?



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Rick Cruse

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm


I always forget that blog comments don’t communicate well when it comes to nuances or tongue-in-cheek comments. I am proud to be an American. It’s simply that many Americans are very parochial when it comes to other parts of the world. Many assume that everyone in the world would like to be in American or be an American. Having also spent 12 years in Africa, I know–firsthand–that there are many who are proud to be Kenyan, Ethiopian, whatever.
Richard (20). With the new emphasis on the European Union, with the issues of postmodernism, youth culture, music, etc, many younger people from various countries see themselves as European before seeing themselves as German, French, etc.
Also (awaiting confirmation or denial from Peter P), it should be noted that England is not Europe, whether you’re English or French or Polish. No one on that side of the world sees the UK (remember, it’s made up of Wales, Scotland and England…oh yeah, Northern Ireland also) as European, on either side of the Channel.
There is another joke (don’t jump on me, it’s only a joke) that says: if you speak two languages, you’re bilingual; if you speak three, you’re trilingual; if you speak one, you’re American. That’s another reason that Europeans feels multicultural, because kids often speak several languages, meaning the traditional boundaries no longer apply.
Look, I know I’ve been hyperbolic to a fault. As I said, I am proud to be American. I’m not always proud to be associated with everything that American (and American Christianity) is said to stand for (and actually does stand for: conservatism, individualism, you can’t tell me what to do-ism). Tongue in cheek comments are lost in two dimensions and in one way conversations.
Peter: I am speaking of German, French, Romanian, Bulgarian Christians who truly do follow Jesus. Also, I am delighted to have many English, Welsh and Irish friends who are deeply devoted to Christ. Darn, I think I’ve put my foot in it. Sorry.



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Josh Mueller

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:14 pm


I lived in Germany until age 28 and had many opportunities to meet Christians from a number of European countries. I’ve also lived now in Canada for almost 20 years and have a number of American friends and pastoral colleagues.
You’ll find stereotypes on both sides of the Atlantic. I can only laugh when I hear people talk about Europeans as “socialists”.
Unfortunately it only reinforces the other stereotype of Americans as arrogant and ignorant.



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Peter P

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm


Sorry Rick L, I didn’t realise that this post had attracted so many Ricks!
My comment was directed at Rick Cruse.
Sorry about the confusion :-)



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Richard

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm


@ 25 Rick
Thanks for clarifying. I understand your point better now and can see those factors having an influence in those terms.



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Jeremy Martens

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:33 pm


I think the americans would be amazed at how little the europeans and us down in the south pacific think of their ‘christianity’
We’re not gullible enough to believe that America is the centre of the universe, or we’re fighting it with every iota of our being…
and yet we’re also [can be] too cynical to even make a step.
I wonder if America’s large sense of itself is the reason its been able to build the empire that it has… although the lack of humility has caused the fractures.
One thought, is that the accusations above that america has made on europe could be leveled at the american religious community who tend to be (at least from an outsiders perspective) where the ‘congregation’ lives to serve the whim of the ‘pastors’ or ‘church leadership’
As a New Zealander who lives in Australia, I hope one day to move to Europe rather than America. America may still be a ‘land of opportunity’ and i’d love to visit, but Europe is like the absent father you’ve never met.
Europe is the melting pot of cultures. All these people with different thoughts and ideas, cultures and behaviors crammed into a chunk of land. Its like thinking of america in terms of 50 nations rather than 50 states.
Having said all this, I love americans. I love their warmth and endless enthusiasm. I love that they eventually get over the fact that i’m imitating their accent [cos i just want to be friends]
and if nothing else they’ve been a great living example of the wrong way to go about things :P



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Rick L

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm


…and Jeremy M. joins the list. Would Scot allow a comment that “Europeans have been a great living example of the wrong way to go about things” to stand unchallenged?



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Terry

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Rick L., if you have a beef with our host, rather than take repeated public pot-shots, why not take it up with him via email? There are better ways for all of us to love than this friend.



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Christine

posted March 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm


Really, Scot? One cannot be concerned about the recent passage of the health legislation and point cautiously at some of the problems with it in “Europe” without being categorized as a Fox news junkie?
I’ve come to expect better of you.
I was surprised yesterday when you limited conversation about the health care cons to an exclusion of the word “socialism.” Surely we can talk about very real issues without banning certain words from the conversation, can’t we? Have there been such cautions put into place when folks derided George Bush? Or deride Barack Obama?
So what word do you use to characterize government intrusion into multiple layers of life in Sweden, for example, with taxes ranging from 40-60%? Or Denmark? Or England? Maybe “social democratic?”
The “state” does take care of more things for individuals in Europe, and does curtail what one can do accordingly. America has always had a different view of things, but it’s changing. Even “capitalism” is now considered a bad word by many in the U.S.
FWIW, I don’t watch Fox news and I have travelled and lived in Europe. I’m just concerned about what I see happening.
Sorry that I’m so cranky on this – I just view this post as something very different from what is “as per usual” on your truly wonderful blog.



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Rick Cruse

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm


We’re dealing with cultural DNA issues here, lenses built in from birth.



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Jonathan Markham

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm


I grew up in my native England and for ten years before I came over to the US In worked for The Evangelical Alliance of the UK.These were some of the happiest and spiritually formative years as I was able to work with Godly men and women of every denomination who would accept the word evangelical as a descriptor I can assure that the united Kingdom have as vibrant and active an Evangelical community as we could find over here. The amazing thing is that they have achieved significant influence without the obnoxious poitical identifications that seem so inevitable over here When in first came over here i was speaking in a church and someone came up to me and said” you must be pleased to be in America where there some other Christians” I was about to crack up laughing when I realised the individual was serious. I walked away to avoid a conflagration
Now I have lived here for approaching 20years.and I love living here. I am the pastor of a great church on the California coast, and although all my family apart from my wonderful American wife and two sons, are still in the UK I have no plans to return other than visits. However i do not fee uniquely privileged to be in the US as opposed to the UK. I am afraid at times however i find American pontificating in generalisations about “european christianity” about which they clearly do not know much, infiuriating!



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Josh Mueller

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Christine,
I don’t think Scot is shying away from the kind of discussion you want to encourage. But it seems to me that the term “socialist” for many is nothing more but an unreflected swear-word or a warmed-up rhetorical relic of the cold war era. I don’t know if there’s somethink like a “Christian” version of McCarthianism but it’s that kind of polemic usage that should be avoided for good reason.



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Scot McKnight

posted March 24, 2010 at 5:58 pm


Christine,
I agree with this last comment that the word “socialism” is rhetorical denunciation than analysis of an economic theory. I’m working on getting a post on just this issue, but I’ll have to get someone else to write it. I’m not an expert on this and I want this to be done right. High taxation is not the same thing as socialism.
But that’s for another day.



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kapeka

posted March 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm


Thanks, Scott, for this overdue discussion.
I was studying for one year in LA from ’08 to ’09 during the election campaigns and I was really shocked how often “europeans” and “socialists” has been used during this debate without really having a clue what they really mean.
And you are right: Socialsism and communism is a little bit more (much much more) than simply high taxes or national health care. Ask people from the former soviet union and they will tell you quite something about “real” socialism and how europe is far away from it.
It’s even quite funny that most europeans think that the European Union is getting too liberal when it comes to economy and not social enough any more, while americans think, Europe is heading towars pure socialism.



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pam w

posted March 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm


Thanks for this post Scot! This issue has been very frustrating some for some time. Every culture brings some positives for living in the way of Jesus, and some negatives. Though we are a more ‘churched’ culture, there are many ways Europeans exhibit of a Kingdom lifestyle. Though Europe is a set of VERY diverse cultures, they are on the whole less consumeristic than the US (don’t think that’s a word, but using it anyway). we have things to learn from all cultures if we can get off our US centric soapbox. There are many things I love about my country, but we are certainly not a ‘Christian” country that lives out the values of our faith in our culture. Though we often talk that way.
On ‘socialism': I thought it was fabulous that you banned the word from the conversation. Even if some feel they are using it correctly (which I have not heard for a LONG time!!), it is a word that is high on the ‘ladder of inference’ as we say in the world of dialogue (a model developed by Chris Argyris at Harvard in the 60’s that I use in my exec communications courses). That means there are many different belief systems, mental models, and assumptions tied to that word. We can’t use it to communicate effectively until it is defined. By banning it, you forced people to think through what they actually mean when they use it. It’s much easier to throw socialism around than to get to the actual parts of economic theory you are describing by the use of the word.



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Mark Farmer

posted March 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm


Twenty-three of years of living and ministering in France gave my family and me a deep love of, and respect for, French people, French culture, and French society – including the medical system. France enriched us in countless ways, and we will always be grateful to her, even though it is good for us to be back in the U.S. now. Not least of France’s qualities is the depth and quality of its biblical and theological publications, both Protestant and Catholic.



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Win

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm


I’m not so sure they (Europeans) pay more taxes. They have taxes at a national level that may be higher, but I’d bet Americans pay higher taxes because our taxes are stacked. We pay a national income tax, most states have a state income tax, some localities have a municipal income tax. Then we have sales taxes, property taxes, and a whole slew of hidden taxes we pay in the costs of goods and services (such as Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Corporate Income Taxes, excise taxes, luxury taxes, etc). I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on that. For example, France doesn’t have an income tax, last I heard. They have a national sales tax.



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Dave

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:52 pm


interesting conversation, really never thought about how we refer to them. It has always been a dream of ours to travel around europe, incredible history .
anyway, thanks for the conversation. Good sometimes to be reminded that we may have our cultural blinders on.



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Danny

posted March 24, 2010 at 9:55 pm


Oh brother, do you even read how people talk about conservatives on this blog? Just mention one of the famous conservative or libertarians and the sparks fly.



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Nitika

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:26 am


I’d like to propose that xenophobia is a normal human tendency that is found in all cultures. There is a tiny sliver of the world population that has genuinely learned to appreciate those who come from different backgrounds. There is another sliver that has been educated to use politically correct language as if they do appreciate other perspectives. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have a more global perspective (in fact it’s a wonderful thing), but I am saying it’s quite rare, everywhere. And why would we expect it to be otherwise.
If you want people to broaden their perspectives, create contexts for cross cultural relationships. I don’t think shaming people into using language that doesn’t fit their experience is particularly effective.



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Danny G

posted March 25, 2010 at 4:16 am


I’ve lived in Europe, Germany exactly, for most of my life as a missionary kid. One thing I see clearly when I visit the States is that American christians are not able to see their own idols.



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Donna M

posted March 25, 2010 at 6:23 am


Thanks for your important reminder. Frankly, I’m shocked at how American Christians talk about a lot of things. Aside from reflecting (maybe it’s only a reflection) an absolute ignorance of history, as well as a deep, deep commitment to cultural values over biblical ones, I’m totally disturbed that American believers seem to have no qualms whatsoever forgetting Philippians 4:8 whenever they speak about something they either feel strongly about or disagree with.
As for Europe, I’ve been living in Eastern Europe for the last 12 years as a missionary, and I count it a major blessing to have pulled out of the pot, so to speak, of American culture. I see things about my own culture that I didn’t see before, and it’s really, really hard sometimes to see how we come across. Yes, we must be much, much more thoughtful about how we speak. We’re causing a lot of damage with our carelessness, and most certainly dishonoring the name of our Lord.



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Bob Porter

posted March 25, 2010 at 10:36 am


I think it is important to remember that anytime we group people by some external characteristic [think: geography] we are very likely to violate our call to love and to engage in prejudice.



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Your Name

posted March 25, 2010 at 11:40 am


It’s stuff like this that makes me wish it were possible to move somewhere like Canada. But, of course, if you’re not rich or if you don’t have some seriously marketable skills (or both, really), you have zero chance of doing that. Thanks, Canada. Thanks, Europe.



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Brianmpei

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:36 pm


I am neither rich nor do I have seriously marketable skills. (wait for it) I’m a pastor. But I still managed moved to Canada.



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Jeremy

posted March 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm


ah dangit…stupid thing ate my post.
Anyway, we treat other groups as monolithic entities which is dumb. We know that not all Christians, Americans, our race, etc, are the same, so why do we try to treat others that way?
Also in response to the bitter claims of “they do it to!” This is a Tu Quoque fallacy. Turning the argument on the other does not negate the initial criticism in the slightest. It is as intelligible as arguing against the sky being blue with “well your mother is ugly!” Don’t do it. We are responsible for what we do, regardless of what anyone else is doing…My parents taught me this before I was 5.



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Trav

posted March 26, 2010 at 12:27 am


Interesting post Scot.
FWIW, I’m an Australian in my mid 20’s and have lived here my entire life. I’ve visited the US for a couple of weeks and my impression was that it’s a great place to visit but it wouldn’t be such a great place to stay and live. Poor health care and too much violence and crime is the main problem- caused, in my relatively uneducated opinion by poor wealth distribution and an overly capitalistic society.
I think in these sorts of discussions, European, Australian and American Christians use their political differences to speak disparagingly of each other, and I suppose I’m no different here.



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JohanKH

posted March 26, 2010 at 4:25 am


A breath of fresh air, this post (and discussion) is.
I’m a christian from the Netherlands.
Some years ago I participated in a forum with mainly Americans. It was a christian forum based on the ministry of a popular author that I still respect. But still in discussions a lot of times Europe and European countries were depicted as weak, ‘sleeping’, et cetera. All the stereotypes. While the American forummembers (some of them) thought of the US as the ‘saviour of the free world’, without realising how patronising that sounds. The sense I got from these posts was that theres an impression that Europe is old en really already dead. That we’re essentially no longer christian, and are soon to be engulfed by muslim immmigrants or something like that.
And for me as a Dutchman it’s even worse, because the Netherlands is often presented as a country where everything goes (drugs, sex, abortion, gay marriage et cetera). The Amsterdam Red Light district is well known. When two american friends came over (who I met on this forum) we joked about us being see as the ‘living dead’. While from my experience we’re not dead. Far from it.
Well, we have an evangelical christian party in our government (together with a more mainline christian party, the largest party in our system). We have thriving evangelical churches. A lot is going on here and no, we christians are not persecuted.
The funny thing is that the evangelical christian party is on a lot of issues very social (left not right) argueing for better healthcare, better care for environment, rights for workers et cetera. Seemingly the opposite of the situation in the United States!
I believe we as the Dutch and Dutch christians in particular have our national and historical sins, e.g. our role in the slave trade. On the other hand I think that we have something unique to bring to the table, something in which we, the Dutch, do reflect God’s glory.
Oh, on the manifest destiny thing, in the seventeenth century, when we were a great commercial nation, and very wealthy, the Netherlands christians thought of the Netherlands as being the new Israel. Things went well with the Dutch, we thought of ourselves as having Gods blessing and being the nation through which he influenced the world. Even though we were small (that was an argument for this view, as with the David and Goliath story, the underdog. The classic story about how a small nation can be great none the less). This manifest destiny thing is a trap every nation can fall in.
Johan



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pam w

posted March 26, 2010 at 4:03 pm


Thank you to all the Europeans (and others outside the US) for having the courage to address the planks we Americans carry in our eyes! We all need plank management.



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Linda

posted March 28, 2010 at 11:55 am


Thank you for this exhortation! My husband and I lived/worked overseas (Europe and Japan)16+ years with the US govt and military, and find that Americans have a very narrow worldview outside of our borders. The face of our Lord’s Bride is not limited to mega meetings, Republicans (tho I’m one),Protestants, etc. There is much to gain and appreciate from other cultures and nations. May we boast in nothing less or more than the Cross of Christ.



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