For Christianity has changed in America. The remote, inscrutable, and mysterious deity of the Puritans has become hands-on, accessible, transparent, and distinctly pro-American. The commentaries and interpretations of past centuries are read only in highbrow theological seminaries, which most prominent American preachers do not attend. Americans read best-sellers like The Purpose-Driven Life, which assures them that God takes a personal interest in the most trivial aspects of their lives.
I call this phenomenon "Pop Christianity." Like pop music and pop psychology, it is purged of complexities, nuance, and darkness. Pop Christianity looks relentlessly on the bright side of life. In its heaven, there are no clouds, only silver linings.
It turns a blind eye to suffering, like the mass death of the 34 people in St. Rita's Nursing Home in New Orleans-those elderly people who may well have cried out like Job, or like Christ himself, as the waters relentlessly rose around their wheel-chairs.
Like the United States, Pop Christianity claims to have a monopoly on morals and ethics. Those who do not share their beliefs are devoid of good qualities. This obliges them to ignore the misdeeds of their own flock. David Ludwig, the 18-year-old accused of killing his girlfriend's parents in the presence of their young children, was home-schooled in a Christian group. Kansas' s horrific BTK killer was active in his church.
Pop Christianity lacks poetry and emotional breadth. It wages a mindless war upon science and medicine. It reduces complex forms of causality like weather systems to what psychologists have dubbed "ideas of reference" and "magical thinking." It rejects both randomicity and statistical probabilities.
To paraphrase Jon Stewart, Pop Christianity is bad for America. Anti-intellectual, anti-traditional, and ahistorical, it is the religious equivalent of Cliff's Notes. If it were a beverage, it would be not communion wine but diet soda.
Worst of all, with the cooperation of politicians and television, it is imposing its superficial worldview on everyone in the United States.
This is certainly not the Christianity I grew up with. I was formed in a Christianity that demanded intellectual rigor and personal sacrifice. That kind of religion is not cheap. Pop Christianity is.