Sunday, March 3, 2013
Is the USA Really a Christian Nation?
Is America A Christian Nation?
A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization. He answered: "It's a good idea. They ought to try it". America is the most religious nation in the industrialized world. More that 90 percent of our population say they believe in God, and that they pray regularly. In his New Testament Epistle, the apostle James expressed the Christian view that "faith without works is dead." In the same way the apostle Paul wrote, “Be doers of the Word, and not just hearers only, who so deceive themselves”. Similarly, Judaism calls for bar mitzvahs. But how do these sentiments translate into action in 21st century America? Let's have a look at our national religious behavior report card. We define ourselves as being a Christian nation, and yet all of the following are happening on our watch:
 America is the richest nation in the world. Yet the Census Bureau reports that 50 million Americans live in poverty. That includes over one in five children.
 The U.S. poverty rate is the third worst among developed nations according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Demographers say that the poverty rate will rise this year from 13.2 percent to 19 percent which will be the highest percentage since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. Fifty million Americans are now on food stamps, the highest number ever since records have been kept.
 According to the Census Bureau, 30 million people lived in working-poor families in 2010. The Feeding America network reported that 36 percent of their client households have one or more adults working. Our growing population of working poor often have to choose between gasoline for getting to work and food for their families. Our nation's elderly are also often having to choose between paying for their medicine and buying groceries.
 The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless on any given night in America. A new class has emerged: the working homeless. When the minimum wage won't even pay for rent and utilities on a 1-bedroom apartment, what America has ended up with are multitudes of working homeless, including whole families.
 54.2 million Americans, including 21 million children, experienced hunger or the risk of hunger in 2012. That's right at 24 percent of all households. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunger in American households has nearly doubled in the last five years. As this is occurring, American restaurants throw away more than 6000 tons of food every day and Grocery stores discard an estimated thirty million pounds of food daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Loss Project estimates that Americans throw out 25.9 million tons of food each year. More disturbing: a University of Arizona study reports that 40 to 50 percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten.
 The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't provide healthcare for all its citizens. “Obamacare” promises to correct much of that but it falls far short of the mark. The 2010 Census Bureau figures show that 50.5 million Americans, including 18 million children, have no health insurance. The reasons are invariably due to economic hardship brought on by poverty.
 We have the best medical technology and treatment capability in the world. Yet the United States ranks 37th for health system performance by the World Health Organization. The latest report on life expectancy shows a slight drop in the United States that will place us even lower than the current ranking of 49th among nations of the world-- a lower life expectancy than many less developed countries. A Columbia University study attributes our decline from 11th place in 1950 to the much lower present ranking to our inadequate healthcare system.
 The current minimum wage of $7.25, which was raised from $5.15 seven years ago, still keeps families at or below the poverty line while stripping working Americans of their economic and political power. A more realistic minimum wage here in the US would be about $12.00 an hour. France, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, England, the Isle of Man, Australia and many other nations have a higher minimum wage than we do. The Bible says, “The worker is worth his/her wages”. Companies who don't pay a living wage are knowingly robbing their employees.
 The latest census figures show the gap between rich and poor widening to the largest margin ever. The top 20 percent of workers earning more than $100,000 a year received 49.4.percent of all income compared with the 3.4 percent earned by the bottom 20 percent.. The richest 1 percent pockets more than 20 percent of total income which is greater than the total amount earned by the bottom 50 percent. The wealthiest segment of the population is fighting tooth and nail for lower tax rates and other tax breaks while joblessness, poverty, homelessness and hunger are rampant in America.
 In 1994 a million innocents were slaughtered in Rwanda. We watched and did nothing. Similarly, we did little to stop the genocide in Darfur. Sudan has passed a referendum dividing the country into North and South. Numerous commentators foresee an imminent civil war that could lead to further slaughter and genocide. Will the U.S. intervene on humanitarian grounds? History does not suggest a positive answer. Unless, of course, the country in question has oil. That's different.
 There are at least 59 holocaust museums in the United States dedicated to raising awareness of the Nazi genocide and to help prevent similar horrors from happening again. Add to that the numerous holocaust museums and memorials around the world. Yet genocides, mass murders, and other atrocities such as the sex slave trade persist. Who is listening, who is learning? Who is acting?
 Americans make up 5 percent of the world population and produce 25 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, which are raising the earth's temperature ("greenhouse effect") to dangerous levels. Fossil fuel consumption is destroying the planet, but we refuse to develop a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy. Scientists warn that the environmental doomsday clock is ticking. The icebergs are breaking away and melting before our eyes, revealing islands we never saw before. We watch and debate but do too little to preserve the environment for ourselves and future generations. In our hubris we forget that we are guests on a tiny rock floating – in an infinite universe of rocks – that uniquely supports life in a delicate balance of natural and mysterious forces.
 Smoking continues to compromise the health of more than 20 percent of our population who still smoke. The Surgeon General tells us that smoking, in addition to contributing to a number of cancers, increases the risk of almost every known disease. The American Lung Association reports that each day nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking. But we refuse to put an end to smoking. (I recently quit myself. Yes you can!)
 Leaders of some of our biggest corporations, as well as prominent investment advisers (men and women of "faith"), have cheated, deceived and destroyed their companies and clients, ruining the lives and futures of untold numbers of individuals and families. Bernie Madoff was only the tip of the iceberg.
 We have the largest prison population in the world. Currently more than 2.5 million people are incarcerated; and 1 in every 30 adults is in prison, on parole or probation adding up to a total of 7.3 million. The U.S has a greater prison population (in percentage of population) than a number of countries that we consider in violation of human rights.
 According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military spending for 2009 reached $1.531 trillion, a six percent increase over 2008 and a forty-nine percent increase over the year 2000. The United States accounted for forty-six percent of the total world military expenditure ($661 billion). China was a distant second accounting for 6.6. percent followed by France's 4.2 percent, the UK's 3.8 percent and Russia's 3.5 percent. The proposed U.S. military budget for 2013 is over a trillion dollars.
What is religion? Love, caring, serving, giving, sharing, oneness, brother and sisterhood, compassion and selflessness. Summed up: "Thy neighbor is thyself", so we must continue to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It looks to me like America has a long way to go before it can truly be a Christian nation.