Religion has become as much a spectator sport in America as football and politics. A lot of good folks who once entered the arena to participate are more likely today to take a seat among the spectators. Perhaps there is good reason religion has become a “curiosity” rather than a “practice” for an increasing number. Look at the front page of the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle on June 21st for two stories to make my case.
The first was about a woman who shut down one of the nation’s busiest airports by simply disclosing to an airport worker that God had informed her a plane bound for Washington, DC carried a bomb. Anytime the world of homeland security collides with apocalyptic religion, you have a train wreck worth watching.
The second story was of a poll warning Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman that the way they worship God is a political liability. Nearly a quarter of all Republicans would not vote for a member of the Mormon Church. Ironically the home to the religious right and evangelical Christians has no room in the inn for some Christians. Huntsman is seeking to assuage voters concerned about his denominational label assuring them, “I can’t say I’m overly religious’…whatever that means. Although a large number of GOPers won’t vote for a Mormon that number is less than the one-third of Republican voters who believe the President is a closeted Muslim.
Curiouser still is the fact that among Democrats, the Party claiming to be more tolerant, an even higher number would vote for a yellow dog than would vote for a Mormon. Independents are only slightly less religiously bigoted. Many of these nice folks would be quick to assert a claim that the United States is what they would call “a Christian nation.” Perhaps but if so, a Christian nation with a very odd understanding of the Gospel.
Last week the New York Times ran a story about how a young man fled his gay life to attend a Bible College in Wyoming not far from where Matthew Shepherd was murdered upon learning the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. A Seattle preacher is busily warning his flock about the Satanic features of yoga. The Methodist Church is conducting an inquisitional trial of a female minister because of her same sex commitment. A French cult has joined a group of American goofballs in predicting another “end of the world” causing their government to begin preparing for mass suicides ahead of this Armageddon-like scenario.
Who could forget the members of Wyoming’s own “WyWatch” gathering ostentatiously in loud prayer in the State Capitol Building which I suppose is technically not a violation of Jesus’ admonition, “don't be like the hypocrites who love to stand on the street corners so that they will be seen by people.”
But for them and other odd Christians “all the world’s a stage.” On the big media stage, some Christians are performing while others are wringing their hands over news that in the last decade the number of Americans who no longer identify themselves as Christian has doubled while the numbers who claim to be either agnostic or atheist have quadrupled. This comes as no surprise. It’s easy to understand that with as much drama as some Christians produce on stage it is far more interesting to be in the audience than to be a member of the cast. It’s certainly better to identify yourself as a spectator than as a performer.
Nietzsche said, “The last Christian died on the cross!” 2000 years later, Christianity may be dying on the stage!