A Jan. 25 article (here) titled “American ‘Christianity’ Has Failed” caught my eye. It was by Stephen Mattson, a young Christian writer whose name I had not remembered seeing before, but now he is one of my Facebook friends.
I was interested in reading Mattson’s article partly because of something I came across last week. One of my (very few) New Year resolutions is to go through and dispose of accumulated “stuff,” much of it in boxes piled in the back of our garage.
MY 1972 CHAPEL TALK
In going through a box last week I came across a brief summary of a Chapel talk I had given at Seinan Gakuin University (in Fukuoka City, Japan) in October 1972. The title of that talk was “Criticism of American Christianity.”
That English summary was probably distributed to those in attendance. (Most Japanese students can understand written English far better than they can understand spoken English.)
As I often did during my first several years in Japan, I may have used (read) a Japanese manuscript for the talk I wrote in English. If so, it would have been translated by Miss Kumiko Otsuka, who is celebrating her 83rd birthday today.
MY 1971-72 FURLOUGH
June and I (and our two children at the time) came back to the U.S. in the summer of 1971 after nearly five full years in Japan as Southern Baptist missionaries. During that year of “furlough,” as it was called then, I had the opportunity of preaching in seven or eight states, beginning with a sermon at the First Baptist Church in Anchorage, Alaska, on our way back to Missouri.
During that year we lived in southwest Missouri, but I spoke in churches in many parts of Missouri as well as in nearby states to the east. Almost all of those churches were Southern Baptist churches, and the majority of them were small town (or rural) churches rather than large city churches.
In the summer of 1972 we went back to Japan and I began teaching Christian Studies again at Seinan Gakuin University where I had joined the faculty as a full-time teacher four years before.
MY CRITICISM THEN AND NOW
Here is the beginning of that Chapel talk:
“Last year in America I found myself very critical of Christianity as practiced by most churches and Christians that I saw. I was critical of what appeared to be much more concern for self than others. I was critical because there seemed to be too little concern for four of the great problems of our day: war, poverty, racism, and pollution. I was critical because I felt that American Christianity is too often too much a supporter of the status quo.
|(To read the transcription of the full summary, click here.)|
“(1) I can understand why many Japanese university students have doubts about Christianity. There is not much attractiveness in Christianity as it is demonstrated by many of its adherents.
“(2) In spite of the obvious hypocrisy of some Christians and the limited concern of most, I am still convinced that most of the best, the most genuine, the most conscientious people in America are Christian people.”
Now, nearly 45 years later, I know more about the diversity of American Christians and know that some Christians are very concerned about what are still four of the great problems of our day. But overall, I still have negative feelings toward much of American Christianity, especially of white “evangelicals.”
Sadly, I am inclined to agree with my new FB friend Stephen’s contention that to a large degree American Christianity has failed.