Over at Koinonia, Fr. Gregory Jensen writes on the remark by G.K. Chesterton that “America is a country with the soul of a Church.” It was true when Chesterton first said it and it remains true today (as the French never stop reminding us). The problem, Fr. Gregory writes, is that “America is still Christian in the same way that Woodrow Wilson was still Presbyterian — we have all of it, except for the Jesus part.”
“There are,” writes Fr. Gregory, “few things as dangerous as a Christian sensibility without Jesus. We have everything we need, except for the blood on the altar. We have it all, and have managed to do this in such a manner as to have nothing.”
A portion of this compelling essay is copied below.
Source: Koinonia | Fr. Gregory Jensen
Chesterton once said that America was a nation with the soul of church. And when he said it, it was true enough. But today we are a nation with the soul of a mainline church, which is to say, things have gotten pretty diseased. But despite the diseased state of the soul, we still have all this infrastucture lying around. America is still Christian in the same way that Woodrow Wilson was still Presbyterian — we have all of it, except for the Jesus part. We have everything we need, except for the blood on the altar. We have it all, and have managed to do this in such a manner as to have nothing.
There are, I think, few things as dangerous as a Christian sensibility without Jesus. Earlier in his post Wilson points out that “the basic American disposition and outlook” is formed by the Gospel. Historically this has happened “formally for 250 years, informally for another 200″ and is still happening today through in a negative way by being actively rejected “by our American Christendom deniers.”
But these active denials have not erased the ongoing effects of our Puritan DNA. There is our sense of destiny, which comes from postmillennialism. There is our activism, which comes from the Puritan work ethic. There is the famous pollster question about whether America is on the right track/wrong track, which goes back to basic covenant theology — blessings for obedience and chastisement for disobedience. There is the idea of the need for American leadership in the fight against global evil, whoever it currently is, which goes back to the Puritan views of Antichrist. And there are our periodic spasms of introspection, which used to involve the Ten Commandments, but which now involve ethical shopping tangles and what country your coffee beans came from. Nobody but a Puritan could agonize over something like that.
Flannery O’Connor was right not only about the South but American culture in general; both are Christ haunted. As I said in an earlier post (here) American culture finds itself embracing Christian virtues without any sense of the wider culture context within which they were given and within which they make sense. This can easy give us the zeal of reformers without the humility the repentant.
Read the entire article on the Koinonia website.