Articles From the May 1995 Unification News
Religion in the USA
by Haven Bradford Gow
A former Dean of Humanities at the Memphis College of Art, Phyllis Tickle tells us in her new book Re-discovering the Sacred: Spiritually in America (New York: Crossroad Publishing) that America is a nation of believers. "A stereotype-shattering 93 percent of us told pollsters in 1994 that we believe in a God or a universal spirit...Depending on which study one cites, somewhere between 70 and 80 million of us claim to be active (i.e., attend church at least once a month) Christians and approximately 6 out of every 10 of us attend either synagogue, mosque, or church regularly."
The problem with the studies cited by Phyllis Tickle is they merely reveal external conduct and intellectual assent; they do not and cannot measure genuine holiness.
Being genuinely religious means more than wearing sandals and a beard and singing religious folk songs; more than placing "Praise the Lord" bumper stickers on cars; more than praying for your favorite athletic team; more than telling everyone how much you "love" God, country, apple pie and mentally retarded children so you can win an election or an award or a Miss America contest; more than using religion to buttress injustices in the social, economic and political status quo; more than using religion to justify your making economic and religious scapegoats of minority groups; more than using religion to justify violent revolutionary groups and movements; more than using religion to cloak personal or governmental wrongdoing; more than attending church for the social, economic and political contacts or because it is the socially acceptable way to spend a Saturday or Sunday.
To be sure, the religion of Moses and of Christ involves much more than mere external gentility; it demands an inner refinement of the human spirit. It involves a recognition that the worth of a person emanates from within, that in the ultimate scheme of things faith, hope, courage and charity count more than the social prestige, wealth, awards, status symbols or "friends" one has, or the number of beauty or athletic contests or elections one has won.
It implies a realization that even more important than external beauty and transitory popularity is that nobility of mind, spirit and character that elevates one above the social, intellectual, moral and religious fads and foibles of one's group and of one's times. It demands too, a realization that being genuinely religious means that one shall be scorned, hated, falsely accused, persecuted and excluded by those suffering from spiritual sickness, envy and consciences ridden with guilt. For we must take up our Cross and follow Christ to be worthy of his name.
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