“Some Aspects of American Culture,” by Andrew Schatkin
American Culture has many positive attributes and qualities attached to it. For many years, until recently, when members of other religions, such as Islam and Hinduism, have come to this country, America was regarded by many people as a “Christian society.” In some ways, American Culture does to some extent have that sort of connection. For example, for American society, there is some sort of social equality exhibited. Better put, American society functions to some extent without overt class distinctions. That is to say, the less affluent person or poor person is treated in America with the same respect as a rich person. This social equality may be a façade but it is certainly better than a class-ridden culture and is closer to the gospel and to the Christian message.
Second, American culture exhibits a certain geniality and acceptance of most other sorts of people, races, cultures, and religions. Again, that geniality and acceptance and non-criticism of others, whoever they may be, is certainly more of a Christian form of behavior than excluding others from the social system based on those factors and attributes. In some sense, this lack of overt class structure in a society and the general acceptance of most others as the may present themselves to society probably stems from the obvious political equality in the American system that is based on one man and one vote. That is to say, the vote of the rich man is the same as the poor man in forming the government, whether, local, state or federal.
On the other hand, I find certain traits in the American culture counter to Christ, counter to the Christian message and contrary to the gospel.
American culture is ;largely based on business and commerce. The entire society is geared toward the acquisition and gaining of material wealth through business activity.It is quite obvious that this is not the Christian perspective. It is somewhat hidden in today’s world but nevertheless true that Christianity lays preference to embracing poverty rather than the acquisition of material wealth. Jesus states in the Gospel that the poor in spirit or humble are blessed. Jesus states the meek will inherit the earth. He further states that it is extremely difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Hence, the emphasis in American culture on wealth and materialism is obviously not within and in fact quite contrary to the Christian belief system.
When a rich man came to Christ in the gospel and asked what he had to do to be perfect, he was told to give up all his goods. The emphasis on poverty in the Christian belief system is best understood when we realize that in the Roman Catholic Church, monastic orders involve the taking of a vow of poverty. This is also true of the religious orders of men and women who also take a vow of poverty in the Roman Catholic Church. For many hundreds of years, there has been a great movement of people embracing this alternative lifestyle.
The second aspect of American culture that is very much non-Christian is the phenomenon of advertising and celebrities. The Christian belief system emphasizes humility and not self-importance. Thus advertising and raising individuals up as celebrities is, in fact, quite contrary and opposed to the Christian belief in humility.
These two latter aspects of the American culture that I have identified as non-Christian probably have their origin in the capitalist commercial system and in the emphasis on money and business. Better put, people in the United States are measured by their success in the market while Christians measure things and people differently. I make this point only to identify what I think are the Christian values that are present in the American system and what I see as non-Christian concepts that I think should be examined by the church and addressed as not particularly helpful as to how people should function. Perhaps one may say that to function on the basis of money and advertising is to miss a great deal of thoughts and ideas that could make a better society.
There will probably never be a Christian society because of the inherent imperfection and dislocation of human nature as a result of sin. That imperfection will never be eradicated, except on an individual basis through transformation with Christ and his Church. Nevertheless, I do address these particular issues here to point out the inherent philosophical failings in American culture that should perhaps be changed, altered, or redirected and reformed.