WORLD Magazine ran a recent article entitled “Cross-Culture Wars.” The premise of the article was this: “Are problems in American culture making the international war on terror harder to win?”
We do have a problem. If you’ve never been to America, you would assume everyone is an infidel. What does the world have to judge us on? Television, music and movies. Since most of the shows on TV, many movies and much of the popular music of our time do not reflect the heartland of America, it would be easy to assume we’re all decadent, and perverted.
If all the world sees of America is the soap opera, every family having someone in jail, someone sleeping with someone else=s spouse and someone seeking revenge, then morals are relative. Love is then defined as doing whatever you want that makes you happy.
If all the world hears is American music, then every woman is a sex object and foul language is the way we speak. If they watch music videos they see scantily dressed women who definitely are treated as second class sex toys. If they listen to country music, there’s a lot of sex, lost love and broken hearts; but we’re picking up the pieces and going on.
If they get American movies, they see gratuitous sex and violence. Every movie is filled with sexual innuendos or explicit scenes. While we complain about people strapping bombs to themselves, our movies seem to affirm “the more blood the better.” We like “reality” in our movies, but don’t like it on the evening news. Speaking of reality—if they watch most reality television, Americans are stupid cut-throats, conniving, envious and deceitful.
You can’t watch a comedy without a prominent homosexual character. Most families portrayed in television are single families where the parents are idiots and the kids run the house with their sarcasm.
We throw away money playing the lottery and gambling when most of the world can’t even buy food to feed their families.
You would have to think that most of the Islamic world and the world in general probably think that=s the way we really are. In fact, one of the stories about the 1980s hit show DALLAS was that people would come from all over the world to visit Dallas meet J. R. Ewing.
What do you expect? They see the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and think we’re all like them. Hollywood celebrities spend more money on a pair of jeans than most families in the world make in a year. By the age of five, our kids have more stuff (also called junk or entertainment) than the children of the world can ever hope for.
Think of the following and tell me the world has any other option than to view us as decadent. Jerry Springer. Brokeback Mountain. Howard Stern. Hugh Hefner. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. People Magazine. Plays like RENT and a dozen others.
Surveys have revealed that over 80 percent of the people in Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Egypt and Turkey want to protect their values from “foreign assault.” Namely, the decadent American culture. One Muslim sheikh said, “What America appeals to is everything that is low and disgusting in human nature.”
Dinesh D=Souza writes, “Many in traditional cultures see America as materially prosperous but culturally decadent, technologically sophisticated but morally depraved.” Osama bin Laden said that he feared American values and mores grabbing the hearts of Muslims.
Of course we would all admit that those who decry our society are blind to their own faults. Instead of movies, they actually strap bombs to women and kill innocent people. Women may not be sex objects in some cultures, but they are treated like slaves and second-rate human beings.
When the world sees so called “Christian” America debating issues like abortion, school prayer, divorce, gay marriage and so on, we have to know that our image as a decent people with moral values is tainted, if not destroyed, in the minds of our critics. With that said, no wonder the radicals in this world hate us.
I am in no way defending what they think about us. I am saying they are only getting one side of the story. America is, in many ways, a post-Christian, humanistic society. We’ve forsaken the faith, values, virtues and morals of our fathers for the sins of the flesh.
There are still millions of Americans who don’t fit in that category. When do they see organizations like the Salvation Army, Hospice and hundreds of ministries committed to helping others? These aren’t news stories in the mind of secular media. Every week, some church group is on the Gulf coast rebuilding homes and lives. Christians have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and free labor. Why aren’t we telling that story? It’s not sexy.
If the church were the church in this world, maybe the world would see us differently. We have to wake up to these realities and give a clear voice to our faith. We need a national revival to sweep through our land. We need the kind of movement of God that makes news like the Great Awakenings of old. We need it. The world needs to see it. The church has to take the lead. Revival, morality, purity and integrity are not the responsibility of government. It’s the face of a church in love with Jesus. It’s our choice. The way things are going, we’re headed for revival, riot or ruin.
© 2007, Michael Catt
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.