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Lloyd Omdahl, Published October 11 2010

Omdahl: Christian love goes missing

Now that Glenn Beck has broached the subject of religion and politics, the topic is fair game for anyone who wishes to take a turn at the pulpit. Of course, Beck talked about a form of civil religion where the cross is wrapped in the flag and the end result doesn’t resemble anything presented in the New Testament.

Around 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. With that large of a majority claiming to subscribe to the teachings of Christ, it would seem that the nation would manifest some of the basic virtues taught by Jesus. But it doesn’t seem to be so.

A part of the problem is that there is no common definition of “Christian.” Every denomination, every believer has a different definition. There is nothing like an egg-candling apparatus that will give us a read on who is a serious Christian and who is a fake. (Of course, we’re all fakes to a degree.) Many definitions are homemade, without reference to definitions in the New Testament.

Regardless of denominational persuasion, however, everyone with a knowledge of the New Testament has to concede that love is the core value of Christianity. And Christian love is not just a good feeling or friendly gesture. It is a love that surrenders self-interest, turns the other cheek, cares for the strangers, forgoes revenge, respects all life and is the epitome of humility.

One would think that with 80 percent of the country allegedly subscribing to the teachings of Christ, Christians would have a pervasive impact on our entertainment, political and economic climate and that all sectors of the culture would manifest Christian love, respect and humility.

In entertainment – primarily television and movies – we have seen a constant decline in civility and decency. This decline could not occur without the faithful viewership of self-proclaimed Christians. Without Christian patronage, audience ratings would go down, and advertisers would look for better programming.

Christian love in politics is even less apparent. The Bible may say that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God, but most Christians in politics outdo their secular opponents when it comes to anger, confrontation and deceit. “Christian politician” has become an oxymoron. When power is at stake, all virtues are off.

Christian values in the business community are more difficult to critique because some greed is necessary to make private enterprise work. But there are occasional outbursts of exploitation that beg for Christian values, e.g., Wall Street bankers ripping off investors, stockholders, financial institutions and taxpayers. I’m sure there are some Wall Street bankers in that 80 percent claiming to be believers.

Even though we have a responsive democratic society, the 80 percent have had little impact on our culture. Something seems amiss, Glenn. Could it be that Christians aren’t who they say they are?


Omdahl is a former North Dakota lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. E-mail ndmatters@q.com.