by Rod D. Martin
November 9, 2019

A couple of thoughts after a week in Bogor, Indonesia at the General Assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance, with representatives of almost 100 countries (I’ve personally met with leaders from about 30, mostly from the Third World).

First, God’s church is exploding. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. God is visibly moving in powerful ways nearly everywhere. We should be most encouraged, and unceasing in prayer for the saints.

But second, the idea common at home of late, popularized by books like “Radical”, of the unique sinfulness and inferiority of so-called “American Christianity” is pure garbage.

We know that anyway, certain virtue signaling Evangelicals notwithstanding: the Scripture is perfectly clear about the universality of man’s sinfulness, and that “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”

But listening to churchmen from Peru to Palau, Bolivia to Botswana, Zhejiang to Zimbabwe tell of problems — materialism, apathy, worldliness, the whole gamut — that sound identical in every way to those in Dallas or Destin…

…well, it strikes you just how much not “American Christianity” but rather some American pastors love their hairshirts and their guilt trips.

Maybe some of them need to get out more, and not just to the idealized mission fields of illiterates in huts: that is not most of the world, nor even the 10-40 window. (Newsflash: idealizing the folks in the huts is just paternalistic hogwash too.)

Maybe some are just engaging in the spiritual equivalent of “eat your peas: don’t you know there are starving children in Whereverstan?” Maybe others use the supposed unique faults of “American Christianity” as an excuse for their own ineffectiveness in reaching their own towns (or sometimes congregations).

Maybe some of them feel guilty that God has blessed them materially. Some clearly equate that with wickedness, their “Poverty Gospel” being Joel Osteen’s equally unbiblical evil twin. Perhaps they should downsize to sooth their frail consciences. But they don’t seem in a hurry to do that.

A few clearly hate their own country. They should be ashamed. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Your neighbor is certainly everyone, but “everyone” includes your countrymen. And nowhere does the King of kings of all the nations decry the existence of those nations. That is a modern conceit, not a Scriptural one (except insofar as it is not modern, the antithesis of nations being imperialism).

No, sin is universal, and I daresay that the conceit of the existence of some special, and specially wicked, “American Christianity” is itself a sin. It is a means of feeling special — pride — through virtue signaling and negative attention. It is an idealization of one group of sinners over another, that other being the one those pastors are called to love and shepherd. It is an unrealistic view of all who need the Gospel everywhere, thus serving none of them rightly and encouraging enmity among all. And above all, it is a supreme ingratitude, one the Lord surely cannot approve of or bless.

My fellowship with these equally flawed believers from all over our world was marred by no similar conceit. All were sorely aware of what is wrong in their countries, and that it is common to all flesh. 

But more so, they were grateful for the amazing things God is doing among us all.

Perhaps certain American pastors would have similar joy if they too ceased looking down on their countrymen, and gave similar gratitude to God for His great blessings on us. Among those blessings are an extraordinary generosity: American Christians, though just a fraction of global Christianity, adopt three times as many orphans as any other nation, and give five and a half times as much to international missions as all other Christians combined.

But until that day, we are right to ignore and correct such shepherds’ bleating about “American Christianity” (whatever that’s even supposed to be). We Americans have plenty enough sins for which to repent without adding their guilt complexes, false humility and virtue signaling to our lists.

Thoughts After A Week in Bogor, Indonesia originally appeared as a Facebook post by Rod D. Martin.