No kidding. They see us as primitive, soulless, ruled by commercial forces, lacking in real civilization. Who does? Much of the world. Indians, Middle Easterners, many Asian peoples. Many people who are not Christians.
It’s not that they place no value on the teachings of Christianity. It’s that they realize that we don’t.
This came as a surprise to me when I first heard about it, some four decades ago. I was a graduate student, and an article had appeared in the Sunday magazine section. It said that Indians and many others felt pity for us, for our lack of spiritual values, for the loss of our souls to the powers that wanted us to buy their toothpaste, or their car.
There was an Indian student in one of my classes who I usually sat near, so the next day I asked him if it was true that most Indians felt that way. He paused, then nodded and told me it was true. There was a look of sadness on his face.
This was a bit of a revelation to me. I felt that I personally was a spiritual person, even though I didn’t go to church. But lots of people went. Surely that counted as spiritual. But soon I realized that it’s what you do in your whole life, every day, that makes you spiritual or not, and it was clear that most Americans were sorely lacking in true spirituality. We are self-centered, trained only to consume. We are spiritual infants.
In the years to follow I came to realize just how lacking we are. And nothing has changed since then. We are still just as shallow, just as ruled by Madison Avenue and their sophisticated attempts to get us to spend money on something we don’t need. In fact, it has gotten worse. One has only to watch an hour of TV, including all the commercials, which take as much time as the show, and in fact are bleeding over into the show itself. Think about their purpose, their value, and the TV show itself.
Take a look at what people have in their houses and garages. We all need our indulgences, but Americans seem to do nothing but indulge. If you really considered it, probably half of what we have is stuff we don’t need, and in the end, don’t even want.
If America is to become something she has never been, we must disown this life of pure consumption, in which everything we purchase has a negative and unnecessary effect on the environmental life support system. We must reclaim the values of community that are drowned out by the forces of greed and consumption. We must learn to be spiritual, truly spiritual, every moment, and not just in church on Sunday.