Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


An Unflattering Group Portrait

Americans have much to be proud of

An article in The New York Times, Who Americans Are and What They Do reveals that, as a nation, we remain the fattest people on the planet, thanks in part to the fact that we are consuming twice as much high fructose corn syrup this year as in 1980.

Some changes over time include that we are now back to 3.7 divorces per 1,000 marriages, the lowest divorce rate since 1970. During that same time period we apparently got more pragmatic as in 1970, 79 percent gave their goal as "developing a meaningful philosophy of life." In 2005, 75 percent said "their primary objective was to be financially very well off."

And more of that money is going to health care, which brings us to the one part of the article that pointed to religion saying,
With medical costs rising, more people said they pray for their health than invest in every form of alternative medicine or therapy combined.
That prayer time must be limited for while an 8-hour work day is the norm, we spend 8.5 hours per day on leisure including "watching television, using computers, listening to the radio, going to the movies or reading." How much time is spent blogging is unknown, but we do know that 13 million Americans admitted to creating a new blog last year.

So what does it say about you that we are an obese nation of bottled-water-logged TV watching Internet users who produce more than 4.4 pounds per day of solid waste each? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zip.

So don't ask, "Does this census make my butt look big?" These sorts of numbers relate to a group of people and none of us is a group. Numbers like this help predict what a mass of people are up to, but tell nothing about a single person. So maybe you are working on a meaningful philosophy while the rest of the nation pursues money. Or perhaps you have cut out soft drinks while the rest of us guzzle Coke by the liter.

So the statistics don't pick on you but they do reveal something about us, and the group portrait looks pretty self-indulgent. It's no wonder that as I have traveled in other parts of the world, I find people very friendly to me as an individual, while shaking their heads at America as a nation. We are known for our exports of violent movies, immoral TV shows, pop music, and high-fat fast food. And for most people in the rest of the world it is hard to separate fictional Desparate Houswives from reality in America or Gangsta Rap from American Values. They know us by the face we present through those exports.

Yes, I do think we are a great nation with wonderful gifts to offer the world. We could point not just to democracy exported from the colonists to France and then around the world for two centuries, but also to great American philanthropists who have recently come to include two of our richest citizens, Bill (and Melinda) Gates and Warren Buffet. Yet that is not the whole story. When others look and see Americans, they do see our great accomplishments, but they see more as well, the more that is reflected in the group portrait that our census data gives us.

In the religion column, What do people around the world see when they look at U.S.? I wrote,
If Bin Laden and other marketers of hatred find it easy to convince masses of Islamic Fundamentalist that we are an immoral nation infecting the world with our godless ideals, can we hold ourselves completely blameless?
I wrote that five years ago and this recent compilation of census data shows that the picture of us is probably unchanged. I think we have both much to be proud of and also much of which is in need of change for the better. What do you think?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor +
King of Peace Episcopal Church

A healthy tree produces good fruit,
and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit.
A good tree can't produce bad fruit,
and a bad tree can't produce good fruit.
So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down
and thrown into the fire.
Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person
is by the kind of fruit that is produced.
—Jesus (Matthew 7:17-20)


  • At 12/23/2006 3:45 AM, Blogger CSL said…

    Yikes - all things I've read before and yet always painful to be reminded. Maybe the most useful way to use the data is to measure yourself against each point and decide if that is an area that needs change in you. You know, be a small part of shifting the statistics. Become the sort of American that doesn't cause others to shake their heads in dismay.


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