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02 November 2015

American Enigma

I have the pleasure of knowing a few Americans. Some I have met in person, others I've merely corresponded with via the Web.

I have visited Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Washington DC. The experiences were good, the people I met were kind, generous, and friendly.

So I'm not starting an anti-USA rant here, far from it; I'm raising a particular question to which I have no answer.

I'm also aware that my own country (UK) has many peculiarities, and many traits that are undesirable, for example (to mention a few) our tendency to regard ourselves as superior beings, an unwillingness to reform our democratic processes, a belief that something should never be changed because it's "served us well" for generations, our dislike of immigrants, and our inability or unwillingness to learn any language other than English. (Indeed a good many of us cannot even master our own language!)

What makes Americans so different from us is (1) Religion and (2) Guns.

In 2014, 71% of Americans regarded themselves as Christians. (Pew Research Centre)
In the UK 2011 Census only 59% of the UK population described them as Christians, but various surveys suggest that they are not actually practising it, with between only 7 to 10% being actively involved in the Church(es).

A YouGov poll this year found that nearly 30% of Brits either called themselves Atheists, Anostics or Humanists. The religious beliefs of political leaders in Britain are not considered a big deal. The previous Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and the previous leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg were publicly open about having no belief in God.

In the USA the contrast is stark: "In God we trust" is printed on the currency. It is usual for leading US politicians to end their speeches to public gatherings with, "God bless America". If a British Prime Minister ended a speech with "God bless Britain" it would be met either with puzzled silence or laugher (or a mixture of the two).

The pages of Facebook are littered with American postings exhorting people to put their trust in Jesus, accept the Lord, Praise the Lord, Amen, Amen, Amen, and people ask to be placed on Prayer Lists.

The USA is about 4% of the World's population but Americans own 42% of all the guns on the planet. So far this year there have been 45 school shootings in the USA. The number of gun deaths per million people is 106 in the USA and 7 in the UK. The right to bear arms is vociferously defended in the USA, and one of the most common and trite responses to criticism whenever there is another mass shooting is, "It's not the gun that kills - it's the man behind the gun".

The Enigma
And so my question that nobody has yet managed to answer for me is this : How do we reconcile the American love of guns with the American love of Jesus?

Are the gun lovers and the Jesus lovers the same people, or are they two distinct and separate groups? I'm suspecting there's a significant overlap, but I don't claim to know.