It’s rare that I find myself agreeing with proponents of radical Muslim thoughts and teachings. However, in a recent paper I have read from the 1950′s I could not help but nod my head as I read the thoughts written by Sayyid Qutb regarding the American church.
Sayyid Qutb, who many will say is a founder of or at least inspiration for Al-Queda, came to America from Eqypt on an academic mission. Upon his return to Egypt, Qutb put his experience into words in a piece entitled The America I Have Seen. While much of what he wrote is very subjective and makes Americans seem primal at best (notice I am not in total disagreement), Qutb’s views of the American church in the 1950′s is based in fact that can be witnessed with one’s own eyes today.
Qutb’s overall impression of America is that NOTHING is sacred. The America I Have Seen does not guide the reader to Qutb’s conclusions but should give 21st century Christians an idea of what a 20th century foreigner thought of the American Christian church back in the time that many would call a golden and morally pristine age in America.
Please take a few minutes to read Qutb’s findings in the excerpt from The America I Have Seen below. As you read ask yourself if Qutb’s reflections show you or your church in the mirror. If so, is this a problem to you? Enjoy.
Churches Without Life
There is no people who enjoy building churches more than the Americans. To the extent that I once stayed in a town with no more than ten thousand inhabitants, yet within it I found over twenty churches! And most of them do not go to church on Sunday mornings and evenings, but instead on general holidays and holidays for local saints, who far outnumber the “saints” of the common Muslims in Eqypt. All this notwithstanding there is no one further than the American from appreciating the spirituality of religion and respect for its sacraments, and there is nothing farther from religion than the American’s thinking and his feelings and manners.
Churches for Carousal and Enjoyment
If the church is a place for worship in the entire Christian world, in America it is for everything but worship. You will find it difficult to differentiate between it and any other place. They go to church for carousal and enjoyment, or, as they call it in their language “fun.” Most who go there do so out of necessary social tradition, and it is a place for meeting and friendship, and to spend a nice time. This is not only the feeling of the people, but it is also the feeling of the men of the church and its ministers.
The Clubs of the Church and Their Attractions
In most churches there are clubs that join the two sexes, and every minister attempts to attract to his church as many people as possible, especially since there is a tremendous competition between churches of different denominations. And for this reason, each church races to advertise itself with lit, colored signs on the doors and walls to attract attention, and by presenting delightful programs to attract the people much in the same way as merchants or showmen or actors. And there is no compunction about using the most beautiful and graceful girls of the town, and engaging them in song and dance, and advertising.
A Church’s Party Program
This is an example of the text of an advertisement for a church party that was posted in the student’s union of one of the colleges.
“Sunday, October 1, 6:00 P.M. snacks, magic games, puzzles, contests, fun.”
There is nothing strange in this, for the minister does not feel that his job is any different from that of a theater manager, or that of a merchant. Success comes first and before everything, and the means are not important, and this success will reflect on him with fine results: money and stature. The more people that join his church, the greater is his income. Likewise, his respect and recognition is elevated in the community, because the American by his nature is taken with grandeur in size and numbers. It is his first measure in the way he feels and evaluates….
For Them, the End Justifies the Means
And these ministers would say to you: “But we are unable to attract this youth by any other means!”
But none of them asks himself: “What is the value of attracting them to the church, when they rush to it in this way, and spend their time in this manner?” Is church attendance a goal in and of itself? Is it not for the edification of feelings and manners? From the minister’s point of view, which was made clear by the preceding events, merely going to church is the aim. And this situation makes sense to those who live in America.
But I return to Egypt, and I find those who speak or write about the church in America, even if they have not seen America for a moment, and its role in societal reform, and its activities in purifying the heart and edifying the soul.
But what can I say?….
Shocking o? Again, that was written in the 1950′s. Have things gotten better or worse since then or has the American church been stuck in a holding pattern? I’d love to read your comments on this.
Also, to read the entire 21 page document of The American I Have Seen, click the link below.
The America I Have Seen – Sayyid Qutb