A Monk Out of Habit

Christianity Today

In 1987, years before The Message hit the market, Eugene Peterson had already been pastoring Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland for 23 years. During a one-year sabbatical in Montana, Peterson gave an interview for Christianity Today about spirituality, creativity, place, and prayer – all recurring themes in his work.

Do American Christians too easily assume their surrounding culture is Christian? We do. It is useful to listen to people who come into our culture from other cultures, to pay attention to what they hear and what they see. In my experience, they don’t see a Christian land. If you listen to a Solzhenitzyn or Bishop Tutu, or university students from Africa or South America, they don’t see a Christian land. They see something almost the reverse of a Christian land.

And that is?

They see a lot of greed and arrogance. And they see a Christian community that has almost none of the virtues of the biblical Christian community, which have to do with a sacrificial life and conspicuous love. Rather, they see this indulgence in feelings and emotions, and a kind of avaricious quest for gratification. Importantly, they see past the façade of our language, the Christian language we throw up in front of all this stuff. The attractive thing about America to outsiders is the materialism, not the spirituality. It’s interesting to listen to refugees who have just gotten into the country: what they want are cars and televisions. They’re not coming after our gospel, unless they’re translating the gospel into a promise of riches and comfort.

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