Last week I had the chance to embark on the quintessential American “family vacation.” We did what so many New Yorkers do this time of year and set out for the warmth of Orlando Florida. Aside from taking the kids to various Disney parks we set aside some time for relaxation. While taking my kids to the hotel swimming pool I met a very nice father of two from England. We made some polite remarks, I had a book with me so I have to admit I was hoping he didn’t want to have a lengthy discussion, but I could tell he did.
My new British friend inquired if I knew what time “shuttle service” at the hotel ended. I informed him that I wasn’t sure. He went on to explain that he comes to Orlando every other year with his family; however, this is the first time he has stayed outside of the very pricey “Disney Resorts.” Out of curiosity I asked him what he does for a living and he explained he is a public school teacher and that his wife is a “stay at home Mom.”
As he returned to his hotel room with his children and we exchanged friendly formalities to end the conversation I was struck that this simple civil servant can afford this luxury that so few Americans can (for the record we saved up our money for awhile to be able to afford our trip). I wondered how he can afford to regularly take his family to, what I heard one Mother of three staying in our hotel refer to as “the most expensive vacation destination on earth”?
I started to notice while conducting a very unscientific personal survey, the amount of people from Europe who were on their family vacations in Orlando. It made me think of a scene in the Michael Moore film “Where to invade next?” in which he talks with an Italian couple. The husband is employed as a police office and his wife works in a department store. However, the couple comes to America on vacation at least once a year. In the film they were planning on spending a week in Boston. While as a diehard Yankee fan I have no explicit desire to visit Boston I did think that its astonishing how an American like myself has probably seen less of his country than an average European citizen.
Does any of this matter? Well, while reading an article online I came across something that speaks to my social observations. According to Gallup “out of 25 European Union countries only nine have a fifth of their adult population who report attending religious services weekly.” Compare this to the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, which has found that as many as “40% of American Adults attend weekly religious services.” Contrast this with Labor Lawyer Thomas Geoghegan who observed on a recent trip to Germany “Unlike the United States, Germany has strict labor laws that prohibit a lot of retail stores and other business from being open on Sundays.” I started to think what happened to the supposedly “Secular state of European Society”?
Titus 1:16 provides an interesting line that speaks too much of what occurs today in American Civil Religion. The scripture reads, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny them.” Simple scripture but it speaks a lot to how Americans approach our social reality. In much of the world our high levels of Church attendance, high ranking politicians who are publicly known for their faith, and overwhelming poll numbers that show American’s are “more religious than others” I wonder if Titus is speaking of our country?
After my British friend left I was thinking of the Social Gospel and Martin Luther King jr (it just so happened that the day of our conversation occurred on April 4th the anniversary of America’s leading Christian Pacifists assassination). I started to wonder if we are a nation of people that have “conformed to our world” rather than a nation of Christians who have taken Jesus’s words to heart in becoming “transformed in this world.” I pray that we all become transformed and work to build a heavenly community built on the basis of Social justice and Christian peace. A nation that works to enhance health family and community life regardless of how this impacts our countries “bottom line.”