이름: 제러미 리프킨
2005/5/17(화)
[해외칼럼] 미국과 유럽, 그리고 예수  
제러미 리프킨 미국 미래·경제학자
정리=신정선기자 violet@chosun.com
입력 : 2005.05.05 19:04 51' / 수정 : 2005.05.05 19:05 58'


▲ 제러미 리프킨
미국 미래·경제학자
요한 바오로 2세가 서거하고 새 교황 베네딕토 16세가 선출되면서 지난 몇주간 전 세계의 시선이 기독교 신앙에 쏠렸다. 어떤 이들은 유럽에서 가톨릭과 개신교 신자가 서서히 줄어드는 시점에 독일인 추기경이 교황이 된 것이 옳았는지 의문을 제기한다. 만약 예수가 살아나 이 세상에 재림한다면 어느 나라를 흡족한 마음으로 찾아갈 것인가. 신을 두려워하는 미국인가, 아니면 신이 사라진 유럽인가.

아마 미국이라고 생각하는 사람들이 많을 것이다. 미국인들은 선진국 중 가장 독실한 크리스천이다. 미국인 중 58%가 적어도 하루에 한 번 기도를 드리고, 절반에 가까운 사람들이 일주일에 한 번 예배에 참가한다. 3분의 1 이상이 성경 구절이 신의 실제 말씀이라고 믿는다. 신이 인간을 창조했다고 믿는 미국인은 45%, 성서를 갖고 있는 미국인은 93%에 이른다.

그러나 유럽은 어떤가. 독일에서는 21%만이 종교가 중요하다고 말한다. 영국은 16%, 프랑스는 14%에 그치며, 스웨덴과 덴마크는 10%가 채 안 된다. 이와 같은 통계치는 10명 중 6명의 미국인이 신앙과 일상의 모든 부분이 연결돼 있다고 대답하는 사실과 대조된다.

하지만 예수의 가르침을 충실히 따르는 것은 미국이 아니라 유럽이다. 기독교 신앙의 핵심은 용서와 회개다. 극악무도한 죄인조차 구원받을 수 있다. 예수는 산상수훈에서 “너의 오른 빰을 치는 자에게는 왼 뺨을 내밀라”고 가르쳤다.

유럽인들은 이러한 용서와 회개의 정신을 법으로 명문화했다. 유럽연합 25개 회원국 모든 나라에서 사형제는 자취를 감추었다. 반면 미국에서는 38개 주가 사형제를 허용하고 있으며 지난 29년간 800명이 넘는 사람이 사형됐다.

전쟁에 대해선 또 어떤가. 예수는 “평화를 사랑하는 자는 축복받으리라”고 설교했다. 그러나 세계에서 가장 기독교 신앙이 강한 미국이 세계사를 통틀어 가장 강력한 군대를 자랑한다. 미국은 국방 예산 10위권 안의 다른 아홉 나라를 전부 합친 것보다 많은 국방비를 쓰며, 이는 전 세계 국방비 지출의 40%를 차지한다. 미국이 전쟁을 위해 힘쓸 때 유럽연합(EU)은 평화의 실천을 위해 노력한다. 지난 50년간 세계 분쟁지역에 파견하는 평화유지군의 80%를 유럽연합이 담당했다. 재건비용의 70%, 인도적 지원의 47%를 부담한 것도 유럽연합이다.

예수의 설교에는 가난하고 불우한 이웃에게 봉사하라는 말씀이 가득하다. 그러나 미국은 이러한 가르침에서 너무 멀리 떨어져 있다. EU 회원국 중 미국보다 불공평하게 부의 분배가 이루어지는 나라는 없다. 미국 내 빈곤층 숫자는 16개 유럽국가 전체의 빈곤층보다 많다.

예수는 비폭력을 외쳤지만 교회 참석률이 선진국 중 가장 높은 미국에서 2억5000만정의 권총이 유통된다. 미국의 아동살해율과 자살률은 유럽 14개국을 포함한 선진국 25개국보다 훨씬 높다.

신의 창조물을 존중하고 보호하라는 말씀도 유럽인들이 적극적으로 실천한다. 지구온난화협약과 종(種)의 다양성 협약을 끌어낸 것은 EU였다. 미국은 두 협약의 인준을 거부했다. 많은 EU 국가들이 재생 가능한 에너지와 유기농법을 도입하려고 애쓰며, 심지어 인간이 아닌 생물의 권리를 법으로 인정하기도 했다. 미국은 그렇지 않다.

이러한 사실들은 다시 한 번 우리에게 질문을 던진다. 교회에 여러 번 나간다고 성경 말씀을 제대로 실천하고 있다고 말할 수 있는가. 예수의 가르침이 미국과 유럽 중 어디에 더 생생히 살아 있는가.

Where does Jesus fit in?

By Jeremy Rifkin

The death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI has put Christianity front and center on the world stage over the past few weeks. Many in the Christian world quietly question the wisdom of continuing to elect European Cardinals as Popes when Christianity seems to be quickly fading on that continent. The new Pope even made a point to question “the dictatorship of relativism” in his pre-conclave homily, in a kind of veiled criticism of the growing secularism in Europe. All of this soul searching about the future of Christianity has made me wonder If Jesus were to come back to the world today, where would he feel most comfortable, in God-fearing America or in Godless Europe? Of course, ones first thought is America where secular relativism is far less influential than in Europe. After all, we Americans are the most devoutly Christian of any industrialized country in the world. Six in ten Americans say that their faith is involved in every aspect of their lives. Fifty-eight percent of Americans pray at least once a day and nearly half attend religious services once a week.

America’s religious convictions run deep. More than one-third of all Americans believe that every line of the bible is the actual word of God and not simply inspired interpretation or made up stories. (Ninety-three percent of Americans own a bible). Forty-five percent of Americans believe that God created human beings ten thousand years ago. Fifty-six percent of Americans believe that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the schools. Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe in the devil, eighty-two percent believe in heaven and forty percent of Americans believe that the world will end in an Armageddon battle between Jesus and the Antichrist.

While six out of ten Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, in European countries, religion is barely a factor in people’s day-to-day lives. In Germany, only twenty-one percent say that religion is very important to them, while the percentage in Great Britain drops to sixteen percent, in France to fourteen percent and in the Czech Republic, eleven percent. In Sweden and Denmark, the numbers are even lower, under ten percent.

Yet, what is so utterly surprising is that it is Europeans who more often walk in the footsteps of Jesus, although they would, no doubt, be somewhat taken aback, maybe even upset by such a characterization.

True, there is not a single mention of God in the European Constitution currently being debated across the twenty-five member states of the European Union. But, when it comes to practicing what Jesus preached, our European brethren may have something to teach American churchgoers. Consider the following.

As he lie dying, Christ pleaded with God to forgive his executioners “for they know not what they do.” At the heart of Christian doctrine is the belief in forgiveness and redemption even the worst sinner can be saved. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus said “ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Europeans have taken the notion of forgiveness and redemption to heart in public policy. Capital punishment has been abolished across all twenty-five-member states of the European Union. While the EU has substituted the word rehabilitation for redemption, thus secularizing their morality, the intent is clearly in line with Jesus’s teachings. In America, on the other hand, the vast majority of people - two out of three - favor the death penalty and thirty-seven percent of all Americans say they believe in “an eye for an eye,” rather than turning the other cheek. For many Americans, retribution trumps rehabilitation. Currently, thirty-eight states permit the death penalty and in the past twenty-nine years, more than eight hundred people have been executed.

What about waging war? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Christ goes further saying “ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and persecute you.” Jesus continually admonished his followers to put down the sword. Ironically, America, the most Christian country in the world, boasts the most expansive military machine in all of history. American military spending alone is more than the next nine largest defense budgets combined. The U.S. now accounts for eighty percent of the world’s military research and development and forty percent of the world’s total military spending.

The European Union, by contrast, was founded on the principle of waging “perpetual peace.” And while the EU can be rightfully chastised for overdependence on the U.S. to protect its vital security interests during the Cold War and more recently in the military skirmishes in Bosnia and Kosovo, it is equally true that European’s do take seriously the idea of being peacekeepers. Over the past half-century, EU member states have provided eighty percent of the peacekeeping forces in conflicts around the world. The EU also provides seventy percent of all the reconstruction funds, fifty percent of all civilian development assistance, and forty-seven percent of all humanitarian assistance in the world. (The U.S. only contributes thirty-six percent).

Jesus devoted much of his sermons to the issue of serving the less fortunate and poor. One out of every sixteen verses in the New Testament is devoted to the subject of the proper distribution of wealth and providing for the weakest and poorest members of society. Jesus says “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free ”

America has strayed far afield from Christ’s teachings. Today, the U.S. ranks twenty-fourth among industrialized nations in income disparity, that is, the gap between the very few rich at the top and the multitude of poor at the bottom. All twenty-five member states of the European Union enjoy a more equal distribution of wealth.

There are also more people living in poverty in America than in the sixteen European nations for which data is available. A staggering twenty-two percent of all the children in the U.S. are living in poverty. The U.S. currently ranks twenty-second, or second to last in childhood poverty, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower. Sadly, fifty-eight percent of Americans say that “it is more important to pursue personal goals without government interference,” while only one-third of Americans say “ it is more important for government to guarantee that no one is in need.”

Jesus preached non-violence, but, in America, where church attendance is the highest in the industrial world, there are 250 million handguns in circulation. It is no wonder that the U.S. homicide rate is nearly four times higher than in Europe. More terrifying still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that the rates of childhood homicides, suicides, and firearm-related deaths exceed those of the other twenty-five wealthiest nations in the world, including the fourteen wealthiest European countries.

Finally, Jesus asks the faithful to respect and steward the Creation. Europeans, though far less religious, have shown a higher regard for protecting the biosphere upon which all of life depends. It was the European Union that championed the Global Warming Treaty and Biodiversity Treaty, while the United States refused to endorse either treaty. Many of the member states of the EU have benchmarked the shift to renewable energy and organic agriculture and even recognized the rights of our fellow creatures in law. The U.S. has not.

All of which begs the question; Is going to church the litmus test of the moral life, or practicing what Jesus preached? Are Christ’s teachings more alive in America or Europe? Something to think about.


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