Saturday, July 03, 2010

Christianity and the 4th of July

One of the things you notice, if you travel in conservative Christian circles, is how tightly they tend to weave nationalism, militarism, and Christianity into a single thread. Emotions run high when one broaches this topic, so it can often be hard to discuss.

Let me state that I love living in America, I love living in Utah, I love living in South Jordan, and I love living in my neighborhood. I support each of these layers, and as a citizen of each, I want them to be successful. As a citizen, I act to support them.

However, I stop short of the religious devotion I see sometimes in my fellow citizens and church goers. The whole "God and Country" thing doesn't fly with me because A: I think, from a religious perspective, it is blasphemous to equate the two, and B: I honestly believe God has no interest in the little lines we draw in the sand to separate ourselves. I think God views it in much the same way that I view my children when they decide to divide MY house into Kathryn's half and Jacob's half; cute, and perhaps harmless... until they start to fight about it. I would in no way ever support Kathryn's side over Jacob's side, or vice versa.

So to me, the 4th is a birthday worth having a party over. A time to reflect over where we have come from (honestly) and where we are going as a nation.

But binding it to my religion and rah-rahing it in our churches? Too much...

Here are some quotes from other bloggers on the 4th:

I am sure that this Sunday there will be American flags overshadowing crosses, patriotic songs replacing hymns of worship, and copies of the constitution passed out in place of Bibles. Issues such as poverty, oppression, and hopelessness will take a back seat to concerns about "prayer in schools" and supporting "our" troops (the "our" of course referring to America, forgetting that "our" in the church means all nations). For many of us, we'd be disappointed with anything else... but my prayer is that we would enter this Sunday as worshipers of Jesus, the crucified king, who shares his identity with the poor, who is a king to all nations and the lover of a church without borders or military might. I pray that we are not distracted. I pray that our gratitude for the country in which we live would be filled with sober humility. This Sunday, let us celebrate resurrection over conquest, interdependence over independence, and hope over illusory security.
~ Living in the Kingdom

It's not that I'm against America, I love the varied people, the vast wildernesses, and the fascinating cities of this land. But as Christians, as citizens of God's Kingdom, our loyalties cannot be to the State, they must be to the Lamb that was slain. And I worry that all too often the American Church has demonstrated idolatrously mixed loyalties. Not least in the way we make July 4th a "holy"day.
~ New Ways Forward

And that means that nationalism, in any degree, is misplaced affection. If Jesus really is our Peace who has broken down every dividing barrier between us, to celebrate the arbitrary lines and political distinctions which divide us is, in a sense, anti-gospel. Jesus expressed anger a number of times in the Gospels, but the most famous was when He saw what should have been “a house of prayer for all nations” turned into something else.

And my fear is that by highlighting ideas of America and patriotism so heavily in our Fourth of July services, we do just that. At best, we fail to see how waving the American flag in a worship service looks to the Brits and Kenyans and Malaysians sitting in our pews and what it communicates to them. And at worst, we give to Caesar what really belongs to Jesus.
~ Out of Ur


Tricia said...

Very well said Andrew. My sentiments exactly.

Bob said...

I read Gregory Boyd's "The Myth of a Christian Nation" a few months ago and he expressed many of these sentiments. It was an outrgrowth of a sermon series he did in his church a few years ago, after which 20 percent of his congregation bolted.

I wholeheartedly agree that Christianity and patriotism (American or otherwise) are NOT interwoven concepts. I do think it's OK to recognize our men and women in the armed forces and to encourage prayer for them. It kind of gives me the willies, though, when churches have these big video productions that include images of fighter planes.

I am thankful to live in the U.S. and I am thankful for the freedoms we enjoy. I believe it is the best country in the world. But Jesus himself said, "In Christ there is neither Greek nor Jew . . . "

Well written.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100%! Not like Jesus or Paul fused Christianity with Roman Nationalism, just isn't there and never will be. I thik your stance on this issue is absolutely biblical and is the one that needs to be admired in a country gone 'ga ga' for Nation and Flag.

I think we are all a little patriotic, and there is no problem with that, but we need to keep it in balance. I love Canada, but I won't defend Canada's actions in everything it does. Canada has flaws and makes mistakes. No national anthem or flag makes that better or worse. However, I also enjoy many of this things living here affords me, like my freedoms and rights.

Like you I cannot stand all this focus on the military, sickens me right out. As a Christian, my stance is easily 'anti-war'. To see Christians celebrating such stuff is really a mind bender.

Don said...

Nice post Andrew. I agree. But, in the South, it is a hard sell. Easy for one to look "unpatriotic" by not joining in on all the hoopla.

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