Category Archives: patriotism

Just Goes to Show that Not Everyone Will Get It

As you might have realized, I write a lot about the relationship of patriotism and Christianity (see here, here, here, and here).  For one of my readers the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was a post entitled “The Idolatry of Patriotism” (a summary of the issue at hand that I thought was very helpful).  This particular reader (who will remain anonymous) has been continually angered by my thoughts on nationalism, patriotism, and politics.  I, personally, feel that my opinions on these issues are centered on the gospel of Jesus and need to be heard.  There are so many causes to which we can align ourselves; I want my supreme focus to be on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

All this to be said, a few years ago my aforementioned disgruntled reader wrote me a message entitled “My Swan Song” that said:

Mark,

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,… a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation” (Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776).

Therefore:  It has long been a policy of mine that I will not have any magazines or similar materials enter my home that I find contrary to my core value system, as a Christian.  I am now going to apply that same rule to the only [sic] FB material that frequently not only comes into my home, but places itself on my computer desktop.

You and those who share your views are in my prayers.

Your Brother in Christ Jesus…

I felt this was worth sharing with others because it illustrates how misplaced priorities can make allies seem like enemies and vice versa.

1.  Notice that this note quotes the Declaration of Independence rather than the Bible.

2.  It is Biblically allowable and culturally helpful to familiarize yourself with things that are “contrary [to your] core value system.”  By interacting with positions that are thoughtful, though contrary to your own, you will solidify your beliefs and articulate them in a pluralistic society.  The Ostrich approach is not the Biblical approach.

3.  The gospel and the gospel alone should be the dividing line for Christians.  My views on nationalism and patriotism are wholly consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.

4. While I appreciate the sentiment of brotherhood alluded to in the closing it appears that this “brother” sees me as more dangerous than his political allies. I think it is important to remember that the gospel which binds us is infinitely more important than the politics that might separate us.

5. Finally, it is important that we are willing to submit all of our opinions, philosophies, and beliefs to the Lordship of Christ and the teaching of the Bible. While I may be off on my analysis of history I am trying to critically evaluate the role of nationalism in the life of a Christ follower. In addition, I do not want naïvety or dishonesty to characterize my appraisal of the historical data. I am not free to make history say what I want it to say.

I hope this is helpful for those of us who continue to truthfully and lovingly discuss meaningful issues regarding what it means to be a follower of Christ. Though it is a struggle, I must always be willing to examine my life and beliefs in light of the Scriptures rather than try and mold the Scriptures to support my political and historical opinions.

Advertisements

Some More Glenn Beck Discussion

Glenn Beck is a regular topic of discussion on this blog (see here and here).  My reservations about Beck are numerous (both political, ideological, historical, and theological).  Recently, Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally has gained much attention.  Some have lauded Beck for showing courage to stand for America’s “founding values” and others have cautioned evangelicals to be careful with whom they partner (at this point the essay by Russell Moore is genuinely helpful).  Not only has Moore weighed in but Doug Wilson and Scot McKnight have offered some commentary on the situation.

One denominational side note that I found disappointing was the alliance of Richard Land (president of  SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) with Beck as part of his multi-faith “black-robed regiment.”

Outside of Moore, Robert Parham has proven to be the most helpful.  He not only provides insightful commentary about the dangers of civil religion and generic, theistic alliances, he does so with ample quotations from the actual event in question (“Restoring Honor” on August 28, 2010).

Fox News host Glenn Beck muddled biblical references with fragments of America history, recreating a pottage of civil religion that says America has a divine destiny and claiming that a national revival is beginning…

Beck said, “We can disagree on politics.  We can disagree on so much.  These men and women don’t agree on fundamentals.  They don’t agree on everything that every church teaches.  What they do agree on is that God is the answer.

It is insightful to note that the definitions of god provided by these various clerics are so broad that god is probably not even a sufficiently meaningful category.  Whose God?

No amount of Bible reading, sermons masquerading as prayers and Christian hymns can cover up Beck’s civil religion that slides back and forth between the Bible and nationalism, between authentic faith and patriotic religion.

He treats the “American scripture”—such as the Gettysburg Address—as if it bears the same revelatory weight as Christian Scripture.

What is important to Beck is belief in God—God generically—not a specific understanding of God revealed in the Biblical witness, but God who appears in nature and from which one draws universal truths.

Not surprisingly, Beck only uses the Bible to point toward the idea of a God-generic…

Why is Glenn Beck Restoring (Christian) Honor?

I have seen a lot of discussion about Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28 (we’ll save the debate over the appropriateness of such an event at the Lincoln Memorial on such a significant date for another time).

One of my good friends mentioned how moving it was to see thousands of people singing Amazing Grace.  I could tell she was shocked when I responded with caution and skepticism rather than whole-hearted affirmation.

The more I have examined this event the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than an ecumenical, atheological, universalitic form of the often seen idolatry of patriotism.  While some well-intentioned evangelicals may have been involved in this event, Beck presented nothing more than a moralistic, patriotic call to everything but the Biblical gospel.  I heard no mention of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus or the call of Christians to love their enemies and sacrifice their preferences for the sake of the gospel.  It is no surprise that Beck, a self-identified Mormon, would miss the mark on the gospel.

For many undiscerning evangelicals Beck’s morality, Biblical references, and theistic language is enough to convince them He is on God’s team.  Unfortunately, as his Mormon theology and alliance with clerics of various faiths demonstrates Beck is not a believer in the Trinitarian articulation of the Christian God.  One can support Beck’s politics but be very wary when he begins using theistic language about “returning America to God.”  Whose God?

The best and most well-reasoned response I have read is by Dr. Russell Moore.  Everyone should read his measured response (some lengthy excerpts are included below):

Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads.  We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.  There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship.  The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death.  The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt.  Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah…

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him.  An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world.  Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 John 4:1-3)…

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic.  Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel.  He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it.  Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.

Romans 13 and the Revolutionary War

On the heels of our most recent Independence Day celebration I was contemplating the relationship between the Revolutionary War and the Bible.  Paul says in Romans 13:1-7:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Does America’s War for Independence follow these criteria?  Many have argued on both sides of this issue.  I see some serious problems with arguing that America was upholding the Biblical mandate during the Revolutionary War.  I understand all of the reasons for declaring independence from Great Britain, but none of them could have been more compelling than Paul’s reasons to rebel against the Roman government.

I think I learned a few important lessons from this miniature historical exercise: (1) Do not to glamorize America’s past, realize that God can still bring good from bad.  (2) Do not assume that every decision America has made in the name of “life and liberty” is perfect.  America is not the standard for right and wrong — that is reserved for the perfect and holy God of the Bible.