Tag Archives: america

The Idolatry of Patriotism

I just read an article by Gregory Boyd in the most recent issue of Relevant Magazine.  I think this is one of the most well-written and concise treatments of the issues of nationalism and Christianity.  Of course, Boyd would be no stranger to this topic as the author of Myth of a Christian Nation. I recommend everyone read what he has to say in preparation for this July 4 holiday.

Below are some cogent excerpts from the article:

The danger of idolatrous patriotism is not just about how we compromise our love for enemies.  If we become too invested in our nation, we can forget our real citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 1:27) and our job is to live as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)…

I appreciate that America recognizes my rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but there is nothing distinctly Kingdom about these rights.  They’re nowhere to be found in the Bible.  To the contrary, as a follower of Jesus I’m called to surrender my rights to life, liberty and happiness, and instead submit to the will of God.  These rights are noble on a political level, but they can get in the way of my call to seek first the Kingdom.  I’m grateful America extends these rights to people, for most countries throughout history have not.  But my sole allegiance is to the heavenly Kingdom that calls me to surrender my rights.  If I get too concerned with an earthly country that frees me to pursue my rights, my healthy patriotism becomes idolatrous.  I’ve put my country’s ideals before God.

Despite the fact that He lived in an age when plenty of political and nationalist issues were being hotly debated, Jesus never displayed the slightest interest in such matters.  He didn’t come to bring us a “new and improved” version of the Kingdom of the world.  He came to inaugurate a Kingdom that is “not of this world.”  It’s a Kingdom that is no more Israeli than it is Palestinian; no more American than it is Iraqi; and no more socialist than it is democratic.  Instead, it’s a Kingdom that encompasses people from every nation and political persuasion, for it puts on display the “one new humanity” Jesus died to create (Eph. 2:15).  In this Kingdom, Paul declares, there is no longer any Jew or Greek (Gal. 3:27-29).  In our Kingdom, all national, tribal, ethnic, gender, social and economic distinctions are insignificant.

So over the Fourth of July weekend – and all year – be appreciative of your country.  Be patriotic.  But make sure your patriotism pales in comparison to your sacrifice, commitment and allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

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Judeo-Christian Heritage from a Congressional Point-of-View

I recently received an e-mail from Randy Forbes, one of my Congressional representatives, updating me on his work to “affirm America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”  I have written in the past on the meaninglessness of the term “Judeo-Christian.”  While I respect Randy Forbes as a man of principals and godly character, I think he is clearly wrong on the issue of America’s heritage and future.

America was never a “Christian nation… united in some evangelical consensus.  Church membership at the time of the American Revolution was no more than six percent of the population” (C. Douglas Weaver, In Search of the New Testament Church:  The Baptist Story).

Here is an excerpt from Forbes’ e-mail newsletter.

Last May, I spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives affirming America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and its importance in shaping our government. My statement came in response to President Barack Obama’s April 6 speech in Turkey where he said, “And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” Currently, my video has been viewed over 3 million times, proving America’s religious heritage continues to be a heightened point of debate in our society.

In this particular instance, President Obama is correct.  America is neither Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.  If it was we would be subject to the laws and dictates of that religion.  America is not and was not ever a theocracy.

While Forbes promises “to protect the freedoms of religious expression in public life” I am afraid he is more concerned with protecting Christian freedoms than the freedoms of other religious persons.  We must never forget the mistakes that have been justified by the myth of America as God’s “chosen nation” (e.g., Native Americans, etc.).  I am, of course, wary of the idea that Forbes or any other person can discern the absolute intent of the Founding Fathers or that the “religious values” of the “Founding Fathers” are worth fighting for.  It is clear from history that America is not God’s “chosen nation” and that the most important things to protect our are freedoms.

At the time of the American Revolution many Baptists’, for instance, were being jailed and persecuted for there particular brand of religious beliefs (i.e., voluntary association, baptism by immersion, priesthood of believers, etc.).  Many Baptists felt that religious uniformity and collusion of church and state had produced the “shocking monster of [a] Christian nation” (Weaver).  This sort of language might  seem inflammatory to the modern Christian, but it was central to the beliefs of many at the time of the Revolution.

As a Christian it is important for me to distinguish my nation from my heavenly citizenship;  my duty is to proclaim the gospel in all of  life.  All of the political parties and movements in America have proven to be unsuccessful in producing genuine gospel change in the lives and hearts of the American people.  In fact, the collaboration of churches with political movements have produced disinterested “disciples” with mixed motivations.

Do I think that the gospel is the only hope for every person?  Absolutely.  However, knowing how politicians and power-brokers use religion as a means to dominance, I am careful to separate religious affiliation and law.  Further, based on abuses of the past, it is essential that all people of all religions have the same acceptance and protection under the law.

Nostalgia and Self-Justification

Today I read a great blog post entitled “Myth of the Good Ole Days.”  The author makes many cogent arguments.

There is no such thing as the good ole’ days. It is a myth constructed by people with amnesia who have forgotten or have chosen not to remember the problems and perils of earlier days.

This is a subject that I have thought about frequently.

The other day a sweet sister in Christ sincerely asked me how I could work with young adults.  “They’re just so much worst than when I was young,” she said.  Now I have no doubt that she was sincere in this observation, but I had to remind her that sin is not limited by generation.  Technology and style has changed, manifesting sin in new and creative ways, but the human condition remains the same.  In the twenty-first century Americans struggle with internet pornography and materialism, in the 19th century it was legalized segregation, in the 18th century slavery and oppression of Africans and Native Americans, and the list goes on and on.  Materialism and greed is cross-generational and we still struggle with the early heresy of America as a Savior-nation.

As sinners we like to set ourselves up as the standard of “what is right.”  We demonize the sins of others (e.g. homosexuality, abortion, etc.) and minimize our own (e.g., materialism, greed, etc.).

The gospel is for every generation.  The human heart has always struggled with idolatry and self-justification.