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Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

Have you ever been to a church service, perhaps in early July, where they “honor veterans” by asking them to stand while the rest of the congregation erupts into applause and the pastor, or whoever, says something to the effect of “Thank you for your service”?  I have been to at least three.  And in case you’re wondering, these weren’t churches in Texas full of gun-toting Republicans; it was here, in the Bay Area, at good Bible-teaching churches.  This is a tragedy.

I call this an “American tragedy” because I believe it to be a peculiarly American phenomenon–that, being the Cross+Flag faith that I’ve alluded to before.  Perhaps this occurs in churches in other countries with standing armies, a history of military interventionism, and a strong sense of nationalism.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it did–the U.K., France, Canada, Australia seem likely.  Yet, America is unique in its historical relationship to Christianity and I am convinced that this is the source of our syncretism.  That being said why is this a tragedy?  The role of a Christian church is to affirm and encourage obedience in the form of acts of love towards God and others, not to affirm and encourage sin.  As Christians we are called to submit to and obey our respective governments (see Romans 13:1-5, Titus 3:1); we are not called to sin for them.  Unless an individual is a cook, doctor, or some other kind of non-combatant, job duties in the military will unfortunately require the taking of human lives in violent warfare–or at least the preparation and willingness to do so.  Violence, murder, and vengeance are the very essence of warfare and each one is sin.   If our government asks us to sin then we must be prepared to join with the Apostles and shout, “we must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29), and then be willing to endure any persecution that might come as a result.  This is the brutal and dangerous nature of being a Christian and loving our Lord and I say that it is a tragedy when our churches affirm and encourage sin rather than obedience!  It is safer, and certainly more P.C., but what a tragedy it is when Christians gather together and those who have participated in sin are esteemed rather than corrected and pointed towards love.  And let me quickly offer the disclaimer that this is not a critique of the so-called Just War Theory, the necessity of a strong national defense, rules of engagement, or any other secular, political idea.  I am talking exclusively to the Church here because “what business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?  Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside!” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).

You know what I would love to see?  I would love to go to church next 4th of July or Veteran’s Day and witness submission and obedience to God in relation to government affirmed.  Do you pay all your taxes?  Do you obey traffic laws?  Have you never stolen or vandalized property?  Do you show respect to government officials?  Do you fill out government forms honestly?  If so, you should be standing and receiving applause from your congregation!  You are the role model for your fellow Christians!  You show faithfulness to God through your fearless submission to the government!  You are the one deserving a “thank you” from the pastor for your faithful witness and obedience to God “rather than men”!  If churches feel so obligated to use patriotic holidays as an opportunity to affirm acts done for our earthly kingdom then let them affirm acts such as these for they show allegiance to the Kingdom of God and are the only ones that should be encouraged at church.

Church is for affirming and encouraging righteousness and “blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” (Romans 14:22)  Since God desires for us to obey our government, so far as it doesn’t conflict with His Kingdom, let’s encourage each other to do so.  But let’s not allow our government or American culture define obedience for us.  That would be a tragedy.

Peace.

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When it comes to American Christianity and its culture I have spent almost my entire life as either an active participant or a curious observer.  Having been in and out of a wide variety of groups, ministries, and churches–while reading, listening, and asking about those I haven’t experienced firsthand–someone like myself can’t help but carefully look at all the different expressions of Christianity and hope to find some consistent theme that would illustrate our unity in Christ.  This analysis has been kicked into overdrive in the past year while I’ve followed the presidential campaigns.  Since it’s an election year many Americans are verbalizing their values and desires for what kind of “America” they want more than they usually do.  Because of this, the entire spectrum of ‘Christian values’ has been on display via the media: right, left, middle, red, blue, green, rainbow, etc.  Taking it all in, it seems that aside from the fundamental belief in Jesus’ saving resurrection, American Christian values and expressions of faith are just as varied as I’ve seen in my own experiences.

Yet, increasingly, I’ve observed a common thread that seems to tie much of American Christianity together: unwavering devotion to the United States.  While this isn’t true for all Christians living here, my conclusion is that this is true for the majority.

Love your country as yourself?

If this is a correct conclusion then surely we ought to ask whether or not this is a good thing, and answering that question has everything to do with what we believe about the God of the Bible and about the United States.  True, we are to pray for the powers-that-be (1 Tim. 2:1-4), submit to them (Rom. 13:1-7), and pay our taxes to them (Mt. 22:15-22).  But are we to love our nation as our self?  Are we called to forgive our nation as the Lord forgave us?  Are we called to sacrificially love our nation to the degree that God demands we love each other? (See Mk. 12:31, Col. 3:13, 1 Cor. 13:4-7)  Sarcastic questions with emphatic answers: NO, NO, NO.  Contrary to the prevailing Christian worldview in the U.S., our country has never been and will never be a person.  It is an inanimate system, institution, organization, conglomerate, etc.  It is not human for it has no heart, soul, mind, or body.  Despite this, many Christians strangely apply biblically “Christian” principles of love in their relationship to this thing called America.  Ironically this ‘love’ is grossly insufficient in terms of the principles they seek to apply because “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor. 13:6)

This leads us to the issue of what we believe about the United States.  Are all of its motivations and actions benevolent?  Is all of its behavior inherently selfless?  Does it always avoid hurting itself and others?  Is it…perfect?  No, no, no, and no.  Even if it’s not a part of President Bush’s rhetoric, we all understand that our country is imperfect.  So then, why are so many Christians bent on treating America like their spoiled daughter whom they are afraid to rebuke for misbehaving?  American Christianity too often tries to be nice to America like it’s a person–offering it a continuous stream of grace and devotion–yet doesn’t reprimand it like one when it hurts itself or the world.  That is not democratic or patriotic, and it couldn’t be further from biblical.  If we were called to love America by the same standards we are called to love our fellow man–which we are not–then the American church would be failing miserably.

If you had a daughter that you truly loved wouldn’t you point out her blind spots to show her a better way to live?  Wouldn’t you tell her when she’s hurt you so she could avoid doing so again?  Wouldn’t you tell her if she’d hurt someone but weren’t aware of it?  And wouldn’t you be thankful if others told her about a way they’d been hurt that you weren’t aware of?  Wouldn’t you be stern with her if she were being mean and abusive?  And wouldn’t you want her to change her behavior to be more kind, loving, patient, fair, and merciful to both you and others?   And after all this wouldn’t you hope and expect her to have the humility and compassion to acknowledge her failings and seek your forgiveness and the forgiveness of others?  Yet with many Christians’ unconditional acceptance of their daughter, Ms. America, they are offering her license to do whatever she wants without fear of discipline…or even a rebuke!

Love is not blind

As Christians, the standard of love that we are called to show is very high.  It is sacrificial and selfless, and it should be so dumbfounding that people looking at us should see something out of this world; something of God.  This is God loving people through us, and it is Him displaying His love to anyone watching with the hope that they would chose to give themselves to it (Mt. 5:16, Jn. 17:23).  God’s love, and therefore Christian love, is also based on truth.  The truth is that God is perfect and nothing else is.  No person, relationship, political party, economy, constitution, country, or planet.  As already mentioned, “love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  In other words, love is happy and excited when someone does the things God wants them to do but is displeased and sad when they don’t.  Christian love is to be patient and unceasing, but this love is not blind.  If it were, it would rejoice in evil.

Christian love shown toward Ms. America shouldn’t delight in her complicity in the execution of Saddam Hussein, but rejoice that her negotiations with Kim Jong-il’s North Korea have averted a war.  It shouldn’t delight in her 400 years of committing genocide against Native Americans as romantic history or Manifest Destiny, but rejoice that she’s attempted to make things right by giving them some of their own land and equal status under the law.  It shouldn’t delight that she was the first country to use nuclear weapons, but rejoice that the Japanese have recovered from her destruction of their country to have the longest lifespan and most effective health care system in the world.  It shouldn’t delight in her endless stream of tantalizing pornography and sexual movies, but rejoice that her public schools at least try to counter it with the sexual education that most parents are unwilling to give their kids.  It shouldn’t delight in her ethnic diversity as a symbol of her open mindedness, but rejoice over the non-profits and free social services that exist to help her people achieve more than just their racial stereotype.  It shouldn’t delight in her economy’s ability to help us store up treasures on earth, but rejoice that her economy allows us to store up treasures in heaven.   It shouldn’t delight in the thought of laws that make homosexual people feel sub-human, but rejoice that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8) and has given us the Holy Spirit to help us love all our fellow sinners that live here with us.

The love and allegiance many Christians are showing toward America is not biblical love at all, it is idolatry–as defined by the Bible.  Idolatry is worship and Christians are to worship God, not the country that God has mercifully allowed them to live in.

Have we forgotten that God is a jealous God?  Do we believe “that every good and perfect gift is from above,” (Jam. 1:16-17)…or from the White House?

May God help us examine our hearts.

Peace,
The Lord is God

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