This post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. The hope is that if there is disagreement, that we could do what Christians ought to do and dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner.
This series, The Great American Love Affair comes from a current Eternity student, Stephen McMahon.
Jesus is our King, our Lord and he demands complete allegiance from every part of our lives. Daily refinement is necessary to grow in His image. We all need to take a step back to consider where we’ve come from and where we’re going. Even though we have been extremely blessed, the American Church is no different.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Where she went wrong
Pledging allegiance to America is how I started every day in my fundamentally Baptist Christian school. It’s how we and many other churches start our VBS ceremonies. After pledging allegiance to America, we would then pledge allegiance to the Christian flag. The Christian pledge was spotty, at best, as most didn’t even know the words. “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the savior whose kingdom it stands, one brotherhood, uniting all mankind in sacrifice and love.” Synchrotizing the Gospel with anything is heretical and blasphemous, and the American church has done just that. Consider how similar the pledges of allegiance are to each other. Would early Christians living in a roman state have a roman flag flying right next to their Christian flag, even above or in place of it? The flags being held on the same plain leaves us to believe they are one and the same. This syncretistic mindset has led the church, and in many ways, the world, to believe Christianity and America go hand in hand. This ultimately has led to a major identity crisis for Christians and the American church. With all the politics and hot-button issues surrounding Christianity and the government, the battle for the American dreamer is at an all-time high. The church must recognize this identity crisis and choose this day whom they will pledge their allegiance to. A house divided cannot stand.
Patriotism: an emotional attachment to a nation, which an individual recognizes as their homeland. In its most raw and basic form, it’s an “okay” thing, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the many benefits and freedoms our country offers us. Although, how we attain these freedoms is another issue and will be addressed later. Where churches and Christians have gone wrong is in their worship and allegiance to this country and actively supporting its agendas and policies over Christ’s. This sort of mindset is idolatry, and goes beyond the original definition of patriotism and will be referred to in this paper as Nationalism.
The establishment of this country has been viewed as biblical and blessed, even ordained by God. The goal of manifest destiny has led to the exploration, infiltration, and colonization of North America. It follows the pattern of every nation, or emerging nation before it. It was started by rebellion against the British government and is reminiscent of intertestamental Jews looking for religious freedom from oppression from the Roman state. It then led to the need for a new home, not in England, but a whole new piece of real estate. The accidental discovery of America was the outlet these revolutionaries were looking for. Declarations of war were declared on any and all who stood in the way of manifest destiny. Violence as well as disease brought by Europeans decimated the estimated eighteen million people living in North America by 80-90%. Mass genocide of these people, created in God’s image (not to mention the lives of the British, French, and other European lost in the wars) is what paved the way for the joys and freedoms where our country finds its pride. The murder of millions of innocent people as our foundation for this country, led by a rebellion, is completely absent from the minds of many nationalistic Christians. After all, we are a “nation under God” supporting liberty and justice for all …
We’re not too different from the 1st century Jews who crucified the Messiah
Although it is true that many of the founding fathers were religious, and even “Christian,” the way this revolution went about does not reflect the life of Christ and the message He spread of His kingdom. As mentioned previously, it more closely imitates the ideas and actions of the Jews before Jesus. The revolutionaries in Israel were marked by the sword. One of the lead figures during this time was Judas Maccabeus. He was given the nickname “the Hammer.” He and his Hasmonean followers were rebelling against Rome, shedding blood, and taking matters into their own hands (see I, II Maccabeus). Looking back on these men, we see their folly and their pride is driven by good intentions for religious and political freedom. God had been promising a messiah that would free them, but their lack of patience and submission to God led to violent actions of taking matters into their own hands. When Jesus comes on the scene, you see this clash continue with the major religious sects and the general population of the nation as a whole. The kingdom he introduces is one of peace and love that is marked by sacrifice and submission, none of which reflect the methods of empires before or after him. The culmination of Jesus’ message of loving your enemies/oppressors is found at his death on a Roman cross. The sword stained with blood is a symbol of victory for the captor and death for the victim. Jesus’ kingdom is literally an upside down kingdom in the sense that He turned the sword upside down and used it as a cross, and covered it with His own blood to free the hearts of men.
The similarities to the Jews at this time are uncanny when compared to the establishment of America (except that America has had more “success” in their revolution). Fast forward to modern America, the methods and agendas are still the same although the religious motivation has subsided. Jesus’ message of the kingdom is the same then and always; love your neighbor and your enemy as yourself. This extreme call to love even those who persecute you is a tall order and is still misinterpreted today in the nationalistic church. Ideologies of America, concerning safety, security, success, freedom and our rights has permeated the American church. The priority of these ideas and standards are common among many Nationalistic Christians. These ideas are considered separate from religion. In fact, many of them are prerequisites to the ability to practice religion in America. This belief has led to the separation of church and state, which is fine for America (or many secular nations for that matter), but the issue is in the church, which also subscribes to these ideologies. For the Nationalistic church, this means politics and Christianity are separate. This is evident in the lifestyle of Nationalistic Christians in their routine Sunday participation in the kingdom of God (as it is understood by them). The days between Sundays look no different than the people of the country in which they dwell. Activist groups and humanitarian efforts to benefit the needy are participated in by all sorts of people (not exclusively Christians). Jesus calls his people to be different not only in the extraoridnary, but in the ordinary as well.
The America where I knew
Consider some of our major political issues and trending topics in our present time; illegal immigrants, terrorists, abortion, war, money, refugees, healthcare, food, poverty, etc. This list is by no means exhaustive, but absolutely worth noting. Growing up in a conservative (republican) background, I learned to hate many of these major issues and the people involved because of my underlying allegiance to America and her freedom:
I was taught that …
- Terrorists are faceless, heartless, evil people (which arguably so, are) that needed to be eradicated to ensure our safety.
- Illegal immigrants are leeches that take away our jobs and our ability to provide for our families and ruin our economy.
- Money is to be saved for a cushion in case we need it or should be invested with a profitable return.
- Concerning food, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
- Poverty, these people are druggies that chose that life for themselves. None of these thoughts mirror the kingdom our Lord came to enact.
Indeed, the call to participate in His kingdom is the tallest order when viewed in this light. Jesus says to love our enemies, clothe those in need, and to feed the hungry. This really starts hitting home when two planes bring the world trade centers to the ground and demonstrate their ability to encroach on our safety in our everyday lives.
The typical response seen throughout history is to declare war and to make our world safe again, this follows the same pattern seen all throughout history. The end goal is peace, but through the means is by bloodshed. What is the key to true lasting peace? What did Jesus really mean when He says, “love your enemies?”