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Here is what I think needs to be said to the church today:
Christianity is not American.
Do you realize that? That it’s not ours (assuming you are American yourself, as I am) to claim? It didn’t start in America, and it certainly won’t end there.
I’ve always felt pretty strongly about the separation of church and state. Even in a land started by (at least supposed) Christians (Thomas J, I’m looking at you and your “copy-and-paste” Bible), we are flooded with people from many nations, tongues, and belief systems. That is what America decided to be: a place that would embrace other cultures. (Other than those Indians that we forced right out into the wilderness … ahem.) We haven’t always been refined about it, but it’s our heritage.
So I don’t understand when people think the government should rule with a Christian mindset. Because although 78% of Americans will claim to be Christians, and we can call America a Christian nation all we want, they are two separate entities. We are Christians because we follow God, because we confess faith in Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection. We are Americans because we were born in this country or came here and worked to achieve citizenship.
Lately there have been so many upset and appalled Christians at the government legislature. My stance is this: if Christian does not equal American, laws of the land are not going to regulate what is sin and what is not sin. I firmly desire that homosexuals have the same legal rights in this country as anyone else, including partner/spouse rights. I absolutely do not think the church should have to perform homosexual marriages. Because American marriage is not the same as Christian marriage.
We’ve gotten used to Christianity being easy. This isn’t something that is experienced worldwide, y’all. There are places where being a professing Christian means putting your life at risk. I believe our ease in a culture where mainstream has equaled Christian has led to a lot of lukewarm Christians, those who go to church but never consider the biblical implications of following Christ. Who live completely selfishly yet “know where they’re going when they die.” We’ve created a place where many people think they hate Christians or want no part in a church that does nothing like what it says it can and will do.
But man, is that Christianity patriotic. We love some America.
Please do not get me wrong. I do love America, and I am so proud to be American. I give nothing but honor to those who are serving in our military, including the five military men whose lives were taken in my own town of Chattanooga last week. I love patriotic songs.
But I’m not sure I love them in church.
Rob Tims, who was at one time the youth pastor at my church in Nashville, wrote about this in his wonderful little book Southern Fried Faith. He writes, “Whenever a group of people who are designed to primarily unite around one thing try to unite around something else, the result is devastating for all. … Any idol in the church — including the god of patriotism — can divide a church. The allure of American virtue is strong enough to blind us to the truth.”
Our fourth of July service at church made me uncomfortable this year. Pledging to the flag. Singing “God Bless the USA.” The whole shebang. We honored veterans. The government was chastised in prayer.
All the while, a lovely young woman from Iran was sitting in the service.
Is it fair to her to feel ostracized from a church because that church happens to be in the United States?
Wherever we go the church should be preaching the same message: Jesus. That’s it. The Bible. God. The unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If I went to church in France, or Malawi, or Taiwan, I wouldn’t want to be paying allegiance to their government in church or being presented with reasons why it stinks. The language barrier would be difficult enough to get through. I would want what I want whenever I enter my own church home: to worship freely the God of the universe. Not the God of America. The God who sees all souls equally with love.
I am an American, and so happy to be one. But I am first a Christian.
I am sincerely not trying to start controversy or upset anyone; I simply would love you to consider this, what has been on my heart for weeks. I am closing the comments to avoid any public arguments. You are welcome to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you like.