So Here’s The Thing: America Is NOT A Christian Nation

So here’s the thing: America is not and never was a Christian nation.

“Wow,” say you:

To support the impending verdict of my idiocracy, you would present me with several quotes from the our nation’s Founding Fathers. These may include Samuel Adams saying:

“We have this day (Fourth of July) restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”

Or perhaps the reputable John Adams who sayeth:

“The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”

Or even Andrew Jackson who stated:

“(The Bible) is the rock on which our Republic rests.”

“So,” say you:

See what I did there?
See what I did there?

Okay, okay! Well, let’s try this. If I say I’m a cow…. does that make me a cow?

Okay. Let’s back up:

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard the argument that America is a Christian nation because “just read the Founding Fathers” a million times. This statement is usually followed by some bemoaning proclamation of how the country has drifted away from its “traditional Christian values”. The idea behind this is that America was/is a chosen people of God, the extension of Israel and yet it has fallen away from it’s divine calling. Furthermore, the danger that follows is the justification of America’s endeavors, particularly those of a foreign and military nature, under the banner of God’s will. And key evidence for these convictions are deduced from writings of many early American leaders such as those listed above. The Founding Fathers, one might say, had strong Christian values and thus the country was founded as a beacon of Christianity to the rest of the world.

So yes, the case could be made that the founders of this country based it upon the perception of Christian values. But a lot of things in our nation’s history have been done under the perception of Christian values; the Salem Witch trials were an early product of “Christian” hysteria in our nation; does that mean that they were therefore Christian? Justification for slavery was deduced from flawed exegesis, does that make it Biblical?

The point is clear: just because our nation’s leaders might have declared this to be a Christian nation does not make it a Christian nation. The litmus test for whether or not something is authentic is not whether or not it claims to be authentic; it has to come from outside of itself.

Which brings to mind verrrrryyyyyyy interesting consideration for those of us who like to claim that America was founded as a Christian nation: Christ said to pay your taxes… did he not (Matthew 22:17-21, also see Paul in Romans 13:6-7)? Christ also said to love our enemies, did he not (Matthew 5:44)?

Okay. Now then…wasn’t America birthed by a revolution, one which was sparked by our refusal to pay a certain tax? Wasn’t our refusal followed by utilization of guerilla tactics (read: contemporary terrorism) to kill our enemies in a war lead by the very men who we point to as claiming to be Christian?

Awkward-Unique (1)

If we are were a “Christian nation”(saying nothing for our leadership and collective actions as a people and nation since that time) then where was our acknowledgement, from the beginning, of these two crucial commands of Christ?

And while we’re on the topic: what about “love your neighbor”? There was no footnote to that command that said “unless they happen to be native to the land you want to take over, then allow them to teach you how to grow corn, plant crops, hunt and survive then blast the s$%@! out of them.”

I do not have blue eyes no matter how much I claim to have blue eyes. No matter how much I proclaim to weigh 170 pounds, when I step on the scales they prove that there’s a few more donuts in my stomach than I’ve admitted. What we state about ourselves, what we state about facts, do not make them necessarily true. Our subjective notions and proclamations do not change reality. It doesn’t matter if Benjamin Franklin and his mother screamed it from the rooftops. America never was and still is not a Christian nation.

Answer: you should.

Because God’s word is the word that spoke Creation into being. His truth is the reality upon which the world spins and nations crumble and fall. Nowhere in Scripture does Christ ever proclaim the American nation to be his “chosen nation”. No where. Period. The end. Unless you read Joseph Smith’s writings and if we’re going down that avenue we should also include drug induced sentiments as authoritative considerations. Point being: America is not the continuation of Israel, there’s no ounce of Scriptural authority to support that claim.

So this begs the question: is it possible to have a “Christian nation”?

ummm-no

For Christ came not to found an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told his followers (John 18:16). And his Church, by extension, is a church that does not attach itself to any singular secular or nationalistic identity. The assignment of the “Christian” label to a nation is not only logically incorrect but defies Christ’s very mission on earth.

There is only one thing that Christ assigned as “Christian”, one human organization that Christ deemed with the responsibility of carrying his witness and proclaiming his worship to the world. That’s the Church: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The message of Christ does not attach itself to the agendas of different nation states; it transcends them.

The fallacy of attaching the label of “Christian” to another human organization is a defiance of our ordination and adoption into the Church, which is God’s proclamation to the world. The Church requires the sole allegiance of the Christian, the nation state is secondary, an alien residence. The problem is that when we label a government “Christian” we not only distract ourselves from Christ’s purpose, but we set ourselves up for a grave conflict of interests: what happens when our so-called “Christian” government contradicts the Church? After all, a wise man once said that we couldn’t serve two masters: if we pledge allegiance to Christ and the state, which one will we ultimately choose?

America is not a Christian kingdom and it never was. That is a role assigned and owned solely by the Church. And the Church, while just as fallible as any other human organization, has been gifted and mandated by God to carry his message and witness to all the world. Any other assertion or allegiance by the Christian is not only great fallacy but also leads to the danger of displaced loyalty on the part of the believer.

As Christians we have been adopted into Christ’s heavenly kingdom. Though we are aliens in another world, and are called to live within that world, our eternal and lasting citizenship is with Christ. Any other nation is not where our identity lies. And it certainly, without a doubt, is not a Christian nation.

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The Face of REAL Persecution

Taken from an IS video, this photo shows Iraqi prisoners, including what appear to be children, piled onto trucks before being driven off for execution. Photo from Anglican Communion News Service
Taken from an IS video, this photo shows Iraqi prisoners, including what appear to be children, piled onto trucks before being driven off for execution. Photo from Anglican Communion News Service

It’s three AM in the morning and I hear a dog bark down the street. I turn over in the night and feel my wife next to me in bed, hear my children sleeping in the next room. Suddenly, there’s a loud bang, the door to our house is kicked open, lights flash into our house and masked men yielding guns charge into the room. I jump out of bed and one of them slams the butt of his rifle into my face. My wife cries and lunges for our children, but a man grabs them and begins dragging them outside. There’s yelling, my children are crying. I hear similar shouts coming from the other houses. I hear my neighbor’s wife screaming in terror.

I try to push through to my wife, but another rifle butt hits me in the eye and I cannot see out of it. I am on the ground and I turn over, trying to stand up when another blow hits my good eye and I see only darkness. I crawl on the floor, blood pouring from my face. Lord, hear our prayer. I am trying to reach the sound of my screaming children. I feel two sets of hands take me by the ankles, and pull me out of the house, dumping me in the yard. I hear the sound of a pistol loading behind my head. Lord, hear our prayer. I hear my children screaming. I feel the muzzle position itself at the base of my skull.

Lord of mercy, hear my prayer. 

The situation in Iraq has gone from dire to hell. ISIS, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State, claims that it “can do anything now that the world is just looking at Gaza”. The Vicar of Baghdad, Reverend Canon Andrew White has issued an impassioned plea for prayer and support as the ISIS onslaught against the minority Christian community increases and worsens. According to some unconfirmed reports, up to 1500 people have been killed by ISIS already.

This is not to say that we should not be concerned with the events of the Gaza Strip; Christians should be praying fervently for both situations. But the worsening crisis in Iraq should draw on the heartstrings of Christians in particular because the killings in Iraq are not due to war or political disputes, they are religiously based slaughterings. Christians, as well as various other religious sects, are facing unprecedented persecution. And they need our prayers. 

Displaced Iraqis from the northern town of Sinjar flee to the mountains, seeking refuge after Islamic State extremists seized their hometown and vowed to execute them. Photo from New York Daily News
Displaced Iraqis from the northern town of Sinjar flee to the mountains, seeking refuge after Islamic State extremists seized their hometown and vowed to execute them. Photo from New York Daily News

As American Christians, news of the sufferings of our brothers and sisters should awaken us to the realities of the world we live in. And it should not just sadden us, it should convict us. Because American Christians have a terrible habit of crying wolf when it comes to religious persecution. Even when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in a controversial judicial decision this past July, many Christians were quick to remark that the whiplash faced  by the media had taken some form of persecution. Shortly thereafter, Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson came out and warned that America’s increasingly anti-Christmas spirit promoted Christian persecution. When President Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, Christian author and radio talk show host Michael Brown called it throwing “religious- in particular Christians- under the bus”.

In far less official and undocumented cases, I’ve had numerous conversations with fellow Christians in America when they refer to the “persecution” they face from the government for not being allowed to pray publicly in school or because of the remote possibility of losing their second amendment rights. Others of us may mention persecution not at the hand of the government but of peers: we are mocked, looked down upon or viewed as intellectually inferior. All these things are unfortunate and discouraging. But none of this is persecution. This is “being in the world but not of the world.” It’s being a Christian.

And when reading of the horrible events taking place in Iraq we ought to be humbled into prayer and drawn into the grateful realization of how well off we really are. In truth, we ought to be a little bit ashamed of ourselves. Because the American tendency of labeling our standing in society as “persecuted” is akin to standing next to a cancer patient in the hospital and complaining about a chest-cold.

I am not saying we don’t go through difficult times or that there are not some people reading this who are not facing depths of despair: but if they are it’s not because of persecution. Mislabeling any hardships we face displays great ignorance and great insensitivity and diminishes our ability to properly minister to our brothers and sisters in their greatest moments of need. It betrays the fact that, on a practical level, we care more about our political standing and whether or not we’ll be allowed to buy ammunition at Wal-Mart than the fact that some of our brothers and sisters are falling asleep tonight not knowing if they’ll awaken with a nozzle to their foreheads.

I say this as a reminder to myself as much as anyone. I say this to awaken myself from the apathy that haunts me into caring more about updating my Iphone than praying for the persecuted church, more about what type of shoe I will wear today and whether or not 1500 Christians in Iraq are slaughtered while I sleep. It would make for an awful day if my boss yelled at me and berated me publicly for my faith. That would be a good day for an Iraqi Christian; at least they and their family would still be alive. At least they would still have their house, their possessions and a safe place to sleep.

We are not persecuted in the United States.  Take a moment today to read about Christians in Iraq and Syria. Take a moment to read the plea from the Vicar Of Baghdad. Then bow your head, picture yourself as a sibling, parent, child in the Iraq church. Feel their pain, their vulnerability, their suffering for the sake of Christ. And for a moment, let us try and put aside ourselves and be unified with them.

 

Pray for the the church in Iraq and Syria who are facing dire persecution at the hands of ISIS.

Pray for people everywhere who are persecuted for their beliefs.

Continue to pray for the war in the Gaza strip, as the violence continues there.

Pray for the American church, that we would be awakened from our apathy and united with the global church in their sufferings.

 

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.

Psalm 143:1

 

 

10492078_10152596294334429_3483906318320546292_n
The Arabic letter N is a sign of solidarity with Iraqi Christians. The symbol – meaning Nazarene, or Christian – is being painted on Christian homes by IS supporters to mark them out for attack; and is now being adopting by Christians around the world as an act of support.

 

5 Things For American Christians To Remember On Independence Day

There are few holidays like the Fourth of July. Tomorrow Americans across the nation will take a moment to bask in the sunlight, enjoy a barbeque sandwich and, if you come from where I grew up, enjoy a good ol’ Yankee tractor race (I almost wish I was kidding). It is a great chance for us to be thankful for the numerous positive aspects of the country in which we have all been blessed to live.

But with that gratitude comes the need for prudence. For with every great blessing there is always a danger of misplaced worship. So here are a few things for us to keep in mind as we celebrate Independence Day:

 

1) America is not Israel.

We live in a wonderful country; there are numerous aspects of our nation that deserve our admiration, respect and gratitude. But America is not God’s chosen nation; we are not the new Israel. We are not, as John Rolf once mistakenly noted: “a people…marked and chosen by the finger of God.”

Though our country may have a foundation of Puritanical Christian values, it is a mistake to promote ourselves as a “Christian” nation. We were never intended to be, nor are we, a theocracy. Our country is not guided by God as Israel was in the wilderness but by a human, and thus deeply flawed, government. We must pray for our leaders of all political affiliations but let us never deceive ourselves into thinking that either side is acting on the behalf of God. We must free ourselves from our nationalistic egos and pledge our primary allegiance to a global church, not a human creation.

Inasmuch…

 

2) We are called to love God above our country.

Nationalism is not a biblical concept. While we are told to “give to Caesar what is Caesar” this command is followed by the command to give “to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And what is it that belongs to God? Jesus answers that question just a few verses later: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This doesn’t leave much that really belongs to Caesar now, does it?

This Independence Day, we must remember that it is not our country which deserves our deepest admiration but our God. The danger of patriotism is that it easily leads to misplaced worship, otherwise called idolatry. While there are many aspects of our nation worthy of our gratitude and respect, no part is worthy of our worship.

 

3) We should be thankful for sacrifices that have been made but ought not glorify them above the Ultimate Sacrifice.

Independence Day rings with the truth that: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Many men and women have given up so much, if not everything, in service to this nation. Such dedication and loyalty is something to be admired and respected; be sure to thank a veteran today.

But as Christians, we know that our ultimate respect and worship is reserved for him who came and “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Many times our pride in the sacrifice of American soldiers can give way to idolatry over and above our allegiance to God. We must keep our perspective centered on the cross, and our worship constantly reserved for and oriented towards Christ. This does not diminish the sacrifices made by our soldiers but keeps them in their proper perspective.

 

4) Association of Christ with a nation state is neither biblical nor unique.

See if you can name the source of this quote: “The aim for which we were fighting the War was the loftiest, the most overpowering, that man can conceive: it was the freedom and independence of our nation.”

What do you think? A Founding Father? Former patriot? Advocate of freedom? Startlingly, this quote actually comes from Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf, Volume I, Chapter IV).

I recently read one American politician who stated that we must “synthesize Christianity and capitalism” because if we don’t there is the chance for “another Hitler to rise up.” Christians must be weary if not immediately suspicious of anyone who attaches Christ’s name and Church to a nationalistic endeavor or agenda; Hitler is not the only tyrant who once beckoned for the blessing of “Gott der Allmächtige (Almighty God)” in his political speeches.

Though there is much to celebrate on Independence Day, we must not believe that Christ’s agenda and America’s interests are one and the same. The message of Christ supersedes any nationalistic ties. Merging the two not only goes contrary to our testimony as Christians but has a history of both fallibility and great peril.

 

5) The kingdom of heaven is a family of all nations, not just America.

Independence Day offers us a wonderful opportunity to sit back, drink a cold one, down some hot dogs and celebrate the common bond we share with our fellow Americans. But we must not forget that our primary affiliation is with a different kingdom. We may all have American passports and know the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” but our ultimate citizenship, our eternal affiliation, is with God’s kingdom (Philippians 3:20). And heaven does not consist solely of American Christians but rather incorporates peoples from “every nation, tribe people and language” (Revelation 7:9).

 

 

Take time to be thankful for this blessing of this country today. Take time to thank those who have helped provide this blessing. But don’t forget to thank God for the greatest blessing: adoption into a kingdom that transcends all nations. Our true independence came not from an earthy tyrant but from sin; and Christ is our deliverer. Let us ensure our worship is properly oriented to Him as we celebrate Independence Day.

Now, go enjoy a tractor race.