I feel so conflicted when American Christians act like they are citizens of the United States before they are citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Bible calls us to give to our government what belongs to our government, but give to God what is God’s. It seems to me that God requires much more of us than our government, yet we continue to give our loyalty, our passion, and our commitment to our country.
The United States is a great country. I don’t ever want to deny that. The freedoms we have in this country are to be valued and cherished. But with those freedoms come responsibilities and abuse. We are the most materialistic society in the world thanks to our freedom. It’s astounding.
Again and again American Christians make the claim that this country is God’s favored nation. Somehow God has shined his light upon us and us alone, and allowed us to become the world’s superpower. What do we base that right upon? This country was founded by God fearing men. God fearing men who owned slaves. God fearing men who believed in a detached, clock-maker God. Many of them were deists. God fearing men who decided not to give to Caesar what was Caesar, but decided to claim it for themselves and declared their independence. And time and time again Christian leaders turn to the passage in Chronicles where God cries out to the Israelites, saying that if his people would humble themselves and pray, he would rise up their nation. That promise is claimed for countries that are not Israel, and I wonder how that makes sense. We claim God’s blessing and we claim God’s favor, based upon what?
The motto of this country is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Jesus Christ calls us to take up our cross, an instrument of execution, and follow him. Jesus was asking us to die to ourselves. To take up our lethal injection, to sit in the electric chair–to give up our lives so that we can serve him. That doesn’t sound like the pursuit of happiness. We are called to be slaves to righteousness. That doesn’t sound like liberty. The American ideal is based on the oft-quoted, but not scriptural idea that “God helps those who helps themselves.” Lie. The opposite is found in scripture–God can only help us when we realize that we can’t possibly help ourselves.
That’s the whole foundation of salvation. We can’t pay the price for our sins on our own. It can’t be done. No amount of good deeds will wipe our slate clean. Only the blood of Jesus makes us clean. We can’t help ourselves.
So while patriotism swells around me, I find it choking. When patriotism sweeps in, logic and free thinking often pour out. We think our God-favored status gives us special rights, gives us permission to act in the world, to do what we think is right. The result has been abuses across the globe. Smart bombs that fall on wedding parties, the support of dictators and the repression of others, based simply on what effects our pocketbooks. Our country as a whole pays lip service to God, yet Christians cling to that like it’s something that matters. God doesn’t care if we give homage to him our money. He doesn’t need our money. God doesn’t care if we admit that our nation is under his watchful eye in our pledge. God doesn’t care if our judges and congressman and even the president spend a moment in rehearsed prayer. God doesn’t care about any of that. What really matters is if God is our god, any thing less is showmanship. Anything less is lip service. Any thing less is a slap in the face. So why pretend? Why insult God on high? He deserves better than that.
When we say God bless America, what are we really asking? Are we asking God to bless us above every other nation on earth? Are we asking God to bless our pocket books and our bank accounts and our stock options? Or are we asking God to convict us of the sin so prevalent in every wrung of our society. Are we asking God to help us kill those terrorists? Or are we asking God to make himself known to unbelievers? Are we asking God to let his people proclaim his name on the streets? Or we asking God to open hearts of the unsaved on the streets, so that lives are changed, not just callused by our faithful proclamation?
Occupied, oppressed, persecuted and closed nations are often places where you find the true Christians. Their family Bible, hidden in a slit in the mattress, is their prized possession. Not the brand new SUV in the driveway. The American Christian has become fat and lazy, drowned in a sea of possessions, paying lip service to God on Sunday morning, and then falling asleep to football Sunday afternoon while an unbelieving world goes to hell, all while we sing ‘God Bless America’ and think we live in the greatest nation on earth. Every empire that has ever existed and has ever fallen has swallowed the same lie.