America is polarized between two dominant camps. The liberals see America as evil, and they are especially frothy-mouthed and tearing their eyes out over the election of Donald Trump. They are champions of “identity politics,” they want to see America radically changed, and more and more their vision is a socialist America where the state exerts supreme authority over the citizens.
I used to consider myself a conservative. I was raised by Republicans and around Republicans. In the minds of the liberal media, liberal academia, and even among most conservatives the Republican party remains tied to (what is supposed to be) a Christian worldview. Indeed, 81% of evangelical Christians voted for Trump.
As I have grown in understanding of God’s Word (and hopefully appropriation and application of it in my life) I have come to see that most Christians are not very thoughtful. These folks – some of whom I know to be genuine in their faith in Christ – will defend police even when they are brutalizing ER nurses and shooting unarmed citizens. They will not see the evidence that the War on Drugs has failed. They insist on receiving their Social Security checks even though Social Security is a failed socialist program. They do not, by and large, exert much effort in outcry to defend the unborn or prevent divorce or pay off debts, but they will crow hysterically about gays or missiles targeting Israel. They don’t seem very consistent. If the colonists of America had the attitude of conservatives today, there would have never been an American Revolution.
But both of these factions have elevated the role of the state to a level that would have shocked our Founders. It is interesting to me how apolitical Jesus and the apostles seem to have been, and where the emphasis of their doctrine lay. I ask myself, Do we American Christians have the same emphasis?
Once or twice among a few friends, I have asked this question: Was the rebellion of the colonists against the king justified? I mean from a Scriptural perspective, was it proper? No one has really answered me. I normally get a “Hmm” in response. They don’t seem to know or care.
I am glad to have been born in America, and I still think America is the freest nation on earth although no one alive today has experienced the freedom our founders fought for and enjoyed. Yet I don’t see myself as superior to a believer living in China or Iraq or on a native reservation. I’m torn whenever July 4th rolls around, because I stopped pledging allegiance to our flag and the republic for which it stands when I became a Christian. My citizenship is in heaven, and I am subject to my King. But I honestly don’t know if this is true of most of my fellow believers. I grew up hearing the words sung in church, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free,” and even at a young age the strange brew of an “American Gospel” struck me as missing its aim concerning the truth.
Wherever there is much surplus, excess, materialism, consumerism, lack of hospitality, and injustice – as in America – it fosters an environment that produces lackluster, lukewarm believers. The heirs of the American blessing – of which I am a part – have simply stuffed themselves. They have never suffered, or sacrificed, or even been inconvenienced to bring freedom to others, and they don’t seem willing to do so now.
Christ rebuked the Laodiceans: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”
And elsewhere: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50). The explosion of sexual sin and confusion we see in America, and the tepid, dispassionate faith of the Church, are directly related to an atmosphere of wealth and prosperity and abject apathy.
Sometimes I wonder what benefit patriotism (or is it nationalism?) has in the midst of a people whom the Scriptures call “sons of God.” We know we are Americans. But do we know we are sons of God?
Talking with my wife recently, I expressed the wish that I might travel the world someday. Not necessarily to see any sights, but to visit with the churches and observe whether they are as lacking in godly order and passion as the churches in my country. Regardless, I am seeking greater dependence upon the Lord. As a son of God, called before the foundation of the world, I do not want to be a self-made man. I don’t think I have “American values,” though with all my heart I wish for God’s kingdom to come to my nation. But today I’m experiencing the loneliness of feeling “out of place” in the world, and even in the church. Who could even utter these things out loud without being thrown off a cliff?
“By faith he dwelt in the promised land as a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” – from Hebrews 11