Thursday, October 15, 2009

The American Christ?

When the mystery of the Godhead decided/planned the redemptive mission of God in the flesh, there was no mention of any nationalistic identity that would define or differentiate His followers. To the contrary, God’s Word makes many attempts to present a kingdom that is not of this world, a city whose builder and maker is God Himself. We, as believing followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, are to be patriots of the unseen kingdom and not loyal to any structures of men. Although God instituted human government, seemingly to have some order among the fallen masses, He has been consistent in His direction for the New Testament church.

Possibly the most obvious offenders in this area are Christians who happen to live in America. Many evangelicals have not only happily adopted the American moniker; they have constructed a narrative that suggests America as a divine creation above the rest of the nations. Many have strongly believed that America began as a Christian nation, which by any impartial review of history is patently false. The overarching sovereignty of God has incorporated many nations as it pertains to His people, and God has even used totalitarian nations that were violently opposed to the gospel to forward His divine plan.

But God, juxtaposing His church upon a certain nation and sovereignly using those particular circumstances to His glory, is a far cry from anointing any nation as Christian. And the Lord never meant for His people to become attached to their surroundings, much less fall in love with the country in which they live. When David Livingston body was carried to England, his heart was cut out from his chest and buried in Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia , Africa. This was done not because Livingston loved any country or government; it was because of his unusual and profound love for the African people.

But Americans have always considered themselves a special people, a cultural and racial collage, tethered together by a pioneer spirit and, like it or not, a spirit of superiority. The highly competitive nature of American nationalism, as well as the intense feelings of moral and spiritual arrogance, has led the church to become entangled in a distorted symbiotic relationship with the earthly nation in which they serve Christ. And this deception has been so perpetuated within the church and Christian schools, that it is now a stronghold that millions of Christians will vehemently defend. Even posts like this one will create inward feelings of anger and even betrayal among many believers who hold their nation as part of their spiritual heritage.

Let us be candid. Almost everything the government does and stands for, even the best parts, are either at odds with or are worthless counterfeits to the kingdom of Christ. Even if there were no misspenditures, and even if the government was the most philanthropic organization on earth, it would still draw men’s allegiance, dependence, and hearts to see the government as their provider/god, protector/god, and advocate/god.

I remain somewhat confused as to the meaning of God ordaining human government. The best I can resolve in my own mind is the creation of the institution of government since to believe God directly placed Hitler and Stalin etc. in power is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Himself. We as followers of the living Christ have no part in the contrivances of men, especially when those contrivances suggest a substantial element of “parenthood”. Our attitudes should never be smug or superior, but the followers of Jesus should obey the law with humility and grace, but with a serpent’s wisdom that realizes the government has no place in our divine calling.

I honestly and before Jesus my Lord believe that becoming involved with the government and politics has been a subversive influence on genuine Christianity and has surreptitiously stolen the spiritual value from the church. Like Hezekiah showing the golden artifacts in the temple to the Babylonians, only to have them return and steal them later, the church has built an unholy alliance with the government and hasn’t realized the high cost of that alliance.

I believe many Christians, like me, who once did not give it a second thought, are rethinking this entire government issue. I judge no one but myself, but I believe I have a responsibility to speak out about these issues. And if we “left behinders” are wrong, and if we are to affect this world for Jesus instead, then I would assume that this issue might be a paramount prerequisite before the Kingdom of God can thrive apart from compromise and dilution.

Nations rise and fall, but that fact is of no importance to me. God’s kingdom will continue for eternity. Men may call me an American, but I am a child of God, a brother of Jesus Christ, and a citizen of a country that is not of this world. And as such, I am free from any government or earthly king regardless if I wind up in jail, or wind up destitute, I will still be free. In some ways the preacher in China who is spending his 20th year in prison is more free than many American Christians who believe their “freedoms” are being stripped away by some earthly government.

In Oregon some apartment complex attempted to make people remove their display of the American flag since they claim it might offend their diverse clientele. That is goofy to me, however how should we as followers of Jesus Christ react to such a thing? Here is how a professing follower named Ingrid reacted to it:

“My advice is for any Oak Apartment resident who is offended by the American flag to leave the country within 24 hours. If you’re so “diverse” that you despise this country and its freedoms, than what in the name of common sense are you doing here? Return to your superior homeland and free up some housing for those who love America!” (online source)

If that isn’t modern day idolatry I don’t know what is. And that is only one example of how we have lost sight of our unseen kingdom in favor of some misguided, prideful, and caustic allegiance to even a flag itself. It is this crass arrogance that leads genuine Christians to abandon their faith and hate illegal immigrants, while conveniently forgetting that this entire nation was enlarged through violence against the indigenous peoples by European immigrants. It is this blindness that has some believers working for the interests of Norway; others work for the interests of Italy; others work for the interests of Brazil; and some work for the interests of America. See the picture? Believers, who should be unified in their pursuits, are diligently working for different, and sometimes opposing, causes and interests.

There are very few issues that elicit more resistance and more virulent projections against someone like me. Nationalism has been drilled into the church for many decades and from birth we have been reared as patriots. And in an attempt to relieve the obvious tension between being a follower of Jesus and an American patriot, the church has revised history in a somewhat blasphemous teaching that America is special and was formed as a Christian nation by God Himself. Anyone can see the great and spiritually destructive dangers inherent in such a belief system.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, followers and imitators of the Lord Jesus, we should be about our Father’s business. God’s calling is redemption and in that calling morality will come, not by force or voting block, but through the regenerating work of God's Spirit. Becoming involved with the systems of men and attempting to sanctify them with a tortured revision of history and interpretation of Scripture will only lead to…only lead to…well, it will only lead to what we have today – a compromised church who has gotten all entangled with the affairs of this world and has unwittingly turned her back on Jesus Himself.

We are to be light and salt and faithfully resist becoming an unremarkable voice among many in the political montage. Our cause, our calling, and our unique mission is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. All the other voices are well represented by others, but if we do not separate our voice from the rest and preach and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, who will? If Jesus is portrayed as some kind of moral fixer, how will the lost see Him as Redeemer? And if the church complains about finances and taxes in lockstep with the rest of the world, how will anyone distinguish anything different about us? And if we make abortion or gay rights our cause, how can we show the love of God through Jesus and His offer of redemption?

When will we actually display the trust in God and His power that we so glibly speak with our lips? How can we exhibit the peace of God when everything the government or the President does immediately irks us and becomes a topic of useless conversation, and worse, unchristian rhetoric? Oh let us fly back to Christ with unbridled praise on our lips and unbridled obedience in our lives! Let us quietly but determinately step away from the roar and clamor of things that pertain to the kingdoms of this world, and let us humbly set about to become incandescent followers of the Lord Most High and His Son Jesus the Christ.

The people in darkness do not need better darkness; they are in desperate need of a dazzling luminousness that only Jesus can provide. We can be, we must be, the surrendered filament in the hands of the Father of Lights that spreads the glorious light of the gospel and the heat of God's eternal love!!


Victoria said...

Your plea is powerful, passionate, and articulate. Is it the Lord Himself calling to His people to turn back to Him and His words?

Brother, I, too, have had an "awakening" over the past year and have forsaken politics. We blood-bought saints belong to one Kingdom whose King is Lord of Lords. Come out from the world. Tne Lord's ways are not the world's ways and we must seek His wisdom and obey Jesus. His wisdom is revealed in the Lamb slain.

Dominionism is rampant in the church, though rarely explicitly stated, and contributes to the tendency toward nationalism. Both are an aberration from apostolic Christianity. Both have compromised the church's witness and dissipated our energies.

If we are stuck in either aberration, we may find ourselves captive in the days ahead, or worse yet, persecuting the Lord Himself in the saints.

Help us, Father, to love and obey Your Son by and in the power of the Holy Spirit You give.

Onesimus said...

So much I could say in agreement with what you say here, but in particular I’d like to comment on the following:

“If that isn’t modern day idolatry I don’t know what is. … It is this crass arrogance that leads genuine Christians to abandon their faith and hate illegal immigrants…”

I think that first phrase sums up the situation very well. There is a clear nationalistic idolatry at work in many of our nations, but I have specifically noticed it in the content of so much writing from American Christians. Often this has come in the form of “prophecies” predicting God’s wrath upon America because of its abandonment of God.

In Australia we also have those who constantly call for this nation to return to its Judeo-Christian heritage (a heritage that has NEVER really existed) and also constantly attributes every disaster (bushfire, flood etc) as being God’s judgement on the nation for drifting from that “heritage”.

As for the comment about hating “illegal immigrants” – we have had the same kind of reaction here to the regular influx of “boat people” who are escaping the horrors of their own nations. While some (including “Christians”) make their protests about them invading OUR land – those Christians seem to forget that there are opportunities of sharing the gospel with those who had previously been denied access to it in their own lands. If believers will not GO into all the world to preach the gospel, then God in His mercy (to them AND to us) may very well bring those in the world who have been denied the gospel to us. But will we make the most of the opportunity He has provided?