I called my mom before the election with one specific question:
“Mom, when did American politics get mixed up with Christianity?”
I really wanted to know. I didn’t grow up in the United States and throughout my childhood, my parents voted via absentee ballots. I remember political discussions about the U.S. taking place every four years, where my mom and dad would have at least one heated discussion about “their” candidate. 95% of the time, their votes cancelled each other. Never do I remember either one of them talking about which was the better “Christian” choice.
“I’m not sure,” she replied. “I have read that it was when the Moral Majority became a thing. Jerry Falwell and others connected their politics and their faith.”
This was something I escaped during childhood and beyond into my college years. I was far more concerned about the Iranian revolution and the war in Lebanon than I was about U.S. politics, although I would come to learn that U.S foreign policy was critically important when it came to parts of the world that I loved.
But the point is: I never got caught up in the melding of Christianity with the earthly kingdom of the United States of America.
I think its time to confront the idol. America and American exceptionalism have become idols and when we make anything into an idol we need to confess and repent.
“….Nothing is more alien to the Old and New Testaments than to sacralize the unholy, or divinize material things. To regard secular America as some kind of Messiah nation, or geo-political golden calf, is sheer idolatry.”*
When rationalizing America as a “nation blessed by God’ the arguments given are generally material and military and use the book of Deuteronomy as a guide.
Material: America is ‘blessed’ by God because we have more wealth than other countries, because we have houses and bank accounts and cars and college price tags of $160,000 and a plethora of other things unknown to much of the world. How often have you heard someone talk about being “Blessed” with a house? That’s wonderful – but if they had an apartment would they be less blessed? Does the blessing include cathedral ceilings, designer paint, and a pool in the back yard? Is the family of four living in 3000 square feet more blessed than the family of six living in 1000? Or the refugee family living in a tent? We’re on shaky ground when we use material goods as our litmus test for blessing.
Military: America is blessed by God because we have a strong military. Really? Are we using “Blessing” in the correct way?
The book of Matthew speaks a lot about blessing in a chapter called “The Beatitudes” literally meaning “blessings”. As I read it I realize yet again that Jesus again excels at turning things upside down, challenging the crowd who is familiar with an Old Testament view of blessing. Not once is a strong military or material wealth mentioned. Rather we have a dire list of adjectives that include poor in spirit, meek, mourning, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, pure in heart, peace makers, and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted….At this point I begin to feel uncomfortable. Are we through yet? No, there’s more – we end the ‘blessings’ portion with more persecution and false accusation.
The list of blessings is long, and drones, bombs, military intelligence, American exceptionalism, Wall Street, bonds, bank accounts, investments are not included.
But the blessings do include peacemaking.
They include seeking righteousness.
They include mourning.
And so I come to this conclusion: America is not blessed. In fact, we are in need of deep, deep healing.
One of the ways we heal is by confronting the idol of Christian America and American exceptionalism. It has already begun to crumble before us and yet we aren’t paying attention.
Nations will come and go. Party affiliations will change. Politics will swing from right to left and back again. This is not the Kingdom of God. Every political system on earth was designed by imperfect people who were all about politics on earth and not about treasure in Heaven.
They are not, and never were, designed to reflect Jesus or the Kingdom of God. And if you see any of these as more then systems designed by imperfect people, then I pray that God would heal your eyesight.
My allegiance is to a citizenship far stronger and greater than any nation. My loyalty and world view are defined less by a country and more by a faith. I am called to a higher calling and a far greater identity than that which is indicated by my passport.
If I ever confuse my identity as an ‘American’ with that of being a ‘Christian’ may I be called out and challenged by those around me. Believing that a national identity is greater than a spiritual identity is quite simply idolatry.
Maybe you voted for Trump. Maybe you voted for Hillary. Maybe you found either choice untenable. Regardless, if you believe in a kingdom that is not of this world then I challenge you that your job is to build bridges with those with whom you disagree. Your job is not to ridicule, to withold grace, to tell people to stop having thin skin, to condemn, to gloat, to despair, to withdraw, to be disgusted. Your job, your mandate is to build bridges and seek the kingdom.
There will be a day when the Kingdom of Heaven will come, and on that day I know this- all political systems will dissolve into nothing in the light of the Glory of God Himself.
Until then may God heal our eyesight. May he show us his beloved ones of every tribe and every nation. May we not dismiss stories or perspectives. May we be ones who listen and learn, who are willing to admit we are wrong. May we not justify our wrongs or rationalize our sins. May we be people who see beyond the crisis of the day and beyond our own inadequacies. May we comfort the hurting, give grace to the angry, hear the other side, build bridges of peace, and always fight for the persecuted. May we see the world through the Creator’s eyes of love and grace.
*First Things – “Is America Blessed by God”
Blogger’s note: You may recognize some of these posts – I took from a couple different blogs that I have done in the past.