Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christian Patriotism?

The following video is a great way to consider our role as Christians who live in the United States:

A couple quick notes:

1. This is not an assessment of the individual faith of the "founding fathers." Every single founding father could have been a believer (they were not), and yet the United States would not be a Christian nation.
2. This does not in any way mean that we do not enjoy incredible freedoms here in our country, all of which are a grace from God. We experience a lot of liberties here which allow us to freely pursue Christ. This is a gift for which we should all be thankful.3. A common grace God has given for us so that we can experience these liberties has been seen in the lives of soldiers who have served (or are serving) as well as those who have lost their lives protecting these liberties. These sacrifices cannot save a soul, but they are a glorious display of loyalty and sacrifice.

Why does this matter? Couldn't this issue simply be left for opinion? Why does this issue seem to rile me up so much at times?

In a nutshell, I think the crusade to "reclaim" the United States as a Christian nation confuses and distorts the gospel.

1. It reduces the essentials of saving faith. I've heard people state, "Look, the Declaration of Independence mentions a Creator God, this proves many founding fathers were Christian." Such a statement ignores that simply being a Theistic Creationist does not mean one has saving faith. I've also heard people exclaim, "But did you know that a majority of the founding fathers were pastors?" Again, this misses that salvation does not come by an office held within the church. (In fact, Gilbert Tennent preached On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry in 1739.) I've met a disturbing number of pastors who do not know Jesus Christ, and it seems Pastor Tennent had met a number of them too...right around the time of the Revolution.

When we want to claim our nation as Christian because the founding fathers made some vague comments about God, we distort the gospel on two fronts. One, we make it seem like the gospel is simply to believe that God is a Creator and we eliminate the news of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We somehow imagine a Christianity that does not require the gospel. And two, we obscure what it means to be a genuine witness. We begin to assume we are taking a major stand by saying God exists and He made everything. Instead, we need to speak of Jesus, and how salvation is only found in Him.

2. It confuses our mission. A recently heard a pastor state, "Pastors have to start preaching to their people that this nation was founded on Christian principles or we'll never see this country turn around." But Christ's kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He will build His Church (Matthew 16:18). Surely this should be the focus of every disciple and pastor. The pastor who focuses on building this nation will a) find himself neglecting the proclamation of the gospel, for the gospel cannot be spread (or received) through political movement, and b) ignoring the fact that there are still 1.9 billion people who have not heard the name of Jesus, most of whom do not live in the United States. Our mission is to see God build a nation, not a country.

3. It does not call people to hope. Even if the United States had been founded as a Christian nation, such knowledge will not return people to those roots. Hope is not placed in the past (Romans 8:24). Such an effort falls victim to the naive assumption that the time of the Revolution was the glory days for our country.

Let's get this straight: Black people were slaves. Women were not given the liberty to vote. The Catholic church and corrupted Church of England were running rampant. People ignored Romans 13:1-7 and began to murder other people. And some people want to think of that era as the "glory days?"

The message of the gospel is set in the past, at what Christ did for us. But the hope of the gospel is set ahead of us. That we will be with Him some day! If this is as good as it gets, that's not "good news." If Resurrection Morning is as good as it gets, that's not "good news." The good news is good because in hope, I wait for the day that God will call me home and I will enjoy being in the presence of Christ for all eternity...freed from presence of sin and the curse placed upon creation for it. This hope is what can motivate people to proclaim His gospel and see His church built.

Independence Day is a day to celebrate. (There's double celebration in our family, as it is also my parents' anniversary.) Watch fireworks, go to a cookout, pray and thank God for our country...however you choose to celebrate. However, also remember that political and religious freedom is not true freedom. Freedom from sin and its punishment is the only true freedom there is.

And that's a message for every person, of every country.


David Mohler said...

I would be curious what you would say about Christians pledging their allegiance to a nation.

danny2 said...


funny you'd ask. i'm finding myself less and less comfortable with pledging to the flag.

Darby Livingston said...

Haven't pledged in years.

David Mohler said...

Me neither.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry that you guys feel you can't pledge to the flag. I think of the men that died for our freedom. It's one of those things it's how you choose to look at it. I look at it like I am so thankful the Lord put me in a place I can worship him freely. My in laws are German Baptist and aren't supposed to be.. uhh .. patriotic?? I feel even they are thankful for the freedoms they have been given. In other places they might not be able to dress like they choose to here. I have always been patriotic just because I've felt so blessed to be born in the United States and honored by the men who have given their lives for our freedoms. There are things that are wrong in the U.S. that is for sure, but I choose to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Also, we sat through a sermon on the foundations of being a Christian nation. Did you know in their discussion about the constitiution and bill of rights, they discussed how it would not work without being a believing nation? So, why do you think we are having trouble now? Yes, they had slaves, it is wrong, but why would they have thought it was wrong, it's what they did, just like in our things in life now, we do things and then realize they might've not been the best thing, so we change it. George Washington realized at a point he shouldn't have slaves and set them free. We change as we decide things for ourselves. The women not voting, how is that wrong with scripture? Actually they were probably interperting it that way. The man the head, woman remaining silent in church, it's not that I agree with it, but who's to say they didn't see it that way? We have women pastors these days and by scripture that doesn't fit.. so who's right who's wrong?

Anonymous said...

p.s. I do respect your opinion, just offering another view:)

Pedroemose said...

I agree with you -- recently I wrote a blog on the same subject. Thanks for writing this -- "Christian Patriot" is a misnomer. The word needs to be spread out to other Christians.