Christianity or Americanism?

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For many years, observers of the church in America have been warning that too many believers may have inadvertently swallowed a bitter pill thinking it was good medicine. The re-prioritizing of the two kingdoms, man’s and God’s, has long been a temptation and it seem that we are destined to see it repeated over and over again until the return of Christ.

Whether the belief that England was in a covenant relationship with God, thus the moral authority to launch crusades against infidels, or that France was in a covenant relationship with God, thus the moral authority assumed by Joan of Arc to crusade against the antagonistic English, or the belief that “New England” was in a covenant relationship with God since “Old England” has turned away from the covenant, nations and peoples since the ascension of Christ have sought to pick up, dust off and wear the mantle of Israel’s covenant with God. Almost without fail this leads to an idolatry from which there is rarely a return. Even many pre-WW2 Christians in Germany welcomed the influence of the Nazi Party as if it were the evident blessing of God on “the Fatherland.” Thankfully the Confessing Church stood against the embodied blasphemy that was the 3rd Reich.

Amid the many “taking America back” ideas that permeate that portion of Americans who are Christians there seems to run a common thread of misunderstanding. There has never been a Christian America and never will be. Just as there has never been nor ever will be a Christian Sudan, Ghana, Canada, Russia or Egypt. “Christian” should refer to people who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, not countries, bookstores or concerts. While it should be obvious to any reader of the Scriptures that Jesus died to save Americans, He did not die to save America. To think that God has only used America for His purposes is to misunderstand history; to think that God has chosen American for special blessing in a way that He has chosen no other country is to misunderstand theology. Second Peter 2:9 makes it clear that the “holy nation” God has chosen in these day is the church, not a geopolitical entity. The church exists within the borders of United Nations national charters, she does not take the place of them or become them. The ongoing conflation of the two kingdoms has created an unhealthy relationship between church and government even here in the United States where both left and right leaning Christians equate the presence of the Kingdom of God with whether or not we get a single payer healthcare option or we finally drill for oil in the arctic preserve. It bears remembering for all American believers that every time the church has crawled in bed with the state, the government prospers and the church is left cold, wretched, miserable, blind and naked.

Valid questions for all American Christians are: Do we worship America or Jesus Christ? Have we been brought into the relationship marked by Christianity or the religion of Americanism? Consider the following as possible indicators that we might have switched kingdoms:

Does your blood pressure goes through the roof when you see someone burning the American flag, yet you can hear someone take the name of Jesus in vain and you don’t flinch?

Are you angered when you see disrespect to an American soldier, yet when the persecution of Christians is reported on the news you give it not a second thought?

Will you walk across a restaurant to thank a service man/woman you have never met, but never thank your pastor for taking care of the flock?

Are you worried more about the country going into socialism than you are praying for the financial obedience of your own church?

Do you actively recruit people to your political positions, but ignore the need those same people have to know Jesus?

Does the national anthem or “American the Beautiful” brings tears to your eyes while worship songs bring dullness to your ears?

Are you more concerned when the Constitution is ignored than when the Bible is ignored?

Are you more appreciative of freedom of religion granted in the First Amendment than of freedom in Christ promised in John 3:16?

Is there a greater place in your heart for Washington, Adams and Jefferson than for Abraham, Paul and Peter?

Is it more important to you to support war or to try and bring peace?

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 1973 Former Senator Mark Hatfield said, “Let us beware of the real danger of misplaced allegiance, if not outright idolatry, to the extend we fail to distinguish between the god of an American civil religion and the God who reveals Himself in the Holy Scriptures and in Jesus Christ.

If we as leaders appeal to the god of civil religion, our faith is in a small and exclusive deity, a loyal spiritual adviser to power and prestige, a defender of only the American nation, the object of a national folk religion devoid of moral content. But if we pray to the biblical God of justice and righteousness, we fall under God’s judgment for calling upon His name, but failing to obey His commands.”

Hatfield had it right. God help us not to get it wrong.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Marty – really nice article. This has been an ongoing discussion between me and my father while I’ve been here in the States for the last four months. I live & work in the UK. I’m forwarding this to him in hopes that it furthers the dialog.

  • Marty Duren

    Thanks, Brad, and thanks for the visit.

  • I think many do blindly link “God-n-government” but at the same time, I don’t know of a “better” country to be Christian in.

    I see many Christians too who focus more on stopping wars or getting the government to give healthcare.

    From the NT we’re called to support the government we find ourselves in yet seek to be free if we can, turn the other cheek yet defend ourselves/our property, serve the prince of peace who brings a sword, give a cup of cool water to Jesus’ bretheren yet if someone won’t work we should deny them even food, and not judge the world yet judge intamately those in the church.

    The dichotomy is fascinating and ample for any politico to cherry-pick verses that enable their party on the road to piety.

    However, I do believe that the base elements the US is founded on (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness – summed up “freedom”) most closly tracks with the Bible and is the best environment (currently) for the Christian faith.

    That said, there’s no illusion here that the US is somehow “chosen” in a special way.

    At the same time, governments are carrying out God’s purposes and rulers are placed by Him alone. What does the great commission say “…make disciples OF ALL NATIONS…”

    interesting…

    The key, follow the NT, don’t get caught-up in 21st (or 16th) century baggage. It’s all about Jesus, but Jesus in our context. Countries are not irrelevant, but sometimes they monkey-up our theology. It goes both ways – “boomers” usually think Jesus is American & Gen-Xers (like me) think He’s Canadian ;-)

    great topic, I’ll do a blog about this…

  • Marty, I think your article is great and one that makes you think and question yourself. I feel there is a problem bigger than this though.People who claim they are Christian yet act in the most un-Christian way imaginable.

  • Marty,

    This is very well written. You should try to get it published in a few journals. I often say, “The Kingdom of God isn’t coming in on an elephant or a donkey, but a white horse with the Kings of Kings”

  • Marty Duren

    Jim-
    I’d love to submit it to a journal. Got any ideas as to which? I’m pretty sure I know who wouldn’t want it.

    John Mark-
    Thanks for the comment. I’ll only note that when Jesus said, “all nations,” he was referring to ethnic groups, not geo-political entities.

    Britt-
    Thanks for the comment and for stopping by.