Monday, June 8, 2009

and i'm proud to be an... american?

"for our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,"

i received and email recently from what i am sure is a well-meaning christian organization that is calling upon other christians to take a stand against president obama's "appalling and ghastly," moral administration claiming that he has declared open war upon christian tenets. while i admit that there are many areas in which i disagree with the current administration, i strongly believe that we as christians should not be afraid of or offended by president obama or his political agenda. many of these christian liberty organizations, though well meaning, are guilty of playing off of our fear of persecution as well as our belief that without a return to christian morality, our nation will crumble.
the statement that likely prompted this email was made by president obama during a press conference with turkish president gul.


"that's something that's very important to me. and i've said before that one of the great strengths of the united states is -- although as i mentioned, we have a very large christian population, we do not consider ourselves a christian nation or a jewish nation or a muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

as we see our country, society, and our world draw further away from a christian identity and as hostility toward the gospel increases worldwide we do have to guard against fear and against those who would act as fear mongers. as christians we are not called to a spirit of bondage to fear (romans 8:15)--what a promise! however, we also are guaranteed that we will experience persecution (john 15:20) regardless of the moral climate of the world. before we allow ourselves to get in a twist because of the moral decay of america and the persecution of christians therein, we need to understand that not everyone in this country is a christian! the truth is that america is full of people who are not christians and do not subscribe to christians standards. why then are we surprised and appalled when they live as such? if you have no moral qualms with practicing a promiscuous or dishonest lifestyle, why wouldn't you behave this way? we are sinners who will continue to sin until we are freed from it (john 8:34).

it is not our responsibility as christians to "reclaim america for God." as a body of (american) believers we are mistaken if we believe that america was ever a thriving christian nation. i do not deny that our founding fathers were certainly looking for freedom to practice their christian faith when they established the U.S. as its own sovereign nation, yet when i look at the consitution or the declaration of Independence, i do not find christian principles there. certainly the name of God is present and the idea that all people have God-given freedoms and liberties is indeed foundational to our constitution. yet these are not distinctly christian principles. many who do not consider themselves christians can and do agree with the sentiment that all people are equal whether they were given that status by Jehovah or the flying spaghetti monster.

calling america a christian nation suggests that all or at least most of her citizens are christian and that we are governed by christian principles. this is simply not the case. it is not yielding the battlefield to acknowledge that we are not a christian nation, it is stating a fact. when president obama stated that we are not a christian nation, he did not damage the christian cause. more to the point, God has not called us to establish a christian nation. rather we are called to love our God with all of our heart soul mind and strength and love others as we love ourselves (mt 22:37-40). furthermore, God's only mission for His followers is that they go into all the world preaching His good news of love and forgiveness (mt 28:19-20).

God's church grew from the ground up and this is how it continues to operate. by extension, we do not establish a christian nation by declaring it to be christian but rather by filling it with christians. the christian church grew to an unprecedented and, to date, unrepeated degree under a pagan roman rule and while experiencing intense persecution. Jesus himself brought his message to people He encountered every day rather than powerful or influential men. He did not further his agenda by obtaining a position of power, but by becoming a servant of all men. Jesus explained this unique approach to the disciples during the last supper, "the kings of the gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' but no so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. for who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? is it not he who sits at the table? yet I am among you as the One who serves," (luke 22:25-28). even when paul gave testimony to king agrippa in acts 26 he had no political agenda though he did desire that the king himself would know the truth and be converted (vs 29). the bottom line is that we are interested in people, not politics.

the kingdom of God has no political affiliations; religion and politics do not mix nor were they ever intended to mix. in 1st samuel, God only gave israel a king to appease the people, it was not his first choice of government. He gave them His law directly and He wanted to govern the people personally but they chose instead to be governed by men. as we look through history, it is easy to see why He did not want us to govern ourselves. men are not good governors. we are selfish and corrupt and when selfishness and corruption mix with power, oppression and tyranny are the result. we may pat ourselves on the back for our well formed republic but it is obvious that corruption and selfishness still infect the system. our founding fathers experienced themselves what happens when a selfish and corrupt government also attempts to administer matters of faith and they realized, again, that God prefers to govern men by His own hand rather than through the government as a mediator. this is why, when they established this nation, they were careful to erect a wall between "church" and "state." we must understand that, as we try to force christian principles back into our government, we are attempting to tear down this wall. before you say amen to this, remember that separating religion from state means that our congress cannot make christianity illegal or declare islam our national religion. we cannot cry "religious freedom" on monday and "christian nation" on wednesday. it weakens our credibility as christians makes us look like idiots.

we are first and foremost christians with eternal citizenship in a nation that is entirely separate from this one. the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and THIS is where we live. Christ is our president, supreme court, and congress and "in Him we live and move and have our being," (acts 17:28).
in any case, often the exercising of american liberties in direct opposition with our christian faith. if i were to consider myself, first of all, an american i would believe that i am on equal ground with every other human imbued with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. as a christian i understand that i am a condemned sinner, deserving death, covered with unmerited grace and constrained by the love of God to love Him and love others as i would love my own flesh. while these personalities are not always mutually exclusive, they do not always agree. the question is, when you are faced with a situation where your "god-given" american rights are threatened, do you behave in a way that contradicts your personality as a follower of Christ? for example, as an american christian i have the right to be treated with respect and tolerance. however when another person says that i am a hateful, homophobic, small minded, prejudiced rightist and refuses to allow me to pray in their restaurant, what do i do? well,  the american in me understand that that person just violated my rights as an american and as a human and i should take legal action against them or at the very least write a scathing letter to the editor. "after all, they allow those gay people in there, don't they?" surprisingly, many christians don't see how this response is in direct opposition to how we are to conduct ourselves as christians.

i think it is safe to say we could consider this restaurateur as an "enemy." however does not Jesus Himself say, "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," (mt 5:44). at this, many would say, "yes, but we cannot allow society to marginalize christians this way, we have to stand up for what we believe in and make this country recognize that christians have rights too." i would ask them, why must we do this? why must we exercise our rights as americans and humans at the cost of loving our enemies and blessing those who curse us? christian liberty is rooted in Christ, "if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed," (john 8:36 KJV). america cannot give us freedom, we receive our freedom from Him and Him alone.

this blessed freedom with have in Christ comes from an act of self-sacrifice wherein we deny our flesh with its desires, imperfections, and "human rights" and put on perfection by the grace of God. living after a manner of self-sacrifice puts the best good of all people before your own rights. this is what Christ meant when He called Himself a servant. He denied His rights and privileges as God by humbling Himself and allowing Himself to be punished for crimes He did not commit. this is the model to which we aspire! such a model means that we deny our own rights in order to, first, serve and love our God, and secondly to serve and love others. preaching God's standard of perfection to an unbelieving world may have some merit, but without self-sacrificing love it is utterly pointless.
if you consider yourself a christian, please do not waste a moment of your precious life worrying about what our government or society can do to you. and while you are not worrying, please understand that it is guaranteed that this situation is only going to get worse as the years progress. you will never be free from persecution on this side of heaven, but take heart! for "even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed." "do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled" (1 peter 3:14) "for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers" (1 peter 3:12).

now, i would not suggest that christians everywhere stick their heads in the sand, but we need to understand what we are truly called to do. 2 chronicles 7:14 says, "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." understand that "my people" only refers to those who are followers of Christ. WE are the ones called to humbles ourselves and pray. if we would spend more time humbling ourselves and praying rather than conducting rallies, signing petitions, writing letters to our senators, and writing scathing letters to the editor, i cannot imagine what God would do! the time is short and we, as children of God, need to be about our Father's business.

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