Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is God an American?

I read today a thought provoking article entitled, Does the American flag belong in Church? by Becky Akers. See http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0728/p09s02-coop.html. For many, God and the US go hand in hand. Remember the old joke about the reason why there is a hole in Texas Stadium--so that God can watch the games, since the Cowboys are "God's team"? Similarly, many view America as God's specially chosen nation, akin to the status of Israel under the old covenant. The rest of the world surely thinks as well about this as do non-Cowboys fan think about the roof joke.
I love my country. Contrary to what those who hate us say, the US does more good around the world--by far--than any other nation on earth. Our humanitarian aid to other countries dwarves other countries.
But is God an American? Does he love us more than Mexico? Or France? Or Iraq? Or England?
We have lived in a country that was largely "Christian." In fact, the government often supported and upheld Christian values. This is largely changing, for better or for worse. Much of the history of Christianity, however, has had the church at odds with the government. In fact, the most damage to the Christian cause has been when the church/professing Christians used the state to further its ends through force--political or military--such as with the Crusades.
Read Revelation and there you will see the government at war with the church. Can you imagine the early church during the time of Nero singing, God bless the Roman Empire, and cloaking themselves in a Roman flag? It does seem impossible to imagine.
I do not want to hide the fact that I am an American. Neither do I ever want to give anyone--myself included--the idea that God favors Americans more than any other people. Remember, Jesus said to "Go, make disciples of all nations." As much as I cherish our country, America is but one of hundreds of nations on earth. God is not an American. He is the ruler of the universe, of every people. And the image that is found in Revelation is that of every people, from every tribe on earth, speaking every language on earth (not English only), before this almighty God.
Perhaps we should sing, God bless America, and Russia, and China, and Iraq, and Morocco, and Cuba, and England. And God has shown himself to bless those nations who follow him, and to humble those who do not.
What do you think of Becky Akers' article? Have you ever thought that God loves America and Americans more than other countries/peoples?

4 comments:

Matt B said...

James- Great blog item. I have been meaning to post an article about this very subject.

While being patriotic is admirable, we have for too long sought for a kind of 50/50 balance in regard to our patriotism and our Christianity. Many songs we sing talk about taking up arms,marching, raising the flag.

I am proud of our forefathers fighting for religious freedom. I have taught my children about the American Revolution. I prided myself on them getting upset when i talked about how the king wanted to overtax the colonists. But, where was my focus?? I instead want my children to know the compassion of Jesus. To know the peace and freedom available in a relationship with Jesus.

As Americans, we define freedom as being able to do what we want and say what we want. What is true freedom??? Are we more proud of our freedom in that we have the 1st ammendment, the 2nd ammendment? Or do we yearn for freedom for ourselves and others? Freedom defined as salvation. Being forgiven. Freedom that was earned not by forefathers on the battlefield, but by Jesus' blood dripping down form the cross?

If true freedom was the cause we were founded on, we have issues such as slavery and civil rights atrocities (different buses, schools, drinking fountains) to reconcile.

And- people from many churches in the 1960's and some people who profess to be Christians today view black people and other races as lesser people.

Again- i am proud of our men and women who fought for our freedom. But, I don't know that more people came to Christ because of the American Revolution. Look at how fast Christianity is growing in China. James- you have facts and thoughts about China's explosive growth.

Kevin M said...

Edit: [Just a few thoughts while at work. Hopefully they aren't too confusing. I think I rambled on a little much but oh well.]

I have multiple thoughts on this issue.

In Romans it states that God establishes authorities on earth. An example of this in the past was the use of Babylon to punish the Israelites. Babylon was used until pride got the better of them. This tells me that God is in control of America being great. We need to be careful of pride and other faults because if God makes the decision to use another tool to further his plans there's nothing America can do to stop him.

My other thought is that America the country has always obtained the benefits of christian influence. Throughout the history of our country there have been good Christian men and women who have stepped forward to better our society and country.

This is all why I am afraid of the move to more secular views by the populace of the country. With a loss of belief in God we run the risk of having pride in what we as men and women do and not to see our blessings as coming from God. The move away from God also lessens the chances of Christian values being kept alive in our schools and government. This is already way to prevalent for my taste. When Christians are discriminated against in schools where other religions are given preference I know we are going down the wrong path.

James said...

Matt,

We often unwittingly buy into the mythos of our country. Like revolting against taxation without representation. Those were certainly brave men. And the British were often harsh and unkind. But can you imagine Christians in our churches today going to war over taxation? (Of course, if we were in tax season, I might rethink this . . . )

James said...

Kevin,

There have been some positive trends in recent years along the lines you are talking about. For instance, the Supreme Court has ruled that schools cannot discriminate against religious groups. If they open up school buildings for non-religious use, then they must do so for religious use. Of course this means that Islamic groups get as much access as Christian groups, which may make us uncomfortable as well.

I hear your concerns. Whatever happens in our country, we should remember that the greatest growth that the church ever experienced was when Christianity was illegal. Strange to us, isn't it?