Monday, July 4, 2011

One American Christian's Thoughts on American Independence Day


Here we are again on the 4th of July. The weather is warm, most of us don't have to work, cookouts rule the day, and fireworks will fill the night.

How should American Christians handle this holiday? What is our appropriate response?

Answer: I don't know. This is not an issue where I think I can speak for all followers of Christ. Instead, I'm simply going to tell you how I react to the holiday in particular and patriotism in general.

I'm thankful to God to live in the USA. This does not mean that I think our country is somehow better than other countries. Rather, I'm simply happy to have the freedoms we have. For example, yesterday we gathered together with our church family. I'm happy that we didn't have to worry about secret police knocking down our door (may we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters overseas who face this form of persecution).

I believe the freedoms we have in the USA, such as those in the Bill of Rights, are a good outworking in a secular state of Christian principles. I'm pleased to live under these laws.

As for the 4th of July, I'm thrilled to have the day off from work to spend with family and friends. We are going to hang out today with my parents at their home on the other side of Savannah. We'll play in the pool, eat goodies, read books, play games, and rest. Good times.

Although I'm thankful to live in the USA, I unequivocally do not love my country. I do not love any country for that matter. As I look in the bible, I don't see any hint of patriotism anywhere in Christ's teachings or in the functioning of the early church. Rather, we are exiles whose citizenship is in heaven. These comments may anger some American Christians. Their response is usually that I should then move to some other country. Where would I go? God made me be born in the USA. I don't love any country any more than this one.

I do not celebrate my country. I do not take part in any form of USA patriotic parties or anything else of that sort. I'm not interested in politics. I even struggle anymore to say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the Star Spangled Banner. The USA does not in general stand for Christian principles. Instead, it is humanistic, functionally atheistic, capitalistic individualism that rules the day.

As for the military, I would probably refuse to fight under any circumstances. As I look at the teachings of Jesus Christ, I can't find anything that would justify taking up arms against other people. If the USA was attacked and I was defending my home, then I might think otherwise. Usually, however, the USA is attacking other countries; I can't have any part of that.

My wish is that the USA would have extremely minimal military involvement overseas. I'd love to see our country be a source of peace in this world instead of threatening others with the tip of the sword. Let's secure our borders and come up with a sensible immigration policy on a national level. Then let's bring our troops home.

I am thankful to those Americans in the military who have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy. However, I call into question many of the military decisions that have thrust them into harm's way in the first place.

In the end, I'll celebrate on the 4th of July. The celebration will not be of the USA. Rather, I'm just going to enjoy being with people I love on a day off.

14 comments:

Arthur Sido said...

Excellent thoughts Eric. Unpopular to be sure but most of the time the truth is. The religion of America is America, not the God of the Bible. That is not a condemnation of America but simply the fact that God did not ordain a special land for His people but rather has called His people out of every nation on earth.

Eric said...

Arthur,

I agree completely. I find this conversation difficult to have with most Christians because their worldviews are so different. Also, many become very emotional about it, especially if they are closely connected to the military.

Tammy Carpenter Skiermont said...

Sorry to say Eric, that I do not agree with your comments about "loving our country". As a Christian, I believe that God created me an American and becaue -and throuh- His Divine Grace, I am thankful to be an American, and therefore love the country I live in. I am proud to be an American, and if Patriotism is not specifically outlined in the Bible, it does not mean it is necessarily wrong - in my opinion. I am grateful to our Lord an Savior that He allowed my being in existence as an American; therefore, because of my faith, I am patriotic. I do love this country and am proud to say I am an American. Have a great 4th of July cousin - say hello to your parents for me :)

kbswan1 said...

Eric.. I am with you brother.

I do not know how to approach it either, but today my family and I are going to a cookout here in my neighborhood where many in attendance will be from the church I talked about in my post http://abnormalreaction.wordpress.com/

I will probably talk a lot of what you say, but in the past I have been looked at as a heretic. I hope it is different this time :)

Swanny

Eric said...

Tammy,

Thanks for commenting on my blog. We can disagree on issues like this. No problem.

I too am thankful to live here. I just don't see any connection between Christ and patriotism. Our sole devotion is to be to Jesus.

Have a great day today.

Eric said...

Swanny,

I would expect the same reaction. The cross and flag are not easily pulled apart for most people.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

Well said! In my conversations with Americans,about your great country,I have always been impressed that Americans believe that they have made their country great, with God as the apprentice who was a valuable helper.

The Pledge of Allegiance of the USA, also gives that impression, with God mentioned in a secondary place.

Eric said...

John,

It's almost as if many Christians here think of this as the new Israel with God's special attention paid to us. The cross is constantly wrapped in the US flag. As you have mentioned, the pledge is problematic. I think living elsewhere, with fewer freedoms, might be far less confusing for Christians.

Eric H said...

Borrowing from Alan's "Scripture As We Live It":

"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake...except for the United States, because they are a christian nation. Matt. 24:9 remix

"For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: so they added "under God" to their pledge of allegiance and suddenly their earthly country became satisfactory." Heb. 11:14-16 remix

Eric said...

Eric H.,

Alan and I think quite a bit alike. I'm not surprised he thinks the way he does.

This issue is a big one in the church. If you don't love America, you may be branded a heretic.

Eric H said...

Just to clarify, Alan didn't write those, I just borrowed his 'as we live it' format.

Eric said...

Eric H.,

Thanks. Now I understand.

I was referring to the article Alan wrote on July 4th.

It's encouraging to me to see American Christians questioning the union between church and state. I hope this dialog can continue in a civil manner. My concern is that most American Christians don't want to talk about the issue.

chipbayer said...

America may be the largest idol in the American Church (it was for me for years). And the American flag is a modern Asherah pole erected in the Temple.

I frequently ask people who like the American flag in church this question: Why is the flag there? I typically receive one of two answers...

Answer 1: To show we are an American church.
Answer 2: To honor our country.

My response to answer 1: There really is no confusion about the location of our church. Anyone who walks in here is very likely to know they are in the United States. The flag is unnecessary.

My response to answer 2: The Church exists to honor God ALONE. If we honor anyone or anything else then we are guilty of idolatry. The flag needs to go.

Neither statement is usually well received.

Eric said...

Chip,

The flag in the church always did bother me. When I was pastoring a traditional church, I strongly considered removing the flags. However, I just didn't want to deal with the fight that would have ensued. Tradition can certainly be an ugly thing.