I have come across two blogs recently that have approached the issue of “Christian Americanism” with different anecdotes. Tim Ellsworth and LarryWho both present some interesting thoughts on the matter. I highly recommend that you read both articles.
Let me define what I mean by “Christian Americanism”. I am referring to the blend of patriotism and worship at times in our churches that for some reason drives people to a higher level of emotional involvement in worship than just “mere” worship alone.
I am a patriot. I love America. I pledge allegiance to one nation “under God”. I still get goose bumps when the Star Spangled Banner is played at ball games. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. As I have frequently posted about American political affairs, I think it is obvious that I have an interest in what happens in our nation. I have nothing but the highest regard for our military. I am very grateful to God for the privilege of being born and living in the U.S. of A.
I say all of that, not to toot my own horn, but simply to establish the fact that this article is not about bashing America. I don’t believe in doing that, even when I don’t like everything that our country does. Don’t misconstrue my remarks to be anti-American, to do so will be to dishonestly represent what I say.
My concern is that at times we are prouder of being Americans (or for that matter whatever nation of which you are a citizen) than we are of being Christians. Am I mistaken? Why is it then, that in our worship services, songs that convey a deep spiritual meaning are hardly acknowledged by the worshippers, but songs that have a patriotic flavor can evoke a highly emotional (even wildly emotional) response? Why is it that American Christians can get up in arms about our right to display the Ten Commandments in the halls of government, yet often show great indifference to submitting our own lives to the authority of those same commandments? Why is it that many Christians are more concerned with the advancement of the religious right than they are with Kingdom of God?
The last thing that I want to do here is come across as being judgmental or cynical. I believe that we should be thankful to God for the blessings of liberty. I believe that we should endeavor to place biblical morality as the guiding principles of our society. I believe that we should exercise our rights of citizenship in such a way that it reflects our faith. But we should never forget that we are Christians first, and Americans second.
Think of the Apostle Paul. Before he was saved, he demonstrated a strong, yet unbalanced mixture of nationalism and religion. As a very nationalistic Jew, he brought forth severe persecution to those he perceived as enemies of Israel, namely those in the early church. His antagonism was fueled by his standing in the religious movement of his time which had basically become a form of silent rebellion against Roman rule. Yet, curiously, when he was converted, a transformation took place. He did not forsake his love of Israel, but he now allowed his love for country to be driven by his awareness of their spiritual need. Romans 9:1-5 expresses the great burden Paul bore for the salvation of his countrymen.
Tomorrow I will discuss the points of conflict that most of us experience at some time between our patriotism and our faith. Until then, may we examine our hearts to see where our greatest devotion lies.