Monday, July 05, 2010

Patriotism and Christianity . . .

. . . are not equivalent.

This is the beginning of a post I hope to come back to complete, but I'm putting it out there so that I hopefully will come back to develop. It will never be complete, at least in my mind, yet it does need development.

First of all, let me say that I am glad I live in America. No other country that I know of would offer the same privileges and freedoms as this country.

But we are not completely free. At least free to do whatever we want. That would result in a state of anarchy.

Secondly, let me say that I do not subscribe to the thinking that America is God's land, that it is the second, or new, Israel. I do believe that it was founded upon certain Judeo-Christian principles. That said, I therefore do not believe we were founded a Christian nation, but as a theistic nation. What history teaches us about the men who penned our founding documents is that they were not all believers in the God of the Bible, but that they were mostly believers in God. That "God" meant many things. But importantly, it meant that there is a higher being than us.

That being said, which I need to come back and expand upon when the notion strikes and the thoughts are ordered, let me also say that this thought of elevating patriotism to the same platform as Christianity leaves my stomach churned and my mouth full of stuff I don't want to swallow.

Just yesterday, the 4th of July, I had lots in my mouth to deal with. Because this year's 4th fell on Sunday, well-meaning but, in my opinion, way-off-base people equivocated (and I use this word in its meaning of "falsified, altered, misrepresented") the observance with Christianity. No, maybe I mean they replaced Christianity with patriotism.

In the little church I attend, there are several people who have lately become involved with the Tea Party movement and all-things-republican. For this reason, I believe this may be where much of their motivation arises. Some of these people are responsible for the music of the church. (Unfortunately, we do not have a minister who has the motivation to assume such responsibilities that are, by right, position, and responsibility, his.) So for our morning worship service we begin by singing "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee." What wonderful words to begin worship with! What a right and proper focus. With the exception of this and "God of Our Fathers" and "Onward, Christian Soldiers," the remainder of the music was patriotic. (
See below for comments on this second hymn.) The choir sang something called "Patriotic Medley," a combination of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America, the Beautiful," and the final hymn was "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Again. Choke, choke.

I guess it could have been worse. They could have moved an American flag into the sanctuary and had us Pledge Allegiance to it. And the minister could have had a purely patriotic message. Thankfully, neither happened.

What is my point? Seemingly every year that goes by, we remove ourselves from being a church of the Reformation by years. I have deep respect for the Ancient Church and the Church of the Reformation. I have deep respect of liturgical church practices. I've said for years that following a liturgy is "safer" than the tendency of the new Emergent church.

Interestingly, someone pointed out yesterday in choir practice the question of what a Muslim would think if he heard Christians singing boldly "Onward, Christian Soldiers." "You know," he said, "what would Muslims think when they hear Christians say they are peaceful, non-violent people only interested in the souls of men, then to hear them sing lustily "Onward, Christian Soldiers." Good point. If you read the lyrics closely, they sound much like a Medieval Crusade hymn, rousing the troops as they go to physically-through-real-war reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims rather than the recognition of the spiritual battle that exists.

Anyway, when this question, more rhetorical than it was taken, was posed, the remark was "That's their problem."

I was taken back. Yet, I know that could have been a knee-jerk remark.

How do we reconcile being peacemakers with remarks and thinking like this?

This post has probably gotten way-too-long to come back and develop. But at least I got my muddled-though-they-be thoughts down. And maybe some discussion can come out of it.

Also interestingly, I am reading a book right now in which an alternate culture is being developed by former Yugoslavian artisans. Just one-third of the way into the book, I am intrigued. I have elevated this book to Wendell Berry status, so those Berry fans know it's a good one. This "alternate culture" is what I wonder if we Reformation-believing Christians are going to have to step up and do, if we want to hold on to those bits and pieces we are so quickly losing. Our culture has changed. It is changing exponentially. And we are losing it to the Post-Modern world.

Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda.

The church reformed, and always reforming.


Laura said...

I liked Island of the World so much that I went ahead and bought all the rest of Michael D. O'Brien's books in print. I haven't read any of them yet, but they're waiting for me.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

We used to be very involved in the Republican party with other Christians. Through that, it became apparent that spending our time in putting a man or woman in office only because they are Christians did not always make the changes we wanted to be a more godly nation.

It will take a national revival to change the hearts of man.

Jeff Miller said...

Thank you many times over.
We beat this drum repeatedly in our corner of the world.

Two thoughts are usually in my mind when this stuff comes up:

1)This is not our home- never has been, never will be.

2)No -ism will be allowed to stand alongside Christ in the believer's heart.

One of the issues with the OCS thing you mention is that many of the things we sing, etc. are family items.. I'm sure the Christian faith seems filled with contradictions to outsiders. It's not always easy for believers, either. I wouldn't expect for a Muslim to understand the situation you mentioned anymore than I would expect an elementary English student to understand common idioms. It takes time & immersion in these things (bathed in scriptural teaching, in the case of the church, obviously). So much here to chew....

Suze said...

I think people are distressed at what is happening to the country, and since it is supposed to be a representative government, they get involved. But it goes way too far to equate Christianity with American patriotism. The Apostles didn't live in America or anything even remotely like it. Many Christians were slaves and many were killed. Americans don't want to see our nation fall apart, but the answer is not in elected officials, but in a Christian revival, as Brenda has said. We are IN this world, but not OF it.

Carolyne said...

Having been formerly involved with a church that has indeed blurred the lines between the church and patriotism, I am eager to read your complete thoughts.

My observation is, as with any opinion that is not biblically sound, The Opinion will soon take on Jesus' very words and become the 'gospel truth' right beneath God's Word. Those who differ from The Opinion are ostracized and soon find themselves needing to reevaluate their true beliefs.

Sarah said...

Wonderfully put, Janie.

The members of our church in KS are so wonderful in all other ways that I tried to have patience, this year, with their substitution of America-worship for Jesus-worship.

It was hard.

I kept wanting someone to ask me why I didn't stand up during "God Bless the USA," so that I could respond, "Because I came to worship Jesus today."

Did you talk to your pastor about your concerns at all? You are so gentle and so respectful that I'm sure you'd be able to state your concerns well, so that someone might be persuaded.