Christian independence on July 4th?

July 4th is looking back. On Independence Day, Americans remember the historic moment when a group of settlers challenged a king and claimed their right to liberty (which, the dominant myth overlooks, was actually exercised by a very limited group) . All too often, followers of Jesus in America confuse this celebration of a country with their worship of God. Christian nationalism rears its ugly head as the beginnings of a new government are interpreted as a nation chosen by the Almighty.

Beautiful undergrowth

The viewing of this year’s holiday was different. Perhaps the fragility of our democracy was more apparent after the insurgency on the United States Capitol on January 6. continue to structure our company. Put simply, my own media regime could reinforce my prejudices.

Whatever the reason, as I was checking Twitter and reading the news on the weekend of July 4th, it felt like there was a different – much healthier – conversation about what it means to be. a citizen of the United States and a Christian who proclaims that he is Lord!

It started with Word and WayBrian Kaylor’s own editor. In an article for Americans United, he wrote, “Religious leaders should recognize how seemingly harmless practices, such as those employed on July 4, help make radical practices more acceptable and mainstream. Our shrines serve as incubators for the ideology that attacked our democracy even almost six months ago.

His comments are to be expected from a Baptist pastor writing for a publication with a history of defending the separation of church and state. More surprising was to find similar sentiments expressed in the virtual pages of Christianity today. There, musicologist Katherine Kramer McGinnis confronted with the perils of the feast for the churches: “To give a platform both to the worship of God and to the celebration of America in the same service is to serve two masters, to grant power to God and to the State. in the sanctuary. In doing so, room is made for the glorification of two entities which are by no means equal in the life of a Christian.

Idolatry is the danger Christians hope to avoid. Expressions of patriotism easily become the glorification of a nation which grants it divine status where ultimate loyalty is demanded and criticism is interpreted as heresy. Since our complete obedience is by right of God, such expectations put our worship and citizenship on a crash course. Once the nation assumes divine status in our hearts and minds, it claims that we cannot honor without compromising our relationship with our current Creator.

For example, consider the idea of ​​perfection. Christians believe that God is perfect both in nature and in purpose. Theologians will debate the finer points, but the idea is that there is no fault in God’s self and that God cannot act in a morally wrong way. This perfection contrasts with human failure and sin. All that humans do and create falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

This also applies to all man-made nations. Yet when criticism of the United States is banned, idolatry is exposed. The country is treated as perfect; he has become a god in our collective mind.

(Jeffrey Hamilton / Unsplash)

“I can both love my country and mourn its actions, past and present, at home and abroad. The United States has been planted in violence and continues to prosper thanks to violence ”, Jean Neely dared to say back on July 3, 2018. The travellers reminded us of his play in the run-up to July 4 of this year. She added, “We have to look directly at reality, our own churches and our own souls, and deal with the discomfort or pain of what we find there. We must awaken to both inner beauty and ugliness, both in the shade and in the light.

Similar thoughts were expressed by Chris Conley writing for World Baptist News. As Independence Day approached, he had the audacity say: “As a Christian, I cannot unequivocally pledge allegiance to any nation without a critical and prayerful assessment of its words and deeds. I am a supporter of America only to the extent that its actions are compatible with the values ​​of the kingdom of God. To the extent that American policies and conduct instead reflect the values ​​of this world – and are shown to be motivated not by sacrificial love, but by greed or hatred – I must be its enemy.

I am not mistaken in thinking that these expressions represent all of American Christianity. A candidate for governor of Texas launched his campaign at a Sunday church service with great fanfare and a large flag fluttering on the screen behind him. Faith and politics continue to mix unhealthily in the United States.

Yet, there are signs that more Christians have used the holiday to reflect on what it means to practice citizenship responsibly while faithfully following Jesus. It allows for a healthier patriotism and a more genuine Christianity, which is good both for God and for the country.

Beau Underwood is the editor and vice president of external affairs for Word & Way.

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