I’ve been having a bit of a conversation with some others on my Facebook page about the previous post here. It was suggested that my intent in what I originally said was to “put America down.” I spelled out my basic position as clearly as possible in response to that suggestion. I quote it below as an addendum of sorts, a “going further” from the starting point of my initial comments to get down a little closer to the nuts and bolts of what I believe and how that affects America’s place in my thinking.
On this point of whether my words were intended to “put America down,” my response is the following.
Memorial Day is an American holiday (root meaning, “holy day,” set-apart) among others official (Veteran’s Day and Independence Day) and unofficial (Flag Day, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, etc) where a specific story is told that goes a bit like this,
“America is a free country. It is a free country because men and women have fought and died to make and keep it free, and it will only remain free as long as this continues to take place. Their gift to us is sacred, and it is our obligation to honor them, and our country, with shows of loyalty. Freedom isn’t free.”
As a Christian, speaking bluntly, I have huge, huge problems with this story. As a result, I believe it is the responsibility of all Christians, and specifically Christian leaders, on or close to these dates where this story is told, to tell an alternate story, one more like this.
“America is one of many countries. It has good qualities that deserve to be reflected on. We value freedom, but any “freedom” that requires demeaning or killing someone else to attain it is not freedom, but slavery to hatred and selfishness. Jesus taught and gave us the example of freedom: that we are free to love without boundary or thought of our own safety, that, yes, “Greater love has no-one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends,” but we don’t forget the next sentence, “And you are my friends if you do what I command.” And Jesus commanded us and showed us that we love and give our lives for our friends and enemies. America’s gift of its children to warfare is not sacred, but a tragedy. We should not spit on or disrespect soldiers for their commitments, but we should not worship militarism either. America is not exceptional, it is not the center of what God is doing in the world, and it has been a mixed bag of blessing and curse for our world. Pledge allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom, not an earthly kingdom. Now go, and speak and act accordingly.”
Unfortunately, where I’m from, and all over America, Christians show that America is most important to them by bringing all the American images into their worship; the soldier, the flag, the patriotic songs, the prayers for success, the belief that America is exceptional and righteous and good. Bluntly, this is IDOLATRY, which is the most heinous sin any of God’s creation can commit. We wrap God, Jesus, and Christianity in an American flag and think that’s ok.
So, do I go out of my way to “put America down”? I don’t think it’s the only thing I do, and if I “put America down,” I most often trumpet the beautiful vision of God’s kingdom that transcends ethnic, social, and national boundaries to include everyone committed to obeying him. Now THAT’S an exceptional group of folks!