Wednesday, December 13, 2006

God is Not an American

There is a wonderful group on Facebook, "God is Not an American." I love it because I so often see evidence that many, many of the people around me think that he/she IS American, and that s/he loves to underwrite the American "foreign policy" agenda and can't wait to sign onto the next Republican party platform. Admittedly, I do see Democrats that have a parallel attitude, but generally speaking, it seems to be more prevalent on the Republican side of the aisle. Of course, some Republicans might say it's because Republicans believe in God and Democrats don't, or some other such silliness. I won't even dignify that with a response.

Now, if you believe as I do that God is a lover of all human beings equally, then grab your barf bag and click on this link. Watch the video. Do you see what I see?

I see people who cannot tell the difference between their Christianity and their patriotism -- they think they are one and the same. I see people who assume that God is indeed an American, and that God always supports America, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ supports the work of our military when it kills our enemies.

Is there not a tension here between the words of Jesus, "Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you," and the idea that we sometimes have to kill our enemies? "Tension" is certainly too soft a term. There is no "tension," there is conflict. However, this video demonstrates how easily the gospel of Jesus can be perverted to the extent that many feel absolutely tension, let alone sense a conflict here.

Now, I don't object to the existence of a group of Christians who might lobby representatives of our government on certain issues. I don't object to government employees praying or studying the Bible. What I object to in this video (and in American "Christian" culture in general) is the assumption that the gospel aligns perfectly with our American agenda. Here's an example.

Manifest Destiny. America was "meant" to extend "from sea to shining sea," and anything or anyone that stood in its way was opposing divine intention and was therefore subject to divine wrath, which "we" were more than willing to execute (pun intended, but not intended to be funny!) on God's behalf. It was genocide, and the first peoples to reside in this place barely survived. It was an atrocity -- to the point that I have to put the quote marks around "we" when I talk about it. Whether or not my ancestors participated, as a white male I have reaped the benefits of what was done. It was done because "we" were Christian and the native peoples were "pagan savages" who were worthy of slaughter. (For a more complete exposition of how "Manifest Destiny" worked in American history, see the book by Richard Hughes, Myths America Lives By. Bibliographical information and a review by yours truly can be found by clicking here. Review originally appeared in The Christian Chronicle.)

I'm not sure what to do about this issue except to keep talking about it. Anybody got a flak jacket I can borrow?


cnldelisio said...

It may be a great thing that God does not identify himself with America. We could certainly expect foreign invasion whenever America failed to act in obedience to the Lord, if the Old Testament is still any kind of guide in this manner (just skim the prophets). The scariest part of an all Christian nation would not be lock-step idealogical synchronicity, regardless of what you read on Alternet. The scary bit would be the requirement to trust God for national defense, and should that defense deliver the country into the hands of foreign enemies, the purely Christian country would be required to trust that this is still for the good, (just as the Christian diaspora after Stephen's stoning) and to pray not for the restoration of the country (which has already been shown to be a dead-end theology-reread your New Testament if you have questions on this) but for restoration of the relationship between the Lord and his people. All of this to say, yeah, maybe it's good that God is not American.

chip said...

Good points, all. Another curiosity here is that those who fear most the "Christian nation" really are aligned with the "Christian nation" folks politically, but don't see it. They all put America first, over whatever religious views they have or don't have, and religious views are only there to serve the national agenda. They're all on the same side.

Anonymous said...

As you know, I am a member at a congregation that is a few short miles from TAFB. There is a large military presence (both active and retired). There have been numerous times over the years that my wife and I have been stunned by things that have occurred.

One instance occurred during a responsive reading, in which the congregation was asked to read something to the effect that it is a Christian's duty not to question their government's actions or policies (implication being the war). There were numerous biblical references cited, and as my wife looked each one up she would turn to me and say 'that's not what that passage is talking about' and my reponse was 'I know.'

Another instance happened very recently, when a deacon led a closing prayer in which he told God how much American soldiers had sacrificed for our right to worship Him in this country, as if other Christians in the world can't worship the true God without the American soldier giving them that right.

I think you are correct, Christians need to start talking about these things and begin asking really tough questions about whether we as a people are truly representing the image of Christ in this world.

chip said...

James -- I certainly know what you mean. Wait until you read the Hauerwas selection for Contemp. Theol. this spring. You'll love it, guaranteed. I confess I always want to break into "God Bless Afghanistan" in the 7th inning of ballgames. And when I hear prayers like that in church, I just can't pray -- I open my eyes (and probably roll them) and hope someone will see my silent protest. I've read too much of the German rhetoric written during WWII not to see the parallels. Sad but true. I know just saying that kind of thing invites an almost violent response, but such a response only shows how deep the blindness goes -- deep into the psyche (soul) of Americans. I like Chris's comment above, too. There was a bad movie made of a fairly good novel, *The Handmaid's Tale,* describing what would happen if the fundamentalist Christians really did take over American. Talk about a horror film! No wonder Jesus loved sinners!

Starrider said...

James, I know what you mean for sure. I too live a few short miles from TAFB. One Sunday our congregation was presented an American flag that had flown over Afghanistan by a armed services member that had returned home. The Iraqis had just held their elections and our preacher practically turned our worship service into a pep rally celebrating the "accomplishments" of out government and our military (the story obviously was not over yet). We were about to have the congregation sing "My Country 'Tis' of Thee" IN THE WORSHIP SERVICE. I was horrified. This event prompted me to a great amount of Bible study and begin a dialogue with many of my friends about what the true role of the Church should be. The passages that you are referring to about being misused at your church are most likely from Romans chapter 13. I agree with your wife in that many, many people misunderstand what those passages mean. I encourage you to keep studying on this. I have written quite a lot about it in e-mails, my blog and elsewhere. Peace be with you.