As I’m scrolling through my Facebook feed today, I’m seeing a wide diversity of postings. Some folks are posting live videos of their cookouts and fireworks. Others are posting pictures of George Washington riding a bear and shooting automatic weapons. I even saw one painting of Jesus, standing amongst the founding fathers, holding the declaration of independence aloft. In fact, just a quick search for phrases like “american Jesus” or “patriotic Jesus” will reveal countless images of Christ, draped in the American flag, possibly holding high caliber automatic weapons.
What’s more disturbing than these are the many sermons I’ve come across today, posted by friends on Facebook, or elsewhere. These sermons, while trying to capitalize on the holiday, paint America as the bright shining star of the world, the land blessed by Christ himself. A land full of Christian soldiers ready to be led into battle by our fair-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus, with his hair tied back with a bandana, Rambo style. These well-meaning preachers preach a different gospel than the one found in the Bible. They would want you to believe that Americans are God’s chosen people. In fact, they search through the Old Testament and find the promises that God made to Israel and apply them to Americans specifically. Thus, God’s chosen people are no longer the Jews whom he lead out of Egypt, nor the gentles for accepting the Christ, but Americans in particular because….reasons. Because we’re better than everyone else. Apparently.
This is not something that only happens once a year I’m afraid. I was visiting a friend’s church back in October of last year, this was before the election of course. It was a baptist church and, although being an Anglican, I disagree with a vast majority of Baptist theology and practice, I went anyway. The people were very friendly and I even recognized some of the hymns and it seemed to be a pretty traditional church, as Baptist churches go. But then the minister got up to preach. As he took the pulpit, he placed his hand on his heart and lead his flock in the pledge of allegiance. I watched as the people around me who had come to church to focus on God, instead turned their attention to a large American flag hanging on the wall beside the cross and swore allegiance to America.
The minister then launched into a reading of an Old Testament passage and I knew immediately where he was going. I forget the specific passage but I believe it was a reading from the prophet Isaiah admonishing the Israelites to turn from wickedness and follow the Lord. The minister than leapt across nearly 7,000 miles and centuries of time to connect Isaiah’s correction of the corrupt political problems in ancient Israel to our modern government corruption. This was upsetting enough but then he launched into the most passionate defense of Republican candidate Donald Trump. The point of the minister’s sermon was that Donald Trump could save America. I’m going to repeat that in case anyone missed it. A preacher stood at the pulpit on a Sunday and preached that Donald Trump could save America. Not Jesus. Not the gospel. Donald Trump.
This isn’t a bash Baptists article. Although I’m sure that will come later. This is a wake up call to a very sickening trend in American culture. Because in our nation’s history thus far, we’ve been very lucky to have a God-fearing majority, faith and patriotism have become fused in our minds until they’re nigh inseparable. We have an Americanized Jesus, an Americanized God and an Americanized gospel. Not that applying scripture texts to modern day situations is wrong. The rub comes in when we are so blinded by our love for our nation that we would rather talk to people about how great ‘merica is than how great Christ is. After all, we’re America. We are the are the guardians of the faith. We are the chosen people of God! We’re back to back world war champions! ‘Merica baby! But the problem is we have two gods in this country and we’ve retailored the gospel to fit them. We have our god America, also known as Liberty, and we have Jesus. In our gospel, Jesus and America are friends. In our gospel, George Washington (a devout servant of the god America) and Jesus rode into battle against the British, slaughtering all the tyrants and winning freedom for everyone. In our gospel, the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Betsy Ross, sewed the first American flag.
I exaggerate to make a point of course. But I’m not too far off. Like pizza and Tex Mex, we’ve taken another tradition, absorbed it into our society, and throughly Americanized it until it has little semblance to its true self. We as Americans have fallen into the same trap that Judas Iscariot did. We want to mold Jesus into a political leader who is for freedom and against tyranny. We want to be the chosen people of God. We want God to reign down blessing on our country and any country we are allied with and rain terror and wrath upon our enemies. To find the true American dream, all you have to do is read through the the Old Testament and replace “Israelites” with “Americans.” We want God to be involved in our politics. We forget that Jesus specifically rejected the role of political leader. He spent a great deal of time trying to tear his followers’ focus from the here and now to the eternal. Remember that Jesus came at a time when the Jewish people were under Roman tyranny. Very unjust and cruel Roman tyranny. Did Jesus fix it? No. As a matter of fact, he encouraged the people to follow their tyrannical leaders (as long as Roman law did not interfere with God’s) and told them to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” And in the very end, he allowed himself to be handed over and murdered by the political authorities of the day. Because Jesus wasn’t here for politics. He was here for the souls of men. And He asked us to focus on the same.
But we’ve been distracted. We’ve invaded numerous countries with the idea of spreading democracy and freedom. But we forget something very important. Jesus was not a Republican. I know, shocking right? Here’s another. Jesus wasn’t born in America. WHAT?! Ok. Get a shot of adrenaline ready because you may have a heart attack after this next one. We, as Christians don’t even exist under a democracy. That’s right. We have a king. And he makes all the rules and we make none. That’s a monarchy my friends. In fact, no one, in the history of the world was ever saved by democracy. No one was ever saved by becoming an American. Only the gospel can save your soul. Only Jesus can save your soul.
Now, I’m sure there are quite a number of you who are preparing the tar and feathers by now. So I would just like to conclude with this: I love America. I consider myself a patriot. I don’t think patriotism goes against the law of God. But patriot and American are not first on my list of personal identifiers. I am a disciple of Christ first and foremost. That’s all I’m meaning to say here. Please don’t let your zeal for your country, which will be annihilated in the second coming of Christ by the way, wash over and nullify your presentation of the Gospel. Show people the real Jesus. Not American Jesus. So, light off some fireworks, eat a hotdog, and have a very happy Independance Day.