People are going to disagree with this post. I’ve already resigned myself to being okay with that. There are people I know, good people, who will disagree with me, call me anti-American, un-patriotic, and tell me I’m wrong.
I’m okay with that.
I was raised in the church. Not only that, I was raised in a pretty conservative denomination of the church. I’m proud of my church heritage. The Wesleyan tradition is a beautiful one that I find myself gravitating back towards as I grow older, particularly the focus on holiness and evangelism.
There is something that has been evident to me from a young age. Something that I see just as much, if not more so today in modern America, particularly in the Conservative Christian culture. That is the notion that America is God’s country. That we are a Christian nation, and as such, the answer to our problems is to as a nation, turn back to God. This will solve our problems.
I passionately disagree.
Let me be clear. I love the country I live in. I believe I am beyond blessed to live in a country like I do. I’ve been afforded opportunities that I may not have had if I had lived elsewhere.
What I disagree with, and quite frankly, think is anti-scriptural, is the idea that I owe my allegiance to my constitution, or my country. I think the constitution is a good thing. I think it was written by men who loved Jesus, at least some of them.
What I’m not okay with is this tendency for Christians to defend their beliefs by clinging to the constitution like it’s an infallible document. Last I checked, the constitution was written by men. It’s not God-Breathed. It’s not sacred. It’s not infallible. It’s not holy.
Does it have good ideas? Sure. Does it grant me rights and freedoms? Absolutely. But let’s not forget something important: It’s a human document, penned by human hands, in reaction to human actions.
It’s words on paper.
What if, as Christians, instead of running to the Constitution, we ran to the Gospels? What if, instead of using the constitution to prove our points, illustrating how we’re right, and everybody else is wrong, we found our authority in the scriptures. What if we looked for our identity not as Americans, but as citizens of the Kingdom of God?
I believe in freedom of religion. But more than that, I believe in freedom from religion. Let me explain. I believe part of what makes America so great is that people are free to proclaim whatever religion they want. We don’t have a state religion. Thank God for that. I don’t want my government telling me what to believe. I want my government to leave my religion alone. And I want religion to leave government alone. The two are not congruent with each other.
For a deeper look at this, read Greg Boyd’s “Myth of a Christian Nation.” He uses the terms Kingdom of the Sword vs. Kingdom of the Cross.
The Kingdom of the Sword is built and designed to exercise authority and power and dominion over others. It is designed to be oppressive and controlling. It thrives on power and control and authority. Power isn’t always bad, but this kingdom should never be confused with God’s Kingdom, or what Boyd calls The Kingdom of the Cross.
The Kingdom of the Cross is built on service, humility, sacrifice, and servanthood. It is radically different than it’s opponent. It is for this reason that Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world.” It looks nothing like the kingdoms of this world. It is unrecognizable. It is radically opposed to the kingdom of the sword.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m happy to live in the country I do. If I wasn’t, I’d move.
What I’m unhappy with is Christians placing the constitution on equal footing with the scriptures. Using this notion of what I call “Christian Nationalism.” Can I suggest an alternative?
Be about God’s kingdom. His kingdom is not built on oppression, control, power, and militaristic authority. His kingdom is built on service, humility, giving, sacrifice, and love for our enemies.
I live in America, so I will subject myself to the authorities placed over me. I will pray for my leaders. I will pay my taxes. I will not find my identity in my country, my constitution, my political party, or any other nationalist dogma.
I want to be about Jesus and his kingdom, and that kingdom looks nothing like the nationalist agenda.
“My first allegiance is not to flag, a country or a man. My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood. It’s to a King and a Kingdom.”
-Derek Webb “A King and a Kingdom”