Oct 9, 2008

deconstructing christian cliches - pt 3

This isn't a political post, but I am going to use political language to critique a Christian cliche that I saw in this week's Presidential debate. It involves a "NO" moment - a personal practice of mine where I deliberately say the word "NO" out loud when I hear something that is promoted as truth but actually isn't.

(Try it sometime.)

Toward the end of the debate, both candidates made affirming statements that declared their belief that America is a supreme force of good for the world, potentially in all of history.

Ah... "no."

It's Jesus Christ and His Church.

(I wonder if they would have said the same thing in front of Rick Warren's audience.)

I don't know if you've ever considered this, but what we call "patriotism" the early church called "idolatry." I know in saying that I run the risk of an ultra-patriotic Christian reading this and getting upset at me. That's fine... because I understand your passion and have heard it before in appropriate and inappropriate ways. For the record, I do enjoy the country I live in and I humbly appreciate the "rights" America has afforded me that I don't see in any other country to the same level.

But America isn't the ultimate hope of the world, and it's not where my ultimate allegiance lies. If you cut me, I don't bleed "USA!" - I bleed for Jesus. Ultimately, I am a Christ-follower and would be no matter what country I lived in... even the ones where it's illegal to do so. (It would just be trickier, of course... and at times downright fearful - especially if it involved violence to my household.)

Our sense of identity as people (or as a country) must not be found in an imperfect President-to-be, nor in his policies on the economy, nor in whether or not he has "great experience" or "fresh perspective."

Power that fixes the world can only be found in Jesus Christ... and yet so many in this country cry out for a President to fix things. In fact, I've read that the rest of the world watches our debates and political updates with as watchful an eye as we do. So many expect one "superpower" to actually have "Super-Powers."

Hmm... sounds familiar.

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."

But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."

Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." (1 Samuel 8:4-20)

Israel wanted a king, but they wanted wrong kind of king — a good looking guy who they thought would bring about the change they wanted. God rejected him.

Then one day God installed His own king in his place... Himself as Jesus Christ. Only Israel rejected Him.

Similarly, somewhere along the way we created in the church an ironic cliche of our own - American Christianity. Here's how it often shows up during election time for many Christians:

  • We say, "Jesus is Lord," and yet believe a human candidate will provide all the change the world is looking for.

  • Folks pick fights with each other about two candidates who both claim to be Christians, citing to each other that only their party's canididate "really is."

  • Christians don't think twice about listening to and laughing alone with radio/TV personalities who slander, spread gossip, and belittle the "other" side.

  • Many would say they believe that God wants to redeem the world, but are most concerned about their own country's interests.

  • Rather than recognizing how the American Dream is self-centered, we buy into the inward pursuit of happiness over the eternal pursuit of goodness.
Granted, an election is a time to cast a vote about your country's leadership. The problem is that somewhere in the process the concept of "God and Country" becomes "Country and God." The sequence matters, for the first word far outranks the second word.

And when that happens, we start looking for security in all the wrong places.

How are you doing on this?

  • Have you been taking your cues from CNN and Fox News more than God Himself?

  • Are you fixated on reading the stock market, or are you fixated on reading the Bible?

  • Is the roundtable discussion on who won the debate most important at the end of the day, or is the conviction of the Holy Spirit your guiding factor?

Don't worry... I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. Honestly, I'm not telling you whom I'm voting for. (We all know that whomever wins the vote is going to stand at the plate and give his best swing at the job... and he'll fall short, give late night TV shows material for monologues and skits, and let the country down on more than one occasion. The good news is that God can use even that to further things forward..)

Instead, I'd rather inspire you to arrive at a place of peace and security that comes from prayer. Consider your life in light of the Truth of God.... and then respond. If you want to look at how each of the candidates takes part in or rejects God's story of redemption, the best way to start is by taking part in it yourself.

Because you don't discover security by looking for security (or manufacturing it through patriotic words). You find it by a U-turn back toward your Creator - He'll help you become the someone who is freshly overcome by the awe and desperation for Him.

In the first century, Julius Caesar believed that his country was the greatest force for good in the history of the world. He used this belief to justify whatever was in his country's best interests, even if it flew in the face of what true goodness is.

Then along came some Christians who spoke of their hope in Someone greater.

  • The said it was the peace of Christ - not the peace of Rome - that surpassed all understanding.

  • They decided that the way of peace was better than the way of the sword.

  • They fought against patriotic language that declared "Caesar as Lord" by saying "Jesus is Lord."

  • They died alnong with all those whom Rome sought to conquer when all it would have taken was a simple retraction of one's faith.

Maybe the best summary of all of this lies in a praise someone shared during a gathering last Sunday.

"Thank you Jesus for ruining my life and giving me Yours."


theoquest said...

Appreciate these thoughts. It's easy for us to misprioritize our allegiance.

Anonymous said...

the way

Anonymous said...

Amen, Amen, and AMen.
I have been preaching from boyd's
Myth of a Christian Nation, thanks for this