Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Meditations on being an "American Christian"

It's been two days since July 4, the day Americans celebrate the declaration of independence from the British crown. I've been American all my life - born in the States and raised mostly in the States (with a few years in Europe). I've always considered myself a "proud American" in the strictest sense of the term. I was raised a military brat with a father in the army, and we tended to always have an American flag flying outside our house. I understood that men sacrificed themselves for our country, and that their sacrifice was for a cause.

At the same time, my patriotism has been tempered somewhat ever since I came to Christ. Many times I've meditated on what it means to be both "American" and "Christian," and what those two loyalties entail.

America is not God's country. It is not a new Israel. There is no clear sign that it will be the place where God's Spirit will pour forth upon the earth. God is eternal, America is not. The new Israel is the church, upon which the Law of God's heart is written on flesh, not on stone, and the Spirit of God resides in the temple of its members, not a temple in any individual location. Though one may grant that far more of the Founding Fathers were Christian than popular history would have us believe, and while during the periods of the two Great Awakenings there were moments where a large percentage of Americans were Christian, America herself was never a "Christian nation." There is no such thing as a "Christian nation." A Christian nation would not have slaves. A Christian nation would not have segregation. The American government is not God-ordained - it is created by men and run by men.

Just as the literal nation of Israel proved to be temporary, so will America, someday, prove to be temporary. It was God's providence which brought America into being, and it could very well be God's providence that brings America's existence to an end. When Christ returns and men of all race and nation are knelt before Him, there will be no America, because there will be no Americans. There will only be brothers and sisters in Christ standing side-by-side before their King.

Likewise, while my taxes and status under law may belong to America, my heart and my soul belong to God. Where America turns her back upon God, I turn my back upon America. There are stories of Christian Roman soldiers who loyally served their emperor in uniform to the point where their emperor demanded worship. The soldiers refused, and were martyred. This should be the mindset of every Christian in every nation: give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's...but the minute Caesar demands what is God's, he should be flatly denied, even to the point of death. In the past Christians often faced life under such pagan governments, and let's face it...they still are.

I am an American Christian in the sense that I was born in America and have come to know Christ. I love my country and would not betray her for any secular reasons. Yet my love for the cross is far greater than my love for the flag, and if the flag were to ever try to replace the position of the cross, I would refuse to bow. They may be able to break my body, but only God can raise my body and soul into glorification. Soli Deo Gloria.