Sunday, July 3, 2011


Equating the two is not accurate or responsible. Church leaders should know better

So, in the church my family attended this morning, before the worship of God could occur, an American flag appeared on a big screen and the worship leader asked us to stand and pray for all the troops who were out there making possible the kind of freedom and peace we enjoy today.  And this in a church that didn't even mention Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday!  I suppose something like this occurred in many church services.  And, likely, not many attenders gave it a second thought.

Well, I have given it a second thought or two.  Here are a few notes I made during the rest of the church service and a few things I've reflected on since.  I'll separate and number each one for the sake of possible dialog.

1. It is irresponsible, misleading, and inaccurate to equate or link the fact that people (i.e., in military action) have given their lives for American freedom with what the Bible says Jesus Christ accomplished for all people via his life, death and resurrection.

2. Why do some church leaders feel compelled to try to make this illegitimate connection on American holidays?  Why do they need to mix American ideals with Christian worship and practice?

3. The dissimilarities between American freedom and Christian freedom are multiple and profound.

4. American freedom is incredible, valuable, and worth lauding.  So is Christian freedom.  However, when they are spoken of in the same sentence and context and linked together as complementary, it is problematic and distorting for both at multiple levels.

5. Civil religion thrives on the skewed association, linking, and connections that are attempted between American patriotism and Christian faith by priests and ministers of the Christian faith.  In fact, governments and government leaders count on and thrive on this.

6. Whenever political freedom-winning militarism is equated with Christian freedom, Christianity loses more of its integrity.

7. We do as much disservice to people of other nations by equating Christian freedom with American freedom as we do to the Good News and Kingdom the Bible describes.

8. America's founders may have drawn some inspiration from some Christian principles, but the kind of political freedom Americans enjoy is not found in the Bible. 

9. Though Christians and churches have enjoyed freedom of worship--and many under-appreciated benefits--in American-style freedom, it is a misnomer that America was founded as a Christian nation. 

10. Equating a nation's story with God's story and declaring a nation to be God's favored one has, historically, led to tragic outcomes for millions of people.

11. It is worth fuller discussions in theological education and church leadership preparation to  draw out these distinctions and the implications of casually equating American freedom with Christian freedom.

12. If, on the Sunday nearest Independence Day in America, a preacher or church leader wants to talk about the important distinctions between American freedom and Christian freedom, I can go there.  But blurring them, blending them, associating them so that Christian freedom is somehow the basis for American freedom and/or that American freedom (i.e, via government coercion and military action) upholds and makes possible Christian freedom, I won't go there--and I think it is irresponsible theologically and biblically to go there.

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