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Brandon Andress is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (April 2013) and Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World (2010). He lives in Columbus, Indiana and writes for his popular blogs Brandon Andress and A Joyful Procession. Brandon earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his BA in Psychology from Hanover College. He loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, and traveling. For more information visit: www.andthentheendwillcome.com

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the united states of Jesus?

When there is a discussion about politics and the religious heritage of our country it usually devolves into a back-and-forth battle between hardliners who either argue that the original intention of the founding fathers was to establish a country founded upon Judeo-Christian principles –or- that the founding fathers were deists whose intention it was to establish a country in which there was a clear separation of Church and State.

For outsiders looking in on such a debate, the position many may well believe speaks for the entirety of Christianity is the former stance, because it is the loudest or most publicized.

I would like to propose and give humble voice to another…very different…Christian perspective that circumvents entirely the “intentions of the founding fathers” discussion and that focuses narrowly on the politic intentions of Jesus, who the Christian ought to be primarily concerned.

My position is: since Jesus’ primary motivation was not to Christianize governments or political orders but rather to establish an entirely different Kingdom, it really doesn’t matter either way if the founders intended Christianity to be an influencing force or not. And as a result, Christians ought to work to build up the Kingdom of God rather than try to Christianize America.

Taking on the label of Christian, by simple deduction, implies that one is a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is an appropriate assumption then one would expect his followers to be focused on and obsessed with his words, his ways, and his life. More specifically we would expect his followers to focus on and have an obsession with the one thing that he himself was focused on and obsessed with- the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that operates by a completely different value system than the countries, empires, and kingdoms that we are familiar with, including the United States.

A simple, cursory glance at the Gospels reveals that Jesus was not preoccupied with trying to make the Roman Empire, or any other government or political system, “Christian.” Even further, the movement Jesus initiated (even though we have egregiously missed the point throughout our history of Christianity and continue to miss the point now) was never intended to reform countries, empires, and kingdoms from the top-down through Christian legislation. Rather, the primary intention of Jesus has been to establish an entirely different Kingdom that operates by an entirely different value system within the hearts and minds of people through relationships and that works from the bottom-up through love and selfless service.

Unfortunately a section of American Christians so badly, and so desperately, wants America to be a Christian nation that we have performed some serious theological gymnastics to align Jesus with our own political ideologies. We can’t fathom how enshrouded and consumed we are with the American governmental and political filter and how they distort how we see Jesus and his mission. We can’t reconcile a non-governmental, non-political (in terms of not supporting and propping up a political system), non-partisan Jesus with our nationalistic aspirations. And as a result we use his name, while ignoring his teachings, and then mix it together with our entrenched nationalism and/or political ideologies to create a hybrid monster that is NOT what Jesus had in mind.

If you think I have gone too far…think about it. Even if it was a good idea to make America a “Christian” nation… many of you who believe that would not agree with applying Christ’s principles at a governmental level. Can you imagine America turning the other cheek when attacked? Can you imagine America blessing terrorists who curse us? Can you imagine America loving our enemies rather than engaging in conflict with them? Me either.

Beyond that, the way of Jesus is never about imposing a belief system on people. Things like fighting for the Ten Commandments on government lawns and arguing for prayer in schools just makes people resent Christianity (and Jesus by association) because it tries to force and coerce people into our belief system (whether we like to admit it or not). Does this approach not stand in sharp contrast to Jesus and his Kingdom? Rather than continuing in the way of Jesus through a humble, quiet, servile demonstration of God’s Kingdom on earth…we instead choose an overt, over the top, imposing reminder of “what you need to do” and “how it’s going to be.” Rather than taking the way of the non-retaliatory, non-argumentative suffering servant who does not need to defend himself…we instead believe we have to fight, claw, and defend to preserve our faith. Come on guys.

The truth is that we Christians are sorely mistaken for trying to co-opt the Kingdom of God and for trying to fit it into our own nationalistic, political, and over the top agendas. God help us.

We need to wake up and realize that we do not have to have the full support, backing, and authorization of the government in order to live, practice, and demonstrate our faith. Is God not with us everywhere we go? Do we not have the opportunity to have prayers on our lips at all times? Do we not have freedom through Christ in any circumstance? Then we don’t need to fight to preserve those things we already have!

We need to wake up and realize that we also do not have to have the full support, backing, and authorization of the government in order for the Kingdom of God to grow, flourish, and expand! I personally believe we have a better opportunity for people to follow Jesus if we quit pursuing this dead-end road of trying to Christianize America. Need an example? Look at how the Kingdom of God is growing and expanding in China.

I want to be crystal clear: I am not anti-American…but I am uncompromisingly pro-Jesus and pro-Kingdom. My first and only allegiance is to Jesus, his way, his Kingdom, and the transcendent value system of God…and many times the values of America will not align with any of those things. If God wants the United States to flourish for the sake of his Kingdom and his Glory…then praise God! But if God needs for the United States to fall down for the sake of his Kingdom and his Glory…then praise God!

For the follower of Jesus Christ the ONLY system we should be preoccupied and obsessed with is the Kingdom of God. For it is in this Kingdom we find peace, love, value, and life to the fullest…and it does not need to be mixed or blended with anything else. The Kingdom of God stands alone, is self-sufficient, and is not bent on nationalism or political ideology…because its values transcend each one of them.

only peace and love…

brandon

if you don’t have any idea about what the Kingdom of God is…download my book for free at www.theunearthedproject.com

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24 Comments on “the united states of Jesus?”

  1. Heather Barnard (Jones) July 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    I love it. Thanks so much Brandon… and thanks for loving my brother so well. Rock on.

  2. Heather Barnard (Jones) July 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

    Love it. Thanks so much… and thanks for being an example of the one you speak to my wonderful brother.

  3. Andrea July 27, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Just saying it again, here, for the record…one of your best.

  4. Jon Thomas July 28, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Thanks for putting this in writing. It goes to show from a 10,000 foot point of view that even if principally founders had a vision, that doesn’t mean it actually came to pass. Our founding story is not unlike that of the conquistadors of Spain who conquer-colonized the native peoples of latin america or the Romans who conquer-colonized a quarter of the planet with the ideology that if you adhere to their values and worship Ceasar as a deity they would let you live and count you amoung other Romans or our American story that involved the same goals… promote a value system that to achieve said goal involved an extermination and relocation of native peoples to build an empire. Our story is as broken or more than the rest of empire stories we learned about in World Civ. Christ came to knock down the foundations and belief systems of the world, but what did humans do with that? We justify our actions by twisting scripture and look at entitlement and knocking someone else down to get what we want. This just proves that no matter how hard we try to make America a Christian nation the more it looks like the opposite. As a simple excercise look at the US Constitution compared to the Beatitudes in matthew Chapter 5:1-12! This continues to prove and drive me to Christ knowing that his Kingdom has come to turn what we see as “normal” and “expected” upside down!

  5. LaDonna July 28, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Awesome.

  6. Paul DeBaufer July 28, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Thank you!!!

    I am so glad that someone articulate and with eloquence has said what I have tried to get across to people since before I converted from neo-atheism.

    The idolatrous fusion of nationalism with Christianity, rampant in American evangelicalism, is reminiscent of Israel’s fusion of their nationalism with their faith beginning in Ezra (probably going back further, yet more pronounced in post-exillic texts) and amplified after the Maccabean revolt of the early second century BCE, and their nationalism became part of their sacred texts. Jesus entered this nationalistic world with sacred texts supporting it and subverted the nationalism.

  7. Angie Miller July 28, 2011 at 11:42 am #

    Yes, Jesus and his way IS the priority for all Christians. Yet we all are constrained to earthly bodies performing earthly tasks and living within earthly political systems. I do not think that the way of Jesus prevents participation and the expressing of thoughtful opinions regarding the best way to run a country. In fact, the bait of Satan has long been that Christians take offense at SO MANY legitimate differences of opinion about the details of the better way to live out our time here on this earth, items on which the Bible is silent. Jesus does not prohibit taking a role in civilian affairs and in fact Romans 12:8 says that if your gift is leading, then GOVERN diligently.

    • brandon andress July 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

      hey Angie! thanks for the input. I suppose the intent of the blog has more to do with Christians trying to Christianize America from the top-down as opposed to embodying and extending the Kingdom of God in everything we do from the bottom-up. rather than lording over people…we come up from under people in love, service, and humility.

      you may have read some things into my writing that are not there. I am not saying we should not pray for our leaders and rulers or not take the opportunity to vote (in all Kingdom-mindedness). I am not even saying that a Christian ought not run for political office (as long as one does not compromise the value system of Jesus).

      but with all these we should have an uncompromising allegiance to Jesus Christ and his Kingdom…and as a result it is going to stand in stark contrast to the value system of the United States.

      if/as we spend more time arguing the values and positions of things that won’t last…we end up dividing against those we should be reaching with the things that will last. to me…this is one of the primary reasons I have removed myself from the political discussion and instead only speak of the Kingdom- because I have a greater opportunity to reach everyone- not just one political strand.

      btw… I looked at 8 different versions of the Bible and never found the phrase “govern diligently” in that Romans passage.

      peace and love…

      brandon

      • Angie Miller July 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm #

        Romans 12:8
        New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

        8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

        I agree that a lot of time on earth is spent doing things of no prima facie eternal value. Take for esample the sum of the daily time we take in grooming ourselves. To be dismissive of spending time on things of this world is to beg the question of why God gave us earthly bodies in the first place. Why was Jesus a carpenter for 30 years before engaging in public ministry? My wish for us all is that we could exercise our civil responsibilties to be involved in public life without there being so much personal offense taken. My perspective is that it is not arguing that is the bait of Satan, but the taking of personal offense.

      • brandon andress July 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

        hey Angie…thanks again for the dialogue.

        I am not trying to be coy here but after reading your response I can’t help but wonder if you are reading what I am writing. I am not sure how (in everything I have written) that the conclusion could be reached that I am “dismissive of spending time on things of this world.” do i live as a person who has dismissed spending time on things of this world? i would argue that i am as actively engaged in the things of the world as anyone.

        To be concise…I believe that I have very narrowly laid out my argument both in the main text of the blog and then in my first comment to you that:

        Christians try to Christianize America from the top-down as opposed to embodying and extending the Kingdom of God in everything we do from the bottom-up. rather than lording over people…we ought to come up from under people in love, service, and humility.

        the operative line is “embodying and extending the Kingdom of God in EVERYTHING we do.” that is not dismissive of our time here at all. it is saying that…in EVERYTHING…we take the approach and attitude of Christ. and while we live our lives (right here, right now) we do it as citizens of a different Kingdom…with allegiance to only one Lord.

        Please forgive me…but I am struggling to understand why this position is so contentious for a Christian.

        peace…

        brandon

    • marie2020 February 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      The passage in which you speak of is referring to the body of Christ; what we (Christians) are being told is how to act with the gifts given to us… if it is to lead,[or provide]do it diligently. But if I’m reading the passage correctly it is in regards to serving in the church. (Not to say those values to extend to everyday life, because they do, but that particular passage doesn’t technically support a Christian leading in government, but rather in a postion within the church)
      However I understand your stance/defense, and as a Christian I struggle with the state of our nation. But, what I really got from Brandon’s blog was not that we should give up or live in ignorance of our nations problems, but that instead of feeling defeated, hopeless and lost in these seemingly dark and desperate times, we should trust in the word of God, His promises and true reasons that Christ came. In those things is where our hope lies, not in the success or demise of our nation. That’s all I got

  8. Andrea July 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Pssst…Brandon…NIV?

    • Andrea July 28, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

      Or, NIV 1984 version, anyway…

      • brandon andress July 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

        I really didn’t want to make that verse a point of contention. I just couldn’t find it translated that way. oddly enough it looks as if it can also be translated as, “if it is to provide for others, do it diligently.”

        anyway…thanks for the heads up!

  9. Angie Miller July 29, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    “Unfortunately American Christians so badly, and so desperately, want America to be a Christian nation that we have performed some serious theological gymnastics to align Jesus with our own political ideologies. We can’t fathom how enshrouded and consumed we are with the American governmental and political filter and how they distort how we see Jesus and his mission.”

    I disagree with your premise. I do not observe “American Christians” aligning Jesus with their political ideologies. My observation is that there are well-intentioned, legitimate disagreements over how to best live out the practicalities of exercising good citizenship as a Christian. If there exists any monolithic American nationwide Christian approach (“American Christians”) in politics, I think it has largely been shaped by TV news. The news process involves selecting individulas that have a particular point of view and gives the impression that one individual politician or individual news commentator speaks for a large group of Christians who may at times try to show that Jesus is on their “side.” Most of the time, though, I do not hear, “Jesus is on my side.” I hear, “My understanding of my faith tells me to live it out this way. And I believe it is correct and in my political life, I am going to direct my activities in that direction. If you disagree with me, that is ok. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad Christian.” If we as individual Christians stopped taking personal offense at other people who disagree with us on practical political matters, then filters used largely by news outlets could not take hold.

    “if/as we spend more time arguing the values and positions of things that won’t last…we end up dividing against those we should be reaching with the things that will last. to me…this is one of the primary reasons I have removed myself from the political discussion and instead only speak of the Kingdom- because I have a greater opportunity to reach everyone- not just one political strand.”

    My contention is that disagreeing is not bad; it is a part of life. Disagreeing does not divide unless you have no skills and no love to move through disagreements agreeably. Practical life is messy. Your calling has you removing yourself from political discussion. It may use up time for you that you feel caleld to spend on hands-on, evangelistic ministry. That is a wonderful calling, but it is not everyone’s calling. Political citizenship is a civil responsibility. Christians can’t stop grappling with their citizenship responsibilites just because it involves disagreements. By framing disagreement as inherently “bad,” or even by avoiding the discussion of difficult subjects, we may be robbing Christians of the opportunity to learn how to problem-solve as a Christian community. NOT DISAGREEING and BEING PEACEABLE are not equivalents.

    “And as a result we use his name, while ignoring his teachings, and then mix it together with our entrenched nationalism and/or political ideologies to create a hybrid monster that is NOT what Jesus had in mind.”

    I agree that when people claim a political ideology in Jesus’ name, that is a monster; however, I don’t agree that is what routinely happens. Having strong political ideologies based on how we believe Christ would have us live life on this earth is not a monster. I believe the monster only comes when we accuse others explicitly of having no faith if they disagree or if we go out of our way to take offense at a simple difference of practical opinion. The “Bait of Satan: Your Response Determines Your Future” is the book I happen to be reading. So perhaps I am seeing that issue all around me in a highlighted way.

    I appreciate you, Brandon, and your focus on Jesus as THE SINGULAR PRIORITY in your life, as it is mine. I am not a brilliant writer, as you are!!!!!!!, and may not have articulated my perspective in a clear way. Thank you for asking questions and giving me an opportunity to have a back-and-forth discussion, perhaps disagreeing agreeably.

    • brandonandress July 29, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

      thanks Angie for the comprehensive explanation.  you did a great job explaining your position in detail.

      first let me say that my verbiage was too broad when I wrote “American Christians.”. that was too broad of a statement.  it would be more accurate to say “a section of American Christians.” to me that is more accurate.  I will edit the blog accordingly…so thank you!

      I want to make one specific point and then one larger point.

      - I believe that your argument is a bit too idealistic.  I don’t doubt that you may have found a way to be involved politically and not let that divide or push away others who don’t share your politics from you… but I do not believe (from my life experience) that this is the way things play out at a real-life practical level.  rather… I see churches that preach and incorporate politics into their services.  I see churches that are politically homogeneous.  and I see first hand generations of people who want nothing to do with the church because it is too political.  beyond the anecdotal evidence…there is research by Barna that suggests younger generations view Christianity as too political and a significant reason why they avoid Christianity all together.  to me this is not as a result of a handful or Christians being political or because the New York Times is telling people that is the case…it is because of the broad experience people are having with politically-minded Christians.

      generally speaking now…while your arguments are very thorough and well-thought out…there still seems to be a lack of support or evidence from the Gospels, Paul, other NT books, or other Early Church writings to support your position.  I don’t read the Early Church working to express their Christianity through the political process.  in fact…I see more written about praying that the government will let them live in peace (1 Timothy 2), giving to Caesar what is Caesars and giving to God what it is God’s, and losing all identity and labels we have and simply being Christ (Colossians 3).

      thanks so much for the great dialogue and what you do to extend the Kingdom each and every day!  I will give you the last word.

      peace…

      brandon

  10. Andrea July 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    “Political citizenship is a civil responsibility.”

    I guess I have a problem with this statement, Angie. Not so much that it’s wrong, but that as a Christian, I am obligated to political citizenship. Micah 6:8 lays out what God requires of me: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk with Him in humility. Other places in the bible direct me to follow the laws of my country…but I am not compelled by law to be active in politics. Our culture may consider it a civil responsibility, but civil responsibility is not the same as biblical responsibility.

    Like Brandon, I don’t think we are excluded from participating in the political process, but we also are not required to. If one has the call to participate, absolutely, they should follow it, but if someone realizes they are not called, why should they be pressured, especially by other believers? Yes, I even speak here of the election process. Shocking, I know :) But when I stop and think “how would Jesus vote?”, I know the real answer is…He probably wouldn’t. So unless I feel a strong call to participate, I probably won’t either.

    Sadly, many American Christians (and yes, I *do* paint with a broad brush here, I know) would probably have some bad things to say about me, regardless of the explanation above…

  11. Angie Miller July 30, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks for the last word, Brandon. I think, to sum it up, my question is this: what if you have put your finger on a symptom of a problem within the church, rancor and blame being exchanged between Christians, but that mixing Jesus with entrenched nationalism is not the problem? What if the problem is the same as it has always been: a lack of grace? a tendency to blame others when things don’t go our way? If anything, I am concerned that our extravagantly prosperous culture doesn’t give us much of an opportunity to walk with God when things don’t go our way. We don’t get to exercise our graciousness muscles and we have very low expectations for our children to need to exercise graciousness. Instead of having an opportunity to teach grace when someone else wins the prize, we give everyone a prize. We set a poor example for our children by grousng and blaming when the government doesn’t perform as we think it should. Feeling pressured to vote (or to vote a certain way) is a 2-way emotional exchange. What if the person feeling pressured didn’t choose to receive the feeling of being pressured, but just felt that someone who loved her was encouraging her to do something they thought was good but which she disagreed with? What if the pressured person could just feel the disagreement and not assign it a blaming connotation? What if one of the 2 people extended grace in the face of disagreement? What if both people extrended grace? What if grace at a personal level is, and has always been, the ingredient that is in short supply as we reach and minister to a fallen world? Maybe politically homogenous congregations are another symptom of the avoidance we have of learning to resolve disagreements with grace? What if even the development of denominations were an earlier symptom of this problem? My conclusion is that we have too little grace, not too much politics.

  12. Tony Gore August 2, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Brandon, excellent post. Loved it. Thanks for working hard to articulate the heart of Christ and His Kingdom…

  13. Jeffrrey August 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Brandon, a friend of mine Herb Haile just gave me your most recent work and I have to say that it’s right on spot!

    Jeffrey Stratton
    Plainfield, Indiana

  14. marie2020 February 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Reblogged this on marie2020's Blog and commented:
    This kind of put things into perspective for me in regards to our nations seemingly impending demise.

  15. Onesimus March 3, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Excellent article one of the best I’ve read addressing this issue.

    Tim

  16. nonfatlatte March 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Amen! Excellent article.

  17. jeverheart March 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    This reminds me a lot of John Howard Yoder’s take on the issue. I loved him in grad school and love this post now!

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