I need you to hang with me on this post and read it through to completion… even if your heart begins to palpitate and you begin to disagree with where you think I am going. Read this thoughtfully and prayerfully because there is something we all can learn from this post- together.
Many times it is hard to have difficult… yet respectful conversations within the more conservative arm of the American Evangelical community because any position or question that falls outside of, or challenges, their cultural belief and value system is almost immediately discounted or rebuffed.
This post will challenge some of the most basic assumptions of Christian Conservatism. Granted, not every single thing I discuss may apply to every single person within this movement… but I hope that if there are a few (or many) of these things that resonate with you that they would be taken to heart. My only motivation is love- for you as an individual and for the heart and soul of the Church. While I believe that all of us together have a heart to follow Jesus Christ…many times our pursuit gets clouded by our national culture, our church cultures, and then by the value systems we have grown up within.
I ought to say that Liberal Christians ought not take a position of superiority on this because the same issue exists within the liberal arm of Evangelicalism… only in different ways. That is why it is essential for all of us to always look at ourselves and our churches critically and introspectively- for as we stray or compromise the way of Jesus in any way (and we all do) then we have to be honest about it and prayerfully consider how we might begin to return to complete Christ-centeredness in our thoughts, our actions, our words, our positions, our entire being.
One of the central obsessions of Conservative Christianity is the pursuit of making- or “returning”- the United States to it’s “Christian founding.” This religious movement is a hybrid-mix of American Patriotism and Judeo-Christian selectivity. And it is within this movement where we find the central obsession (which happens to also be the central problem)- Conservative Christianity has strayed significantly away from Jesus.
You may recoil at this assertion but think about this very simple yet poignant example: when arguments are made as to why our country needs to “come back to God” or why the United States needs to act in ways consistent with the values and beliefs of Conservative Christianity… it is striking that Jesus is never mentioned. One only hears “god” or “Divine Providence” or “creation’s god” mentioned, which sounds quite constitutional and very patriotic… but not very much like Jesus Christ. And there is a very significant reason why- because it is much easier to mold an “abstract god” into a very specific image with very specific values…than it is to mold Jesus into very specific image with very specific values in which his whole life and example happened to contradict.
Creating an abstract “god” is easy because anyone can cut-and-paste his/her own value and belief system onto it quite well without having to account for any of the specifics. But cutting-and-pasting one’s own value and belief system onto Jesus… well…it simply doesn’t work. The contradictions between one’s own value and belief system and the way, life, and teachings of Jesus become glaringly apparent…and just won’t stick… because we can see his words and see his life-example. That is why so many use abstract “god” to validate their cultural, nationalistic, or political positions rather than Jesus. And that is why Jesus is painfully absent from the speech and conversation of so many who bear the name of “Christian.”
So while many within the Christian Conservative movement work toward the reality of a “Christian nation,” or “taking the country back for God,” the very premise of this pursuit is wrongly framed from the very beginning. The foundational question is not, “Were the founding fathers Christians or deists who established a country based upon Judeo-Christian ethics and ideals?” But rather (and more importantly for those who want to follow Jesus), “Was it Jesus’ central preoccupation and goal to establish Christian nations?”
Since it was not the central preoccupation and goal of Jesus to establish Christian nations, then by simple logic we can conclude that it is inconsequential whether or not the founding fathers were “Christians” or “deists” trying to create that kind of country.
I would humbly suggest that the clear evidence of Scripture describes and details the central preoccupation and goal of Jesus as- the present establishment of a completely different “country.”
A “country” with a completely different “Leader.”
A “country” with a completely different kind of people.
A “country” with a completely different (and contrary) set of beliefs and ideals.
And this “country” is COMPLETELY OPPOSITE the values and ideals of every man-made movement in the world, including the Christian Conservative movement.
The invitation of Jesus to the people of the world- from every country, every nationality, every tribe and tongue, and from every generation- is to renounce their inferior allegiances… their inferior value systems and to give their lives and allegiance to this new “country” (the Kingdom of God) and the loving, healing, restorative ways of the new Leader (Jesus). The citizens of this new “country” are the real illegal aliens of the world. We are those have given our sole allegiance (our hearts, our souls, our loyalty, our devotion, our lives) to our new “country” and the way of our Leader… while still living in foreign lands.
The central issue with many Christians, including Conservative Christians, is that they do not want to become a part of this new “country.” They want to redeem and reform man-made governmental structures…and they believe their mandate from God is to impose their hybrid Judeo-Christian Patriotism (which they wrongly believe is Christian) upon the United States… all while wearing the name Christian (which infers that it is of Jesus Christ). But it most certainly and most emphatically is not.
While one works to legislate morality through political means which will never change a person’s heart… the other moves forward humbly in grace and forgiveness, serving and demonstrating love through example and relationship, changing hearts in the process.
While one takes an over-the-top approach of power by “standing up for what [they] believe in,” being vocal about their beliefs, and trying to win the argument… the other remains silently powerless in truth (even in the face of accusation and persecution) realizing that the argument-battle does not have to be won… because the war has already been won.
While one seeks retaliation and justice against enemies through capital punishment and war… the other is obsessed with loving and forgiving enemies and oppressors while working to be peacemakers in and through all conflict or aggression.
While one selectively uses Scripture to support the positions of their hybrid Judeo-Christian Patriotism… the other obsessively seeks only to pursue the way, life, and teachings of the Author and Perfecter of life, Jesus Christ.
While one is bent on sitting high and judging the sins and sin groups of the world… the other extends a welcoming and loving embrace and walks humbly alongside our brothers and sisters of the world demonstrating the best and highest ways of God as demonstrated through the life and teachings of Jesus.
While one always lives in fear of anything or anyone that threatens their vision of their country… the other is never threatened or fearful because this “country” will never fall and will always prevail…even when faced with violence or death.
While one will be perpetually unhappy when the cities, states, countries, and governments are anything less than their Judeo-Christian Patriotism… the other finds happiness, joy, and peace in a republic, a democracy, an authoritarian state, a communist state, and even in the midst of suffering under horrible governmental suffering and oppression.
God has invited each of us into a country and a way of life that is absolutely beautiful and incomparable to anything any leader or country could ever offer. Why would we resist it? Why have we settled for so much less?
My challenge and invitation to all my politically-minded Christian brothers and sisters (including my Conservative Christian brothers and sisters) is to renounce your citizenship and allegiance to the inferior countries in which you live that will soon pass away…and renounce your allegiance to the leaders of these inferior countries. Recognize that the movement you are obsessed with and impassioned by is not a Jesus movement at all. In fact, many elements of it are completely opposite of the Jesus you claim to follow. The country in which your citizenship ought to be placed is the present, in-breaking Kingdom of God and the Leader to whom your allegiance ought to be given is Jesus Christ… and Jesus Christ alone. There is no such thing as dual-allegiance. You cannot serve two masters- for you will either hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other.
Together, we have been made to be so much more in Christ. Let us give our life, our faith, our allegiance to him alone.
peace and love…