Why I Don’t Want America to Come Back to God…

I write this in an attempt at promoting a culture of dialogue and civility, even though both are in short supply these days. It seems as if most people have their heels dug in and their minds made up on every issue already, so what’s the point of attempting dialogue? It’s a great question that deserves a serious answer in a time when most people talk passed each other, only thinking about what can be said next to win the argument, rather than taking the more humble and disciplined postures of listening and contemplating.

While I am still but a student in the disciplines of listening and contemplating, the greatest areas of growth in my life have come as a result of being able to listen and contemplate thoughts and ideas that I had previously and whole-heartedly rejected. It is only when we can take a humble posture and open ourselves to hearing a new position or idea that we may begin to evaluate what we already believe and why we believe it, and then also begin to understand how and why another has arrived at a different position or idea. It costs nothing to be civil and listen to another’s perspective. We may even learning something new- whether it be a new idea, belief, or perspective, or maybe even something new about the person with whom we are speaking.

When we are able to have civil dialogue with one another, it honors each person’s humanity. We no longer see a person only for the idea or belief they represent, which we may have viewed in antagonism. We begin to see them as brothers and sisters who have been walking a different life path with different experiences or perspectives. And it is in that place where each side may begin to learn, grow, and broaden their appreciation for others. It begins with each one of us. May we each look inward at our hearts and move toward a more humble and disciplined posture of listening and contemplating, while honoring each person’s humanity.

With all of that being said as a proper foundation for discussion, it seems that one of the most contentious topics within American Christianity is the role followers of Jesus should or should not play within politics and government. The reason this topic is tantamount is that there are very different perspectives that have significant, profound, and very different effects and consequences in relation to a follower of Jesus.

In particular, there are those who believe that America was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that our country has turned its back on God, and that our country needs to come back to God, or that God will remove his blessing from our country. To that end, they believe that Christians ought stand up, be heard, and be involved politically so that Christian politicians will pass legislation that they believe will preserve Christianity in America and help our country turn back to God.

There are others, like me, who believe that whether the United States was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles or not is inconsequential, because Jesus was not trying to redeem countries by legislating morality from the top-down, he was inviting all of humanity into a different and alternative country (the Kingdom of God) with values and principles that completely contradict the values and principles of every man-made country on earth. To that end, we believe that this way moves forward, not by standing up against others, fighting for our principles or values to be imposed on others, or seeking the power of political rule to bring our country back to God, but rather by becoming the servant of all mankind so as to express and extend the grace and love of God and then inviting others into this “alternative country.”. It is a perspective that is not about “Christianizing” countries, but rather inviting all races, ethnicities, and citizens of the world to relinquish their inferior allegiances and inferior value systems, and enter into the transcendent ways of mercy and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, and unconditional love of all.

The two perspectives could not be any different.

One moves forward in hopes of redeeming and restoring man-made governments and political systems, while the other understands that all man-made governments and political systems (no matter how well-intentioned) are built upon values and principles that will always be antithetical to the ways of Jesus.

One is built upon power, force, and law, while the other is built upon meekness, peace with all, love of friend and enemy, and the gentle ways of the Spirit.

One works to legislate morality through political means, which never changes a person’s heart, while the other moves forward humbly in grace and forgiveness, serving and demonstrating the love of God through example and relationship, changing hearts in the process.

One takes a very vocal approach that stands up for that which they believe to win the argument, while the other remains silently powerless in truth, even in the face of accusation and persecution, because the argument-battle does not have to be won.

One has a conditional view on which lives matter, babies in the womb, and which lives do not matter, enemies foreign and domestic, while the other views all life as God-given and worth saving.

One seeks retaliation and justice against aggressors and enemies through capital punishment and war, while the other will go down every peaceful path in love and forgiveness in the hope that tomorrow he or she will be a changed person.

One uses Scripture selectively, and out of context, to support a hybrid Judeo-Christian patriotism, while the other seeks to only pursue the way, life, and teachings of Jesus.

One is bent on judging the sins of special sin groups of the world, while the other extends a welcoming and loving embrace to every person in the world and humbly walks alongside them demonstrating and teaching the best and highest ways of Jesus.

One lives in fear of anything or anyone that threatens their vision of their country, while the other is never threatened or fearful because the country in which we are citizens, the Kingdom of God, will never fall and will always prevail, even when faced with violence or death.

One is perpetually unhappy and angry when cities, states, countries, and governments move away from their Judeo-Christian ethic, while the other finds happiness, joy, and peace in any worldly form of government, whether it be a republic, democracy, authoritarian state, communist state, or even in the midst of suffering under horrible governmental oppression.

Granted, these are big brushstrokes of the two perspectives, but is generally indicative of how both perspectives are so distinct and different.

If the whole point of being a Christian is to model the life of Jesus while he was here on earth, isn’t it crazy that one of the perspectives almost goes out of it’s way to not look or act like the example of Jesus at all?  As if Jesus is only good for saving people’s souls, but not having any bearing on what we think or how we live our lives or what we put our hope, faith, and trust in.  The entire life of Jesus, not the least of which was his sermon on the mount, centered around the ethic of how his followers should live and conduct their lives and daily affairs.  To me, it is utterly confounding and perplexing and sad how a large portion of American Christianity has lost the Christ.

One is in pursuit of an abstract “God” in which nationalistic and patriotic values and characteristics have been cut-and-pasted onto that “god,” while the other recognizes that the values and characteristics of God have been fully demonstrated in the life of Jesus. One perspective pursues a god that has been made in a powerful, retributive, violent, and tribal image, while the other perspective seeks to become the image bearers of God, which looks exactly like Jesus.

This is the reason why many Christians in the United States are more comfortable talking about God than Jesus. When one creates an abstract god made in our image, one can cut-and-paste any value and belief system onto that god without having to account for any of the specifics. That god simply becomes a projection or expression of the people who have created it. That god has the same values and principles as the sinful and broken people who have constructed it. And that is precisely why I have no interest in our country “turning back to God.” Because the god to which this perspective wants us to turn back… doesn’t look like Jesus at all.

I would rather invite every person in our country to follow the way, life, and teachings of Jesus, because that is where real life and true freedom are found.

What do you say?  Let the civil conversation begin.

Next week I will be asking the question, “Was Jesus a Repuplican or Democrat?

26 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Want America to Come Back to God…

  1. Everything about this touches me. The first few paragraphs eloquently put int words what is in my heart. The rest of it challenges me to live this way, so contrary to everything around me. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Although I do not come from America nor visited it, it is great to see a challenge to many people’s viewpoints. A Kingdom focus should be looking more towards the victims of power rather than looking towards those that have the power. What’s more important? To make a country have more Christian values politically (values which would of course be your perception of ‘Christian values’), or to be with the poor, the lost, and the hurting?

    Note: Not suggesting we do not love everyone with open arms, but just making a point on the concept of making a country regain a sense of Christianity in its values.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Brandon, for an intelligent and eloquent essay. I am moved to tears. I have had such a difficult time aligning my faith with the rhetoric of the religious right….so much so that I began to believe my relationship with and understanding of Jesus and his message was naive or misguided. Thank you so very much for giving me affirmation of what I know in my heart to be true. I wonder how many other Christians feel this way, too?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will admit I was actually drawn to this post because of the title, and skeptical of what Ideas might be presented… But you have revealed the very nationalistic characteristics that are deeply embedded in our perspective on government that were actually the same as those colonial patriots who founded our country (identified in the first amendment). Our founding fathers recognised we needed to be led by self-government, and ‘transformed by the renewing of our mind’. While many of the original signers of the Declaration were clergy or otherwise religiously associated, thier political affairs kept their focus on the tasks at hand.

    I definitely appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for Christians, while permitted to be patriotic about their nation of temporal presence, they should be primarily focused on their allegiance to their not only ruling King, but loving, intimate Father. Definitely seems stabilizing to look to the source of peace to remove the strife about what we all seem to ultimately still want, and what America has always provided: Freedom, and Liberty.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thoughtful contributions to a sticky and controversial topic. You’ve given me some food for thought. May I return the favor?
    I agree that government and politics is not the cure for what ailes ours or any nation. Only the gospel can change hearts. But here are some counter perspectives I’d like to add to the discussion. I’ll limit it to three.
    1. It seems your premise is based on the philosophy that God is only judge of nations He established. So if a nation is not a “Christian” nation it need not answer to Jehovah and its Christian citizens need not bother themselves with defending Christian morals. While it may be argued that the United States of America was not Divinely established as Israel was, yet is not Jehovah the Judfe of all the earth? We too will be under the judgment of God just as Edom, Moab, Assyria and Egypt were in the Old Testament. In fact the Old Testament is full of warnings given to non Jewish nations, many of which were delivered by Jews (e.g. Jonah, Nahum, Isaiah, Daniel) If God gave messages to Old Testament prophets of Israel about nations outside their dominion, would He not have American disciples give similar warnings to our own people concerning the same sins.
    2. A second assumption I hear is that government is a human institution while the church is a divine institution. However, Biblically speaking, government is also a divine institution. Daniel makes it clear to Nebuchadnezzar that Jehovah had elevated him to king and granted him power. (Daniel 2:36-45) This means God has a vested interest in every government. You make a great point which fits here. That “the Kingdom of God, will never fall and will always prevail, even when faced with violence or death.”
    3. Your philosophy of Law is that it should not legislate morality. Bit most laws do not legislate morality. They do legislate immorality. That is, they do not require us to do good, they restrict us from doing evil, such as murder, rape and theft. The sticking point is defining what immorality is: whether it is relative to the individual or objective and truth-based.
    Please forgive me if I’ve misrepresented what you believe. That’s the nature of iron sharpening iron. It takes many strokes to sharpen ourselves against others.
    Blessings Brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks pastor for the comment and the spirit by which you conveyed it. I really appreciate it.

      I am going to answer your questions differently than you asked them. About 10 years ago I had the same perspective as you, and I would have answered in the same way you answered. Around that time I was blind-sided by the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It was the primary message of Jesus and that which he was calling people of all nationalities, ethnicities, socio-economic strata, ethnicities, etc. We are citizens of a new “country” that is governed by Jesus and the values of this new country are exactly as what was demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus. To that end, our preoccupation is not about trying to “Christianize” countries, governments, or any other institutions but rather invite others to enter into the way of Jesus and his kingdom life.

      That is but a cursory overview of my perspective, but if you have further questions or if you need scripture references I will be happy to help.

      A couple of books that completely changed my mind and my heart on the issue of Christianity, politics, and government were Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd and The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy. One further book that really digs in academically is The Reign of God by Mortimer Arias. Each of the three books is in my top five books of all-time.

      Thanks brother,

      Brandon

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks again Brandon. I think we are both after the same goal of increasing the Kingdom of God. I enthusiastically agree that we need to live out the gospel in its kingdom principles. I’m not real sure how this is antithetical to “Christianizing nations.” I’ve encountered the phrase “Christianizing nations” elsewhere but I’m not sure what that entails nor can I think of an example. If it means exposing them to the righteousness of the Kingdom through the first witness of the law I’m in favor. The law is a first witness to the gospel. Through the law we are shown our sinfulness. See Romans 7.
        If it means entering another people group and leading them to Christ, I’m in favor of that too on the basis of the Great commission of our Lord.
        If you mean something different by the term “Christianizing nations could you please clarify?

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  6. Hi Brandon, I just recently began to write along these lines, and you have articulated some powerful ideas very well. I understand why you added the preamble relating to civil discourse, because Christian political rhetoric is so emotionally charged and intertwined with patriotism, exaltation of the military, etc. I also read Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation” a few years ago and find it difficult to convey to other believers – even mature believers – that Christianizing nations is not our calling in Christ, but rather faithfully living our the precepts of the Kingdom laid down by Jesus. I’ll read over more of your site as I have time, always in need of sharpening and clarifying my own perspective. Thanks again! God bless…

    Don

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! You are pulling no punches! I agree about the civil dialog, and listening! I too am a Christ follower, as you may have gathered from my blog. But, I do disagree with some of your points. But, I do so respectfully. Then again, I wholeheartedly agree that we should all be inviting EVERYONE into the kingdom of God! That we can agree on completely!!
    Thanks so much for the follow, and the respectful presentation of your views.
    Melinda

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your message is a good one — one that needs to be heard and understood in America. Thank you, and thanks for following my blog.

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  9. How many yesses can I write to this post? Yes. Yes. And yes. My thoughts exactly. (Except I always add the perplexing question of why so many Christians are unconcerned with the suffering of animals and creation). I will be sharing this a lot. I’m thankful to not live in the US anymore, but even watching it from afar is like watching a very strange cartoon. This is a brilliant piece of writing. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well thank you VERY MUCH. Yeah, it is like a very strange cartoon, as you say, and getting worse I am afraid. I suppose that creates many opportunities for the Kingdom within that, though. I really agree with your sentiments about animal and creation care. I am not sure if you are familiar with Dr. Matthew Sleeth with Blessed Earth but I am interviewing him this week for my podcast. His book Serve God, Save the Planet is essential reading. Thanks again for reading and the kind words! Peace… Brandon

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh wow, no, I hadn’t heard of him, but I will look him up now. I will look forward to that podcast! I’m a big fan of Andrew Linzey who is considered the foremost animal theologian. He’s in the UK. ‘Christianity & the Rights of Animals’ is one of the best books I’ve ever read. He’s a pioneer.

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  10. Very well written and some great points except that how you painted Christians was mostly unrecognizable to some of us Christians.
    It is wrong for any of us to lump all of a particular group together in a derogatory description, Muslims, Blacks, Christians… it is not right to judge an entire group by some extremists. This article sounds a bit like that to me.
    Yes it was very eloquent.
    But a true picture of an entire group of people… I respectfully disagree.
    Thanks for welcoming open dialogue.

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    1. Thanks Donna for reading and for the comment. I reread my post and I am not seeing what you see. I used words or phrases like “there are those who believe” and “some” and “big brush strokes” and “generally.” I really feel like I went out of my way to say that this is a group within Christianity as a whole. However, we, as Christians, OUGHT TO BE a homogenous group who look like Jesus and his Kingdom. And to the extent that there are those groups who are not pursuing one King, one Kingdom… I will continue to lay out the differences between the two… and invite them in. Thanks again Donna…

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  11. This is a very good point of view. I strongly encourage the people to live their lives as Jesus Christ demonstrated. After all, that’s what the meaning of the word “Christian” is, to live “like Christ” so we may be beacons for Him as He works in us and through us in our daily lives. When people see that there is something different about us (because Christ is our Lord and Savior, our Teacher and our friend and we have comfort and peace in that) they want that. Jesus Christ wants them to come to us and ask us what it is that is different and we get to say, “I have Jesus Christ in my life.” That gives us the opportunity to tell them about the Gospel, about Christ, who He really is and how He lived, died by sacrificing His life for us as the Perfect Lamb and rose from the grave to defeat death all for us. All because of His love for us. It is because of being that beacon for Christ that I believe that America does need to come back to God both within the government and within the populace as well. If America was to come back to God we would be able to do so much more for people and other countries around the world because God would be able to work through our government to do so many wonderful things. This country would receive blessings beyond belief. Other countries, governments and people would see that and want that. The meaning of the word “Holy” in the Bible means “to be separate, set apart from, to be different than”. It’s not only up to the people alone to be Holy just as Christ is Holy, but the government as well. The government and country as a whole needs to be separate from, set apart from, different than any other country. When other countries/governments see that we are different than all the other countries, that we can do all these amazing things and are receiving all these blessings, eventually they will come and ask what it is that makes us different and we can say, “All these things that you see are because of the the Glory of God, the Christ like love we have for the people of the world and because Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior.” Both the government and the populace, America as a whole should be a beacon for Christ throughout the world so that God can work through our country to reach out to others. Granted He doesn’t need us to do that but the awesome thing that we don’t want to see is that He wants to use us. He wants to use our hands just as a father wants to do a project or an activity with his child(ren). Unfortunately less than 4% of Americans actually see this and unfortunately it’s going to get much worse as time goes on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I made a mistake in there. I meant to say the awesome thing is that God wants to use us, to be his instruments of His Glory. The other thing is we need to bring people back to knowing who the true God is by addressing Him by name. His name is Yahweh.

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  12. I am wary of laws based in religion that are enacted to modify people’s behavior. What people fail to remember is that the nations we have been fighting since I was a teenager (and I’m now in my early 30’s) have a lot of laws that fall under this category. Their governments are ruled by religion and in essence, they are oppressive to everyone, but especially those who fall outside of what’s considered “normal” or “okay” by that religion. Yes, their religion is different than ours, but, I believe that all radical religions look the same. They seek to divide and conquer, promote an us vs. them mentality, and they seek to destroy or make lives harder for those that do not agree or live according to their precepts. I believe right-wing, radical, evangelical Christianity is an example of such a religion. I believe it is a more immediate threat to us than ISIS, and I feel it has no place in our government. I also believe that people who “want our nation to return to God” don’t really know what they are wishing for. The 1950s is not a time in US History that I want to go back to. As a woman, I wouldn’t have had any rights and as a woman with an autism spectrum disorder, I likely would have been institutionalized. Nowadays we have protections for various minority groups and there are more opportunities for people to succeed. I feel the US has become a more welcoming place for more people, and there are people that feel threatened and forgotten by that.

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