Friday, July 02, 2010

Avoiding July Fourth idolatry

Every Christian in the United States ought to read Bob Hyatt's article, "Be Careful What You Worship on July 4." Here's a rather long sample:
Tony Campolo puts it this way: “America may be the best Babylon the world has, but it is still Babylon nonetheless.”

We are exiles living in Babylon, folks. Our corner may be called “America,” or “Canada,” or “France,” but it’s still all a part of the same thing: a world system that transcends borders, is dominated by materialistic consumerism and exploitation, and is fundamentally opposed to the Kingdom of God. And while love and affection for the people living in that system is entirely necessary, and while we should certainly pray for the peace and well-being of the place where God has set us, we need to avoid the mistake we see over and over in Scripture: becoming so enamored with our temporary dwelling—whether that’s called Egypt, Babylon, or even America—that we lose sight of what Hebrews calls “a better place.”

I may carry an Oregon driver’s license, but I try hard to remember where my identity is really rooted. It’s rooted in Jesus, the One whose claims of Lordship will always challenge Caesar’s.

And that means that nationalism, in any degree, is misplaced affection. If Jesus really is our Peace who has broken down every dividing barrier between us, to celebrate the arbitrary lines and political distinctions which divide us is, in a sense, anti-gospel. Jesus expressed anger a number of times in the Gospels, but the most famous was when He saw what should have been “a house of prayer for all nations” turned into something else.
I used to worship with a congregation that sat on our glutes to sing hymns like "Holy, Holy, Holy," "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," and even "Stand Up for Jesus," yet rose to our feet during the singing of "My Country Tis of Thee" or "America." The priorities of that congregation, I think, were clear--and shameful.

My eight years in the U.S. military were a time when I literally offered my life for defense of my country--the land, the people, and the Constitution (though, to clarify, I was never called into combat). But as Jesus reminded us about our very own families, nothing--nation, cause, or kin--has a higher place in the life of a Christian than the Kingdom of God.


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