When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they...
“United We Stand.” The post-9/11 mantra was a moving and symbolic gesture. But it was fleeting. I’m not sure the nation-wide sentiment lasted even two years before retreating into the oblivion inhabited by other long-abandoned automobile decorations like “Baby On Board,” suction-footed Garfield, and Kilroy.
As noble a cause as our nation is, the rapid evaporation of patriotism only serves to demonstrate these truths: the fallenness of humanity, and temporariness of the target of worship (the USA). Please don’t misunderstand me; I am so grateful to have grown up in the United States, and I get very sappy at parades and patriotic events. But I’ve been pondering so many life lessons lately that have been generated from my observations of patriotism, politics, and the Christian church.
First, it seems, at least for Evangelicals, that to be Christian in America is to be patriotic. But I don’t see that in the Bible. There is nothing wrong with patriotism, but there has been a major movement to “prove” that our nation was Christian from the beginning, and that’s the way it should be today. But it’s not really about a “Christian nation,” now is it? It’s about disciples in strategic places. The danger comes when our country is an idol in and of itself.
Second, we live in a nation that has spent the last two hundred years working so hard to be inclusive that it no longer has any identity whatsoever. This is evident currently with regard to the heated immigration and national-language debates. What other country has the problem of restaurant owners getting in trouble with the law for insisting that customers order using the national language? The essence of being French, for example, is living in France and speaking… French. The essence of being Canadian is living in Canada and speaking… French. Just joking, eh. Regardless of the arguments, the underlying issue is that Americans have freed themselves from so many bonds, that they aren’t even “Americans” as a unified group anymore. Being American means no one can impose a definition of being American upon you. Yeah, that’s really helpful.
Finally, by extension, the church in America struggles precisely because people don’t want to be identified with groups much anymore, especially groups with expectations. It’s territory much more foreign to them than Europe or Asia. So, the church in America tends to place no expectations on people. It has taught attendees that one can be a Christian without being a disciple. Patriotism is optional. Discipleship is optional. Taxes… are not optional. No wonder Americans are so confused.
I’m truly not trying to depress you on this holiday. I really want American unity. But this dose of reality makes the calling of believers stand out brightly, more so than the fireworks you’ll see tonight. United we stand… with one call, to serve Him in all of life, for we are His disciples. United we stand… with many gifts… in unity, not uniformity. United we stand… against an enemy worse than terrorism. United we stand… declaring our dependence upon Christ who makes us truly free.