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Trivializing God into a god-of-my-nation

Greetings All,
As I was on vacation last week it gave me a little more time to read and listen to things I don't usually spend time reading or listening to (like newspapers and talk radio)!

Yet as I did, one thing bothered me. It was the way people politicized Christianity or made God to be the advocate of their particular position, and, of course, by the implied contrast, the opponent of those who disagreed with them (be they people coming from the right or the left). And, yes, I know it's nothing new, but it is always dangerous - both to our own personal spiritual health as well as the unity of Christ's church.

Thus I offer this "thought" as a corrective (coming as I do from the position that the Gospel is far too radical to be held captive by any political party or persuasion, and that the Kingdom of God "is not of this world" and therefore far too glorious, divine and spiritual in nature to even be faintly equated with any earthly kingdom).

Having said that, I know this thought won't be popular. I won't get people writing back and telling me how much it helped them. But that's ok, because it still needs to be said! It comes once again from Donald McCullough's superb book, "The Trivialization of God - The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity." It isn't meant to inspire, but challange and get you to think. If looked at in that sense I trust it will not disappoint you! Enjoy!

"The oxygen in the bloodstream of the religion devoted to the god-of-my-nation is the myth of a Christian America. How often have we heard exhortations to get this country back to its Christian roots? ...

As with any powerful myth, truth and error comingle here. The colonists who first settled along the eastern shore of North America in the seventeenth century were Puritans convinced of their divinely appointed mission... But by the time of the American Revolution and the establishment of our nation (our official beginning) things had changed dramatically. Thomas Jefferson, the greatest of our "Founding Fathers," was more Deist than Christian... A comparative statistic may set things in perspective: today 62 percent of Americans are involved in a church, but in 1776, only 17 percent were involved. Who would want to take America back to those roots?...

A few years ago, Self magazine polled its readers to determine the most popular personal public heros. Jesus made the list, to be sure, but came in behind Mother Teresa, George Bush, Madonna, Norman Schwartzkopf, and Cher -- tying with Desert Storm Troops and Julia Roberts!... Only 13 percent of Americans believe all the Ten Commandments were binding. The evidence simply does not support the view that we are a "Christian Nation"..."

(It's also necessary, he says, to note the soaring rates for violent crime, infant mortality, homelessness, divorce, abortion, and racism).

"Whatever else we might say about America, we certainly cannot say it is a nation perfectly attuned to the will of a holy God! It never has been.

It's remarkable, therefore, how many seem to enwrap God in a red, white and blue bunting, (and) how many seem convinced that, of all the nations of the world, this is God's most beloved. What's good for America, many seem to believe, must be good for God; there seems little practical difference, for many sincere Christians, between the Kingdom of God and the United States of America.

Do I exaggerate? Let me propose a test: remove from your sanctuary the Christian flag and watch whether anyone even notices; then remove the U.S. flag and watch how quickly your hide gets nailed to the wall. I did this (after 12 years of working up the courage!), and not one person mentioned the loss of the Christian flag. But at the next meeting of elders, we had a pretty heated discussion about the absence of Old Glory. "What happened to the flag?" one elder demanded to know. I explained I had moved it to the narthex, the symbolic border, as it were, between the world and the church, and I reminded them that we are not the Rotary Club but part of a church that pledges allegiance to a very different Commonwealth. They decided they could live with it in the narthex, but had I tried to remove it from the church grounds altogether, they might have decided they could live without me.

Truth is, many in the American church are Americans first and Christians second. They have never consciously prioritized these loyalties, though, because it has never occurred to them there may be a difference, let alone a conflict, between the two. But when American patriotism is blended with Christian spirituality, the former will always bully the latter. Patriotism, if it's anything more than sentimentalism, leads inevitably to politics. And politics has a concrete immediacy: it regulates lives, reaches into pocketbooks, opens doors for some and closes them for others. This practicality exerts a powerful gravitational pull from which our Christian commitments separate us only with great difficulty. The consequent distortion of perspective shapes our view of God.

To put it bluntly, for most evangelicals God is a Republican and for most
mainline liberals God is a Democrat. During the last national election, one organization sent out a brochure announcing the "Christian" position on many issues. I was surprised to discover that God was in favor of limiting congressional terms and lowering taxes...

Both deities, the one who rides an elephant and the one who rides a donkey, are trivial gods too limited by narrow interests to do anything but create a psuedo-religious atmosphere that, however handy for political huckstering, has no power to save a nation, let alone a single individual. The holy God of the Bible neither adds a basso profundo to "God Bless America," nor joins the raucous rendering of "Happy Days Are Here Again." The holy God of the Bible has set apart only one nation -- Israel -- and that to be a "light to the nations," witnessing in its history to both the grace and the judgment of God...

Do not misunderstand me. I am grateful for the ways God has blessed America, and I believe we should express our citizenship by helping to order society according to the will of God as we understand it. But letting God define political commitments is one thing; letting political commitments define God is entirely something else. Unfortunately, the powerful pull of politics too often trivializes God into a god-of-my-nation, unable to do much more than offer a misty-eyed sentimentalism."

Just food for thought, sent with the desire that we might all avoid the error of making our majestic and holy God into a "god-of-my-particular-political-agenda."

For the Glory of His name, Pastor Jeff