Friday, October 19, 2007

"How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him ..." I Kings 18:21

Dr. Gregory A. Boyd told of attending a Fourth of July worship service held at one American mega church. At center stage stood a cross and a huge American flag. After singing praise choruses and patriotic songs, a video was shown.

"The video closed with a scene of a silhouette of three crosses on a hill with an American flag waving in the back-ground. Majestic, patriotic music now thundered. Suddenly, four fighter jets appeared on the horizon, flew over the crosses, and then split apart. As they roared over the camera, the words "God Bless America" appeared on the screen in front of the crosses.

"The congregation responded with roaring applause, cat-calls, and a standing ovation. I saw several people wiping tears from their eyes. Indeed, as I remained frozen in my seat, I grew teary-eyed as well—but for entirely different reasons. I was struck with horrified grief.

"Thoughts raced through my mind: How could the cross and the sword have been so thoroughly fused without anyone seeming to notice? How could Jesus’ self-sacrificial death be linked with flying killing machines? How could Jesus’ people applaud tragic violence, regardless of why it happened and regardless of how they might benefit from its outcome? How could the kingdom of God be reduced to this sort of violent, nationalistic tribalism?" [From The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005, page 88.]

A foreign-exchange student from Finland, attending one South Carolina congregation's patriotic service, could only be confused about the true meaning of the Gospel. Amid militaristic flag-waving, the unintended message she received was that Christianity is the exclusive religion of America.

A musician at an Upcountry, SC church respectfully requested that he not be required to sing a hymn that glorified war and military conquest. That brother was asked to go.

At another self-proclaimed "Bible-believing" church in the SC Midlands, a family was told to leave when they declined to pledge allegiance to the US flag.

Has America become our god? What must the Creator of the universe think of such idolatry?

In their promotion of "civil religion," too many American Christians seem to assume that the Prince of Peace waves the Star Spangled Banner, as they confuse God with Uncle Sam. What can this be called except blasphemy!

"You shall have no other Gods before Me," proclaims the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3). Have we forgotten that, as Christians, our true citizenship is in heaven? (Philippians 3:20). Jesus said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations," (Mark 11:17) not just our own.

Individual Christians will always hold a variety of views. What we may not do is use the Savior's church to promote that which is secondary and secular. The cause of Christ is superior to all allegiances—even of loyalty to country—and we dare not erect barriers based on our own prejudices. All—regardless of nationality or political opinion—must be welcome in God's house and invited to enter His Kingdom.

The Church of Jesus Christ has a creed that has nothing to do with opinions or patriotism, and a commission to be about her Master's business, not Caesar's. Just as politics has no place in the pulpit, patriotic songs and symbols too must be left at the door.

The flag of the United States, like the banner of every other country, symbolizes that which is passing and perishable, and has no legitimate place in a Christian sanctuary.

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