This is something that I have been thinking of for some time. As a relatively new christian, I have always had somewhat of a patriotic background. All of my grandfathers were in the military, my uncle, and father are firefighters, and my father and brother are police officers, so the term hero has a lot of meaning for me. We always celebrated Memorial Day and the 4th of July as proud Americans and are always thankful for our freedom and independence. So what I am about to say, just take it with a grain of salt, and truly listen what I am trying to convey.
American is not God, and God is not America, and it has never been that way. For the past year, I have looked back to all the churches I have attended, and noticed a trend of seeing an American flag on the stage. What does an American flag have to do with a worship service to the creator of our lives, the universe, and every other man-divided country out there including:
Canada, Brazil, Russia, Japan, China, Vietnam, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Venezuela, Chile, Mongolia, Paraguay, Mexico, Panama, Lithuania, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Argentina, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Greenland, Iceland, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Wales, Israel, Greece, Italy, Thailand, etc. etc. etc……..
So tell me, in a land where Christianity wasn’t even originated, what does America have to do with worshiping God, and why is it a part of our church service, besides the fact that we are in the country. Is there a danger for Christians, who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, in putting too much hope in, or having too much affection for, any earthly kingdom?
God is universal. He is in all countries, everywhere. He is omnipotent, and omnipresent. So why do we set America apart in this. If God is universal, then our worship to him should be universal. So here is my problem that I have been facing: If God is apart of all of our countries, then why do we sing God Bless America in our services? Maybe asking God to bless us and our country yes, but does that not put the focus back on us when we should be praising him, and not just asking God to please a piece of land that our government has set apart from other counties?
The American Pledge of Allegiance. I have been to several Christian church services that say the Pledge of Allegiance. An oath pledging our love an affection for the country we live in, forced to be said in our public schools, and said for a severe reverence.
This one is probably my biggest problem I struggle with, and I will let you in on a secret: I don’t say it. I do not say the american pledge of allegiance. Many of you may have just had a moment of thinking that I am just either crazy, radical, or ungrateful, but stay with me and hear what I am about to say. Jesus directly and without any qualifiers condemns making an oath to anything for any reason.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)
Jesus is telling us here not to make an oath, or that word can be used as a pledge, to anything. You might be saying to yourself that the pledge has the phrase “under God” in it, and we need to keep in mind that America was separated from that when they created the separation of church and state, and also keep in mind that the phrase was added to the pledge in the 50’s.
Another point to make is what happens when you make an oath, or a pledge. The dictionary definition says: to commit (a person or organization) by a solemn promise. This bring to my mind what Jesus talks about in the next chapter of Matthew about serving two masters. While this verse talks in the context of serving God and money with the reference of treasures in heaven, the parallel that Jesus gives between serving God, and serving something that takes our focus off of God is very similar, and something that we can learn from.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Please don’t take this as me coming off ungrateful for the freedom that I have in America. God has granted us freedom in Christ and America is a great country to pursue my dreams. However, I know that America is temporary. One day, the nations will fail, but I have my faith in God. If America wasn’t here, it wouldn’t be in the end God will not fail.
Christian’s have a tendency to expect the freedom of worshiping God in America. The first amendment of the constitution grants Americans the freedom of worshiping any religion we so choose, but the bible tells us something very different. We aren’t promised by the bible that the world will give us this freedom.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. – John 15:18-20
Jesus tells us that the world will hate us. So why should we expect the freedom from persecution?
Christianity is not an American religion though, that is the thing! Jesus was not American, and the bible takes place in the middle east mostly. So why do we make America such a big part of our Christianity?
Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. Be grateful for your life in the United States, but know that Jesus wasn’t an American, and we shouldn’t be worshiping, idolizing or expecting America to be Christian. My allegiance to God is bigger than my allegiance to America.
God has given us a great opportunity to minister to the citizens of the United States. He tells us to be lights to the world, but not of the world. So in this time of celebration of our country’s independence, celebrate the freedom in Christ that God has given us, and celebrate our savior of the world as well.
If you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. This is just one man’s opinion. Comment your thoughts below! Thanks!