I’d like to take a moment and address a troubling refrain I’ve seen crop up lately in Christian social circles. The claim takes many forms, but the gist of it is this: America better turn back to Christ or it is doomed. Political commentator Matt Walsh wrote as much in his aptly titled column We are doomed as a nation — unless we turn back to God. I enjoy Mr. Walsh’s perspective on numerous things, but in this he is dead wrong. Let’s call his kind of thinking the Patriot Gospel.
Let me first say that I have fallen prey to this particular ideology for most of my adult life (and still find myself falling into its trap periodically). In America, if you’re a Christian, then naturally you’re a patriot. America wouldn’t exist without Christians, right? The same is almost true in reverse. If you are a real patriot, then you are also Christian. I see a younger self, believing these views, and must repent.
I repent for equating patriotism with Christianity. I repent for believing a healthy country to be more important than a healthy soul. I repent for trading a savior for a political party. I repent for striving toward ‘restoration’ of America rather than the restoration of relationship with God found in the Gospel.
American is a nation founded upon the philosophical principles that grew out of the Enlightenment period. Many of those principles, advocated by men like John Locke, David Hume, and Adam Smith, are direct results of Christian theology influencing the Western intellectual understanding of the relationship between God and mankind. Does that make America a ‘Christian nation’? Absolutely not. The truth is that America is not a Christian nation, nor has it ever been. Any attempts to claim it as such is idolatry. The only Christian ‘nation’ the world has ever known is the church, and the office of ‘President’ is not, nor will ever be, up for election.
And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way. – Ephesians 1:22-23 (HCSB)
The bait and switch occurs when we superimpose national identity over Christian theological principles. It is no wonder that the concept (not necessarily how it has been practiced) of separation of church and state figured so prominently in Enlightenment government philosophy.
As with any other idol our hearts create, attempts to place America on the same footing as our relationship with Christ will yield disastrous results.
The effects this ideology has on the heart of a Christian bring us a lot closer to leftist ideology than I was willing to admit for a long time. We attempt to transfer the exclusivity in God’s first commandment to anything we deem patriotic, establishing ‘sacred cows’ of our own in place of the cross.
Do not have other gods besides me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. – Exodus 20:3-4 (HCSB)
This kind of thinking leads down a distinctly fascist train of logic, resulting in extremist nationalism overriding a healthy view of national identity. Many other consequences abound when you begin replacing God. In a thought provoking article, Erick Erickson applies the pelagian heresy to leftist and alt-right ideologies and details how dangerous these views can be when combined with political action. As Erickson explains, the left’s opinions concerning gender and racial identity become the ultimate deciding factor in their worldview, to include citizenship. The Patriot Gospel advocate also excludes certain people from true citizenship status. If one doesn’t have a certain denominational affiliation, or doesn’t agree with prayer in school, or doesn’t pledge allegiance to a flag, or doesn’t cherish service members without question, or doesn’t agree with the concept of American exceptionalism, then one is no longer welcome in the cult of patriotism. At best they are shunned, but more likely they become targets for shame.
I say these things as a proud veteran and citizen of these United States, so don’t get confused here, I’m not bashing America. I love my country and the freedom it has provided my family, friends, and especially my children. I love it so much I would willingly serve again if called. Despite all of that, I am first a follower of Christ. I am a Christian American, not the other way around.
Do you view yourself as an American, or Texan, or Virginian first?
There is only room for one object of worship in our lives.
Do you want to make much of Jesus in order to make America great again, or just make much of Jesus?
May You be praised, Lord God of our father Israel, from eternity to eternity. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor come from You, and You are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in Your hand, and it is in Your hand to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we give You thanks and praise Your glorious name. – 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 (HCSB)