Blessed be the nation that gets what it wants, at the time of its choosing, and at whatever cost; and by this, you will know that this nation is uniquely blessed above all others. I fear that this is the sentiment that will inevitably be portrayed in obvious and in subtle ways this weekend in churches around the US. In fact, we are so defensive over our patriotism that this weekend tends to bring more emotion and more passion than most other weekends in the Church throughout the year. Is that passion and emotion warranted? There are a few questions I beg to ask. How can we look at the past injustices of our “glorious” founding, as Christians, and be so quick to defend America’s so-called “blessedness”? Why, as the Church in America, do we isolate ourselves in a way that we declare our superiority over image-bearing humanity in other parts of the world? Are we so much better? A few friends have shared this quote from Frederick Douglass recently that has truly convicted me to the core, and I pray that it affirms a sense of justice and humility in the Church.
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
You see, the great sin in America is to challenge the empire it has become, to question the “blessedness” upon which it stands. A moment of blunt honesty: as a Christian, I don’t understand pledging allegiance to the flag. Not least because it represents a shallow freedom that has thrived at the expense of many people. Yet also it beckons me to wonder how I can declare that Jesus is Lord and then give my allegiance to another nation. The way the Bible portrays the kingdom of God, the universal reign of the Creator, hardly looks like the way America ran things in the past and how it still operates. As the people of the crucified Messiah (who let evil do its worst to him and who sealed his victory over sin and injustice in his resurrection), our allegiance belongs to one kingdom and to one Lord. This King rules with justice, with mercy, and certainly in love. His victory was achieved not in human conquest, in arrogance, or military zeal, but in sacrifice and self-giving. If we are this King’s people, should we not reflect the same? Please understand, I write this not to cause controversy, but to think critically and more importantly, to listen to the voices of people who usually aren’t heard. Lastly, I’ll leave this with a beautiful piece of Scripture, showing who really is the entire world’s rightful Lord.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.'” ~Revelation 7:9-12
For the Frederick Douglass speech quoted above, check this link to find more information.