The New Religions: America
I grew up in Small Town, America.
We said the pledge of allegiance and a prayer every day before we started school. I loved America and what it stood for, and I still do. When I went to college and majored in History, I began to wrestle with some of the uncomfortable truths about this great country, and I started to have my doubts.
But then, I moved overseas and lived in several different developing countries. After years of dealing with corruption, state oppression, and even atrocities, my perspective came into balance.
America is not perfect. But it is Good.
Patriotism is healthy but only when balanced with truth and repentance.
The American dream is a trap to the Christian, which distracts them from their true purpose by offering the promise of comfort instead of vision.
So, I made a decision. I will love my country, but I must reject some of its precepts. Such as the American Dream. Instead of seeking comfort for myself and my family, We make sacrifices to provide hope to the hopeless. We deny ourselves the job and prestige that America promises to invest our lives into people and see eternal fruit. We will never regret these decisions, but it has made things awkward when we return to America every few years. I sometimes question if American Christians are following the same God that I know.
I don't understand patriotic worship services. I find them repulsive. I love America, but under no circumstance is it worthy of my worship. I will not sing patriotic songs in a context where we should focus on the eternal redeemer. When the church joins Christian devotion and patriotism/nationalism, it creates a dangerous juxtaposition. Historically speaking, this has always ended in disaster.
How do we recognize if we have unknowingly lent our devotion to this New Religion?
Identity: The Land of the free and home of the brave: This is a great country. The people of America have helped many people throughout our history (we have also done some things we aren't proud of), but we must never overstate our significance or cover up our flaws. When we move from the humble love of our country to blind patriotism or nationalism, we have opened the door to idolatry.
Scriptures: Constitution & Bill of Rights, and the (un)healthy hope in "the American Dream." People who worship America talk more about the constitution and our government systems than they do the Bible. They have unnaturally joined the two into a theological Frankenstein's monster. These documents have proven useful and beneficial to us and other nations, but they serve no eternal purpose. Their worship is misguided.
Priests/Prophets: Politicians use religion; religion uses politics. The cycle goes on and on. Pastors peddle patriotism from the pulpit to stir emotions in people, emotions and devotion reserved for God alone. But they join the two and promote God and country, and neither gets the proper treatment.
Proselytizing: American Nationalists preach their "gospel" in churches and the town square. But we export it around the world as well. We have exported the American dream to the nations through TV and movies. We have become experts at exporting the ugliest side of our culture and called it art and entertainment.
Motto: America is the solution to your problems. For American Nationalists, they see the ideology of America as the solution to social ills. If you were just to do it our way, you won't have poverty, corruption, oppression, etc. They fail to mention that, though America has made strides in several areas, yet they have not eradicated these problems.
Democracy and freedom can open many doors, but it can not overcome the problem of sin. It can level the playing field and give the marginalized a voice, but it can not make people love their neighbors. Even when functioning as the founding fathers intended, America has its limitations.
What do the Scriptures say? Absolutely nothing. America is not in the Bible. It's not in the book of Revelation or the Old Testament prophets.
America is not the savior of the world! That position is already taken.
That being said, If you are an American, God allowed you to be born and raised there for a reason. Whether you recognize it or not, you were born into great privilege (compared to the rest of the world): economic privilege, educational privilege, and freedom of expression.
Most Americans have never gone to bed hungry. They have not witnessed atrocities or been a witness to genocide.
So the pertinent question is, what do we do with our privilege? Do we use it to make ourselves comfortable? Or do we share our blessings with others? Be proud of where you were born, be a patriot, but don't put your hope in a system that can not sustain you eternally. Recognize its limitations.
The Kingdom of God is the only system worthy of our full devotion.
It is a Kingdom built on sacrifice and love. The leader of the Kingdom of God is flawless; there are no scandals. No one is left behind: Racism is destroyed. Poverty is obsolete. Even pain is given purpose and is turned into victory.
Our Citizenship in the Kingdom of God is in its infancy. We see glimpses of His righteous reign in His church. But we will not know the fullness of the Kingdom of God until the time is complete and all things are made new.
Has your patriotism turned into idolatry?
Are your eyes on the eternal kingdom or an earthly one?
If you would like to read about the other New Religions, check it out below:
The New Religions: Gender
The New Religions: Race
The New Religions: Sexuality
But No One Compares to Jesus!
Also check out my book "Letters to an Apprentice" on Amazon