Editors note– this is a post from one of my old sites. It was written the summer of 2002, but I think it is good enough for today. Enjoy…..
July 4th, it’s a wonderful day. Fireworks, barbeque, and beer come together to celebrate our nation and its unique “heritage.” Yet as I grow older, I find myself more disturbed by our celebrations, especially amongst those of us in the church. Don’t get me wrong I love my country. My great, great, great uncle and others fought in the Civil War (I’ve looked at the records), my grandfather WWII my father (due to the lucky fact that he worked for the government) served in guard (unlike our sitting president, he did serve and he did show up for duty) and many others in my family have served their country in smaller wars. I, myself, on more than one occasion have considered service a valid option for my life. I love my country. This morning during the worship service, I prayed for my country. I prayed for my President, and my Senate, and my Congress and my government. This weekend I have kept a prayer on my heart for our boys in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Serbia, and wherever they might be doing the “dirty” work that none of us wants to be a part, much less know about.
I love my country. It kills me to hear the utter nonsense of Micheal Moore and his kind that seem to hate their country so much. Much more I have a message for Al-Zawabi and all their kind that hate us more. Stop murdering our boys, you’re just pissing us off. It must take a brave man to behead a bound and gagged man. The more you kill, the more I long for Bush to stay in office and wipe the earth of you. Never piss off a man so unafraid of unilateral action. It scares even me what Ashcroft and Rumsfield are capable of, but you keep killing and we will keep them around to knock your block off.
Yet there is one thing that scares me more: the actions of the church over the past 10 to 20 years. In the church (I speak of the mostly white, evangelical community of which I am a part), we have hitched our wagon to God and country or more to the point to the Republican Party and country. We have done the thing that we so fought against the “liberals” doing at the turn of the previous century. We have so fixed our eyes on the political world that we have lost sight of the spiritual world. Granted I am not a “fundie” calling for a church that is so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good. I am simply asking for us to walk in this world but never forget who’s we are. And to what country really belong to.
There has been much turmoil in evangelical circles over the possible removal of the words “under God” from the pledge; or about students being suspended over wearing crosses; or in my neck of the woods, the display of the 10 Commandments in public rotunda in the capitol. The fact of the matter is that this country never was and never will be a “country under God.” The fact is that although many great leaders have expressed and governed by Christian principles, this is not a Christian nation. It never has been and never should be. There never will be a “country under God” until that great and awesome day that the skies split open, the trumpet sounds, and the Lord of Hosts calls His people unto himself and establishes His land and His people in His kingdom. Then and only then will there be a “Christian” nation.
Now I am not one that calls for a naked, public square. I believe strongly in the First Amendment, I believe in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion but freedom of religion. I believe in a land where Muslim, Jew, and Christian could stand side-by-side and each could express his or her feelings freely and proudly. That is what makes America great and that is what makes us different from the Taliban and Al-Qaida and the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan and all those that insist in a homogenous nation. I am for a public marketplace, a great marketplace of ideas to quote Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes. Freedom to say what you feel and be what you what. That is why I believe America to be the best example of what a nation should be. That is why I am proud to be a American even as the rest of the world laughs at our weaknesses and failures. I am proud of our country because when the chips are down and the world needs heroes to combat the worst the world has to offer, we have a way of standing up to the test. Just ask the men that died in far-off places and not so far-off places.
Last October, I found myself at a conference with a giant of a man of service blubbering over my shoulder as he prayed and dedicated his life to the service of a cause greater than country or any individual. This man that sweated blood for the country of America was re-dedicating himself to a Kingdom that cannot be seen with human eyes. Songwriter Rich Mullins penned these words:
“Nobody tells you when you get born here / how much you’ll come to love it / and how you’ll never belong / so I’ll call you my country / and still lonely for my home / and I wish that I could take you there with me…”
The Kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of heaven. Two things, never to be confused with one another, though it is so hard not to do so. One is passing and one is eternal. One has existed for centuries and another for millenia. History tells us that one will one down fall to the vices and troublemakers within its shores. One will be there to watch and mourn the passing of such a great country that did so much right. History tells us that much as well. One is a temporary land, a place of testing and trial, and place where the chaff is separated from the wheat. And one is home. One is land of sojourn, and one is the destination. In a letter written in the early centuries of the Church, Diogentes had this to say about Christians and their lands:
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking18 method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.19 They have a common table, but not a common bed.20 They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.21 They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.22 They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.23 They are poor, yet make many rich;24 they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless;25 they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word-what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.26 The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it,27 though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves28 that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers29 of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling30 in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number.31 God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.”
Hear also, the words of John the Baptizer, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Hear the words of John the oracle of Patmos, “the Spirit and the Bride say come, let he who has ears to hear, hear these words and understand.” The Kingdom of God has come and is yet to come. Let’s celebrate that magnificent promise and as we do so let’s celebrate this land that God has given us. A land in which we have found some measure of peace of earth. May God bless America, but more importantly let us pray that God bless the work of Hos Kingdom in this world. And may God come quickly to establish His Reign on earth.