I have to admit, one of the attitudes that frightens me most in the American church is nationalism. Not all nationalism is wrong. As some have pointed out, nationalism can be closely related to gratitude, which is a positive trait. Yet, like many passions, it can easily lead us into dangerous territory.
For example, I’ve observed something interesting when singing groups perform at Christian events. I’ve seen the same thing at so-called progressive events and those considered conservative. I’ve seen it in groups of young people and in groups where I was one of the young ones there. You’ve probably seen it as well. The group performs to an appreciative crowd, getting loving approval as they sing old hymns or modern praise songs (depending on the audience). Then they sing one song that brings everyone to their feet, yelling and cheering. Which song? “God Bless The U.S.A.”
We’ll applaud politely if you praise God. We’ll cheer raucously if you praise the U.S.A.
I’ve seen it in the visceral reaction I get when I touch certain topics. Suggest that Christians be cautious about participating in politics, and you’ll get a vigorous backlash. Question whether Christians should join the military, and you might get asked to leave the church! Point out sinful actions over the course of U.S. history, and people will suggest you move to another country.
Preachers take the command to pray for all leaders (1 Timothy 2:2) and tweak it to be “pray for our leaders,” meaning U.S. authorities. Suggest that we should pray for Donald Trump, and you’ll get an enthusiastic thumbs up. Encourage people to pray for Kim Jong-un or Valdimir Putin, and few will be interested.
I’m admittedly afraid of the role of any and every nation in our Christian life. I believe they all end up being rivals to God. They ask for allegiance, wanting to hold a role of lordship in our lives. They would tell us who to hate and who to love, who to protect and who to kill. They would take our children to use as soldiers for furthering the purposes of this earthly nation… even when those purposes go against the good of God’s Kingdom. They want us to define ourselves as earthly citizens first and heavenly citizens second (or preferably, not at all!).
If my writing all this makes you mad, well, that kind of proves my point doesn’t it? If it merely makes you concerned, wanting to gently correct my error… please do so. I want to grow and learn in this and every area.