I returned to Canada, but in 1981 I married a lovely young woman from Missouri and all kinds of things changed. One of which was that since 1996 I have lived in the USA (and last year, on July 4, I became a dual citizen -- both Canadian and American. These past 10 years have been a real "eye-opener" for me. I discovered several things, that perhaps for Christians who have grown up in the USA seem natural.
- I discovered that America is a "Christian" nation. This came as a big surprise to me considering it's history of dealing with Native Americans, slavery, etc. I knew America was religious but it had never struck me as being particularly Christian.
- I discovered that to be a "real" Christian I needed to belong to a particular political party and hold particular views on abortion, gun control, homosexuality, gay marriage, military involvement in various parts of the world, etc.
- That as an American Christian I needed to be committed to "take America back for God." This surprised me because I always thought that God had called us to bring people into relationship with Him and see communities transformed by His grace. Somehow "taking America back for God" and the Great Commission didn't mesh in my head.
- I discovered that instead of "doing the Kingdom of God" I was expected to spend time "doing" the kingdom of the world -- investing time in trying to make America a more Christian place through signing petitions, boycotting products sold by particular companies, protesting the correct issues, phoning or writing politicians, and of course voting for the correct political party. This also seemed strange to me, because as I read through the New Testament and looked at the ministry of Jesus or Paul or the early church it seemed that attempting to change the greater political or moral climate was not on their priority list. I saw Jesus and the early church "doing" the kingdom of God.
So, this year, on the 4th of July weekend, I want to commit myself to "taking America back for God" by doing the Kingdom of God. I realize that it will cost me much more to "do" the Kingdom of God than to attempt to change the kingdom of this world. I want my walk with Jesus to be divorced from allegiance to a particular political perspective (right or left), a particular civil religion, or a particular nationality or ethnicity. I realize that if I am going to follow Jesus, I need to truely be a "foreigner". As Larry Norman sang many years ago "this world is not my home, I'm just passing through".
This means that I will focus my life on "working out (cultivating) my salvation with fear and trembling". I want to become someone who is characterized -- not as a German, or a Canadian, or an American (though I am all those things) -- but as someone who loves Jesus, lives like Jesus, and leaves behind those things that Jesus leaves behind.
I'm not sure how this is going to happen. But I am sure that God wants to work in my life in new ways. It does mean I need, in the words of Bob Dylan "to change my way of thinking". God will, as He has promised "renew my heart and mind" and "transform" it. It will be a process -- so please be patient with me. As Brian McLaren says, I am an "unfinished Christian".