Saturday, July 01, 2006

Some Thoughts on the Fourth of July Holiday Weekend

I remember the first time I was in an American church that had a Christian flag and an American flag on the platform. I was 19, and I was visiting the USA for the first time in my life. Though I had grown up in an evangelical church I did not even know that there was a "Christian flag". And, upon seeing the Christian flag and the flag of the USA on stage -- equal in size and prominence -- something just seemed to be wrong. Somehow it seemed to me, in my young, naive Canadian mind, that my Christian faith and my national pride should not mix. And, it seemed so inappropriate that while worshiping God in church I should have the symbol of a nation in view all the time. It somehow seemed wrong to me that a church would want to identify itself with a nation -- especially since I had read some world history and had learned that when Christians identified themselves too closely with a national government bad things always seem to happen.

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.
All of these things have never "sat well" with me. However, I must admit that I have gotten caught up in political debates, and other actions that have not contributed to the Kingdom of God. I have used my being Canadian in an ungodly way to make myself appear better than my American brothers and sisters. I was caught up in the kingdom of the world in the same way that those I disagreed with had. I was no different -- I just had different opinions. For that I am truely sorry.

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".


Anonymous said...

Hey Karl, this is kenny collins and I just discovered (per Andy Jackson/ that you have a blog. I have really enjoyed reading your last two posts. I feel like I am on the same journey in my Christian life as you are on. I have sent your posts to a few of my friends and encourged them to read your blog. I look forward to reading your future posts. Cheryl and I would love to hang out with you and your wife and catch up sometimes.

God bless you my friend,


chris said...

My church sang the national anthen today in service. During the benediction we sang America the beautiful. It didn't set well with me either. In fact, it is a little scary!