Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Americianity

I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. . . . Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus—who, incidentally, never allowed himself to get pulled into the political disputes of his day—I believe many of us American evangelicals have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues.

Greg Boyd published the above words in his book, “The Myth Of A Christian Nation,” back in 2005. This book and other experiences have served and continue to serve in opening my eyes to my own long-held blind spots.

My thesis is this: While evangelicals strove with secularism, they succumbed to syncretism.

Syncretism is defined thus:

A combination, or coalescence of varying, often mutually opposed beliefs, principles, or practices, esp. those of various religions, into a new conglomerate whole typically marked by internal inconsistencies.

Specifically, I believe a large portion of evangelicals are fusing Christianity with American civil religion.

American civil religion espouses ideas such as material prosperity, American exceptionalism, the spread of democracy, militaristic superiority, and so on. Its hallowed texts are The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. Its confession of faith is the Pledge of Allegiance. Its songs of worship are “The Star Spangled Banner” and “America The Beautiful.” Its holy symbol is the US Flag.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these things per se, or with patriotism in general, the conflating of Americanism with Christianity is detrimental to those within evangelicalism and confusing to those without it.

For example, last week I saw a T-shirt with a Cross painted in stars and stripes. It read: “STAND FOR THE FLAG, KNEEL FOR THE CROSS.”  Talk about a mixed message!

You see, dear reader, Americianity is not the good news of scripture.

You may think I’m wrong. You may sincerely believe that many, if not most, evangelicals do not hold to a form of Americianity; that they are not syncretistic in their beliefs.

But I would simply ask you to reread the definition of syncretism above and then think about how evangelicals commonly react when someone “sins” against the Pledge of Allegiance, the Flag, or the National Anthem.

Think about how evangelicals relentlessly beat the drums of war, persecuting any and all “heretics” who are pro-life when it comes to foreign policy.

How many evangelicals do you know “excommunicate” folks for daring to question their sacred political opinions? (How many of you are angry with me right now, just for asking you to think about these things?)

Jesus is clear.

He says His kingdom is in the world but not of it. He says to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to Him. He asks His followers to pursue His kingdom with all that we are and to never confuse it with the kingdoms of this world—including the American one. 

Evangelicals and everybody else would be better off if they’d do things His Way, don’t you think? 

2 comments:

  1. You make some valid points regarding the Civil Religion. To be balanced please write an article against co opting Jesus when addressing the issues of immigration, the safety net and other liberal causes.

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    1. While the article mentions things normally associated with the political Right in America, it could also be applied to the political Left in America.

      In other words, only the incidentals--not the essence--of the article would need to be changed to apply to liberalism. Even the title, "Americianity" could remain the same.

      That being said, I focus on the Right because this is the locus of the vast majority of evangelicals (of a certain age and ethnicity).

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