Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Confusing American values for Biblical values

I've got to admit...every time I hear someone call the United States a "Christian Nation", I cringe.

It's not because I don't think we should work to win the nation for Christ, or that I don't acknowledge some of the Christian principles that the nation was founded on.  It's because this nation was founded on freedom and liberty, not on Christ.  Even in our "religious right", "for the love of God and country", and "Glenn Beck leading a religious revival" culture, we are not a Christian nation.

Why is it that I'm so against this concept of the United States being a Christian nation?  It's because of the confusion it causes.  This confusion has caused us to let the values of our country influence our understanding of our Biblical values, instead of the other way around.  Here are a few that are the most troubling:

1.  God helps those who help themselves.

God does no such thing.  In fact, trying to do too much yourself may get in the way of you leaning completely on God.  One of the values our country clings to is if you work hard enough at anything, you can achieve it.  Our heroes are Horatio Algers, people who come from nothing but work themselves to the bone to make their dreams happen.  In this country, we have a hard time believing that our fate is not in our own hands.

God wants us to find our power in Him, not in the things of this earth, including ourselves.  Now, that doesn't necessarily mean He doesn't want us to help ourselves.  But many of our problems are impossible to fight without God.  Remember, Ephesians 6:12 tells us that the battle is not with flesh and blood but with entities in the spirit world...in other words, the demons that plague us.  Apart from God, we are powerless to overcome them and I'm fairly certain that is the way God wants it.

2.  If I have Jesus, I shouldn't need to rely on anyone else.

FALSE!  I think this misconception is bore out of our culture's fascination with rugged individualism.  We live in a society obsessed with each person being able to take care of themselves.  Christians in our culture feel like it's a big deal to even let Jesus in on their problems.  A closer look at the Bible reveals that God created us to have relationships with one another and to live together in fellowship.  This is especially highlighted throughout Acts when describing the early Church.  We need to pray for each other.  We need to serve each other.  We need to love each other.  We need to grieve with each other.  We need to lift each other up and help each other get back on the path to righteousness.  Oftentimes, God does His most powerful work through others.  Doing life all by yourself is actually a sin!

3.  My religion is a private matter.

If you are a Christian, NO IT ISN'T!  We get so hung up on separation of church and state in our country (just FYI, that is NOT in the Constitution) that we seem to translate it into separation of church and my life.  If you are really living your life for Jesus, if you really have an authentic relationship with Him, then you won't be able to keep your religion a private matter if you tried!  We are told to go and make disciples, which implies, at some point, you are going to have to share your faith.  If you are really in love with Jesus, you will be bursting at the seams to share your faith.  There is nothing private about the Christian life.  It is made to be lived out loud!

4.  If all Christians would just set apart a little of their life for truly following Jesus, then our country would be drastically different.

Again, FALSE!  Jesus Christ changes the world.  The only way Jesus Christ can work effectively in anyone is for them to give up THEIR ENTIRE LIFE for Him.  Absolute, complete surrender.  That's it.  In a country where we want to have everything and we can if we can just squeeze a little more out of our day, we only want to set aside Sunday morning for Jesus.  Those of us who are really ambitious also schedule 15 minutes every morning for prayer and bible study.  We got our God time in, so we should be good, right?  Wrong.  We need to live our lives wholly and completely for Him or we may as not live them for Him at all.  Revelation 3:16 tells us that Jesus intends to spit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm.  Christianity is an all or nothing kind of deal.  Not that it's not a process, and sometimes a long process, but the goal is 100% commitment or nothing at all.

5.  Angels and demons, the Holy Spirit and any other supernatural phenomenon is something only crazy Christians believe.  Any intelligent person knows better than a supernatural God.

Our country values science and reason.  In a culture of great inventors and thinkers, it is hard to believe anything on faith, especially things that we cannot measure through science.  On the surface, it is a kind of elitism, the thought that only those less intelligent would believe a "fairy tale" that obviously isn't true because science can't understand it.  We believe that, living in an industrialized nation, we should know better than to believe in the voodoo, spiritualism stuff that those in less educated, third-world nations believe.  They only believe those things because they don't have science and mathematics.  If they were only as educated as we are, they would know better.

Having spent considerable time in that line of thinking, I'm going to posture that something else is going on here...fear of the unknown.  People don't gravitate toward science because it makes more sense, they gravitate toward it because it is predictable and quantifiable.  They can understand what they are dealing with, so they are comfortable with it.  The "fairy tale" of faith is unsettling.  We can't wrap our heads around the most basic truths.  And when you start getting into the supernatural side of things, there are more questions than answers and people don't like that.  But just because we don't like something, or we don't understand it or it makes us feel uncomfortable, doesn't mean it's not true.  In fact, if we really believe in an infinite God, then He absolutely is beyond our comprehension and we should not be surprised by what seems "supernatural" to us.

I'm sure there are many other American values that have been mistaken for Christian values, but these are the five I hear the most.  And there is nothing wrong, necessarily, with loving what our country stands for along with loving our Christian faith.  But what is important is that we don't confuse the two.  Jesus Christ is eternal, the United States is not.  Jesus' teachings will be with us in a thousand years.  The teachings of the founding fathers very well may not.  Don't allow the temporary things of this world steal the eternal gifts the Lord has given us.  And for the love of God, quit getting your spiritual milk from Sean Hanity and Glenn Beck!!!!

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