Here’s a little gems someone shared on Facebook:
The image is a little bit blurry, but it’s a picture of a billboard that inserts the word “America” into 2 Chronicles 7:14. It’s absolutely hilarious, until you realize that there are an awful lot of people out there who don’t know that America never appears in the Bible. They don’t know that the Bible is not about America, because so many people are never adequately taught what the Bible actually says, and most won’t read it for themselves (or if they do, they aren’t trained in basic hermeneutics enough to pick out poor interpretations that are presented to them in billboards and sermons like this).
This billboard, as ridiculous as it is, is really only a sampling of the nationalism that masquerades as religion, particularly in the US. Whenever I see American churches on the news, about half of them feature American flags, sometimes lining the walls, sometimes even next to the pulpit. It makes the church look like a campaign headquarters, and for some of them they might as well be for all of the political pressure perpetuated from the preacher’s pulpit. But this post isn’t even about that, it’s about the idea that God is on America’s side.
“God Bless America” is so cliche these days, but people can’t seem to get enough of it. And why not? That sentiment in itself, that a person wants God’s blessing on their land and people, is all very well and good. What’s awful is that eventually that saying gets drilled into people so much that they seem to take for granted that God has blessed, is blessing, and will bless America forevermore. I’d love to see a billboard or bumper sticker that said “God Bless Iraq”, or “God Bless North Korea”, or even “God, please bless America.” Because the old plea for blessing has become synonymous with assuming that God has blessed America for a reason – like America is the promised land, or that America is a holy nation. God blesses America because it’s a “Christian Nation”; I guess it’s about as “Christian” as a nation gets these days, with higher proportional numbers of confessing Christians than just about anywhere. But really, all this is saying is that “America is so awesome that even God is on our side!”
How do we know that God blesses America? Well, America is the strongest nation in the world, with the strongest military and the strongest economy. They have the world’s best healthcare, schools, food production, technology, Democracy…heck, probably even some of the best weather! Usually, it comes down to the big two though: military and economy. The US is the world superpower because of a combination of their large military and their large economy. Being the preeminent world superpower is obviously a sign of God’s blessing, right? Except that the economy is built upon the world’s largest debt, the government is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and the global recession – which for all intents and purposes really started in the US – is about to enter round two, likely driving unemployment rates in the US even higher.
Military is a big sign of God’s blessing, a sign taken straight from scripture. When God brought Israel into the land, they had to take it by force – but God would grant them victory unless they disobeyed him. When they obeyed God, they had dramatic victories; when they disobeyed, they had dramatic defeats. I’ve heard many Americans comment on their fantastic military record, and the link between it and God’s blessing is a pretty common thing; like we mentioned last week, the protestors at the funerals of American soldiers say that those soldiers died because of sin, meaning that they’ve lost God’s favour and blessing. But let’s be honest, the American military record isn’t so good as it might seem. Yes, they did well in the World Wars, and desert storm worked out okay, and I honestly know very little about Korea; but Vietnam was a disaster, and they’re currently fighting two wars simultaneously in which they’ve made little – if any – progress. And don’t even get me started on the War on Drugs or the War on Terror, which have done nothing except detain, inconvenience, and even persecute their own people.
I say all of this not to bash America – I have no problem with them as individuals, and even as a nation. Canada and the US are like brothers, most of the time. What I have a serious problem with is the notion that somehow God is on their side. As we’ve seen, the major indicators say otherwise. In the Bible, God’s blessing means prosperity (economy) and peace (with military victory); America projects an image of being tip top in both of those areas, but it’s simply not true. They’re just people, just like anyone else – and that’s the point. There are very few nations that God has expressly helped in scripture, and that was always for God’s own purposes. He helped Israel take the land, and he helped the Assyrians and Babylonians take it away. America is not Israel (for that matter, Israel today is not the same thing as biblical Israel). God will help (or use) whichever nations he chooses for his own purposes, and he doesn’t owe America a damn thing.
There’s a great quote out there by a famous politician, but I can’t think of it right now. It’s something along the lines of being more concerned with being on God’s side than claiming God is on my side, and it hits the nail on the head. Post it if you know it. If God is on my side, then that means that I’m leading God – and even if that were possible, it’d be a really dumb idea. I can tell you this though: God is on the side of people. Not American people, or white people, or even particularly people who call themselves Christians (because Christians are just people who say that they are on his side). God is on the side of people, without qualification. We can either appreciate that fact or ignore it, but it doesn’t change the fact.
So I’m sorry, America, but you’re no more special than the rest of us. Thankfully God thinks we’re all special (including your enemies). And I’m sorry to anyone who has the idea that Christianity is about being American, or that all Americans are Christians, or that somehow Christianity and America mean the same thing.