Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thoughts on Peace

Thoughts on Peace

Jesus never condemned anyone for being too compassionate. God can handle the justice part. (James 2:13)

When Jesus said “turn the other cheek” he knew the next blow could be fatal. He also knew it risked an emboldened enemy moving on to other victims.

Jesus didn’t come to bring us common sense. We already had that.

True Christianity is truly inconvenient (and counter-intuitive).

Overwhelmingly, non-Christians see Jesus as a pacifist and are disgusted by Christians who don’t. This is a great stumbling block for non-Christians.

We think others commit “big” sins while we commit only “little” sins. Do non-believers who appear to be good people and commit only “little” sins just need Jesus a “little” bit?

Christians seem to believe Jesus’ commands are applicable up to a point, after which they are unrealistic and unsustainable. I agree with Job that, “yet though He slay me will I serve Him.”

The majority of Christians want to stay out of heaven as long as possible. At the very least, they feel entitled to stay out for at least 70 years before having to spend the rest of eternity with God.

Especially love your mortal enemies. They can send you on to heaven sooner than you expected to get there. We exist at the pleasure of God. When and how we die is up to Him.

A prime example of the results of “End Justifies the Means” thinking:
“Mr. Nash said Laos is the country most saturated with unexploded cluster munitions, including types that attract children because they look like “little baseballs.” They are a legacy of United States bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War.”

I would suggest that for God, it is the means that justify the end.

The fact that God views hating your brother the same as killing him suggests that His perspective on murder is different than ours. Hatred = Murder. Who among us has not hated?

All who are not reconciled to God are His enemies and worthy of death, including you and I before our salvation. For some reason God does not reveal to us those people who will never submit to Him; otherwise we could just hate and kill them and focus our love on the rest.

Regarding the notion that war brings peace: wars fought to certain victory always bring peace, whether won by the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” Everyone who uses violence wants to establish peace – on his own terms.

When we become Christians we give up some luxuries that non-believers continue to enjoy. One of those is the “right” to kill others to protect our Pleasant American Lifestyle (PAL) as defined by freedoms and prosperity. Killing for our PAL can be justified on political, economic or Humanist grounds but there is no Christian justification for it. Neither Jesus nor his Apostles would have killed to maintain their lifestyles or their lives.

Christians are commanded to give aid and comfort to their enemies (Rom 12:20).

The legacy of Constantine is the belief that the Christian response to provocation can be the same as the world’s and that God’s stamp of approval is on it. Christianity has morphed into a force believing it has a mandate from God to help the state eradicate the “evil” people of the world. Many Christians are deceived into believing they are neutralizing the enemies of God, while in reality, they are ignoring Christ’s commands regarding enemies in order to neutralize their own enemies.

Jesus never suggested that we need to be in a never-ending struggle to exterminate wicked people.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully,” commented Blaise Pascal, “as when they do it from religious conviction.”

Did Jesus regard self-preservation a high priority for himself or his disciples? Did the martyrs fail to get the word?

Many Christians believe murderers are unredeemable – doomed to hell. They would have killed Moses, David and Saul of Tarsus.

“There is no reason to imagine that we cannot overcome torture, war, hyper-nationalism, vengeance, and retribution.”- David Swanson,
It’s pretty sad when atheists sound more like Christians than many Christians.

If you want to fight back, you shouldn’t be a Christian. You should try some other religion.

The Christians’ proper response to oppression from others is forbearance, not violence.

Seek justice for others without demanding it for yourself.

When used in reference to the military, the word “fight” is a euphemism for “kill.” Schoolboys fight; soldiers kill. For example, fighting for democracy is actually killing for democracy.

Many Christians follow a Christianity that supports their worldview.

The best defense against terrorism is to not be terrified.

One thing America has in common with its enemies: the conviction that if we just kill enough people the world will be a better place.

Americans, by and large, are better suited for Judaism. Jews are not required to love their enemies.

Many Christians like to cite the Canaanite genocide (when God commanded the Israelites to slay every living thing among the enemy) as precedent for God’s endorsement of war. Does this mean that, throughout history whenever an army has taken to the field, God smiled? Was He pleased when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, beginning a rampage of conquest? Or does the Canaanite example only apply to the United States? Is there any scripture to support the view that the US is the “new” nation of Israel? Recall that it was a sin for the Israelites to not kill every living thing among the enemy. Throughout our history we have never done that and we would condemn any nation that did.

Acts 10 tells the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius the centurion. Before this encounter, Cornelius and his devout soldier likely were gentiles who worshipped the God of the Jews and served in a nearly all-pagan army of the pagan Roman Empire ruled by a pagan self-deifying emperor. They served the most powerful dictator in the world and could have been ordered to kill any enemies he wanted destroyed. In order to use this story to justify Christian service in the military we would have to concede that, throughout history, it has been permissible for Christians to serve in ANY military, including those of Germany and Japan in WWII. Assuming that Christians serving in the military are authorized by God to kill enemies of the state, then it was appropriate for German and Japanese Christians (yes, there were some) to kill Americans and that God expects Christians to kill each other in war. (During the Viet Nam war, one of John McCain’s North Vietnamese prison guards in the “Hanoi Hilton” was a Christian.)

We don’t know if Cornelius ever killed anyone after his baptism of the Holy Spirit or if he even stayed in the military. Two who didn’t stay were Martin of Tours and Marcellus the Centurion (who was martyred for putting Christ above the state). Maximilian of Tebessa was also martyred – for refusing to join the army as a Christian. The idea that just because an earthly ruler wants some people killed that God also wants them killed and wants Christians to participate is surely questionable.

Luke’s account of Jesus and the Centurion differs from Matthew’s in that Matthew has the two meeting face to face while Luke has them communicating through intermediaries. Regardless, like everyone Jesus encountered, the Centurion was not a sinless person. Yet Jesus did not bring the man’s sins to his attention and admonish him. Jesus focused on the positive here and commended him for his faith. It is likely the Centurion’s servant was a slave, but Jesus didn’t ask him to free his slave. We’ll never know what Jesus would have said if the Centurion had asked him, “Lord, as a soldier of the Empire, the enemies of my pagan master - the Emperor - are also my enemies and I am duty-bound to kill them. Yet you have said we must love our enemies. What should I do?”

There is no evidence of Jesus striking any people when he cleared the temple. He would have been arrested for that.

Nowhere in the book of Revelation are we commanded to kill anyone. Nowhere in the entire New Testament does Jesus or Paul even suggest that a follower of Christ should kill anyone for any reason.

What would God do if all Christians obeyed Christ and loved their enemies instead of killing them? Would He be powerless to stop the servants of Satan from taking over the world? If not, He doesn’t need Christians to disobey Christ to save His creation. An answer is found in the first three centuries of the Church when it came closest to realizing the ideal of loving enemies - a rejection of violence that did not result in calamity for God. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned about it since He wants us to repay evil with good. Does that guarantee our personal safety? No. But if you’re willing to die for something Jesus never promoted – political freedoms – you should be willing to die for what was important to him – the kingdom of God. Let God decide whether to allow your enemy to kill you.

It is better to be a victim than a victimizer.
It is better to die than to kill.
It is better to die than to torture.
It is better to die in obedience to Christ than to live in disobedience.

Jesus said

Jesus Said…

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;” (Matthew 5:43-44)

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

“Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)

“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9)

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.” (Luke 6:27-29)

“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” (Luke 18:7-8)

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:34)

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me.” (John 14:21)

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed:

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:59-60)

Paul Said…

“As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’” (Romans 8:36)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: …And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5,8)

John Said…

“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:11)

“If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10)

Thoughts on Patriotism

Thoughts on Patriotism

War is the most satisfying way for a nation to demonstrate its superiority. It’s the ultimate team sport. Robert E. Lee said: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

When people say “Freedom isn’t Free,” what they’re actually saying is: “Freedom isn’t free - it requires killing and dying, human sacrifice, as if to the gods of old. It is not a gift from God. Gifts are free. Grace is a gift. Freedom, on the other hand, is earned. And because freedom is earned, we deserve it. We bought it (and continue to pay for it) with our blood, fair and square. We need thank no one but ourselves. Our perseverance and superiority over others have given us a reward worthy of a great people.”

Is freedom a gift from God or is it a right that we seize for ourselves if we must kill people to obtain it and maintain it? Did Jesus provide us an exemption from loving such enemies? Or did he reject the “gift” of freedom by not leading an uprising against the Roman occupiers as a patriot?

Imagine Paul closing his letter to Philemon: “Oh, and by the way, if you don't free your slave Onesimus he has our permission to kill you.”

If your enemy takes away your freedoms, pray for wisdom to present a positive Christian witness to him that you both may glorify God.

It is quite true that “freedom isn’t (truly) free.” Many think of freedom like an on/off switch. Either you have it or you don’t. But it’s actually a relative term expressing a continuum, with Anarchy (absolute freedom) at one end and Slavery (absolute control) at the other. The United States, like most countries, falls somewhere between the two. Our concept of freedom is a compromise that is constantly changing as new laws are added to the books. Indeed, the very purpose of government is to restrict freedoms to keep us from abusing one another. The Ten Commandments restrict our freedoms. Satan is the god that encourages us to be free to do whatever we want - to engage in the pursuit of happiness. When we say we’re free we’re actually comparing ourselves with some other nation we believe to be closer to the Slavery end than ours. We are not truly free - that would be anarchy.

The only freedom Jesus promises is freedom from the bondage of sin.

His response to tyranny is found in Luke 18:7-8.

John's response is found in Revelation 13:10. Still want to be a Christian?

In contrast to patriotism, love does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

An individual can be Christian but can a country?

Patriotism is the means by which the State secures its blessings from the Church.

The very nature of patriotism is competition – us vs. them. Christianity is all about cooperation (without compromising obedience to Christ).

The highest priorities of the American way of life are the accumulation of wealth and status. These are not priorities in the kingdom of God. I am not interested in the American way of life – I’m interested in the Christian way of life.

If money can be a god, then nation can be a god.

“God and Country” are two masters. Serving your country is not the same as serving God.

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” - former Reichsmarshall Hermann Göering

“The kingdom of God – a king and a kingdom, but no state or land requiring violence to defend.”

There are Christians residing in the US who think of the world’s population in terms of ‘Americans’ and ‘non-Americans.’ If, as an American Christian, you would not have felt the same sorrow had the 9/11 attacks occurred in Mexico City, you should carefully consider your citizenship in the worldwide kingdom of God.

“Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.”—George Jean Nathan

By whom would you rather be killed?

(A) an American
(B) a non-American
(C) no preference

If you chose answer (A) you are more likely to support the invasion of foreign countries as a method of reducing your risks of premature death. A cost/benefit analysis of this method would likely produce a much higher cost than other risk-minimizing strategies for prolonging your life (such as lowering the national speed limit). We aren’t terribly upset by Americans killing Americans. But when Americans die in a terrorist attack we’re outraged that they were killed by non-Americans because our national pride is wounded.

Regarding Romans 13, there is a difference between submitting to the government and condoning its actions. It’s the difference between avoiding rebellion and being an advocate of government policies. The German Church had to wrestle with this distinction in the 30’s and early 40’s. The State does not bind itself to the commands of Christ but the Christian is bound by them and cannot use the excuse of government service to avoid them (“I was just following orders!”). Romans 13 was not a recruiting pitch by Paul to join the State. The authorities Paul was referring to were not Christian; but again, no government complies with the teachings of Christ.

When Christians replaced pagans as the Authorities did they gain exemption from the command to love their enemies and thus inherit the right to rule like pagans? (If you can ignore that command you can ignore all Christ's commands.)

Patriots believe that peace is the absence of opposition to our will.

The efforts Christians put into making their transitory country greater should instead be invested in making the kingdom of God more effective.

Another reason Christians should not be bound to their nation’s agenda: “While reviewing the cables, Tamm says, he first spotted reports that referred to the rendition of terror suspects to countries like Egypt and Morocco, where aggressive interrogation practices banned by American law were used. It appeared to Tamm that CIA officers knew “what was going to happen to [the suspects]”—that the government was indirectly participating in abusive interrogations that would be banned under U.S. law.” (Newsweek magazine)

The kingdom of God does not depend upon the survival of any kingdom of the world.

America is not Kingdom of Israel II.

“Civil religion is neither bona fide religion nor ordinary patriotism, but a new alloy formed by blending religion with nationalism. If civil religions were bona fide religions then one would expect to find a soft side to them, teaching love of neighbor and upholding peace and compassion. But this is not the case.” —Stjepan Mestrovic

John McCain proclaims the United States to be “the greatest force for good in the world today.” No, John, that honor goes to the kingdom of God.

Former vice president Dick Cheney said on 2/4/09 that protecting the country’s security is “a tough, mean, dirty, nasty business. These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.” Then I guess this isn’t a Christian nation.

As a citizen of the kingdom of God I am not emotionally invested in this kingdom of the world in which I live. My focus must be on God and my neighbor.

If there is no need to show your love of God with a flag, then there is no need to show your love of country with a flag.

Would Jesus fly a national flag? Why should His Church?

If you’re having trouble letting go of your national flag it is an idol, for it does not represent God.

Nations are temporary. The kingdom of God is eternal.

If our armed forces were abolished most Christians would be terrified by the prospect of trusting in God alone. If He has a continuing purpose for America as we know it, the God of The Flood can prevent its demise at the hands of its enemies.

Many Christians in America have never seen an American war they didn’t like, one they thought was not God’s will. Even if there was a Christian justification for killing to preserve our freedoms, nearly all of the wars in which we’ve engaged since the Revolution were not a response to a legitimate threat to our liberties. It can even be argued that wars beyond our borders cost many more lives than merely assuming a vigilant defensive posture. Yet we perpetuate the myth that those who have fallen “died (and killed) to protect our freedoms.” The promise of glory is a powerful recruiting tool but do military chaplains ever tell their troops: “Have nothing to do with this war - it does not meet the Just War criteria.”? (disclaimer: this is not an endorsement of Just War theory)

While patriotism may be comforting to the non-Christian, for the Christian it is an unnecessary liability - one that, like power, is seductive and addicting, sometimes intoxicating.

The Lord is mentioned only once in the Constitution and that is in reference to the date it was drafted: in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven. Dating documents in this way was standard practice in the nation we rebelled against. If colonial (pre-Declaration) and British documents acknowledged the sovereignty of Christ by use of the words “Anno Domini” or “In the year of our Lord” just as our Constitution did, then what sets the Constitution apart in this regard? Further, what gave us the authority to violate Romans 13:1-7 and rebel against a government that acknowledged the sovereignty of Christ? The scripture makes no exceptions, even for pagan governments like the Roman Empire. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

So-called Judeo-Christian principles are principles from the Hebrew Bible that have been adopted by Christians. They do not include new principles established by Christ (Christian principles) in the New Testament. Some Christians think of the Bible as: the appealing aspects of the Old Testament (especially justice for the wicked) combined with the easy salvation of Christ.

Democracy had existed prior to Christ in the Greek city-states and elsewhere but nowhere is it endorsed in the Bible. It is no closer to the rule of God than monarchy, and there is no Christian justification for killing people to obtain or maintain it.

From the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” No, according to Romans 13 governments are instituted by God, deriving their just powers from God.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are alienable rights granted by government because government can take them away, based upon one's behavior. Which truly inalienable rights should be recognized by government, regardless of behavior? I would include among these the right to not be tortured.

Having first appeared on the two-cent piece in 1864, “In God We Trust” has consistently appeared on all our coinage only since 1938. Ironically, many of us (including many Christians) don’t trust in God - if you have a fear of death, for example, you don’t trust in God. More truthful mottoes might include “In Us We Trust” or “In Our Money We Trust” or “In Our Military We Trust”.

“Liberty,” however, has been on our coinage consistently since it’s beginning (even personified, as if it were a goddess). We have a colossus of Liberty but no comparable monument to God. In political discourse we lavish far more praise and attention on Liberty/Freedom than on God. This might suggest something about our national priorities.

American exceptionalism is American idolatry. Whenever I see the expression “this great nation” I suspect I’m reading the words of an idolater.

The Roman Republic/Empire thrived for centuries as a pagan nation but ceased to exist less than a century after officially becoming Christian. If God wanted a “Christian nation” in the sense that America is believed to be, why didn’t He enable the survival of the Christianized Roman Empire?

“National flags, national anthems, and other symbols of national identity are often considered sacred, as if they were religious rather than political symbols. Deep emotions are aroused.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Nationalism’

“Some religious believers place their religion above their ‘fatherland’, often resulting in suspicion and hostility from patriots.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Patriotism’

“Jingoism is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy’. In practice, it refers to the advocation of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what they perceive as their country’s national interests, and colloquially to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism.” - from Wikipedia’s article on ‘Jingoism’ (Rather than extremes, I would characterize them as typical examples.)

If you can say: “I would do ANYTHING to ensure the security of my country,” your country is your god.

Serving Two Masters

Gott Mit Uns

Gott Mit Uns
God [is] With Us

Other thoughts to ponder

Why is it necessary to proclaim America a “Christian nation”?

This is, perhaps, the most important question of all. Even if we can agree that Christian principles influenced the nation’s founders, how does that inform our obedience to Christ? And what are those principles that originated during the ministry of Christ that are unique and separate from the Jewish principles that preceded them, thus keeping America from being called a “Jewish nation”? Where are these uniquely-Christian principles in the founding documents? (For example, in Matthew 5:38-39 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ [old, Jewish principle]. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also [new, Christian principle].” This command has never been embraced by a majority of American Christians and certainly not by the United States Government.)

One possible reason for insisting we’re a Christian nation is to assure ourselves that we have God’s stamp of approval on the things we do. Some look to the utterances of past presidents for assurance, accepting those with which they agree as “The Truth.” Some fear that if America is not a Christian nation then God will withhold His blessing or even send judgment. If they’re right, our task is not to convince others that America is a Christian nation, but to convince God. He is more interested in our obedience than our statements (such as the debatable “In God We Trust” on our currency). Since Christians cannot rely upon the cooperation of non-Christians (who are not impressed by proclamations of Christian nationhood) to help in this endeavor, it would be up to us to do a better job of emulating Christ.

Another possible reason for insisting we’re a Christian nation is fear that “our great nation” is losing its greatness. Its greatness = our greatness = our collective ego = our pride. Pride in ourselves is not a Christian virtue. We should remember this is not our home; we are resident aliens here. Our identity is in Christ and heaven is our home.

Two final motivations for insisting we’re a Christian nation might be the desire to impose Christian behavior on non-Christians or to defeat constitutional challenges to references to Christianity on public property. Until 1947 we got away with monopolizing the public square. Since then, non-Christians have pointed out that this monopoly (‘religious freedom’ to those of us in the majority) of government property constitutes government endorsement of a particular religion, in violation of the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...). Whether or not one agrees with that, the culture wars pivot on this amendment. The solution for those who believe the founders intended to retain the Christian dominance of the Christendom they’d fled and create a “Christian nation” is to make it unequivocal. The only honest way to return to the old monopoly and to impose Christian behavior on non-Christians is to repeal the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and replace it with one that will establish Christianity (defined as loosely as necessary to avoid denominationalism) as the State Religion. But this is not likely to happen in a republic, so proponents seek instead to persuade the public that the word “religion” in the Establishment Clause means “a particular Christian denomination,” but in the following Free Exercise Clause it means “religion.” An alternative interpretation of the First Amendment put forth is that it prohibits government control over the church, while at the same time inviting church control over the government.

For its part, the public prefers civil religion to governance by true Christianity, which was never intended for the governance of non-Christians (1 Cor 5:12). Anyone running for high political office must compromise Christian principles to win and hold office. Candidates seeking conformity to the image of Christ will be rejected by the electorate. Indeed, if Jesus himself came back incognito and ran for president as a third-party candidate, many Christians would not vote for him and his Sermon on the Mount platform. It is better for Christians to be ruled by non-Christians (as in Paul's day) than for Christians to compromise their principles to rule.

The problem with the concept of a “Christian nation” is the temptation to equate it to a righteous nation, defined in Isaiah 58:2 as a nation that would never abandon the laws of God. The freedom of religion established by the First Amendment effectively abandons the First Commandment, and most of the other commandments are also ignored by US law. In spite of this, we try to believe that a nation of individuals that worship whatever they please can collectively behave righteously, that the individual’s motivations can be challenged but the nation’s cannot. The assumption is that our collective will reflects God’s will. But if a “Christian nation” behaves like a non-Christian nation, what’s the point? All are kingdoms of the world. Rather than placing our hope and identity in an earthly kingdom, we should assume that we are living under the pagan Roman Empire or Babylon and place our allegiance in the kingdom of God (the true Christian nation) where God’s will is manifested, even as we seek to influence the state.

The bottom line of the Christian nation argument is this: if we as Christians are losing our influence on society it is because we are not making a compelling case for following Jesus. Ranting and demanding “our rights” in order to preserve that influence appears self-serving, fearful and hateful, and is counterproductive for humble servants of Christ. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. The kingdom of God will persevere regardless of cultural fluctuations.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another I agree with

What Defines a “Christian Nation”?

First of all, what defines a Christian? Is it anyone who considers himself a part of the Christian culture or is it someone who struggles daily to obey Christ (Matt 7:19-23)? What percentage of a nation’s population must be Christian to qualify it as a Christian nation? If it goes below that percentage, is it no longer a Christian nation? (How many Christian nations are there?)

Is it founded by armed rebellion (Rom 13:1-7) against a nation that acknowledges the lordship of Christ or does it refuse to war against fellow Christians? Is it a theocracy - God’s choice for the nation of Israel? Does it recognize that freedom of religion allows the worship of other gods, thus constituting a state-given right to violate the First Commandment of our jealous God? Do its founding documents establish Christianity as the state religion and cite the Bible as its source of law? Do they make reference to either "Jesus" or to "Christ"? Does its flag bear a cross? Does it require all immigrants seeking citizenship to be Christians? Is there a requirement that its leaders be Christian? Does its government literally adhere to the teachings of Christ (a basic requirement for any nation claiming to be founded on Christian principles)?

Does it place obedience to Christ above life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness (John 12:25-26)? Does it love its enemies and not resist evil persons or does it respond to them the same way as do non-Christian nations? If the latter, is its ruler infallible in all areas or only in the decision to go to war? Are its weapons different from the weapons of the world (2 Cor 10:3-4)? Does it refuse to possess weapons that can destroy entire populations indiscriminately, or to to export conventional weapons to other nations to use for their own agendas? Does it overcome evil with good? Does it feed its enemies when they are hungry and give them drink when they are thirsty? Does it refuse to rejoice at the downfall of its enemies? Does it trust in God rather than the pre-Christian rationalization that the end justifies the means? Does it reject torture regardless of its effectiveness? Must it have a strong military in order to “trust” in God? Or can it even be an authority that bears the sword if all who take up the sword will perish by the sword?

Does it love its neighbors as itself? Does it respect the lives and property of citizens of other nations the same as those of its own citizens? Does it extend the same legal protections to non-citizens in its custody as it does to its own citizens? Does it refrain from intimidating, coercing, or deceiving other nations? Is its foreign policy free of the vices that start most wars: fear, pride, vengeance or greed, masquerading as justice?

Does it need to convince anyone that it’s a Christian nation or is it obvious? Does it reject pride for humility? Does it resist the temptation to believe its Christians do more for the kingdom of God (and presumably deserve greater blessing) than Christians in other nations? Does it give all glory to God rather than taking the credit for its successes? Are its monuments to God rather than men (or Liberty)? Does it confess its sins and repent of them? Does it value cooperation over competition? Is it skeptical of economic systems that are driven by greed? Does it eschew the accumulation of wealth and status and instead seek holiness? Does it honor “those who do the will of my Father” above entertainers and sports stars? Is it diligent to avoid pagan traditions in its holidays (mixing the profane with the holy)? Is it exemplary in its low crime and divorce rates? Is it more interested in reconciling murderers to God than in putting them to death, desiring that none should perish? Do its citizens refuse to sue one another? Does its history reflect respect for ethnic minorities? Does its citizens’ love for one another make it stand out from other nations and draw them to Christ? Does it look like the kingdom of God?

Or does a “Christian nation” just have to be founded by “Christians”?

God Bless His Kingdom!

From a series of articles-

God bless His kingdom!

The kingdom inaugurated by Jesus imparts and manifests God’s will; its citizens are the light of the world – the city on a hill. No kingdom of the world can usurp that role or be assumed to be aligned with the will of God, and pledging one’s allegiance to a kingdom of the world creates a conflict of interest equivalent to serving both God and mammon. Why would Christians want to pledge their brotherhood to atheists and pagans of their own nation while ignoring their brothers and sisters in Christ living in other nations? We are called to pray for our leaders, but why do Christians ask God to bless up to our national borders and no further?* The map of the kingdom of God knows no national boundaries.

What attracts us so to our national flag? It’s not about God. If Christianity here died out completely, the flag would remain the same. No, it’s all about us and our collective ego. It is a reflection of our basic human drive for status, the assertion of our superiority, ultimately the sin of pride. Think of the nation as one big sports team. We want it to win to demonstrate our collective superiority to the other nations of the world and, by extension, our superiority as individuals on this winning team. We want to give ourselves and our ancestors the glory that belongs to God, because we believe we've earned it. God says: “I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)

In addition to expressing our pride in ourselves the national flag provides a means of expressing our gratitude for the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy. But Christians should ask themselves, “To what or whom, exactly, does my gratitude belong? What has ‘my country’ given me that God cannot? Who is the source of my security, the focus of my identity?” They should consider the possibility that, as an expression of collective self-worship, patriotism is idolatry. Such national narcissism dilutes our allegiance to the kingdom of God and blinds us to the reality that our country has an agenda that diverges from the teachings of Christ. It lulls us into a false security that we can trust in something other than God - something we can see - yet have His stamp of approval on it. We are not called to love a country or endorse its actions but we are called to love God, our neighbors and our enemies (Mark 12:30-31, Luke 6:27-28). We exist to love. And that is sufficient. Patriotism is the world’s counterfeit for this higher calling, one that suggests: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (Mat 5:43-44). As such, it readily accepts opportunities to go to war. God desires nothing from us that requires patriotism.

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . .as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Our True Citizenship

From some articles I liked-

Our True Citizenship

When we submit to our Lord and become his disciples we become citizens of the kingdom of God, with heaven as our home. National interests are replaced by kingdom interests.

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

Jesus prayed for his disciples: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” (John 17:14-16)

“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’” (John 18:36)

“Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Phil 3:20-21)

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb 11:13-16)

“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” (Heb 13:14)

Think of yourself as a missionary in a foreign land. And if you reflect on the fact that your existence will continue beyond trillions of millennia, the importance of a transitory kingdom of the world diminishes significantly.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The “one nation under God” is the kingdom of God, and it is In God We Trust, not the weapons of the world (2 Cor 10:3-4).