Flags

This is an old Facebook note of mine, but I like the idea of beginning my blogging days by dusting off a classic.

I want to address the idea of Church and State. I’ve been reading a fascinating book called “Jesus For President” and we’ve also been addressing this theme in many of my classes. I want to reflect a bit on it, and see what everyone else thinks.

America. The word itself invokes all types of feelings depending on your nationality, race, age, gender or faith. For some there is an inherent sense of patriotism, others a burdening pessimism. Lately I seem to be leaning on the pessimistic side, and not just because of economic turmoil or party politics. Mostly, it’s been a new understanding of our history that invokes a disappointment in me.

We like to say things like, “We are a Christian nation!” and “This country was founded on Christian principles!” Yet we seem to ignore other facts of our founding: oppression, death, enslavement….the list goes on. Truthfully, many found America to be a religious sanctuary from European oppression. But these founders consistently acted against the nature and character of Christ. The ravaging of countless Native Americans stains our hands (and we complain about illegal immigration). The use of slave labor is a beacon of our inhumanity. I read in my Church History textbook that the colonial settlers refused to baptize Black slaves because they would feel guilty having slaves that were brothers in faith. This is a blatant display of self-seeking economics trampling upon the love of Christ. Faith groups that claimed they were coming to the New World to “convert the heathens” instead set aside the contagious Gospel of Christ for the sake of their own financial benefit. What a sad parallel we may draw to modern corrupted Capitalism.

More historically, we see the United States continue to oppress for its own gains. The United States promotes and aids independence movements in Latin America, only if we get something out of it (i.e. Panama Canal). This does not reflect the God who abounds in giving freedom out of love. Skipping ahead dramatically, America’s treatment of the Japanese is more than deplorable, from the internment camps to Hiroshima. In Guantanamo Bay, we have violated international laws that we helped write; say what you want about what we have and haven’t done there…we have clearly and unarguably broken our word and denied human rights that we swore we would not. Countless lives lost, even more denied the freedom that God grants all when he continually hears the cries of the oppressed.

When I hear or read “God Bless America”, I almost want to vomit. The fact that we can say that with a straight face would be laughable if it weren’t so sickening. It’s clear to me that the more God blesses our country, the more we tend to waste it away in pursuit of our own goals, at the expense of the poor and just about every race/nationality we’ve ever encountered. Perhaps we should make shirts that say “God humble America”, or even better, “God humiliate America”. How about “God Bless Darfur”, where people wake up each morning wondering if they are going to be brutally raped or murdered before noon. Or are we just so naive to think that the removal of the Ten Commandments from a courthouse is more outrageous than the fact that people will die today because they don’t have clean water? The fact that in the 21st century people are still dying of starvation should keep us awake at night.

So I wonder what message we are sending when we wear shirts that say “God Bless America” or when we put giant American flags in our churches. Because it just seems to me that our flag is stained with the blood of Indians, Latin and South Americans, Japanese, Muslims and Blacks. What message do we send to these people groups when we wave our blood stained flag in their faces.

And the most ironic part is that when we say that “America was founded on Christian principles”, we’re more right than we think. Because if we look deep into our American system and the oppressive thing we call “Christianity” in America, I think we’ll see an astounding comparison to the oppressive “Christians” that founded our nation. The problem is, neither seem to reflect Christ.

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Gandhi.

God Humble America.

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