Thursday, December 24, 2009

the religion of America

The United States is a very unique place to live. Like other countries we feel that our country is the best. Like other countries we see things from our point of view - what's best for us is a common thought process. Like other countries we exert our opinions and sometimes our will on other countries. And like other countries we want God to Bless America (insert your country here).


Do we have exclusive rights to his blessing? Are we godlier or somehow holier than other peoples of the world? Well, our country was founded on Christian ideals. Was it?

We hold these truths to be self-evident. . .life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do you recognize this? A little blurb from one of our founding documents. Out of these values grows our national religion. Let me explain.

It is clear to me that Americans believe that we have "inalienable rights" that are to be protected at all costs. We are willing to suspend other values for the protection of these rights.

The vision of the current war was that once "they" get a taste of freedom "they" will want it as badly as we do. Unfortunately, we have taken a lot of lives as payment toward this hope (which unfortunately is not materializing).

We get angry and protest when the ACLU tries to "un-Christianize" something, like school prayer, Christmas or the ten commandments in court houses. We protect our rights at all costs.

We foam at the mouth when laws are advanced to give homosexuals the right to marriage. We have a right to keep marriage amongst us heterosexuals (because that's the way Jesus wants it, now honey please sign this pre-nup).

I've come up with a doctrinal statement for the religion of America. Here goes:

1. We believe that God has a law that we must obey and help others to obey by passing laws denoting what is good and what is bad moral behavior.

2. We have rights that we must protect, as giving them up would give Satan free reign to take our country away from us.

3. If we work hard, make wise decisions and obey God we have the right to a safe and comfortable lifestyle.

4. Our government's job is to preserve our way of life, recognizing that the religion of other countries is inferior to ours, thus making it acceptable (although sadly) to take foreign lives to preserve ours.

Let's compare. Jesus did not come as a law-giver. Jesus asks us to give up our rights for the good of others (even those we find distasteful). Jesus asks us to follow him in a lifestyle of serving, sacrificing and even suffering so those around us would know that they are loved.

No, the religion of America is not Christianity. It is nothing like Christianity. It is self-based. It is self-serving. It is self-help.

"Let's take America back for God" - don't bother. He doesn't want it, at least not on these terms.

Just some things we should talk about


  1. This post makes me think of a conversation I have had in the past. I don't think it is effective to impose christian values through laws on non-christians. This is a conversation I have on going with my sister who loves Obama. She thinks that people should have a right to choose abortion if the baby is from a violent act or will harm the mother. I don't think two wrongs make a right, but we both agree that the laws for or against abortion are not the place to start. Rather, educating kids in schools that sex = baby seems a better place to start. Abstincence is a stupid message to preach in schools as we can not expect anyone who is not a christian to live like we think we should live. Why would they? We have a hard time doing it ourselves. I've always wondered why non christians even bother getting married. I wouldn't. I do the "right things" because I am in love with Jesus. He asks me if I will do something and I say yes, because I like him adn want to make his heart happy. If I didn't have that going you you could be darn sure that my independent side would rise up and there wouldn't be anyone telling ME what to do. Weewww! Good thing I love Jesus!

  2. I too am glad that you love Jesus!

  3. This a pretty ambitious blog entry here Dan! First, why is America a unique place to live? You say America is a unique place to live but then go on to say "like other nations" four times. So why then is America so unique if it's just like other nations?

    I do agree with your idea that America has a religion, if you are saying that America's religion is just good old fashioned selfish and greedy sin. The issue I take with your entry is that you seem to be tying together some good stuff, aka - the idea of self evident truths like life, and some bad stuff, like our foreign political policies, specifically our decision to go to war, hating homosexuals and devaluing marriage.

    Also, you didn't bring up the thirst for political power and oil. You seem to be blaming our decision to go to war solely on America's fake Christian values or the Right or the Church, or something, I'm not quit sure actually. Don't you think that greed, fear, and political power are the motivators? Are you saying that the American Church is somehow in bed with the politicians, or worse than the politicians because we somehow are to blame for where what the politicians are deciding? I for one wrestled with the idea of war, and still continue to do so. Especially wars for the spread of democracy, what a ridiculous idea.

    I also agree with the obvious hypocrisy of having life be a self evident value, but then turning around and taking life in the name of saving life. It's collateral damage they say, war is just messy?!?!?!?!?

    I for one do not think that America is a "christian" nation, anymore than I think saying a salvation prayer one time assures that a person is a Christian. A salvation prayer may have been a Holy Spirit inspired moment, many are, just like portions of our founding documents and many other important moments in our nations' history may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. Following this analogy then, having Holy Spirit inspired moments in our nations' history doesn't mean that our nation is somehow "saved".

    We know a tree by its fruit, according to Jesus. We know a nation by its fruit. The difficult part of this entire conversation is that in a nation there are many differing views, many of which are not represented by a nations' leader. The decision to go to war with Iraq was first justified by our leaders as an eminent threat of weapons of mass destruction. It was then justified by freedom for the Iraqi people through the idea of democratic proliferation. Throughout this confusing process American people became more and more confused and upset at our decision to go to war, spending billions and killing thousands. How then does that decision to go to war represent the American people? I don't think our decision to go to war represented the American people anymore than the baptists out on the corner represent Christianity. Yes they are Christian, and yes I don grieve sometimes at the damaged they cause, but I do not consider that an accurate representation. And it's obvious that the American people did not either, given that the Republicans got their butts handed to them in the previous election.

    Politicians are sophists, they'll use whatever is available to move the masses in their own party's favor, including quoting a scripture or spiritual portions of America's founding documents. This is why I think that a separation of church and state is a good thing.

    You overstate your position by saying that we are willing to protect our rights at all costs. First of all, that's just not true. Almost any cost...maybe. Second, who is the "we" here? Is the "we" Americans or Christians? They are not the same, and it's dangerous to lump Americans and Christians together, just like it's incredible dangerous and unfair to lump Muslims and terrorists together, but that's what you seem to be doing.

  4. Wow... shouldn't be surprised but great to see what you guys are writing. Just brings to mind a book I read few years ago. Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I don't have the book now but to roughly quote some of it. He talks about different kinds of love used in the NT four different greek words. The first three loves being natural the fourth being Agape. He says about the first three that they cease to be a demon when they cease to be a God. In other words family, nation, friendship can all get in the way of following God. Jesus told His disciples to leave all and follow Him.
    But its not that the other loves have no value... It reminds me when Jesus said in Mark 7:10-12. To me he was saying hey your family still has value. So government, family, etc(have value just in their proper place).

  5. I realize that this is my most opiniated blog yet. Sort of hoping to rev up the conversation.

    Adam asked why I said the U.S. was a unique place to live and then said four times how it was the same as other countries. Thank you Adam. I'm not sure our country is all that different than other countries of the world in comparison to the kingdom of heaven. Compared to other world powers, yes, the U.S. is pretty unique (freedoms, power, wealth, homogeny, relative youth - our country is much younger than most). My assertion is that our country is just another human attempt at "good" government and the "just" use of power and wealth.

    Adam, I am not that interested in the reason we went to war (although I suspect oil and political power were prime movers), rather that we as a country used power and violence to enforce our will on another people group. It is this accepted use of national power that I find incompatible with my values as a follower of Jesus. "Is the church in bed with the politicians"? Yes, this is what I am saying. I just don't think that most Christians have thought through what we say we believe Jesus taught. The Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus in a way that clearly sets Jesus in opposition to world powers. I believe that we as Christians have ignorantly used human ideas of power and authority in our passion to "take our nation back for God". I think some Christians have approved our "Christian" country's war against radical Islam in sort of a Crusades mentality. God is on our side, they need American Christianity or at least American freedom and we are the self-appointed distributors of said Christianity and freedom.

    Adam, you also chastise me for lumping Americans and Christians together. Good, the conversation will continue, because that is exactly what I am doing. Let me say my thoughts on this as clearly and concisely as I can:

    Jesus calls us out of this world into his kingdom.
    His methods are radically differnt than what we are used to even in the church.
    We cannot be salt and light in a hurting world unless we remain a distinctly differet flavor.
    The church I have experienced has huge blind spots where we look just like the world under the banner of Christianity.
    I want to honestly and humbly identify where I have ignored Jesus' teaching and for reasons of practicality adopted human thinking in my life.

    Lastly, the coolest quote of the week is from ibkanat. "They cease to be a demon when they cease to be a God." I think this is Adam's frustration with the strong language I am using. If you take Jesus seriously and love the stranger and your enemy as well as loving your own family and friends (as I suspect Adam does) your take on this conversation will probalby a bit different(in other words some of these things we are talking about are not demons for you Adam, because they were never elevated to God status in your heart). I for one, have recognized my own hypocrisy and some of my strong language is my personal embarrassment that I have taken so long to hear Jesus' heart.

  6. Ok sry about that last one i was just making sure that it was going to post, i spent fifteen minutes wrighting a comment and they it wouldn't post.

    So... any way this is my first time commenting on this stuff so if my comments are a little off please let me know if im off topic. So the topic is the religion of america... and i hope you have seen the movie that just came out Avatar because ill be using it as an example. Also if you haven't seen the movie and plan to you may want to stop reading (sorry).

    In the movie we (humans) go to a planet called pandora to mine a very valuble mineral, on the planet there is and indigenious people call the Na'vi, and relations are not good. There home is right above the richest deposite of this rare mineral and we want them to move, we offer them medicine, schools, and roads, but they don't want any of it they are content with there way of life. We want them to move so we come in and blow up there home to get them to move, im leaving out a few details for the sake of time and space, but in the end thats what happens.

    Now the reason i use this example is because we as america do this all the time when it comes to a lot of big country issues, we go some where and if some one doesn't have the same values we do we degrade them to less than human, in this case there not but we treat them that way, and because they aren't on the same "level" as us it makes it ok to do what we want, to force our ideas oppon an infearior being. Now when they deside they don't want what we have we deside that they aren't worth saving and "blow them to hell". We see this reacurring theam repeted in american history, and most likely in the history of other countries as well, but were talking about america right now. The native americans when we first came to america, because we viewed them as "savages" it made it ok to kill them and force them out of there homes. On the topic of abortion is always at what point in time is it a human being, so if we kill it before it gets to this stage its ok because its "not a human". now these are just two of the simplest examples i have but if you look threw the history of america im sure you'll find plenty of events or topics that will follow this basic out line.

    It is my current belief that this is how america gets its moral high ground on many topics, even if most americans disagree with me, now if we as christians come to the world with this stance we will only "blow up homes" and push people away. If your beating some one over the head with truth your still beating some one. We as christians need to come and under stand where people are coming from, to find the hurts and the scars so we know what it is that we need to pray for to move the spirit in to action. As my dad says we need to come under and help them up instead of coming down and boming them with the right thing to do. Jesus made it pretty clear that he didn't come to judge the world, but to love the broken and the hurting. That means its our job to be jesus to the world untill he comes back.

    Well i don't know if i was doing what i was suppose to be doing on here, but the topic was "the religion of america" and i think that this may be a small part of it and it basicly boils down to pride, and selfishness (finding ways to validate what were doing). Well that's my rant on this topic for now.

    Check you later. ^-^


  7. I think Scott presents a very crucial element to this discussion. It's what I think of as the problem with binary thinking. We, humans have the tendency to view the world in two parts; us and them, good and evil, truth and lie, Christian and non-Christian, American and not American, etc. As Scott shows this thinking allows us to classify people as like us (valuable) or not like us (less valuable).

    I think the Gospel writers clearly portray Jesus as not buying into this binary way of thinking. With him there was always a third option. It wasn't OK with Jesus to be loving toward family and friends to the exclusion of the outsider. With Jesus it wasn't OK to choose between right and wrong - rather what was the Father saying. Jesus didn't feel constrained by his loyalty to Israel or the requirements of Rome, he continually expressed his attention to the kingdom of heaven.

    The third option - check it out. I think it changes a lot of how we view the world.

  8. Honestly there are several things which i would talk about, but I'm going to focus my energies on one spot the I personally did not agree with. Dan you seem to be under the impression that forcing your ideals on a society is wrong. I 100% agree but I don't think thats what were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before you start your counter arguments hear me out.

    America does not fight religious wars. We never have, never will. America can and will fight for freedoms whenever possible. Now if people want to be ruled with an Iron fist thats their deal. But you can not tell me that protecting people from an oppressive government is wrong. Honestly I dont care what government type you choose, I personally love democracy but thats just an opionon not a fact. Here is a fact. Rapping women is wrong. Preventing them from going to school is wrong. Forcing them into a servatude to a man that they might not love is wrong. Stoning them for not covering their hair is wrong. All of these may have been acceptable 100 years ago but its not now. Have whatever religious belief you want, but as soon as it interferes with someone ability to survive. That God given right to Life. Then we have a problem. I don't think there is a them and a us. I only think there is a us. Us equals the world and if anyone ever tried to do that to a woman while i was around i would attempt to stop them even if it cost my life. That's why I love this country cause were not afraid to lay down our lives for the greater good. Maybe you think were only there for profit, personally I think that's your deal. If the U.S. being there means women can walk down the street without being rapped and killed then its worth it. If while were there we can educate enough people to get them to chose a government were this doesn't happen then it was worth it.

    You may be thinking who decied the USA was gonna be the police of the world? The world did. The United States founded a peace organization that should have all but eliminated war. Its called the U.N. the purpose is that if ever a war occurs then all the rest of the nations will join together to defeat it and restore peace. This organization has failed. So on certain occasions we intervene in order to maintain peace. "If you want Peace prepare for war" a Roman saying. Personally I want to be part of a nation that goes out of its way to help others. To change people lives. That's the real reason i believe in this country. No its not perfect. We have a lot of problems. Why? Because our government is run by men and women. Men and Women are not perfect. We do the best we can, and we try to fight for what we believe in and whats good in the world.

  9. Great comment Thrawn! This is my conversation. Now I realize I may not be the best communicator, so I will do my best.
    It is the very thinking that America is a great nation because it uses its strength to "help" the weak and defenseless that I am questioning. Laying aside the conversation as to why we have responded to human rights violations in oil rich areas as opposed to places like China, North Korea and Africa, I would like to comment on the Christ-likeness of killing people for the greater good.

    It is my contention that following Jesus is absolutely reflected in loving the outsider and sacrificing for the weak and persecuted. I simply don't agree that tens of thousands of deaths in the interest of "protecting people from an oppressive government" has anything at all to do with the life and teaching of our king.

    Jesus lived in a country that was under an oppressive government. He was actively recruited to help the zealots revolt against the Romans. He had legions of angels at his command who would easily have "protected the people from an oppressive government". Jesus never took this option. He taught of a kingdom not of this world that resided in the hearts of men and women. Our weapons are things like faith, forgiveness, service, sacrifice and suffering.
    I'm sorry, your human thought processes might allow you to use human power to fight human evil, but if you listen closely the spirit of Jesus in you will not.

  10. What my heart tells me is God gives us the tools to help one another. So long as we have faith we can accomplish anything. However just sitting back and asking God to take care of everything is pointless. There are situations in which we need to act in order to help others. And I belief the Middle East is a series of countries that needs help. Yes there are plenty of others in Africa and Asia however its only in the Middle East that we have a extreme Islamic men who will not stop to every christian is dead or converted.

    As a side not I of course agree Jesus life was lived in order to free us spiritually. And would like to add that to free the Jews from the Romans would have been pointless. God had given them a kingdom on earth once and they failed that's something they would have to earn later on. And the Romans weren't any more oppressive then any of the other nations in the area that would have swallowed them up. In fact the Romans gave more protection and rights then any other nation at the time.

  11. ok so again my point is raised that, you are now doing an us and them your way or there way unless im mistaken I, so far, have heard what we can do as americans, i have not heard what jesus can do. I know for a fact that you have read C.S. lewis' books thrawn and you are a fan of what he rights and teaches. The most pivotal character in the narnia series is lucy, she is always looking to aslan and wondering what is he doing, what is his thoughts about this. That is who we have to be we need to listen to jesus when we are attacked by terroist, or mugged in the street, if our loved ones were just killed by a psycopath. If you read the some of jesus' teachings he said that we are to love our enemies, now how do you treat the ones trawn and that is how jesus says we are to treat those who would kill us. In the case of seeing a mugging, kiddnaping or something of the like there is always a third opption other than let it happen or die trying to stop it, and that is what is jesus saying right now what does he want to do in this moment.

    Thats all I have to say about this at the moment.

  12. thrawn:
    I completely undestand your line of thinking. I am not suggesting that this is not good, logical reasoning. What I am suggesting is that if you read what Jesus taught in the Gospels you will find that he advocates peace; he teaches us to love our enemies; he turns down opportunities to use military might to protect himself. If we want the right to call ourselves Christian (which means like Christ) I think we need to take his teachings seriously and wrestle with how his stance on peace and non-violence translates into Christian (or Christ-like) responses to the dangers of the 21st century.
    I do not believe for a second that Jesus' relevance is limited to the spiritual realm. He directly addressed every human power structure of his day and I believe he intended his kingdom to stand in contrast to human kingdoms.
    Your position is comforting and has a certain pro-active virtue - its just that good human intentions are not synonymous with following the teachings of Jesus.

  13. I hope you two realize I'm not trying to be aggressive or anything nor am saying your points are invalid. Dan I agree good human intentions are defiantly not synonymous with the teachings of Jesus. Whether or not the war is something God want us to do is obviously debatable. Nor am I claiming this is a holy war or anything merely supporting my belief that I think we should be there and nothing God tells me disagrees.

    Cloud as for your comment I completely agree that at least in the first couple of books Lucy is the most important character to look at. And she is obviously the most faithful, and in the end Aslan always comes to the rescue. But look at "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe", Aslan prepares Peter for a battle then goes away for the stone table part of the book. Meanwhile Peter and Edmund along with the Narnians are facing overwhelming odds. They could have given up all hope and run for there lives. But doing so not ownly would be cowardly but wrong. Had that not fought evil despite almost certainty of defeat, had they not believed in fighting for Aslan even though they thought him dead then the witch could possibly have won the day. I'm not trying to say God needs us, for he is all powerful and his will is done. I'm saying God occasionally gives us important tasks and so long as we follow him in the end everything will turn out right. It can be just as necessary to fight as it is to believe.

    As a side note I also want to clarify I'm only calling the Witch evil as she is in lewis' book the devil, death, or sin depending on how you look at it. If you pay attention to Lewis' books every creature that fights for her later fights with the Narnians. Its not them that were evil merely there actions at the time.

  14. Thrawn:
    I don't think you are being aggresive at all. In fact, I am enjoying our conversation. The purpose of this blog is to get us to think about why we believe what we believe and to purposefully integrate the teachings of Jesus into our decision making. So, I am not talking theory with you; I am regularly changing my lifestyle to match what I am learning from my king.
    Yes, Aslan left Peter to fight a battle without him; and yes, I do believe that our actions, our choices are the places on this earth where the love and power of God is released. So please don't equate by struggle with Jesus' non-violent teaching with inactivity or some kind of withdrawal from society. Just the opposite. I want there to be a representative of Jesus' values visible in my community.
    Yes, I think we as followers of Jesus fight. I just don't think we use the same weapons as the armies of this world. We fight with things like forgiveness, sacrifice, kindness, and suffering.
    Also, great observation that only the Witch was truly evil. Those she had duped into fighting for her were not evil - rather they believed lies she had told them and had aligned themselves with evil. I would point out that Iraquis, Afghanis, even militant Muslim terrorists are not evil, they have believed lies that Satan has told them and have aligned themselves with evil. To quote you, "It's not them that are evil, merely their actions at the time."

  15. Oh I completely agree that the Iraquis, Afghanis and ect are not evil. There actions most certainly are. I also understand wanting peace, obviously that's why you fight a war in order to gain peace. And I wish we could help change there society without the use of weapons, however I do not think that is possible for us. Obvious for God, but not for us. I also think retreat at this time would just encourage the enemy to bomb and attack us again, and I don't think thats something we should allow to happen.

    I support staying. It makes military since, its logical and I also believe it makes spiritual since. With a Democracy in place religious freedoms can grow and who knows how many people could be saved now that they can actually follow Jesus without being blow into pieces.

  16. Thrawn:
    Again, I understand your line of reasoning. It is sound and many good people would agree with you.
    I am saying, that what you propose, your line of reasoning, your logic, has nothing to with what Jesus taught. Military sense, logic, democracy, religious freedom, and following Jesus without being blown into pieces are not ideas that Jesus taught.
    If you wish to assert that you feel Jesus' teachings are irrelevant or ineffective in dealing with the situation in Iraq than I can respect that and I will gladly have that conversation with you. But, please don't call violence to achieve peace Christian. Don't assert that somehow Jesus would approve of killing Iraquis to save Americans.
    I would enjoy having a conversation with you about what you think it means to follow Jesus and how we can do this honestly and effectively in the 21st century.