Citizenship, Politics, and Christianity

My fellow blogger and U.M. pastor Allen Bevere writes some great blogs. I want to highlight one he wrote at the end of 2009. Here is an excerpt:
Small town journalism is among the best reporting in the country, unlike the national media which continues to be a disgrace. Most journalists in the mainstream media think the square root of pi is coconut cream.

Local politicians are usually better behaved than national ones, probably because they are more accountable to their constituencies (there are, of course, exceptions to this).

Nowhere is the lack of serious and deep thinking more present than in Washington DC.

I do not understand why liberals say they are progressive. There is nothing progressive about wanting more government control over individual lives. There is nothing progressive about believing that government is the answer to most things. FDR believed that and enacted the era of big government. Today's liberals are not forward-looking, but rather nostalgic for earlier times. If 1935 ever returns the Democratic Party is ready.

By the same token, what is so conservative about Republicans? They are big spenders and have become foreign policy activists. There is nothing conservative in that philosophy. And it also appears that they have run out of ideas with no one standing out to lead the party. So much of late that comes out of Republican mouths is embarrassing. When 2012 arrives, the Republican Party will not be ready.

There were those in 2009 talking about the coming evangelical collapse. I disagree. Evangelicalism will not collapse, but it is in the process of being reformed. That is a good thing.

Theological liberalism is in large part repetitive and uninteresting.

Theological fundamentalism is in large part repetitive and uninteresting.

Fundamentalism and liberalism are simply two sides of the same coin.

-from Allen Bevere's, "Brief and Random Thoughts at the End of 2009," 30-Dec-09

Ever since I read Allen's above post, it has provoked a myriad of thoughts. One is that I fear our country will embrace rugged individualism to the point where, "I can do whatever I want," and everyone else be damned. Before you think that's far fetched, consider American Christianity, where you can pretty much believe whatever you damned darned well please.

I really have to do some soul searching occasionally and remember where my allegiances are, and to know that being a good citizen does not negate being a good Christian... and vice versa. I was officiating at a basketball game a few weeks ago at a private high school, and we began with a prayer followed by the singing of the national anthem. Those are really not incompatible things - prayer is our communication with God, and the national anthem is our respect and love for the country in which we live. The test comes in what we do with what God communicates to us, and how we live out our love for our country.

If Christianity is experiencing loss of its spiritual depth in America, I fear that patriotism is equally experiencing loss. Our continued fervor for partisan politics above a politic/policy for the common good is killing America (at least, the America that was founded many years ago). And no - I am not talking about health care. I am talking about politic. Πολιτικά. The affairs of the state. To be honest, I'm tired of what is passing for politics today. My language is atrocious enough without saying what I think today's politics resembles, so I'll stick to a safer and more polite term: self-gratification. We're all about ourselves.

Ultimately, if we are a country that (at least claims to be) Christian, we believe this: God has the last word in all things. We ARE our brother's and sister's keeper. Jesus redeems all things, and that includes justice, peace, and eternal life. It doesn't mean we have to be pacifists, but it certainly means we should at least have the goal of beating swords into plowshares. It doesn't mean we have to adopt Marxist socialistic ways about health care (which don't work anyway), but it doesn't mean we can avoid dealing with those less fortunate than ourselves, either. It doesn't mean that it's wrong to make money - as long as we remember the Source from whom all things come, and that to those who have much given, much is expected. The bottom line: do we trust God? If we don't, we will have a hard time living out the politics of being Christian.

"I Vow to Thee My Country" is a British hymn - and some critics say that it shouldn't even qualify as a hymn - but I think the words are poignant and can fit America as well as Britain. The words are below:

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

- Words: Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, 1908

Music: Gustav Holst, 1921

If we're American, and we're Christian, we should have no trouble singing either verse. The politics of Jesus and the costs of discipleship require our vow and and our sacrifice. But we do so as a community of faith, not individuals. Love doesn't insist on it's way, but insists on the truth.



PamBG said…
If we're American, and we're Christian, we should have no trouble singing either verse. The politics of Jesus and the costs of discipleship require our vow and and our sacrifice.

As I understand the history and context of this song, I honestly can't see it as qualifying as a proper hymn.

It was written to recruit young men to fight in WWI, certainly one of the most tragic and immoral wars in modern European history. It's expressed purpose was to say that nationalism and love of God were one and the same thing.

The words tell us that we must put love of country about everything. The bible tells us that we must put love of God above everything.

Count me as one who thinks this song does not qualify as Christian.
mean_owen said…
"My language is atrocious enough without saying what I think today's politics resembles, so I'll stick to a safer and more polite term: self-gratification. We're all about ourselves."

I'm not so dainty; they're all a bunch of wankers. As for the rest of your blog entry, it reminds me of something Walter Sobchak said: "Nihilists! (explicative). I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
I think you could say the same thing about Roman Catholicism. Sure, they had/have their problems that in part led to the Protestant Reformation (please indulge me here), but "rugged individualism" wasn't one of them. For good or bad, they had unity: you accepted what the church taught and were one of them, or you didn't and you were out. Once people took it upon themselves to be free agents with God, the "Church" (if we include all the increasingly tiny bodies that called themselves Churches) lost all unity, and became, in fact, a body where "I can do whatever I want"; you just might have to affiliate with a different splinter group, or, if you can't find one, form your own. How many Protestant groups can trace their roots back to Anglicanism (whether they know it or not)?

This was only made worse after they all crossed the pond to the New World. Being displaced from ones ancestral country, people became even more disconnected with a concept of community (Church OR country). Politics followed the same trajectory as religion. Sure, there have been times of intense patriotism and religous revival, but overall, it's just me and my Bible and to heck with everybody else, especially when my "side" loses an election. Remember when Bubba Clinton was president and the NRA folks had bumper stickers saying "My president is Charlton Heston"? That wasn't very nice. Or when the Shrub (little Bush) took over, all the lefties said they were going to leave the country? (Did they go? I didn't notice?) And of course, it's even worse now.
As for your song, most people of whatever religious stripe would only sing it if their man is in office.