Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).
In a weekly worship service, a not so well known man quoted a fairly well known man as saying, “America left God when she disallowed praying in her public classrooms.” At another time in the service, a man prayed (in the context of Barack Obama’s winning the presidency) “Lord, America is walking away from you.” At another time, a man designated to pray prayed not his own prayer but recited Thomas Jefferson’s at his presidential inauguration. “What’s your point?” you ask.
The point is American Christianity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries looks much more like the Christianity of Constantine than it does the Christianity of the Apostles. Just like the Christianity of Constantine and the Judaism of the Scribes and Pharisees, American Christianity is a political facade more than it is a life devoted to one’s own death; it is a cake of paganism topped with a vague semblance of Christian icing. We bicker and grumble over prayer leaving a public classroom, when it is the husband and father, not the public school system, who is designated by God to lead his family toward holiness. We distress over a democrat winning the presidency of this puny, temporal country when Christ has been, is, and will be reigning as Sovereign King over the universe forever and ever. We lament over the “loss” of America’s Christian foundation, when the persons who founded this country were no more followers of Christ than the plane hijackers of Nine-Eleven.
We bicker and stress over these things because we have been brought up to do so. We have been brought up to think that America is somehow different than every other country in the world. We have been brought up to think that America is God’s second shot at a chosen nation. We have been brought up to think that we, as God’s choice nation, have some exemption to the Apostles’ Christianity and to certain fundamental aspects of Christianity.
Disagree? Poll American Christians about the ethics of the American Revolution, and ninety-nine percent will justify the Revolution in spite of Jesus’ command to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and Paul’s discourse on a Christian’s duty to submit to authorities in the fourteenth chapter of Romans. Ask the typical American Christian about Jesus’ command to sell all for his name’s sake, and he will slither around the point and justify his prosperity as if he has been doing it his whole life. Ask the typical American Christian about his 401k’s and his IRA’s and retirements in light of the rich fool’s bigger barns in twelth chapter of Luke, and you will get the typical, “Christ was not speaking of everyone, just the rich fool.” Show the typical American Christian your plan for selling all that you have to give to the poor and thereby store up for yourself treasure in heaven and inherit eternal life, and you will get a snicker and an, “Are you serious?”
Why is American Christianity this way? It is because American Christians have found contentment in disobedience. They feel content and justified ignoring the laws of Christ because they have replaced them with a set of christian-esque laws that they have created for themselves. Just like the Pharisees and hypocrites of Jesus’ day, American Christians are too busy keeping their own agendas to worry about God’s agenda. They are too busy working to pay for their plush lives to worry about meditating on God’s law. They are too busy fighting to keep the Ten Commandments nailed on the wall of the courtroom to worry about actually keeping them with their lives. They are too busy studying up on the backgrounds of a hundred politicians who promise to fight for prayer in schools all the while their children, who are glued to the television, know nothing about God. They charge into battle, like Constantine, with crosses painted on their shields against the people of the world, all the while Christ is saying, “You are not fighting for me.”
Our dire plight as the American Church will only start to be remedied when we realize, as the disciples did after Jesus’ crucifixion, that Jesus is not a political Messiah. His desire then as it is now is not to create a Christian nation in America but it is to call a people to himself who will love him and keep his commandments. I suggest that we in the American church, who are more ingrates than Christians, stop whining that our tax dollars are going to support the undeserving and remember that Jesus’ blood was spilt for us who are thousand times more undeserving.