Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Americanology: Freedom

I've often said that American society and culture has had a hurtful impact on the Church. I'm not simply speaking of the separation from God and godlessness and godlilessness, though that has an impact on the Church as it has with any society in which she has found herself throughout history. Rather, I'm concerned with how American societal and cultural trends and methods have impacted those within the Church, including leadership.

For one, the way we speak about God and his ways are convoluded by "Americanology". I suppose I interject here to say that few are more intent than I am about making scripture and discussion of God understandable for everyone. Part of that includes using terminology that people understand to help them grasp who God is.

But sometimes, with our hope to impact the culture by using the culture, we ourselves are impacted. This can be good and often is bad.

One such instance is the use of the word "freedom."

I quite often (and indeed, just yesterday) hear or read the freedom that comes with Christ not only paralleled to, but equated to the freedom that the United States provides. Some more authoritative and more educated than I would label this "heresy." I try not to use that word (I just don't feel I have the authority, certainly not as an individual standing alone...yet another discussion for another day).

For example, I've heard that "We must fight for freedom by the grace of God." Or even some age-old statements like "Give me liberty or give me death." The freedom that the United States provides is not the freedom that we read of in scripture.

I realize that I can "worship freely" here in the United States. I realize that I have "freedom of religion." I thank God that I do not have to worry about walking into my church every Sunday. I really do. I thank God that I've never needed an armed escort to make it to the pulpit to preach. I thank God that the only persecution I've ever experienced has come from fellow students in elementary school (which really isn't persecution).

BUT...I am increasingly convinced that we (followers of Christ in the United States) and the message we carry have been negatively affected by American culture, politics, and "freedom." If this means you need to call me unpatriotic, traitorous, or a treasonous, then okay. Where I am missing anything of Christ, though, please point it out. Therein (Christ) lies my concern.

I feel as though I'm rambling. Perhaps my point would be clearer to again quote Stanley Hauerwas: "We must remember that their liberty is not the liberty of God, nor is their justice the justice that we have come to know through being a member of God's people. Our task is not to make these nations the church, but rather to remind them that they are but nations...For the idolatry most convenient to us all remains the presumed primacy of the nation-state." (A Community of Character)

I heard the story told recently of a church that had a southern gospel group come to sing in the Sunday morning service. Their last number was "Proud To Be An American." At the end of the song, at least one was on his/her knee with a hand raised to the American flag that was in the sanctuary. (No commentary needed.)

I would clarify my contention by saying that people of the United States are quite often striving to support a good cause. I am not necessarily trying to equate the United States with evil. But I am necessarily saying that the United States does not equal the cause of the Judeo-Christian God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ. That may sound obvious to some, but it is not obvious in many practices of the American Church and the speech and hearts of many Americans who call themselves Christians.

- J


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. The comment I deleted was spam. I have to make you use the word verification feature now. Sorry.

    - J

  3. Well said. Unfortunately, it's just not as obvious to people as it should be. People need to be calling this into question often and loudly.

    And your son is adorable, by the way!

  4. Jeremy,

    You are very right. Freedom is not the ultimate value. Freedom is only needed in order to love. Love is the ultimate value, because God is love and in the end, only love will remain. So it is a matter of not confusing the means to the end.


  5. Cannot resist this one. The electioneering within local churches this past November wasn't about freedom. It was concerned with solidifying a block of voters by intimating that it isn't possible for an evangelical to vote his own conscience. My personal freedom as an American didn't matter to those consumed with their two issue candidate.
    During the campaign it became frightfully clear that man Christians were being drawn into the idea that evangelical=republican. Our associate had some serious explaining to do after making an overt politicalendorsement from the pulpit, stating: it is obvious who we have to vote for.
    Some will call it reactionary, but I'd rather not be called an evangelical just now. The difference between my freedom in Christ and the freedom offered by this culture has been illustrated to me in a most uncomfortable fashion.
    I'm reminded that many of the political abuses of the mid-30's through the 50's were engineered for the sake of "making the world safe for democracy." Sound familiar?