I do not believe the idea that extreme nationalism and assumed cultural and moral superiority is supported by Christ’s explicit (nor even implied) teachings, nor by the moral teachings of the Old Testament. We must remember America is not a “Christian Nation,” nor can there be one. Luke 4:5-7 is pretty clear on this, as well as 1 John 5:19. In other verses, the Enemy is the prince of this world and its kingdoms (John 12:31 & 14:30). Revelation 18:3 reminds us that all the nations drink of Babylon’s adulteries, all the kings commit adultery, all merchants of the earth grow rich from her. America does not stand above any other nation when it comes to the detestable things we are guilty of. So the ‘bigger picture’ is not framed with our comparatively petty national conflicts and our justifications for them (James 4:1-4), though it is worthy of another discussion in itself, but with the same sin Israel was constantly reminded of by the likes of Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc; falling away from trust in God the Father and trusting in our own might and providence. How does God bless our troops and not others? In so doing, do we not imply a curse upon our neighbor’s troops? What about God’s command to bless our enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35)?
I actually sought to return to Iraq for a second tour, but I would not go as an agent of intimidation or fear. That is what a weapon does (short of killing or destroying); it incites fear. Those who have fear in their hearts are not made perfect in love, which Christ offers (1 John 4:16-21). Additionally, for the argument; “In order for evil to prevail, all it takes is for good men to do nothing (which has been leveled against me, based on the illogical argument that non-violence is ‘nothing’)” to work, one must base such an argument upon 1) there is nothing between violence and peace. (men do not exist in moderate disagreement, they can only exist in either absolute peacefulness or absolute violence), or basically 2) that there are no alternatives but war to solve the worlds problems (since we must have exhausted all other possibilities, even if you subscribe to Just War theory), and 3) that good men must go to war to prevent evil, which is hypocritical, since even the most conservative of religious folk know that war is not God’s hope for mankind.
So we have a catch-22. In order to quell evil, must good men commit a “necessary” evil in order to avoid doing nothing? Romans 3:5-8 has a grim outlook for those who claim evil is necessary for good; Paul says their condemnation is deserved. Additionally, that argument must assume that sin is necessary for salvation. What about other alternatives? I volunteered to lay down my weapon because having it gave me no real security whatsoever. It would cause me more moral and spiritual damage than anything else; continuously tempting me to use it to kill or harm our nation’s enemies (a direct contradiction of Christ’s command to bless them, see Romans 13:10 too), or worse, into thinking that carrying a weapon or wearing a Kevlar vest (physical security) somehow assures my moral or spiritual superiority over them. I trust in God, I do not need a security blanket to remind me that He loves me and the scary, “evil” men who know nothing of His love for them. Aren’t we charged, as disciples of Christ, to be the light for those deceived, mislead men? Do I lie that responsibility down for a nation of the earth? The challenge is simple; do I love my country? Yes, but I love Jesus even more.
This is what He bid me to do; to be an active example for the unconditional love that He grants. This call does not have to make sense to me, I simply obey. Do I need religious freedom to do that? No, they do it in restrictive countries just fine. I firmly disagree with the statement that without religious freedom we would not go to Church on Sunday morning. Men and women in the persecuted church do it all the time; that is when true faith comes into play, when it costs something, when the title “Christian” comes at a great price, one which true believers are willing to give all (Grace comes at a scandalously high cost to some). We should not rely on temporal freedom to worship God, but only on a renewed heart and His Holy Spirit. Jesus came to protect us from evil, not seek and destroy evil (John 17:15). If he did intend to deliver us from the “evil enemy,” why did he not conquer Rome, as the established religious leaders expected of Him, and other messianic pretenders of His time hoped to do? Perhaps he was preoccupied with personal sin and blindness; the same blindness that keeps us from seeing the plank in our own eye. How much more evil are our enemies to us than we were once to God, and don’t they deserve to be offered Grace just as we were granted it?
Finally; of course we do not live in a perfect world. However, we are undeniably called to begin His work so that when He comes in glory, it will be completed. Dispensationalist-type theology is flawed in that it effectively seeks to absolve us on earth of our responsibility to obey His commands. We then walk a precarious path; Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He knows we will fail, but He is pleased by our faith that all things are made possible through Jesus.
It is also a poor theology to live by since it insists that Jesus was simply an idealist. I think Man, in all his “wisdom,” has distorted Jesus’ realism into non-reality; forever condemning the Kingdom of Heaven from ever taking root on earth as it is in Heaven. I, however, will continue in my foolish idealism, because it is the only way change has ever been accomplished. Jesus died rejected and humiliated on a Roman cross as punishment for proposing a new kingdom (“Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm” threatened both religious and national leaders’ sovereignty). It is this kingdom He calls us to be an active part of today and forever. All of His apostles were martyred for the same kingdom (except John, and believe me, the Romans tried…); most notably Peter and Paul, who remind us to be subject to government, not blindly obedient to it. Each follower must rely on his or her own conscience to discern how and when to “obey God above man (Acts 5:29b).” As the reformer Martin Luther said; “My conscience is captive to the Word of God, for to go against [my] conscience is neither right nor safe… Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Allow me to close with a request…
As a nation, let us repent of our political arrogance, economic obesity, and lack of concern for our fellow man (Ezekiel 16:49). Let us be as the publican Jesus describes, not as the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14)…
Let us love and trust in God above anything else and let us be a light for others, that they might know us by our unconditional love for them. God help us. Amen.