Politics and religion don’t mix – unless you live in the United States on the 4th of July. And really, we may ought to view religion as a form of politic. After all people who claim to follow Jesus, the Christ make collective decisions. The question under consideration is how or what informs those decisions. In the South, in the United States, it is common for many to view “God and Country” as one conflated notion. That is, to celebrate God is to celebrate Country and to celebrate Country is to celebrate God.
Everywhere we turn Christian-ese is used to prop up a sense of “turning the nation around.” One problem, as I see it, is the church as a community in the Way of Jesus needs a bit of turning around before it begins to tell a nation which way to go. If turning around is a good definition of repentance – that is turning around and heading the other direction, then my hope is that this Sunday local communities of faith will turn around from the thought of turning their time of celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus into a celebration of our national heritage.
It is not that I am not for America or proud to be American. It is just that for those of us who have turned around at the call of Jesus to follow, we understand our allegiance to be to King Jesus. Bob Hyatt, of Evergreen Church in Portland, tweeted this week that Jesus brings an end to nationalism. He offered,
Any community committed to making decisions around the Way of Jesus will practice a politic that informs how they will view the world – not with pride or prejudice but with the hopefulness of the fulfilled promise of God in Jesus, the Christ.
The Lectionary texts for this Sunday stand in an interesting juxtaposition to Independence Day in America. The Psalmist admits to the pride of prosperity. Naaman in 2 Kings demonstrates the pride of a commander when Elisha fails to meet his traveling party. Paul asserts a level playing field for the community of Christ followers as all are on the ready to do good to all as they have occasion, especially those in the household of faith. And finally, the sent disciples were not to respond with great verbal jabs to those who failed to receive them or their word but to shake the dust from their feet in a non-violent statement suggesting those who lacked hospitality don’t know just how close the Kingdom of God came near. We cannot lose sight of the young slave girl who bore witness to the power of YHWH when it would have been far easier to enjoy the suffering of her captor. Love overcomes pride and prejudice. And it is the ethic of love that should be the formative politic for the Christian community of faith.
8 comments on “Pride and Prejudice – Thoughts from the Edge”
You have a job as a pastor in a sourthern state?!
I get frustrated with folks who think that if you’re not a foaming-at-the-mouth, Fox-News-adoring, gun-toting, “Uh-merika’s #1” ‘patriot’ then you need to pack up and move to Canada or something.
I’m also proud to be an American. I do feel blessed (most of the time). But no more loved or valued by my Creator than my brothers and sisters in any other country around the globe.
Ryan – yes it does seem we tend to be an all-or-nothing people. Question the way Christians practice their faith in relationship to their patriotism and you might as well be suggest, well, that they are not Christian. We have not quite thought well enough about what Christian community looks like as it speaks to/into its embedded culture.
Todd, I could not agree more. Have been chewing on this for awhile. Thanks for expressing so effectively.
Frank – I think many need to chew on these things for a while.
Good stuff Todd.
Glad you stopped by. Nice xanga site. Peace.
Todd – If memory serves, one of the interesting observations Jacob Taube makes in his “The Political Theology of Paul” is the tension between the Apostle Paul’s “universalist” trajectory and the more “nationalist” perspective of the Apostles and early Christians in Israel. According to Taube, the notion that the Gospels were something uniquely for Jews and exclusive of Gentiles was pervasive both in Jerusalem and in the synagogues throughout the Roman Empire where Paul presented his message.
In other words, to be a Christian required that one also be a Jew, in the minds of many, if not most, in the early Church, as can be gleaned from numerous NT passages Paul’s unequivocal assertion that “in Christ” there is neither Jew nor Gentile, was a radical position and, if we accept Taube’s reading, the source of Paul’s anxiety about traveling to Jerusalem with the contributions raised for the poor, where he no doubt anticipated friction, if not a public challenge to his calling as an Apostle.
Substitute the image of American Christians chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” and anathemizing all those who refuse to do likewise in defense of the universality of the Gospel, and you have our current problem in a nutshell.
I have Taube in the stack “to read.” This intrigues me – may have to move it up the list. If his reading is correct, or at the very least possible, the parallels are quite unsettling.