Each Sunday as I enter the church building, I am greeted by two flags that call for my allegiance. On the left side the American flag calls for me to say: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." On the right side the Christian flag calls for me to say: "I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe." Granted, I never outwardly/verbally pledge to these flags during the service; nevertheless, they call for my allegiance: Hail Caesar! Hail Christ! As I have reflected over these two "allegiances," a few questions have come to mind: Is it possible to pledge allegiance to both of these flags and remain faithful to both? Should the American flag even be present during our services? (I wonder if Chinese/Iranian/Egyptian/Japanese/Canadian/etc. worshippers have their national flags proudly displayed as they worship?) By now, some of you may be thinking, "He hates America," or "He is ungrateful," but this is not the case. I am thankful for the freedoms that I am granted here in America. Yet, does this mean I cannot be critical of America (or the Church in America)? Each of us must be ready and willing to evaluate our actions/beliefs. We must not allow anything/anyone to have priority (i.e. more allegiance) than Christ and His Kingdom. So, let me mention one of my concerns.

I am afraid that too many Christians (living in America) believe that serving America and serving Christ are one in the same. Although we are called to obey the government (Romans 13:1-7), this does not mean that we should give unswerving devotion to America. In a recent post, The Anabaptist and State Religion, Dave Black writes the following:

The tendency of American evangelicalism is to exalt the nation-state over Christ. And the tragic result is that Leviathan, intended to tame human nature, has itself become a predator. This is not to say that disciples of Jesus may not participate in government or in government-sanctioned lethal violence. I have never argued that governments lack legitimate authority to police internally or defend externally. Yet a primary Anabaptist concern is the disavowal of Constantinianism and the recovery of a biblical critique of the state. I confess that I find it extremely distressing that so many Christians give the state their blind, unqualified allegiance. That is nothing less than idolatry. Anabaptist history reminds us that the maintenance of religious liberty is a duty of the state. It also reminds us that Christianity can never be advanced by means of an alliance with the state. This means that the church, as a transcendent institution, should reject any alignment with political power and should seek to ensure that the state remains properly secular. (Emphasis added)

*Be sure to look out for an upcoming post titled "World Christians," in which I will continue my thoughts/concerns about America and Christianity*


LiuMai said...

For such reasons I wonder how my re-integrationg into American Christian culture will go. I pray that I may never fully re-integrate. Let it never be said of me that I chose my American allegiances over my Christ. How could I be brought to the place I've come and learn so much, only to return home acting and seeing through unchanged eyes. But I also pray for protection from the set of eyes that only sees through lenses of criticism...Lord, help me love. But I write this only at the risk of further being branded a heretic...as was slightly the case during my last fellowship meeting because of my views on the rapture. Ah well. And you're right...glass bottle sodas are the only way...and very soon, I'll be sitting by the beaches of Thailand, raising a cool long neck Pepsi to my lips and looking back on the good times. And when I do...you'll be there brother; count on it.

Eric said...

I am sure that it will be like a strange world when you come back to American Christian culture. I find myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with this culture.(We must remember that we are resident aliens.) Although I am critical of the church in America, I criticize out of love and concern. (I still hold hope in my hands.) I want to see Christians change--I want to see myself change. I am looking forward to your return. I believe you will help us see through loving,fresh eyes--eyes that have seen our Faith lived in a new enviornment--eyes that want the Church to be holy, pure, obedient, and passionate for our Lord.