Regardless of the particular denomination, most of this country’s churches are fiercely joined to American nationalism. On this Independence Day weekend you will likely find “God and Country” rallies inside churches of all theological brands.
Stars and stripes will drape the ceiling. Patriotic songs will boom across the sanctuary. There might even be a military color guard in front of the pulpit. Stories of economic and armed forces supremacy will mingle with the Bible’s stories of faith.
Not that any of this, in and of itself, is necessarily a bad thing, but it does remind me of Tony Campolo’s nimble words. He said, “Mixing government with the church is a lot like mixing horse manure with ice cream. It doesn’t affect the manure very much, but it really ruins the ice cream.”
Largely, the church has operated under the false notion that America actually belongs to us Christians. We have accepted the preaching of the kingdom of God and the rallying around the red, white and blue as synonymous. We have long believed that the church and the state can make beautiful music together if only the two would cooperate (or put more accurately, things would go much smoother if we Christians could control the state.) I don’t think this is very good for the ice cream.
Yes, I love my country. I enthusiastically sing the National Anthem, say the pledge, “do my part,” and pay my taxes (though the latter is performed with less enthusiasm than the former.) But I recognize that the sacrificial, life-giving, peace-pursuing, cheek-turning way of Christ, and the domineering, power-hungry, least-of-these-abusing systems of the world, aren’t compatible. And when these different ways of living are mixed together – Tony is right – it all starts smelling like guano.