No offense, but today I was silent while my church family celebrated the 4th of July with the rousing choruses of the Star Spangled Banner. Perhaps if our faith never gets further than Federer and America’s God and Country we could sing along without question of conscience. However, for myself I could not stomach the smiling faces singing of the "land of the free and the home of the brave."
We are a nation of slaves.
To be sure good men have righted injustices of prejudice and oppression. Lincoln was a man who led our nation like a David defeating the Goliath of black slavery. His Gettysburg Address still resounds with hope, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Just the first sentence of his speech ignites fervor in any sensible man. Yet oddly the Scriptures cast a different tone on the value of freedom. Paul says, "20) Let each man stay in that calling in which he was called. 21) Were you called being a bondservant? Don't let that bother you, but if you get an opportunity to become free, use it" (I Corinthians 7:20-21 WEB). The Bible is strangely dispassionate about the liberty praised by Americans. The gospel affronts suggesting that an obedient Christian is effective even as a slave, while a 'free' unbeliever is useless due to their slavery to sin. There may be no oratory of greater eloquence defending liberty than Lincoln’s address… except the gospel of Jesus Christ promising true liberty. Lincoln’s conclusion is known by all, 'that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.' But do we know Scripture’s conclusion is a perfect contrast? "For of him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen" (Romans 11:36 WEB). Democracy will one day perish from the earth, but the benevolent rule of Christ the king will endure forever.
It is the gospel that offends. Why Christ boldly teaches that citizens ought to pay their taxes, even to evil governments! Christ teaches that we must obey our government whether good or evil. Yet this command is in contrast to the very seed of thought that gave birth to the United States, that governments should be obeyed… except for tyrants. Am I the only Christian, aside from my wife and children, that must submit to sinful leadership? We reviewed Romans 13 today in church and concluded that Pastor Bonhoffer, though praised as a martyr by Americans, is not praised by Christ for attempting to assassinate his maniacal governor. First century Christians, however, submitted to the brutal rule of Rome in every way that Christian conscience permitted, and were martyred by their maniacal governor.
Christians are called to obey their government, pray for their leaders, to speak against wrongs, and... to suffer as lambs if evil men do not repent. How would the story read if Bonhoffer and the Founding Fathers had done that? While American democracy appears to have tuned up some injustice, sadly the greater reverberation is with the chords of fallen human nature suggesting that God makes exceptions to his commands to preserve our happiness. This small misalignment has ever so slowly driven us off the high road into swine filth. I am baffled that American Christians cannot tell the difference between a mere United States citizen and a citizen of Christ’s kingdom, or worse that earthly liberty is worthy of corporate praise while our nation remains chained in slavery to sin!
How can we be submerged in excrement and yet come up smiling and licking our lips with millions of our babies sacrificed for our convenience, billions in our wallets from prostituting the beauty of our women, and trillions gambled to bring this 'freedom' to other lands with our democracy? Nineveh did not know right from left, but we have even homogenized it so that we do not know up from down. Any sane nation in the world ought to cry, 'Yankee, go home!'
Someone must follow Jonah to tell us 'Yanks' of true home and liberty. And the 'Star Spangled Banner' must be amended to make it fit for Christian worship and proclaim Christian mission.
O! Say now I see by the gospel’s true light
That liberty is found only in freedom from sin
And my villainy is exposed at His cross in dark night
Yet through his blood I am guiltless in Him!
How woefully enticed by temporal freedoms
Blindly used to serve self and this world’s kingdoms!
Yet the star-spangled banner will surrender her slaves free,
When His brave free in the land tell of true home and liberty!