Friday, July 4, 2014

A right place and time. . .

Here in the South it is not uncommon on the patriotic Sundays (nearest Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran's Day, etc...) for churches to have patriotic services.  A color guard brings in the flag.  Patriotic songs are sung and perhaps a Sousa march is played.  A sermon inevitably addresses the sacrifices of those who paid for our liberty with their lives, on the need for national repentance to regain God's favor upon our nation, and on the special status of America before God.  I do not know if this is done in other nations but here it is common to weave together the fabric of faith and patriotism, at least on certain Sundays of the year.

I consider myself a patriotic American.  I am jealous about the good name and noble virtue of American exceptionalism in the world.  I am in awe of the faithful folk who have stood guard against our enemies and whose blood was shed on battlefields far and near for the sake of this nation and the freedom we value so highly.  I grew up carrying those white crosses adorned with poppies out to the cemeteries of fallen soldiers.  I still shudder when the guns of a military salute go off and tears well up in my eyes at the funerals of veterans when a soldier gets down on one knee and presents the flag to the bereaved on behalf of a grateful nation.  But there is no American flag inside the nave or chancel of this church and there should not be.

It is one of the gravest of sins to presume God's loyalty to a people or a land and to interweave faith and patriotism.  The resulting fabric will not be faithful to either cause when we assume that God is one of us (Americans or any other nation and people) and when we declare ours the only righteous land and citizenry in the world.  We do not do our nation or our faith any good by beating our chests and proclaiming God in our hip pocket.

If you are a patriotic American, then pray for the our President, the members of Congress, your Governor, state legislature, judges, mayors, and all levels of civil servants elected and appointed.  Do not pray for those you like or those with whom you agree but for all manner of leaders in the kingdom of the left.  Pray for their wisdom, for their faithfulness, for their faithful exercise of the powers entrusted to them as servants of the people, and pray for them to be people of truth and integrity who love justice, who act mercifully, and who carry the solemn mantle of public service humbly.  And while you are at it, do not speak so disparagingly of our politicians that no one of good repute and noble character would deign to serve the public good.

If you are a patriotic American, then render unto Caesar the things that are his as your civil, patriotic, and solemn duty.  Don't cheat on your income taxes and call it the great national sport.  Don't sit at home while others cast their ballots for people, initiatives, and referendums.  Don't be a silent minority or majority but engage the issues, causes, and conversations of the public square, guided by principle and faith as well.  Don't refuse to speak circumspectly or to act virtuously but show forth good citizenship as best you can until and unless to do so would violate God's law.

If you are patriotic American, then teach your children our history -- the good and the bad -- and urge them to give nothing less than their best for the cause of liberty, the rule of good law, and the common good.  Teach your children the sacrifices of those who went before them on lonely beachhead, in jungle heat, on thunderous wave, and cloudy sky to protect, preserve, and defend our freedom.  Teach your children not to squander this legacy of liberty in the pursuit of selfish endeavor or to justify lustful desire but to pursue it with honor, integrity, and virtue.  Teach your children to honor the flag without confusing flag and cross and thereby diminishing both.  Teach your children how the government works and prepare them for their own time when they must pass the torch to their own sons and daughters.

If you are a patriotic American, cheer on the defense of the defenseless, the protection of the vulnerable, the cause of the unborn, the aged, and the infirm, and challenge oppression, hatred, and bigotry in all its forms.  Honor life as precious gift and not as the prerogative of  rich, the powerful, or those who intimidate.  Refuse to allow life to be valued by the almighty dollar, the parade of accomplishments, or how productive one can be.  Protect rights without dismantling morality or diminishing virtue or surrendering right to wrong, goodness to evil.

Going to worship on a Sunday close to a national holiday and raising up the flag where Christ alone should reign helps neither patriotism nor the faith.  Be wary of those who intermix and confuse the two for they are prone to abuse one for the sake of the other.  God is not an American but live your life and profess your faith so that your patriotism will not diminish your faith and your faith will ennoble your life as citizen and both will be honored.  I know that there will be those who might take offense at what I have written but a patriot is more than someone who waves the flag a couple of times a year.


Anonymous said...

God so loved the world, not America. We want God to bless the world. Good piece. Flags and national symbols have no place in the church where God alone should get the glory and honor. Put the flag in the parish hall, not the sanctuary or nave. Let the crucifix reign alone as the symbol of true freedom.

tubbs said...

That took guts, Pastor Peters. God bless you for telling the truth.

Janis Williams said...

The Emerging church says Christianity cannot alone claim God. NOT. The true God belongs alone to Christianity. But America dare not claim exclusive rights to Christianity. There are likely Christians in every country with it's own flag. Shall we insult our brothers and sisters by having an American flag in our sanctuary? Shall we insinuate they can't love Christ because they don't wave our flag?

In a city full of folk related to our military (or maybe even serving in our military) from other countries/territories, what does it say to them about our Lord Jesus Christ? He is ours alone? Your country is pagan? You MAY be an exception?

Carl Vehse said...

A patriotic American Christian is one who prays for his country and his government, and who understands that the government is the people. The President, the members of Congress, your Governor, state legislature, judges, mayors, and all levels of civil servants are all elected or appointed representatives of the people in our form of government.

Today we celebrate the 238th anniversary of a document that declared "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new [form of] Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The form of government of King George was abolished and a new form of government was instituted for the United States of America. Today, wicked and traitorous people infect the federal branches of our form of government and several state forms of government. While we Christians can pray for their repentance, our duty as Christians is also to pray that God brings justice down on these evildoers and their supporters, and as citizen is to work to bring these traitors to justice within our government.

In this way we will honor the efforts and sacrifices our forefathers made and fufill our own obligations as members of the government.

Paul said...

Was the form of government of King George a legitimate political authority over the colonists Carl? I've heard both position argued.

Carl Vehse said...

Up until July 4, 1776, it was recognized as a legitimate political authority over the colonists.

John Hancock and other representatives in the Second Continental Congress signed a document announcing a new legitimate authority over the United States of America.

Eventually, on September 3, 1783, even King George, admitted it, when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

jonathanpaulmayer said...

Thanks for this post, Pastor Peters. I'm reminded of the German soldiers during WWII, who marched into battle with "Gott mit uns" embossed on their belt buckles and knife blades. How arrogant that any nation should think that God favors it above the rest! God makes nations rise and fall for the benefit of his Church, and for no other reason.

Anonymous said...

Carl, I take it from this and other comments I've seen you make online that you would not characterize the American Revolution as an unlawful rebellion. Is that accurate? How should Christians view the American Revolution in light of Biblical admonition to submit to the ruling authorities? These are honest questions, as I have tried to consider both pro and con arguments. Not expecting a tome, but if you have any thoughts or places to direct me, I would appreciate it.

Carl Vehse said...

"Carl, I take it from this and other comments I've seen you make online that you would not characterize the American Revolution as an unlawful rebellion."

Unlawful in the British viewpoint, up until September 3, 1783. But not in viewpoint of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, nor mine, nor from a Scriptural viewpoint, including Romans 13.

"How should Christians view the American Revolution in light of Biblical admonition to submit to the ruling authorities?

"Anonymous," if you have seen my other comments, they have offered explanations on this, for example, such comments from November 30, 2006, July 4, 2008, July 5, 2008, November 21, 2008, and on April 10, 2013, here, here, here , and here .

Anonymous said...

Carl, had only see a couple of the more recent. Thanks.

Carl S said...

I have extreme difficulty wrapping my head around saying that our soldiers "defend our freedoms" fighting in wars that are illegal by our own nation's law. Our nation has sunk so low that we don't even have to declare war to "prove" to Americans that an offense was committed that we need to be in "defense of." (We have not had a Declaration of War since WWII. "This" goes far beyond giving unto Caesar what is his.) In my humble opinion, I will not connect national pride nor patriotism in connection with "wars" that are no more than an handful of powerful elites controlling our military to destabilize every nation (including our own) in the process of destroying all nations' sovereignties to bring about a New World Order. Just as the Jews resented being occupied by the Romans, we have "policed" so much of the globe militarily.. we only place a target on our own heads. (Proverbs 8-33; 19: Unjust gain - takes the life of its possessor / 26: God mocks when terror strikes) Micah 6:8