A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

American or Christian?: 10 Blurred Lines

In the United States, lines between civil religion, propriety, patriotism and Christianity have blurred to a point where folks often become confused about where one ends and the other begins.   For example:

1. Patriotism and Christianity are not the same thing.   I could spit on the flag, refuse to stand up during the singing of the national anthem, disparage the phrase "God bless America," and flip off Uncle Sam and still not have violated any Christian principles.

2. Being polite and proper are not the foundation of Christian religion.  I could use the F word a hundred times without "taking the Lord's name in vain."  Last I checked the Lord's name did not begin with F.  Jesus calls us to love our neighbors.  Sometimes this might involve politeness and considering the sensibilities of others, sometimes it might mean bold or even crass honesty.

3.  Science is not the enemy of faith.  The Big Bang Theory is not solely for atheists.  Interestingly a Catholic priest was the first to introduce the Big Bang Theory (see this Minute Physics episode) seeing it as an affirmation of his faith during a time when science said the universe was eternal and religion said God created the world "in the beginning."  Isn't it interesting a theory which once was an argument for God has now become an anathema to faith in some circles.  This should teach us something.  Neither science nor religion are static.  Neither have all the answers.  It is possible to be a scientist and a person of faith.

4. I can believe in non-violence, passivism, and criticism of the United States military without being un-Christian.  It seems ridiculous to me I should even have to say this so I find it difficult to phrase an explanation without sarcasm (like saying something about "Jesus the great military leader.'').  I'll just leave it at that.

5. I can also be a pacifist or criticize the United States military without being un-American.  It is not patriotic to stand quietly by while our government and our military throw away the lives of our soldiers or commit violence against innocent people of any nationality.  Speaking out against such atrocities is free-speech and could even be described as our patriotic duty.

6.  "Family first" is not something Jesus said.  Caring for our family is important.  These are often the people to whom we are closest and for whom we bear responsibility.  But, it is not a Christian calling to care for our families to the exclusion of all others.  Jesus spent a lot of time talking about our neighbors and not much time saying things like "blood is thicker than water."  Even this phrase may have a whole different original meaning than we think but that is another topic for another day.

7. No commandments are broken if I wear tennis shoes to church, have piercings in various parts of my anatomy, or tattoos.  The closest Jesus came to discussing fashion was saying, "if anyone wants to sue you for your coat give them your cloak as well."

8.  Neither is it necessarily against Christian principles to wear revealing clothing.  The majority of scriptures which even touch upon clothing talk about not wearing costly adornments or not being vain.  Therefore it is possible for a woman in a skin tight four dollar tank top which exposes her midriff to be dressing in a more "Christian" manner than someone with every inch of skin covered in designer attire. Emphasizing modesty (as in not showing skin) for women, as the church has historically done, has also contributed to rape culture in which the way a woman is dressed is an excuse for sexual violence.  Pretty sure this does not qualify as loving our neighbors.

9.  It is not un-American to follow a non-Christian religion or to follow no religion.  Nor is it un-American to be an immigrant.  Seriously this is so obvious I almost hesitate to mention it.  Unless we want to give the country back to the Native Americans and the rest of us can just "go back to where we came from."  

10. Freedom of religion in the United States does not mean freedom to force others to follow Christian principles.  Not being able to post Christian documents in public places or force others to celebrate Christian holidays is not persecution.  Whenever persecution is claimed in such cases we spit in the face of all those throughout history and currently who suffer horribly under real persecution.

All of the above is not to say one could not make a Christian argument against revealing attire, for example, such as using the commandment to honor one's mother and father.  But, these are things often taken as Christian or American which are not necessarily, directly, so.  When Christian principles align precisely with your favorite political party's principles this is a sign you might be blurring some lines.  If your religious standards read like a manners manual, you might be blurring some lines.  If you believe the "founding fathers" of the United States were pious Christians, your lines between civil religion and Christianity have run amok.  Let's be clear about what we believe and why, rather than assuming anyone who disagrees with us is both un-Christian and un-American.


Captain Cassidy said...

I liked this. You have your head on straight. Thank you for vocally opposing Christian overreach.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, Cassidy!