A Toe-Dip Re:Christian Nationalism

I follow Pastor Jarrod Jones’ blog. His last post expressed his feelings following January 6. The title? No More of This. Pretty well expressed my sentiments.

In the blog, Pastor Jones used the term “Christian Nationalism” three times. This line of content and dialogue isn’t my normal pool, but I’m going to dip my toe in. Why? Because I believe most of my fellow American Christians need to enter the dialogue. And I’d rather not sit this one out.

I felt pretty good about what I understood the term meant, but I decided it would be helpful to read how others-more learned and versed-were defining it. And it wasn’t hard to find their viewpoints. In an article published in December by The Gospel Coalition entitled “Christian Nationalism vs. Christian Patriotism” by Thomas Kidd, Matthew McCullough was quoted to define American Christian nationalism as “an understanding of American identity and significance held by Christians wherein the nation is a central actor in the world-historical purposes of the Christian God.” 

I then found notes from Christianity Today‘s Quick to Listen podcast episode that aired January 13. The episode title was “Christian Nationalism is Worse Than You Think” and featured Paul D. Miller, a research fellow of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Miller said this: “Christian nationalism is a political ideology about American identity. It is a set of policy prescriptions for what the nationalists believe the American government should do. It’s not drawn from the Bible. It draws political theory from secular philosophy and their own version of history as well.”

These definitions are alarming. They are most alarming to me because they convey what I’ve observed more and more in my own experience in the church. I must add, in the American church. Why the addition? I haven’t traveled much internationally; but in the three nations I’ve visited (Belarus, Jordan, Guatemala), I had the opportunity to visit and attend worship with fellow Christians. On reflection of those visits as I returned to worship in the States, a glaring difference emerged. Those believers love their countries; they are proud to share about their cultures and accomplishments to the visiting American Christians. But that doesn’t lead them to expect what American Christians expect when it comes to politics and freedoms. They seem to know where the line is between worshipping God and worshipping country. For example, the idea of arguing over the placement of national flags in their worship center would be foreign to them and would never reach the pitch of causing permanent division in their church body. So imagine their reaction to seeing the usage of Christian flags in the Capitol’s desecration.

One day following January 6, Relevant, in an article about the rise of Christian Nationalism, recounted the April 2019 shooting in California where 19-year-old John Earnest walked into a synagogue and opened fire, killing one woman and injuring three, because he believed killing Jews would glorify God. We Christians, who love our country but love God more, have the opportunity to set things right, like Reverend Mika Edmundson. Reverend Edmundson is the Presbyterian pastor of the church where John Earnest attended. He expressed after the shooting that his church bore some of the blame for Earnest’s beliefs. “It certainly calls for a good amount of soul-searching. We can’t pretend as though we didn’t have some responsibility for him.”

Church leaders, American Christians, we can’t pretend we don’t have some responsibility for January 6. We can’t pretend any longer.

Photo by Štěpán Vraný on Unsplash

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 2)

Exercising leads to discoveries. And when it comes to this exercise about responsibility, the discoveries may not feel good at first. Like discovering you really shouldn’t eat the entire quart of ice cream just because you worked out today.

Chances are through this exercise you discovered that you are taking responsibility, trying to own something, that isn’t yours. It’s a common battle for humans to wrestle with God, stealing responsibility. Paul David Tripp says it’s because we are at war between being in awe of ourselves and being in awe of God. When we are losing that battle, we think everything is ours: money, possessions, relationships, career. Contrary to our wants, we win when we let God own what really is his.

That second heading, Not Mine, can be as big a battle as the God heading. When we haven’t won in that heading, forget about winning in this one. Why? Because if I’ve kicked God off the throne taking all the responsibility, it’s going to inevitably spill over into every area of my life. I have all the answers and control. In fact, I believe I want them. Reality is, I’m burdened and miserable. Like Pilgrim trudging uphill bearing his burden.

I have found three things to address when I’ve discovered I’m taking on someone else’s responsibilities. You might say, these are my responsibilities to stay out of “not mine” responsibilities.

  • Trust-Sure, you’ve job searched before; so what’s keeping you from staying out of your spouse’s or child’s searching efforts? You’ve also scheduled employees before; so what’s keeping you from allowing your manager to do it? You’ve been doing this task much longer than your new volunteer; so why are you micromanaging them? Discovery #1: Sometimes we do what’s not ours because we have trust issues. (Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 55:8)
  • Humility-If I’m having responsibility issues, chances are I’m also having pride issues. Humility is required to allow good failure (yes, that’s a thing). Humility is required for personal and team growth. Ball hogs, dictators, authoritarians, glory-stealers, all losers in general taint outcomes because of pride. Discovery #2: Often we do what’s “not mine” because of our pride. (Matthew 23:12; Ephesians 4:2; Philippians 2:3)
  • Being For-Many of us are recovering tellers; by nature we take “not mine” responsibility by telling what needs to be done. My recovery started a few years ago. One mindset for a recovering teller is to be for others. Parents/bosses/leaders, you can avoid the “not mine” heading by being for your child/employee/volunteer. Not being over, behind, ahead-be for them. Encourage. Celebrate. Cheer. Discovery #3: Everyone benefits when we are all for each other. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Those are my three. They may be yours also. What else may yours be?

We’ll address that more in Part 3.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

God’s…Not Mine…Mine (Part 1)

I was awake again before the alarm sounded. It’s a thing. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. When it’s good, I focus my mind toward heavenly things before stirring. My body may not want to move, but my mind does. Relate?

I asked God a question regarding responsibility. And I got a pretty clear answer:

John, many things you believe you’re responsible for are things you choose to be responsible for rather than letting the right person be responsible. Often, that person is me.

That’s how my day started. Jolting. Or not.

I actually decided it wasn’t jolting at all. Instead, it was loving, merciful, and freeing. Loving because God owns his responsibility for all things, including me. Merciful because God waits for me to give back what I wrongfully take. Freeing because I, with repentance, get to return to him what’s his.

In that freedom, an exercise came to me. The exercise is quite simple. On a sheet of paper or on a digital note, make three headings: God’s, Not Mine, Mine. Under each heading, list responsibilities. That’s it.

So for example, I’ll list one under each heading. 

  • God’s: Life
  • Not Mine: Other’s Choices
  • Mine: My Choices

This exercise has lots of potential. It could be an exhaustive look at all areas of life, which could be extremely useful. But it could also be isolated to one present challenge, which is where my mind was before the alarm sounded.

Where’s your mind? Find yourself stuck wondering who’s responsible for _______. Could it be you’re stuck under the wrong heading?

We’ll look more at that in parts 2&3.

Happy Exercising!

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Elizabeth French

Justice Must Be Foundational

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; faithful love and truth go before you. Psalms 89:14 CSB
This week I along with some friends completed a youversion reading plan by Dr. Tony Evans answering the question “What is Biblical Justice.”  A couple of thoughts stood out to me:
  • There is no clear and right definition of justice that excludes God.
  • Biblical justice encourages freedom through affirming accountability, equality, and responsibility by linking the spiritual to the social realm.
The last devotional referenced this verse from Psalm 89. I’ve read it many times over the years, but never has its words been more powerful than when considering the topic of justice. The imagery of the throne of God being built on a foundation of justice is transformational. Before fulfilling his mission for which he left that throne, Jesus gifted one last act of justice by caring for the repentant thief, this while dying unjustly. That’s justice found in one’s foundation. As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I must align myself with that foundation. In order for the King to reign in my heart, mind, and soul, justice must be sought and preserved. That’s possible if it’s in my foundation. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Mirko Blicke