A Prayer for America & President-Elect Trump


Ruler and King of all, our nation is now entering into such a delicate time. Many emotions are being felt very deeply after this election. It was a hard-fought fight that many had much invested in. Would you be with us as the immediate emotional aftermath of the election occurs?

Lord, hear our prayer.

O God of peace, you do not desire that we would be filled with anxiety, fear, or gloating, as if our greatest joy or pain would be the result of this one election. You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, into your presence, where we may be still and know that you are the God who is the sustaining Presence in all nations,

Lord, hear our prayer.

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Christian Diversity & Charity in a Contentious Election Year


us-flag-america-genesis-bible

Regardless of one’s personal political beliefs, it’s hard to deny that this particular election season is one of the most brutal in decades. On both sides of the aisle, a harsher edge has accompanied our political discourse. This has been exacerbated by people retreating further and further to the safety of their own “sides” in these uncertain times, leading to pockets of like-minded people who rarely interact with those with whom they disagree.

And yet, the good news is that there is still one institution in society whose very nature draws people together from a diversity of views, classes, opinions, and income brackets: the Christian Church. Christians do this imperfectly, for sure, and many of our churches are marked by sharp divisions and high uniformity on issues secondary to the essentials of our faith; yet the Christian Church, throughout history, has been able to contain within itself a huge diversity of views, opinions, cultures, and societal structures, all while maintaining its essential integrity.

This puts Christians in a bind, though, when studying Scripture in a diverse community and in a tense political time. As Christians, we want the Bible to inform our political beliefs, but we also want to be in unity with other believers around us. As the Bible shapes us and we come to our own beliefs on political issues, how do we do so in a way that leads to charity and a deeper knowledge of God through the Scriptures?

I think we can chart a way forward by looking at the diversity of ways the Scriptures interact with the politics of God’s people, the politics at the time the Bible was actually written, and by focusing on the central point of Christian teaching: Jesus. Continue reading

Just a friendly reminder that “Americanism” is a heresy. Even today. (Happy 4th!)


paul-young-america-flagI’m really not trying to ruin anyone’s party. I promise. But I just wanted to remind everyone that in 1899 Pope Leo XIII declared “Americanism” a heresy in the Catholic Church.

(I have provided this picture of this post’s author in order to help soothe any anger over this reminder.)

Basically, in the middle of the 19th-century, there was a huge influx of Catholics into America from Europe. Being so far away from the “home base” of European Catholicism, these Catholic leaders started “softening” Catholicism in order to make it more palatable to the new context they found themselves in.

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POLL: What do YOU think about the NSA Surveillance stuff?


i-voted-stickerI promised earlier this week to write up some of my own thoughts on the whole NSA Surveillance leaks. And of course, as usual, I started thinking through it and writing about it, and saw that I need to break it up into two or three posts. So that’s next week.

Earlier today, I posted the best things I’ve encountered on these leaks. I hope you were able to partake in any of those. But, until I can post some of my thoughts next week, I thought I’d do the first poll this blog has ever had and get your thoughts on this issue.

Yes, there are a lot of options below; you can pick more than one option. They range from most freaked out by this stuff to least worried. I’m really interested in where you all stand on this. If you feel like there are any answers I missed, or if you have any comments and what to add what and why you voted like you did, feel free to share in the comments below. Continue reading

a prayer for President Obama & America for Inauguration Day [Re-post]


[I posted this prayer after election day. I thought it would also be appropriate for today, as we pray for our President’s second term.]

Ruler and King of all, our nation is now entering into such a delicate time. Many emotions are being felt very deeply after this election. It was a hard-fought fight that many had much invested in. Would you be with us as the immediate emotional aftermath of the election occurs?

Lord, hear our prayer.

O God of peace, you do not desire that we would be filled with anxiety, frustration, or gloating after elections, as if our greatest joy or pain would be the result of this one vote. You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, into your presence, where we may be still and know that you are the God who is the sustaining Presence in all nations,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Continue reading

a prayer for President Obama & America


Ruler and King of all, our nation is now entering into such a delicate time. Many emotions are being felt very deeply after this election. It was a hard-fought fight that many had much invested in. Would you be with us as the immediate emotional aftermath of the election occurs?

Lord, hear our prayer.

O God of peace, you do not desire that we would be filled with anxiety, frustration, or gloating after elections, as if our greatest joy or pain would be the result of this one vote. You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, into your presence, where we may be still and know that you are the God who is the sustaining Presence in all nations,

Lord, hear our prayer.

Continue reading

The Heretical Liturgy of American Nationalism [QUOTE]


I’m suggesting that [Nationalism] constitutes a liturgy because it is a material ritual of ultimate concern: through a multisensory display, the ritual both powerfully and subtly moves us, and in so doing implants within us a certain reverence and awe, a learned deference to an ideal that might one day call for our “sacrifice”…. Over time, these rituals have a cumulative, albeit covert, effect on our imaginary. And together, I’m arguing, these constitute liturgies of ultimate concern: the ideal of national unity and commitment to it’s ideals is willing to make room for additional loyalties, but it is not willing to entertain trumping loyalties. (Just try to remain seated at the next playing of the national anthem.) The fact that there seems to be little tension between Christianity and American Nationalism is not a function of the generosity (let alone “Christianness”) of the America ideal but rather a sign of a Christianity they has accommodated itself to these military ideals of battle, military sacrifice (which is very different from the Christian ideal of martyrdom), individual (negative) freedom, and prosperity through property.

Implicit in the liturgies of American nationalism is a particular vision of human flourishing as material prosperity and ownership, as well as a particular take on intersubjectivity, beginning from a negative notion of liberty and thus fostering a generally libertarian view of human relationships that stresses noninterference. Related to this is a sense that competition and even violence is basically inscribed into the nature of the world, which thus valorizes competition and even violence, seeing war as the most intense opportunity to demonstrate these ideals. The vision of a kingdom implicit in this liturgy is antithetical to the vision of the kingdom implicit in Christian worship. I think the liturgical take on American nationalism can help us to see why so few Christians experience a tension here; it can also help to diagnose the cause of the church’s complacency and complicity: many Christians experience no tension between the gospel according to America and the gospel of Jesus Christ because, subtly and unwittingly, the liturgies of American nationalism have so significantly shaped our imagination that they have, in many ways, trumped other litutgies. Thus we now see and hear and read the gospel through the liturgical lenses of the “American Gospel”….

The republic claims to have an identity and unity about it, and even claims to have acieved the goal of shalom–to already be a nation “with” liberty and justice for all…. No hint of eschatological deferral; no sense of “not yet” failure to measure up; but a confident claim of justice here and now, secured by the republic….

And as I’ve tried to sketch above, I think there are good reasons to worry that the ideals of the republic are antithetical to some of the defining ideals of the people of God, called to imitate a suffering Savior, who was executed at the hands of military power. What’s explicit in the [Christian] Creed, if we tease it out, is in significant tension with what’s explicit in the Pledge [of Allegiance].

James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, & Cultural Formation

Read my thoughts on Christian Patriotism, and a related quote from Ross Douthat in Bad Religion.

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“God & Country” vs. “God & Church” [QUOTE]


If American nationalism appeals to Christians because of the resemblance between the idea of America and the idea of the universal Church, then it stands to reason that the weakening of the major Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, would make the Church of America (in both its progressive and conservative forms) more appealing than ever before. Almost every major Christian body has less moral authority today than it did a few generations ago, and while the idea of America has been battered over this period as well, patriotism in its various forms burns far brighter than most religious Americans’ affections for their particular churches and denominations. “God and country” has a stronger pull than “God and the Catholic bishops” or “God and the United Methodist Church,” and the partisan mind-set increasingly provides a greater sense of solidarity, shared purpose, and even eschatological fervor than the weakened confessions of Protestantism or the faded grandeur of Rome.

Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

Also, read my review preview of Bad Religion, as well as some of my other thoughts on this Memorial Day 2012.

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Memorial Day: American Malaise & Christian Skepticism


Update: Shortly after writing this, I ran across this amazing quote in Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion and posted it on the blog.

In America, today is Memorial Day. This is the day Americans pay tribute to the soldiers that have served in our nation’s military and in our various wars. I grew up in Dallas, Texas, ostensibly (as you can see to the right) the most Patriotic state in the Union (Hmm… I can hear cries of “damn right!” ringing through the air from the South….). Of the Unquestionable Cultural Orthodoxy I was raised with, the glorification of the military sat right there next to Jesus, George W. Bush, and any anti-abortion and anti-evolution efforts there may have been.

And indeed this was the pattern I observed in this nation in this past one score and one year I have been around. No matter how anti-war some “crazy wack-job” liberal was (because who could possibly be against any war we–The Great Good–were fighting), they were quick to say “but I support the troops!”

Reading the various blogs and articles throughout the interwebs, though, it seems the past year has seen a shift. As our disenchantment with every other American institution has grown, the military does not look to be exempt from this.
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The Good Motivations of the Heart: God-merica, pt.IIIb [REPOST]


[This is a repost of the last in a series of articles I wrote about a year-and-a-half ago exploring my struggles with the idea of America as a “Christian Nation” (it is not; read more here)and how my Christian faith should influence my politics.  Where I ended up is a very helpful place, I believe, for us Christians struggling with these things.  In the first post, I show how America has many similarities with Ancient Rome that lend itself to helping us in this discussion.  In the second, I discuss the motivations and limits of imposing a Christian worldview on a post-Christian society.  In the third, I laid out the wrong motives that seem to drive most of Evangelicalism’s attempts to take over the country, and their historical and philosophical roots.  In the post below, I pick up right where the third one ends and give a biblical foundation for a possible framework we can use to discern our political action as Christians.  Tomorrow I’ll have a really interesting little post for all of you to chew on.]

My exploration of motives for Christian involvement in politics began to shift when I realized that the same Paul and Peter that preached a political worldview of simply obeying the laws were the same Paul and Peter that when told by authorities not to preach, they refused to obey.  What’s going on?  Apparently there’s some other principle at work that creates a depth, complexity, and dynamism within this issue: God and His Nature, Christ and His Glory.  More on this in the next post.

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Some thoughts on our “Christian” Nation


I recently received a facebook request to join the cause: “Tell Obama America is a Christian Nation”.  Coming from the Bible-belt, this was certainly a worldview that I am very familiar with and one that I’ve thought through extensively ever since I was old enough to vote.   I think I have come to a few conclusions concerning the matter.  Please leave feedback.

America isn’t a christian nation.

First, “Christian” is never used as an adjective in the Bible.  There’s no such thing as a “Christian” anything, except for a person.  Sure, for most of its history most people living in America have been Christians, but if you have mostly Christians living in a certain apartment complex, would it suddenly be called a “Christian” apartment complex?  Most all of America’s founders were Universalists (John Adams), Unitarians (Thomas Jefferson), Masons (Ben Franklin), and Deists (pretty much all the rest).  Hardly any were Orthodox Christians in any recognizable sense of the word other than the fact that they used the words “God” and “Creator”, but so do a lot of other groups that clearly aren’t Christians.

Second, there’s a big difference between checking off “Christian” on a poll and actually being a Christian.  Sure most people still check that off, but I would say that the percentage of people that are actually saved, born-again, living-the-life, actually loving Jesus Christians out there is less than half.  It certainly feels that way living in the city, at least.

Thirdly, at the very least, even if America was “founded on Christian ideals”, the nature of a democracy/republic is that it changes with the public beliefs.  Even if it used to be a Christian nation, the basic worldview of the citizenry has changed, so “what” the nation “is” has changed.  The “public” define the nature of a democracy/republic, not its past.

Lastly, every time in history that Christianity has been used to describe a country, it’s never gone well (see: Constantine, the Inquisition, the Crusades, etc.).  I pray America becomes a nation of Christians, but for the vast majority of its history, Christianity has done a lot better when it was in the minority (China, anyone?).  We don’t fight for numbers of people or a percentage of a population or an office in politics.

We fight for the Glory of Christ.

Any thoughts?

Here’s a very balanced and helpful article from Patrol Mag, and here are some lyrics from a favorite Derek Webb Song of mine, “In God we Trust”:

In God we trust
and the government is on His shoulders
in God we trust
through democracy and tyranny alike
in God we trust
He uses both good and evil men

in God we trust
so we fight for peace and He fights for us
in God we trust
even when He fights us for someone else
in God we trust
even when He looks like the enemy

in God we trust
even though our hearts are bankrupt
in God we trust
for more than just the value of our dollar bills
in God we trust
but there’s no gold behind these notes of reserve

in God we trust
even through our great presumption
in God we trust
even though He favors no nation-state
in God we trust
even when the blessing is a curse

Is it okay to laugh at Church signs?


Slate magazine has a great article and accompanying slideshow featuring their favorite church signs from around the country.  Some make it because of their phraseology, some their ghetto-ness, , and some because of their simple sincerity and devotion to our Lord, even though resources were obviously tight.  Below is my favorite.  You can find the pictures here.

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Also check out their other Easter and Religio-centric articles.  There’s at least something of interest to everyone.  And don’t worry, there’s even some stuff in there for all you atheists and agnostics out there!  Let me know what you think of any articles you read: