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ENGAGE THE TIMES BLOG

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  • Writer's picturePage Brooks

Why I Wouldn’t Have a Color Guard at My July 4th Worship

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

I am an Army National Guard Chaplain, served a tour in Iraq, and absolutely love my country. I truly believe that democracy, while certainly a man-made governmental system, is the best system that allows religious flourishing for people. But I am uneasy with patriotism being displayed in American churches, at least the way we celebrate it in the United States.


What I find interesting is that many evangelical Christians, flowing from the “Moral Majority” perspective of the 1980s, are now reassessing their view of America as a so-called “Christian Nation.” Were we ever to have such a close wedding of the kingdom of God and a kingdom of the earth anyway? I think it has been a major mistake, and we will see the ramifications of it in our long-term discipleship for the next generation or two in America.


Those that claim America is supposed to be a Christian nation are driven by a type of theological reading of the Bible that sees a close wedding between church and state. A recent study from Lifeway revealed 53% of Americans still say the United States is special to God (http://bpnews.net/45068/majority-of-americans-say-us-special-to-god). Some have even gone so far as to call the United States the “New Israel.” They root part of the argument in viewing the founding fathers as primarily being evangelical Christians. From my view, there may have been a few founding fathers that could anachronistically be labeled as “evangelical,” but most were driven by a Western Enlightenment steeped in deism with general Judeo-Christian ethics and values.


The Problems


Here’s why all this is a problem. First, the church looses its focus on discipleship and evangelism when there is too close of an association between the church and politics. We have found this to be true now that evangelical Christians are considered to be on the “outside” of Washington politics. Jesus never commissioned us to marry the church and politics; instead Jesus commissioned us to speak prophetically to politicians and rulers and call them to the standards of justice given in God’s Word.


Second, when there is a close association between politics and the church, the church starts to have a triumphant attitude toward non-Christians instead of an attitude of meekness and humility. Paul encouraged the believers of the early church, as much as it was up to them, to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18). As we live in a post-Christian America, humility and peace but be an essential part of our evangelism.


Third, when we celebrate America in our worship services, we focus on the wrong kingdom. Believers are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of America. When we have patriotic celebrations, I think we show too close of an association between the church and state, or even that the church SHOULD BE the state. Don’t get me wrong, I love America, and enjoy singing patriotic songs along with everyone else in July 4th celebrations. However, America is not God’s kingdom and I have no biblical expectation that it ever should be. America is not a New Testament version of Israel. I believe countries are blessed when they follow God’s law, but my world is not crushed when a country’s highest court does not rule in favor of biblical values. In fact, I kind of expect they won’t!


Let’s place ourselves in a different context. Wouldn’t it be funny if we went to Russia and they started singing (to the tune of “God bless America”), “God bless Russia, land that I love….” Or, how do you think immigrants feel when they come to our country and we make them feel as though their home country is less of a country just because it is not “Christian America”?


Some Solutions


Can we still be patriotic? Yes, I believe we can. I still have no problem serving as a chaplain in the Army National Guard. I love my country and love the freedoms we stand for, but I serve the soldiers’ spiritual needs first and foremost as a chaplain. I am not a crusader in the American military forces trying to evangelize people (or soldiers) “by the sword.”


First, we need to understand that Paul commands us to be submissive to our government authorities and to pray for them (Romans 13:1-3). Paul was submissive to a Roman government that was way more “unchristian” than America, yet he still encouraged believers to be submissive to the authorities. In a way, a believer should be the model citizen in any country of the world.


Second, I believe evangelicals need to stop using the argument that America was founded as a Christian nation and America needs to get back to that foundation. While I personally do not hold to the argument that America was founded by evangelical Christians, I do acknowledge that America was founded on Judeo-Christian values (and some founders who were very committed Christians in general). However, such an argument holds little weight in our postmodern world. Our word, our witness, and the Holy Spirit is what brings about a change in a person to believe in Christ, not arguing from an unstable historical argument.




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