Monday, July 6, 2015

Jingle Those Liberty Bells

Welcome to Independence Day in America!

At least, the America celebrated by America's white evangelicals.

Next to Christmas, July Fourth is the most overly-romanticized holiday that we white American evangelicals celebrate.  In December, we drape Christ's raw Nativity with a glowing tapestry of fluffy snowflakes.  And on the Fourth of July, we enshrine our Caucasian narrative of American history by invoking God's particular favor upon our land.  We earnestly twist religious themes into patriotic ones, while at the same time ignoring God's own claims that He's superior to politics and nationalities.

White Americans in general - and white evangelicals in particular - have a decidedly myopic interpretation of Independence Day.  It's an interpretation that minimizes huge chunks of our country's history, and glorifies patriotic themes that many white churchgoers formerly used to create those chunks of history we now consider awkward and shameful.

Independence, liberty, personal rights, freedom!  They're all as Godly as apple pie and Chevrolet, aren't they?  Many American evangelicals seem to believe so.  After all, Christ died to "free" us from sin.  We are at "liberty" to enjoy all of God's Creation.  We have all been endowed by our Creator with "certain inalienable rights..."

Oh, wait - that last part isn't from the Bible, is it?  It's part of the Declaration of Independence.  A fine document, to be sure, and one that every American should value.  But divinely-inspired language it is not.

What rights has God given any of us?  We all have only the right to die in our sins, unless we've been forgiven of our guilt of those sins by our personal faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  But even as faithful sons and daughters of God, adopted as heirs of His promise, the rights He gives us are rights of family and faith.  Not politics.

We evangelicals have been kicked in the gut by our Supreme Court's recent recognition of gay marriage.  We cluck amongst ourselves in dismay and regret at the haughty display of carnality being celebrated by our hedonistic culture.

But hey - isn't our hedonistic culture simply pursuing the mandates of our Founding Fathers?  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  Doesn't "gay" mean "happy"?

Even before the crafting of our Declaration of Independence, religious folk in America seem to have always harbored a skewed perspective of God's design for liberty.  For centuries, both religious and secular Americans have striven to manufacture a society that respects our ever-evolving concepts of what individual human beings need to be content.

Perhaps more than anything else, gay marriage has become the epitome of that quest for contentedness, even if - like everything else - contentedness is a relative concept.

There's nothing wrong with economic prosperity, for example, as long as we don't expect it, or rely upon it.  Only God is guaranteed; not money.

There's nothing wrong with moral values, except that moral values tend to fluctuate with the people group that defines those moral values.

The only nations who are blessed are the nations who place God as their Lord.  But "blessed" in the Bible doesn't necessarily involve abundant finances, or military might, or some miraculous code by which every citizen is content with their place in their society.  Read the Beatitudes to learn what God means by "blessed."

The sooner America's evangelicals realize that independence is not a Biblical virtue, the better we'll be able to love and serve each other - which, by the way, is supposed to be a hallmark of His church.

The sooner American evangelicals realize that liberty is best understood in terms of Old Testament law, and not Constitutional law, the clearer our perspective will be regarding our own personal morality.

The sooner American evangelicals realize that freedom in Christ does not automatically translate into political freedom, the less panicked we'll be as the folks who are pursuing their brand of freedom in our country infringe upon the freedoms we've been blessed to enjoy the past couple of centuries.

Indeed, if this current evolution in American society and politics tells us anything, it's that God's people don't need political independence, liberty, and freedom to be freed from the guilt of our sins.

Maybe when we develop an honest assessment of what Christ offers to us, apart from government and politics, we'll be freed up to be the salt and light our country needs us to be right now.

Jingle those liberty bells!

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