I read a piece today by an excellent writer named John Pavlovitz, encouraging good people to 'use their outside voices' in shouting down hatred, discrimination, corruption, and the heresy that has come to characterize the words and actions of some Christians.
As is often the case, when I read Pavlovitz, I felt like he was speaking my words and doing so far better than I. That's always true. But today, I felt a bit ashamed, and more than a bit challenged to write more forcefully about what I see as the destruction of our way of life from actions of people who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, as I do.
First, a disclaimer: I love this country. There is no better place in the world and I love our freedom, our opportunities, and our overall system.
But I am not 'America First' or 'Make America Great Again.' I have not made the United States my 'idol.' I worship only God, in the person of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. First, last, only, and always.
Pavlovitz eloquently demolishes those who worship 'America' and pledge allegiance to 'the flag,' to a political party, or to an individual politician. And in America, they are free to do so, or worship any other thing they want.
Just don't tell us you're a Christian if you worship those things or if you believe the freedom and happiness you enjoy comes from "the Constitution" or "The Founding Fathers." Your blessings - all of them - are afforded to you by a God who loves you and wants you and everyone else to be with Him in eternity.
And don't claim Christianity if you suggest that God prefers the United States, or Russia, China, Gambia, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Lesotho, or the Philippines. God created people to love them. People invented countries. God loves individual people.
And don't wave your Bible at anyone if you condone policies that prevent needy people from getting the help they need. Be it food, shelter, education, health care, or safety, or anything else, we are to love one another and that means we help one another.
And spare me your sermons if you advocate for tax cuts for those who are NOT in need, but then turn around and cry poor-mouth when aid to the truly needy is brought up. No Christian should consider the job 'done' if there are still people who are working just to survive, who live in fear, who are sick and can't get care, or who have the wrong differences in the wrong neighborhoods and are at risk of being killed.
The world isn't perfect just because you got 'yours.' Yes, you are blessed. But you didn't earn it. God blessed you out of grace, not your sterling character. Hence, we're called to share our blessings to help our fellow human being.
And please, don't brag about your church attendance while remaining silent in the face of continuing discrimination based on racial, gender, sexual, religious, or ethnic differences. If you can't see that all people were created by God, then you have been fooled and blinded by Satan himself. This discrimination is sin, nothing else. Any and all human beings.
And no quoting scripture if you can't even begin to admit that, in the wrong hands, guns are never okay. At the same time, spare us your willful misinterpretation of the precious second amendment and how it is the right (God-given?) for everyone to have a gun if they want one. Like countries, people invented guns. There is no God-given right to them or anything else. The fear and paranoia that peppers the pro-gun screeds is no way to make public policy. Don't blame God for guns. He doesn't like them either.
Some now think it's okay to openly display their ignorance as a badge of patriotism. Some do this even while still claiming some weird, backwards version of Christianity.
In this version, which bears no resemblance to the Gospel, those who claim to be believers would not like Jesus one bit, if He came back in the same form He took the first time.
Here's the thing: The people who fight progress, including new technologies, greater care for the environment, incorporating new discoveries of science, more opportunities and a leg up to those who are historically left out of our economic carnival, and providing a means for more people to come to our land, they don't 'love' America. They simply wish to freeze her. That is not patriotism. It's selfishness and ignorance.
Don't let their patriotic nonsense fool you. Their love is for their privilege and that of a relative few who look and believe like they do at the expense of others who simply want to live a decent - not necessarily opulent - life.
Their underlying suggestion seems to be that America, great as she is, cannot provide a good life for everybody. That we have limits that necessitate some suffering while others live lavishly. Some more truth:
We have more than enough. It's not even close.
The reason some say we don't have enough is because they already have too much. By a lot.
Since they know they have too much, they fear that others getting more will result in them having less. And that will simply not do.
So instead of providing opportunity for people to 'make it' and to live the 'American dream,' we have people with power trying to limit opportunity, reduce incomes, limit the right to vote, and engage in corruption that will allow these same selfish people to maintain their advantages under the guise of following the law.
I am for America, and I am proud to be an American, but I have no expectation that God blesses the sort of inequality, systemic bias, and discrimination that are important national sins, when He has blessed us with so much more than we could ever need.
Some Christians say that these sins are overblown or non-existent. They say it either knowing for a fact that they are wrong (and pandering for political points) or they are in no position to judge, not being members of any of these oppressed categories.
Instead, Jesus prescribes empathy, care, love. He knows your pain, and how severe it is. He doesn't tell you, especially not in harsh tones, that you need to suck it up. That's not love. It's denial.
Either you are with Jesus, or you are not. Jesus said to love one another. He didn't list exceptions. 'One another' means everyone. If you are a Christian, this is what you're called to do.
By His grace, you are saved.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).
Jim Donaher is an author and blogger from Massachusetts. He recently published his first book, "Call Him, He's Home: A Regular Person's Guide to Prayer", now available on Amazon. Click on the title to take a look.
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