The heart of the church-state separation is the protection of the church from political poison, rather than the other way around. We’ve spent so much time recently scratching and clawing our way to what we see as our “rightful place” at the center of American culture, we’ve failed to see how deeply the political poison has penetrated our vital organs and how very sick we are.
As an example, a proclaimed christian political figure recently made the statement publicly that “We see America as the greatest force for good in this world.” Can we see the distortion in this statement? The GREATEST force for GOOD in the world is one of its nations? This idea is rooted in the notion that America’s particular way of being is, as a whole, beneficial to the entire globe. Is it the American way of living and being that we are committed to multiplying throughout the earth? Is this what is good?
As responsible citizens we have a responsibility to be culturally critical. It should be a given that our first allegiance is to a King and a Kingdom, yet somehow being a follower of Jesus has come to be equated to being a patriot, while in the meantime, being a patriot has come to mean having a nearly blind allegiance to and defense of “the American Way.” But even the briefest critical look at the Way of Jesus and the “American Way” makes clear that there are some rather large gaps between the two.
As an example, the emphasis on productivity and growth as a determinant of worth and success has gone greatly unchecked here in the States. While this characteristic is not entirely unique to America (China seems to hold its own in this regard), I can only speak to the length of my own experience and understanding, which is with American culture. While the size of the average home in the US has grown almost exponentially in the past few years, the number of people living in those homes has declined by an equally alarming rate… Fewer people needing more space; is this a life-principle worth passing on to the rest of the globe?
Even the sacred concept of freedom we find at the center of much patriotic conversation has morphed into an idea more closely tied to limitlessness (and that limitlessness tied to consumer greed) more characteristic of gods than humble, responsible human beings. As Wendell Berry writes; “Hell is the place where we believe no limits apply, where we believe our power and knowledge to be limitless, and thus become slaves to our appetite and lose freedom in the name of false liberty. “ (Read the rest of this article here.)
The US victory over the Nazis reinforced the idea that America was on the side of good by its very nature. It is this dangerous mixture of political and religious zeal that certain political elements have seized in an effort (and a successful one at that) to solidify political allegiance among evangelical christians. “Good” in this light has come to be closely and deeply tied to “American” and has us held so closely to it’s bosom that we cannot see our beloved nation from a sufficient distance to judge its health.
Now, besides the fact that empires who claim the will of God moves upon their moving have a rather nasty track record, the people of God living in a nation gone awry have often had much explaining to do when they’ve assimilated to that nation’s ways. In this light, being critical IS being a patriot.