Memorial Day Reflections

America (42)Memorial Day weekend is nearly upon us. It got me thinking about something I read recently.

In the Century Marks section of my most recent edition of the Christian Century, it reads:

Emergent church leader Brian McLaren wonders
when it was that the U.S. was a Christian nation. Was it when Americans wantonly killed native peoples, taking their lands and breaking
promises to them? Was it during the era of slavery or segregation,
which were justified on biblical grounds? Was it when the U.S. dropped
the first nuclear bombs on civilian populations? Or was it when the
nation plundered the environment and turned a blind eye to torture?
"Was it earlier this week, when I turned on the TV or radio and heard
people scapegoating immigrants and gay people and Muslims?" asks
McLaren (Washington Post "On Faith" blog, April 16).

Wow.

I went and read the actual article from the Washington Post "On Faith" blog. McLaren, who served as an advisor to Barack Obama during His presidential campaign, is responding to Obama's statement that America is not a Christian nation.

I don't really know where to begin or where to end. So, I'll put my response in a couple of paragraphs as best I can.

It's no secret that Brian McLaren (a delightful man personally) doesn't like America's description as a Christian nation. He says so in the article I cite above, and has said so elsewhere. Thus, he chooses to read history from a perspective that he believes demonstrates America never has been a Christian nation. If one were prone to pull out cases (albeit centuries or decades after the fact) in which America has acted wrongly, while ignoring the far greater number of cases in which America has acted in a virtuously, I see how someone could share McLaren's perspective.

However, it is an act of true revisionism to highlight and isolate the gravest sins of America in isolation of it's staggering acts of generosity, virtue and kindness across the world…all while overlooking the sins of other nations. America isn't only the world's leading philanthropist by a virtual eternity, America tends to be the only nation willing to give it's own lives for the defense of the defenseless elsewhere. I could go on, but won't.

McLaren's line (and my line in return) of argument may not even be that Christian–as we aren't Christian based solely on our deeds anyway…but on our faith in Christ. Here we get into age old faith/works issue–as it applies to nations or peoples. Interesting….

McLaren's point later on that an
inflated perception of ourselves as "Christian" or "Chosen" can lead us
to not only act unjustly but to do so in ignorance and lack of
self-awareness is a point well taken. This is something we should always guard against. However, it seems that one could make the same argument about individuals as well. For instance, we don't stop calling ourselves Christian because we have sinned and because if we do we run the danger of thinking too highly of ourselves if we do.

I am personally less concerned with whether or not America remains a "Christian Nation" than whether or not the Church remains a Christian Church. The church, not a Christian America, is the hope of the world. So, if America ceases to be Christian, I can live with that–as long as the church keeps being the church. We are, after all, citizens of another Kingdom. 

In the mean time let's be kind to one another, speaking honestly and fairly of our national faults and virtues. Let us offer grace and forgiveness for past sins, and work together for Christ's sake. 

And to all those who have given their lives over the years so that Brian McLaren, I, and all Americans can speak freely in a format such as this…thank you.

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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