America, Christianity & American Sniper
We end up bringing our American distinctive to the glorious diversity of worship in Heaven.
John Mark Reynolds of Houston Baptist University has a very good commentary on being Christian as an American:
I fear that the intellectualists have taken global university culture and are trying to colonize the rest of us with it, but I am not a creature of the rootless, nationless elites that deny the mother that bore them.
I am an American.
American culture is not more holy than other cultures, but it is not less so and it is eternal. We end up bringing our American distinctive to the common worship of Heaven. The diversity of the choir there will be glorious, so let’s tune up!
Blessed John put it this way:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Someday I will stand before God recognizably still an American and worship Him eternally as an American.
These sentiments recall Richard Neuhaus (co-founder of the Institute on Religion & Democracy) in his final book American Babylon, in which he declared: “When I meet God, I expect to meet him as an American.”
Neuhaus and Reynolds explain that as Christians we are not disembodied spirits but placed by God in specific places, cultures and times, with eternal consequence. They also both remind that America, a nation of sinners, has still been a divine instrument for good in countless ways.
In contrast, Evangelical blogger Carl Medearis critiques the film American Sniper with these snippy comments:
What I don’t like is the reborn version of Manifest Destiny. That we’re God’s chosen vessel for good in the world. Or that America has some sort of agenda for other countries that’s more pure than what they might have for themselves. It’s simply not true. And really, the problem is idolatry. When we start to pledge our allegiance to anything other than God’s Kingdom, we’re in for trouble. The love of country and the love of flag (and what it stands for) should never be in the same discussion with our devoted love for God. We can talk about country like we talk football or political parties, but be careful that we never give it the same weight as our discussion of what it means to love God and love our neighbors.
Medearis goes on with some dubious implications and assertions: that America’s wars of the last century weren’t just, except possibly WWII, because they weren’t fought directly in defense of U.S. soil, that maybe American conquest of the Indians was not dissimilar to Nazi conquest of Europe, that the 1944 anti-Hitler assassination attempt just spurred Hitler on to murder the Jews, that the U.S. should have avoided war in Afghanistan and Iraq to instead “wage peace” against the Taliban, al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and that he, as a “follower of Jesus,” will not honor as a hero “any man with a gun in anybody’s army.”
So Medearis seems to subscribe to some form of pacifism and imagines that militant Islamists can be assuaged by “waging peace.” He also sounds like the “rootless, stateless elites” who look askance at loyalty to and gratitude for that place where God has placed us, especially if that place happens to be America.
Medearis rejects patriotism as a “‘godly’ virtue.” But contempt and cynicism aren’t virtues. Nor are distorting history and truncating historic Christian teaching. More ennobling, and beautiful, are the visions of Reynolds and Neuhaus, that God reaches down into sinful humanity, including even the United States, and achieves His purposes among individuals and nations.
Reprinted from Juicy Ecumenism by permission.