Friday, July 10, 2009

Yankee-Doodle Diety

Not sure you're into following Jesus? What's the matter, don't you know the future of America depends on it? I mean go ahead, be a it for the old Red, White, and Blue, and for our boys in Baghdad.

Recently I got a well-meaning chain e-mail that sounded like this:

“Our nation has been on a slippery slope for a long time. If you look around you will find corruption, greed, moral decay, and a steady move away from the things that made us great. The principles upon which this nation was founded are no longer our backbone. However, we can reverse this trend.

“2 Chronicles 7:14 In God's word HE states, "If MY people who are called by MY Name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land".

I am convinced that we must pray for our nation and its leaders and ask for forgiveness. So I ask you to join me in this plea to our Lord. If you feel led to do so, would you please send this to people in your address book; ask them to pray EVERYDAY. (25 to the only the 5th power is 9,765,625 people.) IMAGINE if each person reaches TEN others...or all TWENTY FIVE!

If you do and they comply, we will lift up millions and millions of prayers a day to our Creator. He will hear us and in faith will answer.”

A counterpoint:

First of all, let us not mistake who God was speaking to in 2 Chronicles. He was speaking to his chosen people -- the Jewish nation in Palestine, 450 BC. Is that the same as Christians in the USA, 2009? I am not saying this does not pertain to us at all, I am merely asking HOW does this pertain to “us”, the 9.77 million people envisioned in the would-be chain letter above?

The “we” in 2 Chronicles is not “America”, neither does it refer directly to any odd conglomeration of souls who pray. Does that mean it doesn't apply to us? No, that's not what I mean. It just means that we need to look at what words like "us" and "land" mean in that context. So who are God's people today?

Well, I suppose that would be Christians. This passage is interested in His gathered people, His followers, His church. The “us” referenced is all the Jesus-lovers in Iran and Israel, Mexico city and Vatican City, Angola and America. Not political entities, but the “one holy ethnos” he’s gathered from every tribe and tongue.

So if CHRISTIANS, who are called by God's name, will humble themselves and pray and seek God's face and turn from THEIR wicked ways, God will hear and forgive THEIR sin, and bless THEIR land. However, the popular myth of this e-mail suggests that “we good guys” should be praying against “those nasty OTHER guys”. Those greedy people, those corrupt people, and their moral decay. Those for whom we vote and cheer; those whose CD’s and DVD’s we collect. Them…the ones that have pushed America down such a "slippery slope."

This seems to run completely contrary to the verse we're referencing. God says that WE must humble OURselves. Us! Our churches. Our Christians. WE must turn from our wicked ways, not bow in smug false repentance for the sins of others.

Then he will heal our land, right? And America will "turn around", and be restored to her greatness, to her manifest destiny? But He's not talking about America. God has no more interest in America’s success as a nation, nor for the souls of its citizens, than he has in Congo or Cambodia or Costa Rica. If you do not understand this, you do not understand God and his kingdom.
Joe B


Craig said...

Bingo, gentlemen.

Maybe it's the 'Child of the 60s' in me, but I have always been uncomfortable with the tendency of so many American Christians to conflate 'America' with 'God's People'. There is certainly warrant for taking God's prophetic word to His people Israel as applying to ourselves as Christians, or as His Church. But to take the words addressed to Israel as a nation as though they were directly transferable to the United States, is, to say the least, a much shakier proposition.

There is some warrant, from Nineveh in the Book of Jonah, for supposing that a 'national repentance' would be looked upon graciously by God.

But 'America as God's People' is an unwarranted extrapolation. Scripturally, Israel/the Jews are the only people with any justification for calling themselves 'God's People'. And, by extension, the Church.

Historically speaking, the United States looks a lot more like Rome than Israel. . .

Scott said...

Historically speaking, the United States looks a lot more like Rome than Israel. . .

Hey, that's just what *I've* been saying! Have we been reading some of the same books? :-)

Don't say that too loud, though. You'll be in danger of looking super un-patriotic.

By the way, I have always wondered what a "national repentance" would look like, in this day and age of such hardcore individuality, and populations of 600 million. How would you even be able to tell? By our media or politicians? Neither of those seems like a very good representation.

Craig said...

Have we been reading some of the same books? I don't know; actually, I rather doubt it. . .

There is a strong tendency among modern Westerners to invest politics with 'ultimate' signficance; so much as to imply that, if we could only get the right laws passed, or the right people elected, we could usher in the Kingdom of God. And that is just as true on the 'Left' as it is on the 'Right'. The real 'error' is investing ultimate significance in something which doesn't bear it.


Now, I'm not saying that 'patriotism is idolatry' (altho it certainly could be), or that the US is the Whore of Babylon ('cuz that would be the Catholic Church, right?). There is a perfectly good and human 'love of country' that flows from love of neighbor and gratitude to God.

And it is completely appropriate to pray for our government, and our leaders, or to sing, "America, America, God shed His grace on thee." (Recalling that the later verses ask that "God mend thine every flaw" and "May God thy gold refine")

But you do want to be clear on the distinction as to exactly Who is Worthy of our Worship, and what won't bear the weight. . .


As to 'national repentance', I really don't have any idea what it might look like, either. Just raising it as a concept, taking Nineveh as a template. . .

Joe B said...

Craig, you are wise and good. But I'm not so sure that good ol sugary patriotism is not actually idolatry. And it is not a uniquely Western propensity to "invest ultimate significance" in political things. Even where you have a dictator or a golden idol, that idol is the embodiment of the people who worship it. Idolatryis always ethnic. It is Lord of the Flies, it is Baylon, egypt and Rome. It's the Crips and the Bloods. It's the Democrates and the Republicans. "You are the Problem of Evil, and We are the Salvation from Evil." A whole language and symbolic system grows up around it.

Craig said...

Why do you call me 'good'? No one is good but God alone. . .

Point taken. I'm not so sure, either. But a 'love of country' that flows from love of one's neighbors and gratitude to God (however 'hypothetical' it may actually be) is surely a different animal than 'Us Good Guys' vs 'Those Bad Guys'. . .