John Fischer impresses me. Not only is he a talented musician whose works have inspired Christians since my parents were teenagers, but recently he’s made a name for himself sharing Christ as a speaker and writer. His daily devotional (The Catch) has been exceptional in insight and practically helpful to my walk with God for the past few years.
Now, this post wasn’t supposed to be a plug for John Fischer. I do want to promote him, but I had planned on doing that later. The reason John bumped himself to the top of my “to write about” list is because of today’s Catch. Before you continue reading, I strong suggest you go read it. I’ll quote the vital portions, but I strongly reccomend everything be read first in its original context and with the biases only of the original author.
His topic is provacative, to say the least. His perspective is refreshing, both in it’s honest look at a very biased issue and in how tempered and gently it’s presented. That’s not a normal thing.
First off, it’s not normal to question the idea of a Christian nation. Ask Greg Boyd. He lost most of his church doing it back in 2004. (The Cross and the Sword, scroll to the bottom of the page, it’s the last six sermons) Go ahead, try just implying sometime that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t intend for America to be expressly Christian or that while the founding fathers were decent Judeo-Christian based philosophers, their work wasn’t Christian or maybe just wasn’t God’s ideal. It’s a guaranteed way to be treated like a leper. I think the only time I’ve gotten a stronger reaction was when I questioned Calvinism at a Reformed church. (It was a joke, come on, laugh)
Second, the man’s gentle. That’s also not normal. I know a lot of people who would say he’s weak or timid in his handling of the issue, but I think that’s an unfair call. Sadly, when you look at those of us who call into question the idea of a Christian nation and are uncomfortable with Christianized patriotism, most of us are rather blunt, arrogant, and rough in our handling of it. We don’t tend to allow room for people who disagree with us. Life is very all or nothing. I have to place myself in this category, too.
So, those two things being pointed out, I’d like to draw your attention to my two favorite points.
“To what end do we want America to be a more Christian nation – for the salvation of those around us or for a safer environment to raise our own families? And if we could get everything we wanted, what would that be? Would it mean more people would become Christians? Would more people be saved? Would more people come to know Jesus?”
It’s simplistic, yes, but it’s a good starting point. I teach physics. The first lesson I teach every year is to impress upon my students the importance of this one-word question – why? Why do we feel the need to defend the idea of a Christian Nation? Why do we want the country to be more Christian? Why?
I touched on this idea way back when. It’s good to hear it resonated with saner minds.
“What if a more Christian nation meant a more diluted Christianity? Actually a strong case could be made historically for this (see the Holy Roman Empire). A more current illustration of this would be the fact that one is more likely to find a vital Christianity thriving on a secular college campus than in a Christian college or university. The more Christian the environment, the more assumptions are made about everybody’s Christianity, often resulting in apathy and disconnection when it comes to one’s personal faith.
It could be that a less Christian environment might foster a more vibrant Christian community. The early church and Christianity around the world show us over and over again that faith thrives amidst opposition.”
Hmm… This is a tricky one. My favorite example to site is modern China. One of the commenters on “The Catch” pointed to Brother Yun’s response to Christians who offer to pray for the persecution in China to end. Apparently Brother Yun is very much pro-persecution because it’s good for the church. It boggles my mind, but I can’t disagree with the man.
Last summer, on an all night drive home from a friend’s wedding, me and another guy were solving the world’s problems at about 3:00 in the morning. We were discussing why he voted for who he voted for and we wound up on an interesting question: should we vote for what’s best for the country or what’s best for the church? What if what’s best for the church isn’t all that healthy for the country, or puts us as Christians in a bad or awkward spot? I’m not saying I have the answers to these questions, just that they’re good questions we need to be asking – even when it’s not 3:00 AM and we haven’t slept in over 24 hours.
I know people who pray for persecution to come to America. This seems extreme to me, but I can see the point. It’s kind of a “put your money where your mouth is” scenario. We want to be stronger Christians, we want the church to be vibrant, growing, and on fire, but do we really want to deal with the fires that fuel that passion? It’s kind of like praying for patience or humility. We all know better than to do that; God’ll give us something to be patient or humble about. Who wants to live through that? Yet we all know we should be more patient and humble.
I’m not trying to make any grandiose statement. I’m not claiming to have all the answers. I’ve drawn some conclusions in my own life and convictions, but mostly I just want to ask the questions. We can all land on different sides of the issues or convictions. That’s fine. That’s part of Christianity. We better have asked ourselves the questions though. Too many people ignore hard questions because they rock the boat or they disrupt their preconceptions and worldview. That’s a travesty.
Ask the questions. I don’t care if you agree with me or not, but ask the questions and let’s have a real discussion.