The Theological Mix of "God and Country"?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Rhetorician, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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    Hello to all:

    I have had a problem for quite a while now. I must say "to put myself out there" on the BB forum is probably not the most intelligent thing that I have ever done!? But here goes. (And the administrator may move this to the correct forum if I have erred?).

    We moved to a new church about 1 1/2 years ago. We had been at a "traditional SBC" church for 19 years. So we are not "church hoppers" by any means.

    During this time at the other church I have had a group of men in a men's Bible class who have, from time to time, thought that my "radical ideas" of the Gospel were a bit--well--too extreme. I taught them that there was more to the Gospel than the "I asked Jesus in my heart" type of salvation, "get saved at revival meetin'" never to be seen again, type stuff. Issues that have captivated my teaching have been;

    1. We must take up the cross, literally if necessary, to be Jesus disciples;

    2. That the call to follow Jesus is a call to suffer;

    3. And that what is packaged as the Gospel today, even with a cursory reading of the NT, looks nothing like the Lord's call to follow him.

    I have said all that to lay a foundation for my post. I just go into orbit and will not sin against my own conscience when there is a "4th of July," "Veteran's Day," "Memorial Day," "Flag Day," "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" etc., in a worship service. Generally, I get up and leave. There has been times when I sat there, or stood, and participated. But my spirit was smitten. And I hope not to do it again.

    My question is this? Should we salute the American Flag in a worship service. My conviction is that the Gospel is transnational, trans-American, trans-historical, and to put anything on the par with some allegiance to the Gospel is just plain wrong. And it borders on idolatry....

    I know I am going to catch it from those who cannot tell the difference in being a good patriot and equating that with being a "good Christian;" or being a "good American" and being a "good Christian." Keep in mind this is one man's opinion. I would hope that this will cause you to think through the issue for yourself.

    Allegiance to Christ supersedes everything. Remember the words to Luther's A Mighty Fortress is Our God. "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also...."

    I know I will be rebuked and called anti-American. I am pro-American and consider myself a patriot. And I would gladly lay down my life for this great republic if called upon to do so. But my higher allegiance is to King Jesus and His Kingdom.

    "That is all!" :smilewinkgrin:
     
  2. Ruiz

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    A couple of issues:

    First, a worship service is to worship God and Him alone... not to declare allegiance to any other. In our worship service, we do not even allow a flag in the service. We want people to worship God alone. If the greatest thing we do is worship God, then we should not lower ourselves from worshiping God to pledging our allegiance to America. I would think God is jealous in that His people would take the time they normally set aside for focused corporate worship and pledge to a nation.

    Secondly, I would rephrase your idea about suffering. Josef Tson, a persecuted Pastor during Communist Romania, once remarked that the problem with America is that we view things as "suffering for Jesus." He said that they viewed it as a privilege.

    Yet, I agree with you. We should focus more upon loving God and showing Him as magnificent, not man or nations.
     
  3. HankD

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    Whether for good or bad, I have no problem whatsoever with pledging to the flag, singing patriotic songs, etc in a church environment.

    This is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing apart from conscientious objector type religions such as JW's.

    Perhaps it is because I am a veteran, saved while in the service and at our base there was no sharp line of demarcation drawn between God and country by the chaplains and officers both on the battlefield (although I myself saw no combat) and/or in the confines of a church setting.

    If that makes me an idolater then I will answer to God.
    However my conscience is perfectly clear.

    HankD
     
  4. Ruiz

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    Hank,

    Question, do you think someone could hate the United States but love God? Do you think such a person would feel comfortable in a worship service.

    By the way, it wasn't until the 20th Century till most churches started honoring our state in churches. Traditionally, Christians had no problems with patriotism, but not in the worship services. JW's don't engage the government in any way. I am just saying it is not appropriate when worshipping God. I would have a hard time thinking God in the coming kingdom will have us pledge allegiance to the American Flag. In fact, I do not think there is anything better than worshipping God, I think the pledge or honoring our country is exchanging the glory of worship for the ugliness of America.
     
  5. Deacon

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    Interesting side note:

    The original words of the pledge of the allegiance were penned by a Baptist pastor.

    Rob
     
  6. HankD

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    There are some things about my government that I abhor like the Roe vs. Wade decision.

    Nations like people are flawed.

    I really am not concerned about what others think about my country, that is their right.
    If it spills over into their worship, so be it.
    If it infringes upon my rights or the rights of my fellow Americans that is different.

    However it would be my preference that they keep it to themselves.

    My father and all of my uncles served in WWII, one wounded and many decorated. I was a young boy then. There was quite a bit of national prayer and patriotism in the churches (yes, perhaps even to a fault).

    When the war ended there was jubilation everywhere incuding in the churches. The younger generation just doesn't understand the horror of WWII.

    I myself am a veteran of the Vietnam Era (though, as I said, my duties did not include direct combat). There were no such retrictions in the churches on the bases where I had been assigned (just the opposite) nor had I ever heard or seen it anywhere but among certain religions, Quakers, JW's etc.

    Certainly not among Catholics (I am a former Catholic, 3rd generation American of Italian heritage) or Baptists.

    So, I guess that is why I just don't understand your proposition.
    God, country and family had been intermingled in my heart and mind from my youth on.

    Though I don't worship my country, I don't believe its wrong or idolatrous to salute the flag, sing the National Anthem, "God bless America" or "the Battle Hymn of the Republic" in church.

    If I wern't so old I would do my duty again if called upon or perhaps even volunteer (as I did in my youth) to defend my country and my loved ones.

    In the coming kingdom, that difference I understand, but this is now where the Scriptures say " Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" and the kingdom and its ruling charter is yet to come.

    Obviously nations can turn against the ordaining will of God such as the Third Reich but now they are gone.


    HankD
     
  7. PastorGreg

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    I am highly patriotic, getting ready for our "I Love America Sunday" on July 4th. Our nation was intentionally founded on biblical principles by God-fearing men, and much of the liberty we have lost has been because of ingorance of our founding. We need to teach those truths to our people. However, I am a Christian first, an American 2nd.

    The quote above is simply not true. When Memorial Day began in the 19th century, the day was spent largely in church. Much of the imptetus of our War for Independence was fired in the churches. etc, etc.
     
  8. NaasPreacher (C4K)

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    He also considered himself a 'Christian Socialist,' whatever that might be.
     
  9. Martin

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    First, allow me to say that I agree with you 100% on the topic of the Gospel. It has become too watered down in the modern "evangelical" church.

    I'll confess to facing the same struggle. I get very nervous when church services, which are suppose to focus on the Lord, focus on America (or any nation). Usually I somewhat go along with it, but like you I have a sense of guilt about doing so. So far, I have not excused myself.

    At the same time, however I also feel somewhat two-faced for not going along with such things. I grew up in a military community and I teach American History for a living. Also I have a nice painting of the statue of Liberty in my house. The point is that I think I am about as patriotic as they come. Sometimes I feel two-faced about the whole thing. It is a real struggle for me. However I'm always glad to hear/read about other christians who face the same struggle.

    It is a touchy issue and I don't know if I can clearly answer that question one way or the other. I'm not offended by an acknowledgment of our nation in church. However, in my experience, many evangelical/conservative churches just go too far. In such cases I don't believe it borders on idolatry, it is idolatry. My former church, that I was a member of until '07 when I had to find a church closer to home, went overboard sometimes. However the church I am a member of now generally does not get too caught up in the patriotic stuff. This past Memorial Day, our pastor showed a sermon Billy Graham preached in 1953. However the music was patriotic in nature. That bothered me a bit.


    Amen!! :thumbs:
     
  10. Crabtownboy

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    Far too many American Christians have their Christianity, government and culture completely mixed together. This is a modern American heresy. Far too many believe if it is not American it cannot be Christian.

    Our culture is not Christian.
    Our government is not Christian.
    Only surrendering and following Christ is Christian.
     
  11. Ruiz

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    Greg,

    Yes, the prayer meeting in Colonial Williamsburg was a great impetus to the Revolutionary War. As well, there were celebrations of Memorial Day. However, the corporate gathering of God's People during the set-aside for their gathering has traditionally been reserved for only the worship of God. I do not care if we were founded on "Christian Principles" as a "Christian Nation" or not.

    Yet, most Baptists were more worried about our relationship with God in the Corporate gather to take our eyes off of the most glorious being in all the Universe to waste time with looking at the United States.

    Personally, I have served in the military. Yet, while I love my country, I would never want to take away from the worship of God, not even for a country as great as the U.S.... not for anyone or anything. I love my country, but I love God more.
     
  12. Deacon

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    That was the time when Chiristians were deep in the "social gospel" controversy... as a consequence many of our "modern" churches no longer feed or clothe the poor and downtrodden.
    ******************************************

    • Our church’s name was coined after a famous military victory (Crossing Community Church / Washington crossing the Delaware in route to his victory over the Redcoats in Trenton, N.J.).
    • A new National Cemetery had recently opened not far from our church.
    • We have a good number of men who participate in Revolutionary War march reenactments in parades.
    • The church even has a couple of working canons that are shot on occasion.
    • Many men in our congregation have a military background.
    • A number of our youth have participated in the recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    • In fact in one service an elderly gentleman who had participated in the Guadalcanal landing spoke.
    I’ve never had the opportunity to serve in the military, my number never came up.
    I’ve had the same reservations as Rhetorician but view it through a different set of glasses.
    It is interesting to see how other are able to integrate their beliefs with a lifestyle so different from my experiences.
    I honor our men who have served in extreme conditions and still kept the faith.
    I honor those that have died to extend to me the freedom I enjoy.

    I can honor my parents, my country, my church, my boss, but as Rhetorician wrote: “Allegiance to Christ supersedes everything.”

    Rob
     
  13. Martin

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    I'm not sure why that is an appriopriate thing to do in the house of God on the Day of the Lord. However I am willing to listen to why you disagree.

    While it is certainly true that Christianity played a role in the founding of America, it is only partly true that our nation was founded by "God fearing men". Certainly some of them were, but others were not. Thomas Jefferson denied the resurrection of Christ, the letters of Paul, and other miracles in general. John Adams, who I like, denied the Trinity. Benjamin Franklin said, and I quote, "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a questionI do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now.." (to Ezra Stiles, 3/9/1790). While I have a great respect for many of the works of Franklin, and while I am greatful he was one of our founders, I don't believe that sounds like a "God fearing man". In fact his statement seems to go in a similiar direction as Jefferson's, asserting that the teachings of Christ have been corrupted.

    As I said, there were founders who we would call evangelicals (John Jay, Benjamin Rush, etc). However it is historically wrong to say that America was founded by "God fearing men". It would be correct to say that among America's founders were several God fearing men.


    What "truths"? You are aware of the fact that the founders disagreed among themselves about various different things. What about those Christians who did not believe the separation from England was just? Do you not know that there were Christians on both sides of the debate/war?

    Again, that is only partly true. Yes, churches played a major role in the Revolution for both patriots and loyalists. After all churches often served as meeting houses where political meetings (etc) would occur. On Sunday mornings, accross the nation, sermons were preached both for and against the patriot position.

    My point is that churches and Christians were divided on the issue.
     
  14. jaigner

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    Amen. Beautifully stated.
     
  15. jaigner

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    I completely agree with your point. We are called to members of Christ's kingdom. This earthly kingdom in which we live, which is not "Christian" besides Christianity's place as the former civic religion, will pass away.

    As far as the flag being idolatrous, you are exactly right. I do not salute or pledge allegiance to the flag anymore, even in my classroom at school. As a Christian, my allegiance should lie elsewhere.

    On top of the point you give, it makes me want to vomit whenever the patriotic, nationalistic bile is spewed from the pulpit. It is especially horrific whenever there is talk about the various military endeavors as if God were on our side. Or when we give thanks that American life was spared, while other image-bearers have been slaughtered in some blood-thirsty conquest to spread the American ideal.

    We serve a higher throne.
     
  16. preachinjesus

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    Given the evidence it is hard to convincingly say that our nation was founded to be an expressly and exclusively Christian nation. While Christianity informed our founding it wasn't the reason for it.

    We believe the combination of Christianity and nationalism is a dangerous thing and will not allow a flag, pledging, anthems, or such focused on exalting the state to be sung in our worship gatherings. Too much destruction of humanity has been perpetrated under the guise that it was making poeple more holy.

    I'm not too patriotic, we live in a global community and while I'm
    thankful for our heritage and successes as a nation I don't believe God has blessed us anymore than another nation. Too often we confuse material/economic success with Gods exclusive blessing.

    Therefore I rather agree with the OP and think that such decisions should give us pause. We wouldn't want to usher in a new era of babylonian capativity for the church.
     
  17. blackbird

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    I heard the late, great Dr. Adrian Rogers say

    "If the Lord Jesus Christ lived in downtown Moscow---I'd be making plans to move there myself"

    I'm telling ya----if we here in the USA were half as patriotic about New Jerusalem as we are of what comes out of Washington, DC . . .
     
  18. NaasPreacher (C4K)

    NaasPreacher (C4K)
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    For an idea of the kind of socialist he was find a copy of his brother's book - 'Looking Backward'
     
  19. HankD

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    I guess I am just an old-fashion God-family-country kind of guy.

    I am amazed at some of these posts.

    But, being a retired veteran, I guess I should now just do my "new" patriotic duty and die and get out of the way of the "fundamentally changed" nation being evolved by the globally-minded.

    God bless America. He has and He will.

    My old-fashion opinion of course.

    HankD
     
  20. AresMan

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    Hank, I myself am deeply patriotic and empathize with your sentiments. I appreciate what God has done for America. I want God to continue to bless America and I pray that He does. I am, however, alarmed at what nationalistic politics is doing to churches. Instead of studying the Bible for themselves, some let talk radio figures, deeply flawed politicians, or establishment leadership of political parties dictate to them what Christianity is and what the Bible actually teaches.

    Some seem to swear by the beliefs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, or what not more so than the Bible itself. They can easily dismiss "differences" in carnal doctrines, but to criticize the words or actions of the sacred cows of "conservative" politics is to tempt the wrath of God.

    Some people can believe the Bible and have different opinions on some political issues that the Bible itself does not specifically address (or it may do so, but fans of political figures may just try to explain away the teaching of the Bible itself in favor of the views of their heroes).

    Would you feel uncomfortable visiting in the congregation of a Baptist church in China where an entire sermon was devoted to praising the nation of China and bashing all her enemies? You would probably be screaming inside: "Preach the Bible, idiot! I didn't come here for nationalist propaganda. We're all Baptists, after all."

    I, myself, have no problem with a country's flag in a church's place of gathering.
    I have no problem with prayers in church thanking God for blessing the country and the freedoms that He has bestowed upon that country for worship.
    I have no problem thanking God for the men and women who have laid down their lives for these freedoms.

    I get a little uneasy when a church becomes a vehicle for unhealthy political alliances and dedicates "sermons" entirely away from preaching the unmitigated Word of God for political pandering. Sometimes it seems that some churches want to propagate an unrealistic view of a theonomy that never was, never is, nor was ever supposed to be.

    The whole purpose of the church is to edify the saints and to expound upon the Word of God.
     

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