I want to follow up on my recent Kaepernick post with a few additional thoughts on where we find ourselves in this world at this moment, as Christians.
There has always been and will likely always be a multi-front war to fight for the Kingdom of God. Satan is not particularly picky; he’s a prowling lion and he’ll take whatever weak link or vulnerability he can find. He hit Jesus with food, safety, and power, and there are many variations on those themes.
So, on the one hand, we have the fierce and direct assault on Christian truth from increasingly vehement pantheistic secularists (i.e. any god but the Christian God, but mostly the me-god). In this worldview, Christianity is the great evil of the West to be annihilated. If you haven’t run into this, just go sit in on a sociology class on your nearby university campus. There, you will hear about all of the evils brought on the world by Christianity: slavery, the oppression of women, Walmart, the New York Yankees, and the vast ethnic, economic, agricultural, and ecological rape of the world — all heaped up at the feet of the Christian Church. But these, what shall we call them? — extremists, radicals? — also have mercenaries, hired guns that do a great deal of their dirty work, surgical strikes on particular fronts. These are people — some believers, some not — who have been coopted by their ignorance of the big picture. They hear a certain, slanted version of history of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Bible’s view of Women, the persecution of Homosexuals, Slavetraders, and they take up “the cause.” Of course the cause they *think* they are taking up is the cause of truth and justice and compassion. But nine times out of ten, they’re pawns on a chessboard they are completely ignorant of.
So what we’re talking about is proxy-wars. The cold war was full of them. Back of many of the international military and economic skirmishes for forty years was the USSR and USA, but that great conflict was waged through proxies — through representatives. This means that depending on how the pieces lined up, the “cause” on the ground had varying degrees of truth or justice, and (presumably) sometimes took a backseat to the goals of the people/nations/ideologies back stage.
Now, let’s be clear: the USA is not synonymous with the Kingdom of God. And people who think or speak or act like America is God’s Chosen Nation are flat wrong. The Church throughout all the world is God’s Chosen Nation. The Church is God’s new Israel. The New Jerusalem is glorious in part because all the nations of the world bring their glories into it.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations (Rev. 21:23-26).
But this is important. Particular nations have particular glories to bring. This is where Christian patriotism comes in. Part of patriotism is just loving your neighbors, and that means loving the people closest to you, working your way outward. Another part of patriotism is actually loving Christ and His Kingdom. You ought to love what you get to give to Christ. A godly husband loves His wife rightly when He loves the fact that He is loving her in order to give her — and Paul says he imitates Christ in presenting her to himself, but this is also a gift to the world, and ultimately back to God Himself. Parents love their children likewise, giving them back to the Lord and for the blessing of the world. So too love of country and nation: we love America for what we hope and pray she is bringing and will bring into the New Jerusalem.
Now given the persistence of sin, another one of Satan’s attacks comes in the form of pride: nationalistic pride, ethnic pride, geographical hubris, whatever. We’re all puffed up toddlers in our hearts, and it isn’t five minutes into something going well and we start strutting in our pampers like we are something amazing. And yes, from the get-go of this nation, there have been idolatrous impulses, worshipping the greatness of the human spirit, some vague deity in the sky, and other heresies. Eisenhower said he didn’t really care which god men prayed to, so long as they prayed to one. There is an American civil religion alive and well, and the virulence of the Left drives some to seek shelter in that pagan temple. Again, we must honor our country, but we may not worship it or ask any other god to bless it — apart from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One final point and I’ll try to pull this all together: Because the Christian God is the true God and all others are idols and frauds, every good thing is from Him. All that was made was made by the Word of God who became flesh in Bethlehem. One of the temptations of the pious is to run away from the gifts of God because people misuse them. But God calls His people to grow up into maturity by learning to give thanks to Him for His good gifts and use them wisely. This means that every good thing about America is from the Triune God. And every good thing in America must be received with thanksgiving, celebrated, and stewarded for the Kingdom of God. (Incidentally, a corollary of this point is that every wicked thing in America must be rejected, confessed, and repented of — and both the good and the wicked must be defined by the Bible and not pharisaical hobby horses on the left or right.) But the point is that Christians need to be very wary of becoming proxy warriors for the leftist secularists in the name of rejecting American civil religion. Yes, we must also be wary of becoming proxy warriors for that civil religion, but given the lay of the land, the way the wind is blowing (not to mention the power and money), the contest is not even close. In this current proxy war, one side wants to nuke the whole civilization and entrust all our hopes and dreams to the Savior State, while the other side wants to save many good things like freedom, marriage, little babies in their mothers’ wombs, and many basic assumptions of the Christian West, all admittedly mixed together with many confusions. But given this spread, our sympathies should be entirely with the folks who want to save the good things, even if they’re utterly confused as to where they came from. Why? Because they are good, and if they are good, they came from our Father.
Thoughtful Christians have pointed out that merely going back to the 1950s isn’t the solution: there was a bunch of stuff wrong going on back then, and they are right. And we can’t go back even if we wanted to. God is always taking us forward in time, insisting that we walk with Him in faith. Nevertheless, there is a righteous sentiment embedded in what may sometimes be a romantic impulse. When you’ve made a bunch of horrible decisions, it’s righteous to want to go back and choose differently. It’s also righteous to want to go back and do it over in the sense that it recognizes the goodness of what God has given and the meaningfulness of doing it right. There are some forms of romanticism that idolize the past, but there are other forms of romanticism that idolize the future — and those move on from moment to moment, year to year in a sort of flippancy, denying the goodness and significance of this world by ignoring the past and the consequences of our actions.
But if America is to repent of her sins, then in a certain sense, we must go back, and going back to repent is an admission that we have been given something worth fixing. So then, while I do believe that the standing and kneeling controversy is a worship war, and I do believe that for many it’s a proxy war between pantheistic secularists and nationalistic deists — there is always at least one more party in every conflict, and that’s the Lord Jesus. These two demigods are fighting over turf that belongs to Christ. One of them wants the right to throw it all away and blame Christ for the chaos. The other one wants to save much of it while clinging to other gods. Christians must not bow to any false god, but we must not walk off the field imagining that we are somehow absolved of the controversy. No, Jesus is Lord of every nation, including America. He inherited this part of the ends of the earth along with all the rest; He inherited it because He purchased it with His precious blood. This means it has value. This means He has given much glory to her, and as His people, we should do all in our power to see the glory brought into His City. And that means doing all in our power not to let it all get thrown away. And these principles may be applied to every nation.