|Posted on November 2, 2018 at 11:35 AM||comments (0)|
In his piece, “The Heresy of Christian Nationalism” (https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/02/13/christian-nationalism-heresies/) which someone sent me today because it obviously fits me to the tee, John Pavlovitz begins “God doesn’t bless America.” The truly astonishing thing is, this social conservative white male Christian (wait for it) ... agrees (gasp).
To a point.
God blesses all people on this earth with rain and food and sunshine and laughter. God especially blesses his people who call on his Name (Jesus) with inner peace, joy, hope, and faith, knowing that they are no longer at enmity with God though they are wretched sinners, because Jesus took their sins away and forgave them by faith alone. These "special" people are Christians--not nominal Christians, not Buddhists, not atheists, not Americans or Latinos or Russians or Iraqis (though someone from any of those countries can certainly be a Christian, but he doesn’t bless them because they are from those countries). God blesses his church, which belongs to the kingdom of God. His kingdom is not of this world. You can’t say, “Here it is,” because that kingdom is inside of us.
However, through these people, blessings can and have and do come to any country in which those people are found. Blessings like stability of families; a stronger conviction of right and wrong, good and evil; institutions what spring up out of the goodwill of people’s hearts that help the poor, the outcast, the sick, the needy.
The rest of his piece is an exercise in ranting and pigeonholing every possible stereotype about conservative Christians that one can possibly imagine. What must it be like to be such an angry person? Stereotypes exist for reasons. Some of them are good reasons and some are bad. If there truly was such a person as is painted in this piece, then shame on them. If some people have some of those characteristics, then, not necessarily. Why? Because underneath the surface is the implicit presupposition that if you are not a card-carrying member of the DNC, and a person who reads the Bible through economic redistribution and a politically correct form of cultural Marxism (i.e. postmodernism) and identity politics, then you aren’t a real Christian.
In the unbroken angry sarcasm of the piece we are told,
“A few other bits of news from the Scriptures: Jesus was born in the Middle East. He didn’t speak English. He wasn’t white. He wasn’t Southern Baptist. He wasn’t a Republican. He wasn’t American. Heck, he wasn’t even Christian … I’m sorry to break all this bad news to you. I understand the actual words of the Gospel are problematic, given the story you’re selling to those whose fear you’re leveraging in America right now.”
Who is this person, exactly, that thinks Jesus was an English speaking, white Southern Baptist Republican American Christian? He’s called Mr. Strawman, and I’ve met him quite a few times in my life.
What if I wrote back, “I hate to break it to you, John, but Jesus wasn’t a bilingual English/Spanish speaking brown wiccan homosexual United Methodist Social Justice Democrat Mexican-African-Chinese-Iraqi-Native-American atheist.” Is that helpful even in the slightest? Of course not. Its only purpose is to be inflammatory, to raise the heat just a little bit more on those who think different politically and theologically than I do.
Here’s the deal for 95% of the conservatives that I know, and I know a lot of them. They believe there is a sense in which God loves “Muslims, LGBTQ folks, Atheists, @#$%hole countries—and lots and lots of non-English speaking non-Americans.” There’s also a sense in which he is angry at the wicked every day, including, well, all of the wicked. That includes you and that includes me. Because God hates sin. But that’s why Jesus came, so that sinners, any sinner, you or me or anyone might turn from their sin in repentance and faith to Jesus and know of a transformed life.
This isn’t an American thing. And I’ve never met anyone nor heard of anyone who teaches that it is. It’s a God thing, a Jesus thing, a kingdom of heaven thing.
When people say, “America first,” they aren’t hating the rest of the world, any more than when I say, “my four girls first” it means that I hate every other child on planet earth and would never help any of them under any circumstances. It means that I will take care of my own children first. That’s it. How is that hard to understand?
When people say, “Make America Great Again,” whatever it means, it doesn’t mean make America the church again, make all people Christians again, make America a homogenous center of white male Republican supremacy or some other nonsense.
“No flags or national anthems to pledge allegiance to?” Right. No one I’ve ever met pledges allegiance to the flag because they think this is the Christian banner under which all apostates must kneel in the name of Christ. Seriously? Try to figure out what your opponent actually believes, then ask yourself why you pledge allegiance to the same flag, or, at least did until you were told by the media that it is a God-awful thing to do because it means you are a white Christian Nazi fascist. Mabye we actually pledge allegiance for the same reason as you do, or did, or whatever.
As much as there are people on the right who conflate religion and the state (and there are some), people on the left do it just as often if not more. But here's the deal. They refuse to admit it. Here’s the key paragraph. “Jesus came to usher in a countercultural kind of interdependent community, in direct opposition to the power-wielding Roman Empire he stepped into. It was a diverse, barrier-breaking, border-transcending, nation-defying movement of generosity and mutual affection. It had nothing to do with blessing a Government or building an army—or creating a gated community of white folks in North America two thousand years in the future.” I totally agree. The kingdom of God isn’t that. Who says it is?
Unfortunately, I don’t believe you that you are talking about the kingdom of God here, John, which is what you pretend you are talking about. I think you are lying. I think what you are really doing is reading the CNN ticker-tape while you scroll your Facebook feed and are creating a Jesus in that image, informing us that Jesus came to make America a countercultural kind of interdependent community of political social activists whose job is to defy the American Empire as a multicultural, sexually-free, open-border, Constitution-defying movement of forced government "generosity" and mutual affection … so long as you agree with my politics on how to solve the world’s problems. And if you don’t, then you deserve the fullness of God’s wrath (and mine too). That's pretty much the way it is on the left these days.
Hate to break it to you, John. That isn’t why Jesus came either.
Do you agree with me? I doubt it. It seems to me this is exactly what you believe. You tweeted out, “It’s impossible to be devoted to the Jesus of the Scriptures, while refusing refugees, expelling immigrants, vilifying brown people, worshiping political power, guarding borders, and neglecting the poor. Evangelicals need to stop trying." These are not individual acts of kindness done out of a redeemed heart you are talking about: a family taking in a refugee into their home, a local citizen standing up for his “brown” friend in a fight. A person seeing a homeless man on the street, washing his feet and giving him some new clothes and a square meal. No. This is government stuff you are talking about. Government stepping in, not the individual. Statism, not Christianity. Unless people take your view of government policies, then it is impossible to be devoted to the Jesus of Scripture? In other words, Jesus really was nothing but a social activist radical zealot political Democrat!
But maybe I am misreading you. So if you agree, and Jesus wasn’t this, then stop treating white, male, republican, conservatives with such condescending superiority. Stop spewing your venom and bile under the ruse of “hope” and “love-defending” “life-affirming” “world-saving manifestos” at people who bare little to no resemblance to Mr. Strawman. Deal with the arguments and reality, not the MSNBC sound-bites. Deal with the Scriptures we bring up for why we believe what we believe rather than saying we hate the poor, worship Donald Trump in incense burning, darkly lit candle filled shrines we have hidden behind secret doors in our bedrooms (oh yeah, there is a guy like that, but he lives in India!), and want all Latinos to go back to their country so that we can all paint swastikas on our white picket fences.
I’ll close with your own words. As long as you continue to conflate God and America, you’re going be to whitewashing the Good News, which by the way you actually didn’t mention at all in your piece, because at the end of the day it really does seem that the Good News to you is that Jesus was a socialist come to be a leftist political revolutionary in America and any other evil-Capitalist nation. Talk about shrinking God into your own image. Talk about bastardizing the message of Jesus in ways that can only be described as fully and violently heretical. Take a look around at the hatred seething in this nation right now and ask yourself if maybe it isn't rhetoric like this that isn't causing a lot of it.
If your God is anti-America America—you need a bigger God too.