Saturday, October 10, 2015
The Constantinian Christian
For a very long time now, American Christians have conflated biblical Christianity with a sort of American Nationalism integrated thoroughly with a Christianity that filters nearly every Christian doctrine through a distinctly American mindset. The American Christian begins, not with ancient biblical Christianity. Instead, it begins with American nationalism, American ideas, American principles and it proceeds to impose those ideas onto Christianity. The modern Christian in America is completely immersed in the constantinian shift. We do not see our nation as something distinct from our Christianity. We see the two as inseparable. That is how we view both our religious commitments and our commitments to this country. I wonder what Paul would have done if he had been told that he had to swear allegiance to Rome? The situation is so misunderstood in American culture that it has led to Christians confusing social and political activism with things like loving their neighbor. In some cases, Christians will accuse you of sin if you don’t vote along a particular party line. I used to be there myself. I know not only from reading what others are writing but from being one of the wrong-headed thinkers myself. The more I read Scripture outside the context that is American culture, the more I have realized that Christianity and America have really nothing to do with one another. That is to say that being a Christian says nothing about your being an American and being an American says nothing about you’re being a Christian.
I want to point out several myths that you must recognize if you are to ever break from the grip the constantinian shift has upon your worldview, and specifically, upon your Christian outlook.
American Christians suffer from the delusion that America either is or once was a Christian nation. America has never been a Christian nation. It is true that America was founded upon principles that appear similar to those in Christianity. But lets make sure we understand why that is. First of all, there is no country on earth that does not share at least some morality with Christian morality. The reason for this is because Christian morality is anchored in the nature of God. Humans are created in the image of God. We are born with certain innate attitudes about morality that are attributed to being created in the image of God. However, as do all unbelievers, Americans distort and pervert that morality to one degree or another. Perhaps, like the Jews, American Christians have sought to attain righteousness through legalistic rule-keeping as it relates to these moral principles. We have rules against movies, music, alcohol, etc. American Christianity has lots of rules. And those rules have often been used in the more legalistic areas of Christianity to beat and intimidate people into submission. But that sort of Christianity has always been an external wink and nod to Christ. It has nothing to say about the power of the gospel to change a sinner’s heart of stone.
This is why we ought to land somewhere between laughter and anger when someone quotes II Chronicles 7:14 as if God is speaking directly to America. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this text quoted and applied to America by well-intentioned American Christians. The ignorance in these areas is pronounced and depressing. The text was addressed to ancient Israel. It is not a general promise to all the nations on the earth. It is address to “My people who are called by my name.” Only one nation was called by God’s name and that was ancient Israel. America is not and has never been a Christian nation.
The second myth is that America is the greatest country on earth. We really are proud Americans, aren’t we! We embrace our country and proudly talk about how we will defend it to the death and stand up for her as proudly as we possibly can. From a Christian perspective, America is not the greatest country of earth. America is a country that has probably had more exposure to Jesus Christ and the good news that any other single nation on earth. And what has she done with Christ? She has used Him to exploit His followers. Should Christians think of their pagan nation as the greatest nation on earth? America may be a good country relatively speaking to other countries in the world, but make no mistake about it, she is made up of mostly totally depraved God-haters. Her leaders in Washington are almost to a person, if not to a person, totally depraved God haters. The Supreme court is constituted by mostly if not entirely totally depraved God haters. She murders innocent unborn children and cloaks it in women’s health issues. She talks about marriage equality when what she really means is the celebration of some of the most unnatural and perverse sexual behavior invented by fallen sinful God haters. America is not the greatest country on earth.
Another myth is the notion that Christian love equals political or social activism. Some Christians think that the way we love our culture is to influence it morally and ethically. They wrongly think that if we can just get the culture to return to some of those external and apparent Christian principles that this is how we love our culture. I have news for you. Even if you were able to get America to adopt every commandment and conduct itself in a manner identical to how the Christian community conducts itself, it is still a dressed up, eternal, legalistic embrace of morality for all the wrong reasons. The only thing you would accomplish is the creation of another 300 million self-righteous hypocrites who think that God looks down on their country with favor because they don’t watch porn, kill babies, cheat on their wives or their taxes, and they are in church and contributing to the needs of the institution each and every week. What a wonderfully moral culture.
Putting the family first and maintaining the structure of the family is not the gospel and it is not the highest calling of the Christian. Eliminating the murder of innocent people to include children is not the calling at the Christian, not even a little. Eliminating slavery was never something that Christians were called to do. Stopping the sex trade is not something the Church is called to. Crushing the porn industry and making porn illegal is not the high calling of the Church. We do eliminate abortion in our midst. In the Christian community. We eradicate sexual promiscuity in the Christian community. We put an end murder, perverse sex, illicit divorce, the sex trade, and all such things within our Christian community. How do we do that? We preach the gospel, the good news, God regenerates those whom He has called to Himself, and through the power of the Holy Spirit as He applies the Word of God to the mind, we are slowly transformed into those having the mind of Christ. We start to look and sound like Jesus more and more each day!
Christians in America are not called to change the culture from a godless culture with more and more godless principles into a culture that is respectful and receptive to more and more Christian principles. We are called to live and preach the gospel to this culture. We are called to pray for this culture. We have been chosen by God to call American culture to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our high calling of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.