Having lived my life on two sides of the same [Christian] track I have seen a lot of different things, especially when it comes to views of this country. Growing up in a historic African American context I heard much about the United States but not much around National holidays and an unintentional differentiation between. Now that I am in a mostly Caucasian context in the Midwest there is a major ramping up towards National holidays and an unintended conflation of church and state. A great example of this comes around every 4th of July. I have to admit I become uncomfortable in both context for the lack of balance and [right] understanding of the day. My wife and I have had these discussions for years and they basically come to the conclusion that the differences in our culture backgrounds let us view it differently. I have wondered for years how to balance this tension and recently I read an article that helped me better understand my own inner angst. In an article written by Trevin Wax 4 reasons “Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy In A Patriotic Church Service” and offers many ways forward. Here are his reasons (which resonate so much with me):
1. Extreme Experiences in the Past
Part of the unease may come from experiencing a sloppy melding of “church” and “nation” in the past…
2. Decreasing Patriotism among Millennials
Part of the unease may be rooted in a decrease in patriotism…
3. Shifting Cultural Currents
Younger Evangelicals have a different approach to political engagement, and speaking within the context of generational shifts.
“Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon.”
4. Failure to Fully Appreciate Time and Place
Some younger evangelicals see any patriotic expression as a compromise with worldly power. Their approach is to take the flag out of the sanctuary, never sing a patriotic song, and never mention a patriotic holiday.
I know that I am not alone on this (or maybe I am) but I would love to know your thoughts on the church and patriotism. Does Trevin get this wrong? Is there something else we can do? How do we balance this out?
Over the last few years of my life, around this time of year, I have been placed in a conundrum in my life. Every January the celebration of Martin Luther King’s (MLK) Birthday and the Sanctity of Life Sunday seem to fall on the same Sunday. Growing up in Kansas City I went to a traditional Black church every Mid-January we spoke of Dr. King and his Christian impact on the nation in the civil rights movement. Now that I’m a part of a majority Caucasian church Mid-January’s bring reflections the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision. If you didn’t know Sunday (1/19) was “Sanctity of Life Sunday” is followed by Martin Luther King Jr Monday (1/20), which is followed by Roe V. Wade’s 41st anniversary on Wednesday (1/22). There is a chilling contrast between the January 20th celebration of the life of MLK and the advancement of civil rights his legacy leaves; while simultaneously mourning the January 22nd anniversary of legalized abortion and the millions of innocent dead babies its legacy leaves. Depending on the context, it seems that focusing on one issue or the other we are missing the boat on one of the most incredibly important subjects that affect our church today.
“…it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
How much have things changed? This is the largest chasm that is extant in the body of Christ in the US. Our continued segregation preaches something to our surrounding culture, and it is not positive about the Kingdom of God. We must find a way to intentionally seek racial reconciliation while addressing such a grievous sin of our nation, which happens to affect African Americans disproportionately. The problem is both [majority] Black and Caucasian churches miss the issues that have not historically effected our communities, by doing this we miss the larger issue that severs the Kingdom of God and is simultaneously is destroying lives.
So what’s the solution? Maybe churches should make this a period of intense focus both on the protection of life and racial reconciliation. I do not think that this is a mistake by God but orchestrated in His plan for us to take advantage two subjects that seem so different yet speak to similar injustices in our nation and in the Kingdom of God.
“The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the futures of his children for immediate personal comfort and safety. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.