6 Things American Christians must remember.
America is not the church, and we cannot swear unquestioned allegiance to this nation without compromising what it means to be Christians. Power never conquers, it consumes from within. Rome, Germany, America. These are all empires who have extended beyond their reach with tyrannical power, and it has ultimately led to their downfall.
1) Power overstretched becomes a means of oppression everywhere.
Rome’s tyranny imploded on it, when the very people that it had attempted to conquer were brought in as mercenaries to fight against the conquering barbarians. Nazi Germany licensed the gestapo as a police force who became executioners of Poles and Serbs abroad, and when brought back home quickly caused the deterioration of Nazi support from within by terrorizing their own people. America has forgotten that what goes around, comes around. We may feel that the war is something we read about online, or watch on television, but its effects are all around us here, as we live in an increasingly militarized state. The oppression we’ve imposed on foreign nations is beginning to show up here at home in surprising and increasingly problematic ways.
2) We should be focused more on democracy and peace than giving in to the war cult.
We’ve surrendered our focus on democracy, on fair representation and on a better society to live in fear. We want to launch a coalition against terror, when we fail to realize we’re perpetuating the terror we seek to eliminate by by allowing our military forces to over extend their reach and let their means outstrip their ends. Christians everywhere need to remember that history has never looked favorably on Christians supporting war, and we too must remember that our first loyalty is to the church, a community of peace, justice and self-emptying love. Christians do not live in fear of their enemies, but know that God has already set us at peace, and made possible a community that seeks the best of even its destroyers.
3) War is not the Christian way.
We have to remember that war is a power of the world. The cross calls us to a very different life. It calls us to a life of cross bearing discipleship. Whether you are a pacifist or a just war supporter it makes little difference to the facts that this war is not just, it never has been, and it never will be. Whether you care to support peace or not makes little difference to the fact that it is the Christian way and the early church shows us most clearly what it means to life in a society at war. We are a people who are in every nation, yet give unquestioned allegiance to none. We are a people who transcend nations, and there are Christians in the countries we’ve come to occupy who might be suffering at our imposition upon their homes, their lands, their lives.
4) The war on terror is not a war on Islam.
America is not at war with Islam. Some people see the recent explosion of Islam as a problem, and see this war as a way of limiting the spread of its influence. This is not a religious war, it’s about expanding the power of our national influence. There’s nothing sacred about this war. Further, we have American Muslims fighting their middle-eastern counterparts. We cannot as Christians allow ourselves to be comfortable with the idea that the killing of the “extremisits” is the right way to go about things for the proper Christianizing of the Middle East. We should never be comfortable with the use of coercive force to spread the Christian message of peace. That’s like explaining chastity with pornography. You cannot spread a message of the loving redemption of the world God created if your hands and lips are stained with the blood of your enemies.
5) America will end.
This may come as a shock to some of my readers, but America will end. Every empire in history has ended, been reimagined, recultured, exported, subverted, destroyed or forgotten. As Americans we must remember that America is not the church, and America will end. We live in America, but America is not God’s representative on earth, nor is it our job to make that so. Our kingdom is not America, nor America’s well being, we live for another kingdom, the community of the Crucified God. Ultimately we live for a world where justice, peace and mercy are normative, and we must live lives that act accordingly now, because this is how our kingdom flourishes, even in the midst of uncertainty, oppression and bloodshed.
“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”-Napoleon
6) We must be Christians and love our enemies.
Our task is to live lives that make sense of the church, because our story does not begin with the declaration of independence, but with the Trinity’s self glorifying love. Our story begins in being image bearing creatures who recognize God in and through our neighbor, as well as our enemy.
Christians are the people who can acknowledge that the neighbor is the enemy, and we must love our enemy as ourselves. We must pray for them in love, knowing that Christ is their Lord already, and we must treat them as such. We must weep with them and for them, we must empathize with the tortures they have suffered, and acknowledge we’ve created societies that speak and trade in blood. We as Christians must repent for the bloodshed of our nation, and cry out for those oppressed by our occupation of their lands, we must pray for those in Guantanamo Bay, and those who have been mercilessly tortured by our agencies.
If we cannot shed tears for our enemies and weep for the oppressed, we must ask ourselves whether we have truly come to know the love of Christ, and recognized the deep and unrelenting call to peace that Jesus sets before us. We must ask whether we know how to abandon our interests, and pursue love and peace, justice and mercy above all else.