I've heard the phrase "Christian Nation" my whole life. In recent months it seems I've heard it more, often in the context of doing things in the name of "protecting our Christian Nation."
Often these attempts to protect are done in less than polite ways. Often absent are Christian hallmarks like love, respect, inclusivity, building relational bridges, putting others first and the like.
And the heart of the faith that Jesus died for is grace. That's not a cultural term, so allow me to define it.
Grace is relational things like: offering people what they don't deserve, the absence of judgment, no-strings-attached forgiveness, seeking to understand and above all else, love.
But those grace descriptors are not the images in our headlines. We are not offering these things to Kaepernick, kneelers, owners, Trump supporters, Trump detractors, Trump himself, protesters of all kinds.
Here's what's going on:
We're functioning as if patriotism, politics and the Way of Jesus (Christianity) are interlocking puzzle pieces--all on equal footing. In fact, in many cases, we're elevating our patriotism and politics above the Way of Jesus.
By example, when we hate, wish ill, disparage Kaepernick because of his behavior, we elevate patriotism over the Way of Jesus. We say in essence,
"It's ok if I take a pass on loving my neighbor (the greatest commandment) when he/she doesn't honor our flag the way I think they should."
Whenever we put Jesus on the same level or below things like politics and patriotism--guess what? We're not behaving as a Christian Nation. We're not following Jesus.
The essence of identifying one's self with Jesus (eg "I'm a Christian, we're a Christian Nation, etc.") hinges on the fact that you've made one thing the most important Thing in your life: Jesus.
Not your spouse.
Not your kid(s).
Not your boy/girl friend.
Not your dog.
Not your desire for safety.
Not your desire for comfort.
Not your desire for a world that fits your paradigm.
Not your desire for a cell phone company that's both amazing & affordable ;-)
If you self identify as a Christian, a follower of Jesus, this is what that looks like:
(Yes, I know. These drawings are amazing--Banksy is so jealous)
The good news is that as a Christ follower, you can still love things like politics and patriotism; there's just one catch:
If you can't love in the midst of whatever you're doing or thinking, even if what you're doing is amazing, God says you're just a noisy, annoying, rusty gate.
I'll be candid. I hated it when Kaepernick started the kneeling thing. My dad fought in Europe in the late part of WWII. He made sure we always stood whenever the color guard appeared in a parade. We flew the flag at our house then and we do now.
But when I started seeing us as a country turn on this QB. When I heard the person in highest office calling on NFL owners to fire players and we all jeered along. When we as a country were hoping for, calling for, misfortune for people because of their beliefs.
It hit me: that's not the response of a Christian Nation.
That's neither the response of grace nor love.
That's the response of a legalistic patriotic nation, where Jesus doesn't rule -- He's just one of the puzzle pieces.
Whenever we elevate anything in our life over Jesus, we are saying,
"Jesus, you are not the leader of my life. I love you. I appreciate you saving me. But, you're not the most important thing in my life. How I feel about this issue or this person or these people, or this cause--this is more important than You are in my life right now."
"Ok Morgan--can I put Jesus first in my life and still not like Kaepernick or whoever kneeling?"
Yes. As long as you can love the kneeler. If you can't, you don't have a kneeling problem, you have a you problem.
For me, I go after issues like this in prayer:
"God, I love our country but I love You, more. I don't like what Kaepernick is doing and I'm pulled toward anger to him. Help me die to myself in this, Lord, and help me love him. Right now, Lord, I want to pray for him, for his best, for his career, for his family..."
(Lifehack: I've found it hard to dislike or wish ill for someone when I'm praying to God on their behalf.)
And again, here's the cool part:
You can be liberal, moderate, conservative, a-political; you can love guns, hate guns, love, loathe or be indifferent about patriotism, have opinions on God-knows-what.
But it all has to be subjected to Jesus and His ways.
Jesus above all else.
Jesus isn't a puzzle piece.
Jesus is the umbrella over all the puzzle pieces in your life.