The Dangers of the False Gospel of Religious Nationalism – continued (see Part 3 for Dangers 1-3):
4. Imposes Unbiblical Expectations Upon Christians
The fourth danger posed by the false gospel of religious nationalism is that it imposes unbiblical expectations upon Christians. These expectations vary but consist of patriotism, love of and bias toward America, and some sort of manifestation of these affections. Because this is something being done in churches it means that it is something being imposed upon believers unnecessarily and unbiblically. The Word of God does not require such things nor does it commend it as something that should be part of the gathered church. If anything, the Bible condemns any unscriptural imposition upon believers. This can be specifically seen in the book of Galatians. Paul is writing to a group of believers in Galatia who had been saved under his preaching. He had found out that some had come into the church troubling the believers, imposing unnecessary expectations upon them. The Judaizers were imposing an aspect of their national identity upon those who were not Jewish, making them think that true Christianity consisted not only in following Christ but fulfilling some other expectations as well. Paul is clear that this is not so. Without calling anyone Judaizers, for this is not my intent, we are presenting another gospel if we impose any expectations other than that which is required in the Scriptures. Whether American, Canadian, British, Chinese, or African, any form of religious nationalism imposes unnecessary expectations upon believers. The danger with this false gospel is that it adds to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and any additional gospel is a damning gospel that does not produces life but death now and for eternity.
5. National Arrogance Breeds Contempt and Neglect of Other Nations
The fifth danger posed by the false gospel of religious nationalism is the breeding of national arrogance which breeds contempt for and neglect of other nations. Religious nationalism sees America as God’s favored country, its military as always on the side of righteousness, and its culture/government/freedom/knowledge as superior to the rest of the world. With this attitude, contempt for other countries is bred. In many minds our enemies in war deserve to be destroyed, we are a special people because we have been born and/or raised in America, and we cringe at the thought of the possibility of having to live in another country besides this one. For everyone that moves to this country there is the imposition to become true Americans, forcing them to find their identity here by calling themselves African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese American and the like, stripping them from their heritage. It is almost as though if you are not American, you have not quite reached the status of full humanity. After contempt is bred neglect follows. We no longer think about or care for those whom we view in contempt. Out of sight; out of mind.
This is what the false gospel of religious nationalism breeds within the church. This cannot be. America is not God’s nation for God transcends all national boundaries, setting up and tearing down governments as he pleases. We are not special in the world because we live in America but have been providentially placed here that we might seek God and know him. Our military, while seeking to do what is right, stands judged and condemned before God no differently than any other military unless individuals repent and trust Christ alone for salvation. No matter what the nationality, ethnicity, race, etc. we are all made in the image of God and are cared for by Him. As Christians, our identity is found in Christ not in any nation and we are called to be submitted to the will of God for us even if it means moving to a country less affluent, less educated, less moralized/Christianized. We are not here for ourselves or our country, but, as God’s redeemed through Christ, we are here for Him and His glory. The church in America must not have contempt for its brothers and sisters around the world. We must not neglect them but we are to pray for them, send aid to them, learn from them, and go and serve alongside of them, seeing the beautiful diversity God has brought together in the gospel. God’s heart is for the nations and so should our hearts be also. The danger of the false gospel of religious nationalism is that as we lift up our nation we will begin to look down upon other nations and soon begin to neglect them. Because of who we are in Christ and because of what God is gathering together for Christ in the church, we must rise above religious nationalism and be a church that has a God-sized global vision that not only prays that God blesses America with the presence and the power of the gospel but that he bless China, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and on and on with the same and more. Who knows, it may be you that God sends to work through in one of those places.
As many of you are wondering as you have read these posts, is he even thankful at all for what many have done that he may have the freedom to even blog at this moment. Am I thankful? Incredibly. The efforts of and sacrifices made by men and women over the years that have allowed me and countless others to enjoy many things is beyond my comprehension and I am extremely grateful. Do I think these men and women should be honored for their efforts? Yes, as those who have faithfully served our country and others. Will I participate in national holiday activities honoring country, its leadership and servicemen and women? Yes, because we are to give honor when honor is due.
But will I emphasize, lead in, or participate in such things within the gathering of the church? No.
For some foundational thoughts on this read, Kevin DeYoung, “Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day“