Tag Archives: Patriotism

“Kill them all, and let God sort them out” – Why Evangelicals’ Reaction to 9/11 Went so Wrong

20 years ago, Al Qaida killed 3,000 civilians through terror and fire. That was a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

In response, the USA started two wars that have killed 70,000 civilians in Afghanistan and 200,000 (!) in Iraq. Thousands of them were children.

That was also a horrifying, indefensible act of violence.

Shane Claiborne is an activist and theologian who had wise things to say concerning the violent aftermath of 9/11. From his book The Irresistible Revolution (2nd edition, pp. 185-187):

When Kingdoms Collide

Shortly after September 11th, I traveled to speak to a large congregation in the Midwest. (And no, it wasn’t Willow Creek.) Before I got up to preach, a military color guard presented the US flagat the altar. The choir filed in one-by-one, dressed in red white, and blue, with the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” playing in the background. I knew I was in big trouble. The congregation pledged allegiance to the flag, and I wished it were all a dream. It wasn’t. I got up to speak, thankful I was standing behind a large podium lest anyone try to pelt me with a pew Bible. I went forward to preach the truth in love with my knees knocking and managed to make it out okay with a bunch of hugs and a few feisty letters.

This is a dramatic (though painfully true) illustration of the messy collision of Christianity and patriotism that has rippled across our land. I thought this was an exceptional and dramatic example, but l’ve had same zingers since this. I spoke at a military academy where they had a full-on procession of military vehicles and weaponry. They fired cannons and saluted the flag, and then I got up to speak. I felt compelled to speak on the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control), the things Scripture says God is like and we should hope to be more like.

I talked about how the fruit of the Spirit take training and discipline and are not always cultivated by the culture around us. Afterward, one young soldier came up to me, nearly in tears, and told me that as he heard the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it became clear to him that these were not the things he was being trained to become. We prayed together, and I think of him often. I know that young man is not alone.

I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out.” A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, We just have to get them to him.” I saw a T-shirt on a sold’ that said, “US Air Force … we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.” Others were less dramatic-red, white, and blue billboards saying, “God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–$1 burgers.”

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets … Many Christians missed the opportunity to validate both the horror of September 11th and outrage at war as a response to September 11th.

In the aftermath of September 11th, many congregations missed the chance to bear witness of God’s concern for the victims of the attack and God’s concern for the victims of the imminent war. Many of us hunkered down into familiar camps rather than finding a more creative way of standing with all who suffer. Many of the antiwar activists would do well to visit the memorial in NYC. And many of the war hawks would do well to visit the Ameriyah shelter in West Baghdad. Every life lost is reason for grief and outrage.

The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound.

A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community that lives among and serves the homeless in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. He is the co-author, with Chris Haw, of Jesus for President. His newest book is Executing Grace: Why It is Time to Put the Death Penalty to Death.

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Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

How Jesus Challenged Nationalism

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

Nationalism lies at the heart of the Old Testament narrative. This concept is intimately wrapped up with the law-oriented covenant God made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai, for at the heart of this covenant is the promise that obedience would bring national security while disobedience would bring national disaster (Deut. 27-28).

What we shall now see is that the nation-centered portrait of God in the OT is also a mask that our humble, incarnational God condescended to wear. This correlates with the Principle of Cruciform Accommodation that I introduce in Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

To grasp the nature of this concept, we first need to appreciate how intense Jewish nationalism had become around the time of Christ. Jews had been oppressively ruled by pagan nations for centuries and was at this time lorded over by the Romans. The longing to see Israel restored to the “glory days” of King David was at a fever pitch. Many believed this restoration would happen when an anointed descendent of David would lead Israel in a violent uprising to overthrow their pagan oppressors.

This was not only a yearning for political autonomy; it was, much more importantly, a yearning for theodicy. The fact that God’s chosen nation was being ruled by pagans in their own Promised Land was for many an assault on the distinctive Jewish claim that Yahweh was the one true God and the Lord of all the earth.

Continue reading How Jesus Challenged Nationalism

It’s not Evangelicalism Anymore

300 years ago a movement of revival started within British and later American churches. This movement called the Church to return to the Gospel. It called the Church to share the message of Jesus with others and to follow Jesus more boldly. This movement was very diverse for its day. It affected most Christian denominations in the English-speaking world, and it touched many Christian communities. It was an international, interracial, intercultural, and interdenominational movement.

This movement promoted education, social reform, and inclusion in the Church. This movement was one of the main forces behind social justice movements for much of its history. Abolitionism, poverty-relief efforts, the Social Gospel, Labor Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and many other important causes were at least influenced by this movement.

The movement that I am talking about is Evangelicalism, but despite Evangelicalism having such a long and noble history, most don’t recognize it today – at least not in the United States. There are a number of factors that contributed to this:

First, Evangelicalism has always had a white supremacist wing. Even though Evangelicalism was indispensable in the abolitionist and civil rights movements, there was also always a segment that opposed those movements. On the one hand, you had John Wesley who argued strongly against slavery, but on the other you had Jonathan Edwards who owned slaves. There are still schisms in American churches over this exact issue. The Southern Baptist Convention is an example of an American Evangelical church founded on white supremacist principles. Continue reading It’s not Evangelicalism Anymore

Pentecostals and Patriotism

Last week I got an invitation from one of my online communities to join a group called “Christian Patriots.” When new groups are formed, the platform’s algorithm decides who might be a good fit for it. Because I am a member of other Christian groups, the algorithm chose me.

Here is how the “Christian Patriots” group describes itself:

“A caring group of people who love Jesus and our beloved America…. We believe in God and Country, and we celebrate all that God has blessed us with. Our guiding principle is: We serve God our Father, and His son Jesus, who died for our sins. Our guiding documents are the Holy Bible and the U.S. Constitution. The symbols of our beliefs are the Cross and the American flag.”

Many such groups exist in the United States today. As a Christian who is also a United States citizen—a country in the midst of a white nationalist resurgence—I felt called to blog about this expression of it here.

Continue reading Pentecostals and Patriotism

When National Anthems Become Worship Songs

by Ramone Romero.

Some years ago I learned about “Kimigayo”, the Japanese national anthem. It’s about the emperor, and due to its use in the war, many people from Asian nations object to it, as well as some from various religions (including many conservative Christians) who feel that it comes too close to worshiping the emperor.

Sometimes people show their objection to the anthem by sitting while it is playing. Some teachers have refused to stand or play piano for it at schools, and as a result have gotten in trouble with officials.

Knowing about things the Japanese army did during the war, as well as the nationalist propaganda that led up to it, I’ve always felt people should have the right to not stand up for Kimigayo. Especially if they want to protest in view of the atrocities committed by the army across Asia.

I feel the same about America. No one should be forced to stand for the anthem, especially if they are protesting the atrocities committed by America — such as those against Black people and Natives, and from endless American wars abroad. Continue reading When National Anthems Become Worship Songs

God’s Love Doesn’t Stop at the Border

Our friend Shane Claiborne recently remarked on Twitter:

I can’t imagine Jesus waving an American flag any more than I can imagine him wearing a “God bless Rome” shirt.

Patriotism is too small.

Our Bible doesn’t say “For God so loved America”… it says “For God so loved the world.”

America First is a theological heresy.

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Nope. Doesn’t look right to me either.

Claiborne continued:

Mother Teresa used to say that “the circle we put around our family is too small.”

We limit who we love to biology or nationality.

That’s the problem with patriotism – it’s too small. We are to love as big as God loves.

And God’s love doesn’t stop at the border.

Cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism

These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:

parhamCharles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.

The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.

The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28. Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism

The Problem with Patriotism

I have a challenge for my American readers this day. Before you wave the banner of your empire and enjoy billions of dollars being blown up in fireworks, pray that God will help you love all people, including all those harmed by American consumerism, militarism and racism, and that He will help you pledge allegiance to His Kingdom first and foremost.

After all, Scripture says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebr 11:13) and that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are called to love all people as ourselves (Lk 10:25-37) and while the early Christians didn’t revolt against the Roman empire, they were known for pledging allegiance to another king than the emperor, namely Christ (Acts 17:7). I think Shane Claiborne nails it in his altar call on Red Letter Christians about celebrating interdependence day rather than independence day:

Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”

Continue reading The Problem with Patriotism

How the Fig Tree that Jesus Cursed Represents Nationalism

by Faith Totushek.

Mark 11:12-22  tells us the remarkable account of the fig tree and the temple.  These stories are strung together to teach us a number of things about how our faith might be hi-jacked to represent not the character, image and heart of God but nationalism and earthly systems of power, oppression and corruption.

As Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, he notices a fig tree and examines it to see if there is fruit.  Finding no fruit, he curses it, saying, “may no one eat fruit from you again.”  What’s going on?  Why would Jesus do this?  What does he have against fig trees?  The cursing of the fig tree is a prophetic act that hints at what might happen in Jerusalem.

When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem he makes his way to the temple.  Actually, if you look at verse 11, you will notice that Jesus had been to the temple the night before but returned to where he was staying because it was late.  I find this curious, wondering if he took note of what was occurring in the temple and what it stood for and returned home to consider what he saw.

In the morning we see Jesus entering the Temple and driving out the animals and money changers and those who were selling animals for sacrifice.  And Jesus says this, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations but you have made it a den of thieves.”  Was he concerned about selling stuff in the Temple?  Was he concerned that the activity would disrupt prayer time?  Seriously, this is how the account is often taught.

But there is some much deeper taking place. Continue reading How the Fig Tree that Jesus Cursed Represents Nationalism