I am concerned about us. Not as a country. America will keep trucking along its progressive path as it always has. I am concerned about us as a church, as a body under the headship of Jesus. We are becoming increasingly divided. Of course division within the Church is not a new thing. I am fully aware of the many splits and the reasons for them, throughout our church history. I am familiar with why so many denominations exist. However, none of that changes the amount of distance this past political season has added to the divide.
Christian or Patriot
For over a year, leading up to the election this past November, I have seen and heard so many people equate being patriotic with being a “good” Christian. In fact, it is not simply the view that Christianity is the same as patriotism; it is carelessly viewed as a political issue on the same level as gun rights. Here is a couple examples of some memes that list Christianity among other political or social issues…
Christianity shows up right in the middle of a list involving patriotism and guns. Here is another one…
Again, Christian shows up right in the middle of an obviously politically charged list of issues. And it is presented in a blatantly divisive and excluding way. Not only is it polarizing, it suggests that a Christian cannot possibly hold liberal views. The inference is that a Christian has to be a gun-loving, conservative who runs around saying ‘merica. It rejects the possibility of any other view and alienates entire parts of the body of Christ. To be fair, there are many Christians who would view themselves as liberals that also contribute to this division and alienation. Unfortunately, it is the conservative side (typically White Evangelicals) who are often more verbal about the supposed marriage between American nationalism, or patriotism, and Christianity.
I did look for memes that expressed a liberal view of Christianity as American, but they almost do not exist. The best I could do was this one, that suggests conservatism is not consistent with Christianity.
Allegiance to Christ
My issue has nothing to do with whom you support as the president; support whomever you feel aligns best with your values. Moreover, if you are a Christian, God commands us to pray for the president regardless of your political leaning. Nevertheless, the truth is, Christianity is not synonymous with American patriotism. You can be a Christian fully apart from being an American. The reverse is also true. Still, the depth of your love for your country is not a measure for being a good Christian. Somehow, that continues to grow as the qualifier.
My concern is it seems many on both sides have forgotten the others are Christian. Maybe it is less of having forgot,and more of a rejection of the possibility. And why? Because they have different political views? With increasing frequency it seems as if Christians believe their commitment to a political candidate, or in this case a president, is allowed to trump (← see what I did there?) their commitment to fellow Christians. As Christians, when our allegiance to a political party, candidate, or president eclipses our allegiance to other believers, then by proxy it also eclipses our allegiance to Christ. The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 4:20. He said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” When that happens, we need consider what we believe about unity and our allegiances.
So what does the Bible have to say about our allegiance and unity? A lot. The first commandment (Exodus 30:3) points specifically to our allegiance to God. It is clear that we should set nothing before God. From that foundation, the rest of the bible points toward full devotion to God and absolute unity among His people, both through Christ. In fact, the New Commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, and us, was to love each other so that the world would know we are His (John 13:34-35). The whole chapter of John 15 consist of Jesus explaining the importance of remaining in Him (commitment and allegiance). He goes on to describe how much the world will hate us because of Him and how unity, through loving each other, keeps us connected to Him.
In the end, following Christ requires that we be good citizens, but does not direct us to be patriots. Our real allegiance is not to the President, a flag, or even a country. Our real allegiance is to Jesus and His bride. We have to understand that His desire is unity among his body, not unity with the world. So support the President, pledge the flag, be patriotic for your country, but know it is just a shadow of what our allegiance to Jesus and His body should look like.