Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Three Greatest Challenges Facing the Church (#3)

The third biggest problem facing the church is young members who can't follow through with things in a promised time frame.... okay, sorry it took 2 months to do what I promised in 3 days. The first two where easy, but for the third I have to narrow it down to one last thing.

This is kind of disjointed and not that well writen. I used a lot of quotes because others have said it better then I ever could, but you get the point.

Nationalism disguised as Christianity

I heard a quote once, I think from Tony Campolo, that went something like “We have reached a new level of idolatry in American when you can get in more trouble for removing an American flag from a sanctuary then the cross." Think about it.

In the past I have sat through "Memorial Day" and "Fourth of July" services where we sang the national anthem with slides on the video screens of US fighter jets and bombers dropping bombs. And as hard for that is to believe, this was a fairly large Nazarene church, a very "mainstream" denomination. The intentions of these services where to honor those who have fought for what we have, the intentions of the people where good, but is church the right place for that? Are US Christians really that self-centered? Do we really hold are selves that much higher above or brothers and sisters around the world? I don't know, maybe I am reading to much into it, but sadly the evidence is not in our favor.

Jenny once said, "You should be able to walk into any Christian church in the world and not be able to tell where you are". I think she is absolutely correct. As Christians we have a nation greater then anything defined by political boundaries, we are the people of God. We are here to live as the people of God, to live out His kingdom coming. A kingdom that knows no political boundaries. Our churches should reflect that. As a Christian, my only allegiance should be to the Lord.

Our Foreign policy is based on the idea that we, as a nation, are somehow set apart to be God's last line of defense in an evil world. That America is inherently good and that who we deem as evil is the enemy of God. How can a country whose ideals, attitude, and actions so differ from those of Christ think that we can speak for Him?

George Monbiot wrote, in an article for Guardian:
"It is not just that the Americans are God's chosen people; America itself is now perceived as a divine project. In his farewell presidential address, Ronald Reagan spoke of his country as a "shining city on a hill", a reference to the Sermon on the Mount. But what Jesus was describing was not a temporal Jerusalem, but the kingdom of heaven. Not only, in Reagan's account, was God's kingdom to be found in the United States of America, but the kingdom of hell could also now be located on earth: the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union, against which His holy warriors were pitched.

...The United States of America no longer needs to call upon God; it is God, and those who go abroad to spread the light do so in the name of a celestial domain. The flag has become as sacred as the Bible; the name of the nation as holy as the name of God. The presidency is turning into priesthood.

So those who question George Bush's foreign policy are no longer merely critics; they are blasphemers, or "anti-Americans". Those foreign states, which seek to change this policy, are wasting their time: you can negotiate with politicians; you cannot negotiate with priests. The US has a divine mission, as Bush suggested in January: "to defend ... the hopes of all mankind", and woe betide those who hope for something other than the American way of life."

Brain McLaren said in an interview:
"When we present Jesus as a pro-war, anti-poor, anti-homosexual, anti-environment, pro-nuclear weapons authority figure draped in an American flag, I think we are making a travesty of the portrait of Jesus we find in the gospels."

Why aren't churches across the country speaking out about this? It is an image that hiding the true portrait of Christ to a world that needs to know Him.

And, I am going to end with another Derek Webb song, because, again, he says what I want to say perfectly.

King & A Kingdom by Derek Webb
who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'cause we married in to a family of immigrants

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom

there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him


but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think


~ jessica said...

You know I'm not Christian, and I don't belong to any church. Some of the things you've pointed out are some of the reasons I decline to ally myself with any religious sect, let alone Christians. They're also part of the reason I am sometimes ashamed to be an American.

I don't know if I have a different perspecitve, since I'm "outside", so to speak. But I do know that if it wasn't for the grace God gives each of us, and the blessing of free will to choose Him, there are a lot of people who wouldn't have anything to do with Him because of the way American's represent -and claim to speak for- Him.

So that's my two cents. Poorly articulated, but voiced nonetheless.

jennylou said...

Scary to be quoted among those other folk! I would amend my quote to say that I do think our non-nationalistic cultural expressions of faith (such as artwork, dress, music, etc.) are positive and should be present in our global churches. The sad thing about American churches is that nationalism takes up the room that could be devoted to more positive cultural expressions of faith. I recall while living in Austria that the church was full of culture but that I never felt as if I was an outsider because of my country - it just never came up. I am ashamed to think how an Iraqi or Austrialian or Nigerian or whaterverian would feel visiting an American church on a Fourth of July (or a Democrat anytime close to an election).

Amanda said...

You quoted one of my favorite Webb songs -- I can't wait to get his new album.

Jeremy D. Scott said...

J.R. -

Thanks for these posts! I don't really have anything to add. The three challenges that you identified are close to my heart and much of my life has been influenced by some of the same individuals that yours has (namely McLaren and D-Webb). One thing that I noticed though, is that with the exception of #2, these challenges are almost exclusively those of the North American Church. You and I need to pay attention to these, because we live and minister here. But in regards to the CotN, when looking at the grand scheme of things, these are nothing to more than half of our members.

Anyway, I really began to comment for a much less important reason:
Miss Marble - you can get the new Derek album right now by download here: The Ringing Bell
Although I'm a little disappointed with D-Webb's pricing of $20 for barely 30 minutes of music, the music is good, and while I still need some time to digest some of the lyrics, it's still worth $20.

- J

J.R. said...

That is a great point.

Sadly I don't know all that much about the Nazarene church outside of what I have seen here in the US. My criticisms are based only on what I have experienced from the Nazarene church. Hopefully I can change that sometime soon!

This brings to mind another problem. Even in my criticism I was completely self-minded, ignoring that the Nazarene church has a large global presence. Dispite the fact that more Nazarene's live outside the US then within, and the difrence is growing every year, we still have a very white american leadership, base or opperations from the US, and host our biggest confrences in the US.

Okay, I am on a tangent. I am trying to say, sorry for falling into the trap of becoming a self-centered American Nazarene, even in my criticism of that very thing.

Thanks for bring that to mind Jeremy.