By Graham Glover –
As a citizen of this nation I care a great deal whether or not it survives. I’ve noted in several previous posts that I believe America is the greatest advocate for liberty the world has ever known and anyone who cares about freedom should care about its survival.
As a Soldier I am obviously concerned about the fate of America. Although a non-combatant, I believe one of my primary responsibilities as a military chaplain is to ensure that the Soldiers under my care are spiritually and emotionally prepared to destroy the enemies of our nation.
So yes, as a citizen and a Soldier, I care whether or not America survives.
But as a Christian, I could care less. What happens to the nation known as the United States of America means absolutely nothing to me or my faith. If you share my confession, America’s survival shouldn’t mean that much to you either.
So no, the Church shouldn’t care whether or not America survives.
What?! Are you kidding me?! Traitor! Heretic!
I can hear the accusations already…
But before you lose your mind and turn me in to military or ecclesial authorities to be tarred and feathered, ask yourself:
Is the United States of America uniquely divine? In other words, has God designed some unique role for this nation in His salvation plan? If so, please point me to the passage from Holy Scripture, the writing of a church father, or a decree from a church council that indicates such a claim. (And don’t even think of suggesting that America is the new Israel and that our Lord’s Second Coming is sure to take place somewhere within our nation’s borders.)
Does freedom of religion matter for the proclamation of the Christian faith? Sure it’s nice to live in a country where we are not crucified for confessing that Jesus of Nazareth is Lord, but so what if we were? Look, I’m not clamoring for persecution, but understand the Church was still Church for almost 300 years when it was illegal to be a Christian. So why is it that the Church should care whether the government supports, defames, condones, or condemns her teaching? What does the legality of Christianity have to do with the Gospel? Is the promise of forgiveness and everlasting life more appealing if ones government supports freedom?
Has the Christian Church been particularly “successful” in America? (I hate even asking that question, as though the Church were something we could ever quantify.) If America is the ideal place for the Gospel to be proclaimed, why is it that orthodox Christianity (of many denominational stripes) is spreading most rapidly in South America and Africa – places not overly hospitable to American political ideals? What makes our democratic republic the best venue for the Church? Perhaps democracy is a hindrance to the Gospel. Could too much freedom in political/societal matters be the catalyst for one rejecting eternal truths of the faith?
Bottom line, why should the Church have any interest in the survivability of a particular State? Does Jesus ever give us any indication that He is invested in what the State does or does not do? What about Saint Paul? We have Romans 13 among others that affirm that the State has been ordained by God for purposes of good order and yielding the sword, but does this affirmation ever speak to the Church being an advocate for the State?
Consider how much you, your congregation, your pastor, and your church body spends talking about the State. I think we Christians spend an inordinate amount of time worrying ourselves with what the State does. To be fair, we should talk about the State in our capacity as a citizen, but when it comes to faith matters, why do we even waste our time? With respect to our faith, what good comes from these incessant conversations about the State? I wonder if we have elevated the State to such importance that it has become our greatest idol.
My purpose in asking these questions is not to suggest that American Christians should recoil from matters of the State or become separatists. Rather, in true Lutheran fashion, it is to highlight the importance of keeping these realms – Church and State – separate. God is clearly Lord of all, but our faith should focus the majority of its proclamation on the Gospel. Let the State worry about the State. The Church will continue to be Church regardless of what happens to America.