My Growing Disdain for American Christianity

By Graham Glover

I love my country. Although imperfect, the American republic is the greatest country in the world. No matter what candidates proclaim, protestors lament, or dissidents believe, there is little doubt that the American experiment reflects the best political model ever envisioned by humanity.

I also love the church. While itself perfect, its members embody the gross imperfections of all humanity. And no matter what unbelievers proclaim, critics lament, or skeptics believe, there is little doubt that Christianity is the perfect answer to our imperfect world.

So, just to be clear, I love America.

And I love Christianity.

But to be equally clear, I have a growing disdain for American Christianity.

More and more, I find the American interpretation of what it means to be a Christian to be insufferable. For the life of me, I cannot understand how citizens of such a great country, some of whom are followers of the great Christian faith, get both things so completely and utterly wrong. This disdain is an equal opportunity one. In other words, it’s not directed toward a particular party, a certain ideology, or a specific denomination. American Christianity as a whole is guilty of becoming something that is dreadfully awful.

While most Americans love their country and most Christians love the church, we seem to have radically confused what it means to love them at the same time. Most nauseating is the way American Christians appropriate our faith on what it means to be a citizen. Our Christian faith certainly directs our ethic. Our faith defines our moral code. But our faith has nothing to do with our American citizenship. To suggest these things are somehow inherently connected is to betray them both. (And please, for all our sake, don’t make the claim that the United States is a Christian nation or was founded on Christian principles. These claims are as naïve as they are false.)

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This extends to how American Christians use the tenants of our faith to determine the politicians we support. We American Christians sit on our mighty thrones and make ridiculous assumptions about which candidate or party is more “Christian”. (Newsflash: neither of them are or ever will be “God’s Party”.) We so desperately want to make the divine law, human law. We want to presume that we know the will of God with respect to how a nation should act or what laws it should pass/enforce. But when we do these things we fail. We fail as Americans and as Christians.

Although done often by American Christians, it’s laughable to think we should care about the faith (or lack thereof) of our politicians. In the public realm, theirs is not to be advocates of the faith – to be the means by which Kingdom of God is advanced. Theirs is to be good public servants. Period. While I hope they follow a natural law that transcends religions (a law that is also for the unbeliever), whether they are Christian or not is inconsequential. Some of the best public servants of recent time have a faith that is offensive to my own, while some of the worst publicly confess a common faith. One has little to do with the other.

American Christians though have so intertwined the two that they no longer understand one for the other. Our citizenship – our politics, is about the nation. It is about preserving the republic. It is about sound public policy and pragmatic means of accomplishing it. Our faith is about the Lord. It is about Him preserving us. It is about good theology and pragmatic means of sharing His means of grace.

So please stop my fellow American Christians. Stop your incessant and false political theology. Stop making our faith a precondition or a determination of our politics. Stop making our politics more important than our theology.

Please, for the sake of our republic, for the sake of the proclamation of God’s Word, stop.

(I’m participating in a field exercise with my Soldiers for the next several weeks and will likely be unable to respond to comments. But don’t let my absence get in the way of the Jagged Mafia stirring the pot!)

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3 comments

  1. Graham, I’m sorry this is so hard. Maybe I can help you see a different way. Christianity is not about people in religion. It is about what Christ has done, for us and to us. It shouldn’t be a big surprise if people are sinning, even Christians. It is what our Scripture says about us, after all. It shouldn’t be a big surprise if people bring their faith into play in the political realm, even if they don’t get the connection right. That’s what “We the People” tend to do.

    I am generally positive about the way the Constitution was designed by mostly Christian-minded guys to take notice of sinfulness, and bind this same people to laws that protect us from the government’s tendency to grab for power, and the people’s tendency to dominate by majority rule. It should be no surprise that such a thing would be a little messed up, since it takes notice of our sinfulness, was designed by sinners, and is served by sinners – even serves sinners. The concept is, I think, God’s own as he sets earthly authorities in place for our care.

    Still, I think we can be patient with Christians that want their country to reflect their understanding of things, work for that to happen, and hope for some cooperation in their government. At least in my mind, aside from the obvious foolishness of human beings, that would be better for everyone; that is if God knows what he’s doing – even if I don’t.

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  2. Hey Graham,

    I think part of the problem is that we aren’t clearly taught in our churches what it means to be a citizen as a Christian. I truly appreciate the Lutheran distinction between the Two Kingdoms, but even in Lutheran circles I don’t think it’s always clear where to draw the distinction between “our faith defines our moral code,” and “our faith has nothing to do with our American citizenship.”

    In some sense, we have to vote based upon what we believe is right, and what we believe is wrong. So, “our faith defines our moral code,” and influences how we vote.

    How can we turn around and say, “our faith has NOTHING to do with our American citizenship”?

    I think we, as Christian citizens, need greater clarity and instruction on how the Two Kingdoms distinction plays itself out in our involvement in politics.

    We are often encouraged to be active in the pro-life movement, but isn’t that bringing our faith to bear on our actions as citizens and the way in which we vote? If it’s okay to let our faith influence that, why shouldn’t we let our faith influence other issues?

    We need greater clarity on how these issues play out. That’s not to say we need someone to tell us how to vote, but we need Christian intellectuals to help us develop some general principles.

    You should write a book about it. Lay out some basic Two Kingdoms theology using historic and exegetical theology, and then develop some basic principles that can guide us in our civil involvement and help protect us from confusing the Two Kingdoms. That’s definitely a book that I would read!

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  3. A Christian does what is right and lives right because he is living a sanctified life in Christ. This has nothing to do with the legality of his actions and even less to do with making a law of this life. A people who, externally, obey God’s law without faith in God’s promises, live the lives of Pharisees. There should be no Christian joy in advocating such a legal system that demands civil righteousness beyond that system allowing us to live in peace.

    Further, a Christian love of neighbor would demand laws and a system that create desire for life, marriage, peace and good order. To that end we should always ask if punishment, competition, a winner/loser mentality, stigma, or prohibition accomplish those things or whether these things create the opposite: violence, fear, privation which feeds violence and fear, worry for the future. I would submit that a truly good Christian life is often drowned out by the clamor of moralism and preaches behavior as a substitute for grace.

    Politically and historically, the founders never saw the Constitution as an enduring end. Rather, it was the next best step to be superseded ans the needs and will of the People changed. Other nations, rebuilding after world wars established themselves upon the foundations created by our founders but moved beyond and we can learn much from the successes and failures in other OECD countries. Otherwise, the pride of exceptionalism may, indeed, come before a great fall. Our reaction to terror which seeks to undermine our peace, freedom, and security has been to become less free, more belligerent, fearful and insecure. the very weapons which our founder were wise enough to give us are being left holstered. We, as Christian citizens, can certainly speak peace, freedom, and security. These are values found in our faith. and we can contrast those with the weapons of the Enemy.

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