War and Peace Pt. 2

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

Appreciate all the comments that were left yesterday and am excited about the rest of the week. I encourage everyone to continue to comment and read, I have a lot of smart friends out there and look forward to hearing what you have to say (that includes you O’Malley).

The Myth of a Christian Nation*
Before I get into what a myth is and why people are believing in myths, I want to first address something that was brought to my attention through an email from my Grandpa. He brought up the issue of defining something. And so I think it is important that I first define what a Christian is (in my mind) before I move on.
There is a song that I remember as a kid that is ringing out in my head right now, “they know we are Christians by our love by our love, they will know that we are Christians by our love” (sung in my Grandma Reeds voice). Cheesy song, but a lot of truth inside of it. Looking at Jesus what separated him the most from other great teachers and prophets was His love. Many believe that Jesus was a great teacher, that is undeniable, but where the problems start to arise is whether or not he was God in human form. To me, this is answered by the statement “God is Love” found in 1 John 4:7-8.  What separates Jesus from any other teacher was His love in all things, a perfect love. That was best demonstrated by his servant leadership (great demonstration of love) and his ultimate death on the cross (the ultimate show of love). For further understanding on this go and listen to Rob Bell’s love wins sermon, amazing. To be a Christian is to love, which might be too simple of an answer. A Christian is someone who prescribes to the love of God, taking the Holy Spirit as his/her guide, and being Jesus (love) to all. I might have missed some things there for you, but I don’t have time to get into everything.

So what is this thing about America being a Christian nation all about? For the longest time Christianity for me has been associated with white people. My whole life I have been surrounded by white people. Leades, church paritioners, family, and politicians, white people have been the face of Christianity. If you don’t think this is true, go and look at most depictions of Jesus in art/media and tell me who He looks like. As well, most white people are associated with America, amazing enough we did not settle America, but the Indians were the founding fathers. And yet for some reason, America has turned into the white mans home, which means that America has believed what the white man believes, and that is Christianity. Now there are several forms of Christianity that are represented (unfortunately) but for the most part, %90 of people would say that America is a Christian nation. I was one of those people for a long time. Until I started to look for what America stood for, or at least what people see America standing for. America was founded on freedom, which is great because I might not be the man I am today if not for that fact. But for some reason, that religious freedom that America was founded on has become more of an after thought when it comes to people believing differently (more on this later). For the most part America is seen as a free country, but inside this freedom comes a whole new set of problems. These problems are what America is known for. Capitalism (which I heard from Shaun Hannity that capitilism is dead with Obama being president) pursuit of Happiness (american dream) free market, freedom of speech, all that good stuff that America is known for leads one to believe that this is what Chrsitianity is known for. People would characterize Christians and Christianity a couple ways: Hypocritical, Narrow Minded, and Egocentric.
Can you see the relationship that Christianity has with America. A place founded upon the idea that money brings happiness, that you need to look a certain way so that you can fit in, that what you believe is right and if someone disagrees with you then they are wrong. I have heard all of these messages preached in one form or another over my life time. I think we all know someone who fits into this mold, and to be honest maybe I fit into this mold, but that is not the mold that Jesus was in. If you are willing to say that America is a Christian nation then you are willing to claim the fact that we killed innocent people (Indians) for the sake of “freedom”, that we told men (African Americans) that they were not men and they were animals that work for us, and that we let the desire/greed for money and power make decisions about war and peace. These are just a couple claims (major ones) that are associated with America which in turn is Christianity. I am not free of any of this, I am sinful man who is bent on sin saved by the grace of God. But I am slow to claim America as a Christian nation. That is not the Christianity that I know, that is not the way of Jesus that I know. Never do we see Jesus associate himself with a nation or a city, actually he did the opposite. For the sake of brevity, I will stop there.
America is not a Christian nation, we have bought into the idea that if we are or can continue to be we can control and make people better. The fundamental problem with that idea is depicted in the picture of a blind man leading another blind man around a room full of chairs and expecting them to not get tripped up, funny to watch, but we know the outcome.

So what is the myth that we are believing? That America is a Christian nation, and that becuase of this Christ will use America to make people “good,” that through rules set up by America people will come to believe in God, and that if we continue to keep Christian principles and men/women in places of power to rule people will fall in line and Christ will be glorified.

I will stop there, thanks for reading. Your turn, blast me for what I said or agree with me. But make yourself heard on a very important subject.

*Kyle

**The myth of a Chrsitian nation was stolen from the book “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd. Great book, got a lot of new thoughts out of this book. At the end of the week I will provide a work cited page for resources and places I got most of my thoughts.

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • http://tyhuze.blogspot.com Tyler

    There is a certain way that countries or nations are perscribed a religious identifier based on the most common religion of that particular region. I believe that “Christian Nation” = “Westerners” (white and weathy could be included) to the rest of the world and the only people getting confused about the term (or believing the myth as you say) are Christians themselves.

    I think the term is accurate in the way that countries define each other. It doesn’t mean that we are all Christians or that our country has a history of goodness and love, but that Christianity, in all its forms, is the dominating religion. It’s likely all our fault, but Christian doesn’t mean ‘follower of Christ’ (to those on the outside), it means white, rich, republican/fundamental.

  • O

    Kyle, I am proud of you for your willingness to study and learn and share with others. Not that I think you are off base with your overarching theme here…but I don’t think you do a good job of defending your opinion. To me, the pivotal point of this argument is the sentence, “If you are willing to say that America is a Christian nation then you are willing to claim the fact that we killed innocent people (Indians) for the sake of “freedom”, that we told men (African Americans) that they were not men and they were animals that work for us, and that we let the desire/greed for money and power make decisions about war and peace.”

    The Indians: Really? Innocent? Come on now. I think the settlers and the Indians were both threatened by each others presence and did a poor job of communicating. The settlers just happened to have better weapons and came out as the victors in the long run. The Indians could be pretty brutal and grotesque if you ask me. Also on this point…did not God demand Joshua to completely annihilate (women, babies, everything!) the “Indians” of the Promise Land when it was their time to come in and promote “freedom?” If your argument is trying to appeal to our inhumane actions towards Indians, come on! They are so spoiled now it’s ridiculous!

    As for slavery, consider these statements-“There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral.” -Rev. Alexander Campbell. And, “If we apply sola scriptura to slavery, I’m afraid the abolitionists are on relatively weak ground. Nowhere is slavery in the Bible lambasted as an oppressive and evil institution.” -Vaughn Roste, United Church of Canada. From the Bible, “You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” -Leviticus 25:44-46. Lastly, “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be punished; for the slave is his money.” -Exodus 21:20-21. So we can beat them to the point of death, just give them enough food and water to hang on for a day or two…Even Ephesians and I Timothy talk about how slaves should respect their masters as they respect Christ.

    Now, for your third argument in this sentence I do not have as much to lambaste you for. I just think it is a pretty vague statement without any real examples. This is exactly what you are arguing against-that Christianity has been unjustly synonymized (made that word up, makes sense though huh?) with America. I argue that the same has been done with our government and its people. Just because our politicians make decisions based on greed (which I am not willing to accept until you show me an overwhelming majority of decisions that are as such) does not mean the rest of the citizens agree with said decisions.

    If you ask me, I can see the correlation between Christianity and America. Was not our country founded on Christian principles? Is it not in our pledge and on our money? Has it not been at its best with its Christian leaders (Washington, Lincoln)? And is it not failing and flailing along with this new generation of (in my opinion) anti-Christian leaders? If this does not at least beg the question of the parallelism between the two then I stand corrected.

    Love you. Out like a trout.

  • O

    I struggle with the new covenant because it means, to me, (and I’ve heard all the arguments. We went to the same school. We slept together. We showered together. We….) that God is essentially saying crap, this isn’t working, I WAS WRONG in the way I intially did this. So the new covenant is His second chance (actually third if you count Noah). To me this begin a downward spiral starting with questions about God being all-knowing, perfect and the master-planner.

    You’re right, there is much to say in the Bible concerning the treatment of slaves. That was my point. It says that some men “were not men and they were animals that work for us.” Slavery was not just a way to pay off debt. Those people were purchased with money as property to be passed down through the generations. Not indentured servants.

    I’ll finish in a little bit. Boss wants me.

  • http://joshuaobserves.wordpress.com Joshua Long

    Howdy Kyle,

    I like the way this discussion works. It provides a forum to air out some interesting arguments. It is different from a newspaper article that is represented as final polished reporting. Rather, this is more like a dialogue. Here you begin to build an idea and others help you to polish it. Here are a few thoughts I had while reading:

    You said, ” A Christian is someone who prescribes to the love of God, taking the Holy Spirit as his/her guide, and being Jesus (love) to all. I might have missed some things there for you, but I don’t have time to get into everything.” I think we should be clear in case people are reading who do not fully understand the gospel. To enter into the Kingdom of God, one must do more that agree with God’s love, ask for the Holy Spirit, and love people. It requires a knowledge of Christ’s sacrifice and a sacrificial response: laying down one’s life and taking on a new life that is owned by Christ.

    I think it is interesting that early Americans who cited Scripture in support of slavery never mention Onesimus. Philemon was Onesimus owner. Onesimus became a believer and Paul pleaded with Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother and not as a slave. Christ broke down all of the distinctions in race and in class.

    That brings us to another discussion about ubiquity. In the old dispensation, God’s people were a nation…Israel. This was a theocracy and nobody could be in right standing with God outside of this nation. Fast forward….Jesus breaks down the distinction between Jew and Gentile (most of us) so that God’s people are not defined by race or nationality but by a common faith. Fast forward….Catholic and Anglican church. Somehow we tried once again to establish a race and nationality for Christianity! This cannot be. Our first allegiance is to God and his people from every tribe and nation.

    When we as Christians allow the idea to continue that the United States is a Christian nation we are doing harm to the Kingdom. People then expect the US to be a representative of the faith. When democracy takes effect, as it should, some of America’s choices don’t reflect Christ. This should not be a surprise since most Americans are not practicing Christians (even if they check the box).

    We as believers must continue to use our rights as citizens in a democracy to push for a better nation based upon our faith. However, because this country was founded on democracy and freedom, everyone else has a say: Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans, atheists, deists, Satanists…all of us. Surprise! We are in the minority.

    This nation was founded upon some Christian ideas because some of the founders were Christians. More accurately, it is founded on Deism and Anti-Imperialism with a sprinkle of Christian language here and there.

    Be proud to be a Christian! Be proud to be American! They are not the same thing.

  • http://www.kylereed189.wordpress.com Kyle

    Josh, you have a way of really bringing truth out of a mess. Thanks for the points that you made.
    I think your last statement was worth all the comments…”be proud to be a Christian! Be proud to be American! They are not the same thing.” Great point, I totally agree.
    I think you are exactly right when you say that America was founded on “some” Christian beliefs, mainly a form of deism.
    One thing that I forget to even talk about was Constantine and his recognizing Christianity as the national religion. All hell broke loose from that decision and from then on out persecution/hatred and a religion being associated with a nation or Kingdom was started.

    David, I can see what you are saying about the whole new Covenant thing. But I disagree. I don’t feel like God was starting over, or saying whoops I made a mistake, Jesus the Son fix this problem.
    From the beginning of time, Adam being a representative of Jesus, and all throughout the OT we see a sign of Jesus, a pointing to of a Savior. If there was not a new Covenant established this idea of grace from Jesus would not be here, and we would still be living under the idea that it is our acts that save us. But now, we live under the new covenant that still states that we are sinners and that we need a sacrifice, but this is a different sacrifice and a new kind of Grace. Unmerited grace that we don’t deserve. to me, Jesus shows the ultimate plan of God’s all-knowingness.
    I look forward to the rest of your response and ask one question, “Why don’t we have slaves now?”

  • O

    I like what you have to say about the Covenant now. Made me think through the reason the Law was established in the first place-Adam. And why it needed to be abolished and rewritten.

    As for slaves, we don’t have them because our government requires that we not. Don’t be naive enough to believe you would not have slaves if were not against the law and you were raised in that society. (That sounded really rude, but I do not mean it to be.)

    Im with you on Rwanda and Africa. But Iraq definitely needed help. And I’m not one to bash the government for seeing the potential of making some money on oil. (Probably would have made it cheaper for the American public if they wouldn’t have whined about it.) Nothing wrong with a little conquest here and there, that’s how world powers are formed. I for one am afraid for the near future of America. The world’s heading for another World War if you ask me. Nuclear War to put it more accurately. That’s gonna suck!

    Later Gator

  • brennanloveless

    well, i had a bunch of stuff to say; but now, you and O had the discussion that i was going to bring up.
    1. good job trying to tackle the things that are hard to put a definitive answer to.
    2. the things i disagreed with O already brought up and you two dialogued about it, so i won’t repeat for the sake of doing such.
    Love ya buddy.

  • Mother Teresa

    “Whereas you work to bring about peace, why is it you do not work, they ask, to lessen war? If you are working for peace, that peace lessens war. But I won’t mix in politics. War is the fruit of politics, and so I don’t involve myself, that’s all. If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving. Because I will have to stand by one, and not by all. This is the difference.”

  • Andy Unnerstall

    I wanted to address a couple of topics in this conversation that I feel didn’t get the attention they deserved. The first is the topic of Native Americans. Whether or not the initial conflicts between early European settlers and Native Americans were due to communication barriers is irrelevant to the conversation. The appalling aspect of the situation revolves around the “convert or die” stance taken against the Native Americans by our “Christian” military (for a similar story, see the Inquisition). This policy was continued by our government well into the 20th Century, and the forced removal of the “savages” from their centuries-old homeland to the barren plains of the West is indicative of our “Christian” nation’s attitude toward anyone considered non-Christian. I have a history schoolbook from around 1900 that characterized Native Americans as ignorant, violent savages, worthy of little more than we would give their dogs. I have to ask this question: Would you fight against someone who was attacking your family and community and trying to force you to leave a place your people had lived for generations? If you dare to say no, I would call you a liar, and direct you to an event that happened on September 11, 2001, and the events that have happened as a direct result of this in the subsequent years.

    Now, as for slavery, I have no problem with slavery when it is conducted in such a way as Paul laid out for Onesimus. In a situation such as this, the slave, which is really more of an indentured servant, is included and treated as a member of the family, and receives appropriate food and lodging. This kind of slavery is a ticket out of poverty for people who have no other chance of doing so. This is in stark contrast to the greed-driven treatment of African slaves. These soul-possessing human beings were looked on as a financial commodity, little more that livestock, and only slightly more useful. They were abused, separated from their families, starved, denied medical treatment, denied proper shelter, raped–the list goes on and on. And the fact that anyone could use the teaching of the Bible to justify such abhorrent and disgusting behavior makes me want to scream.

    And also, just for the record, our “Christian” forefathers only included all of the rights for those they saw fit–wealthy, white male landowners. The rest of us–poor white men, women, and non-whites, did not even receive the right to vote at first.

  • http://joshuaobserves.wordpress.com Joshua Long

    Here is a video that might spark a bit more conversation: