The Home of the Free

I went to church this past Sunday and was wary the moment I walked in and saw the stage lit up in red, white, and blue. The projectors had images of American flags waving in the breeze. The service began with an audio-visual presentation about American history and freedom.

I found it all a little upsetting. Since when did Christ’s Church pledge allegiance to America?

The pastor’s sermon focused on celebration and the importance of our celebrating the gifts and privileges that God gives us. In that respect, he wasn’t wrong. We are called to celebrate and bring others into the celebration with us, but why do we think American freedom is God’s gift?

In America, we are so quick to thank God for the freedoms and wealth that we enjoy, but why do we assume that these things are given to us by God? Of course God has allowed us to have these things, but that doesn’t mean it’s to our benefit. God allowed Hezekiah to live an extra 15 years to the great harm of the entire nation of Israel.

We say it is God’s blessing, but in all history, when has God ever chosen to use material wealth and religious freedom to expand His kingdom? Are American Christians somehow unique in the manner that God chooses to bless us? Is it so hard to see a correlation between the freedom and stagnation of the church in America and the persecution and explosive growth of the Chinese church?

The pastor seemed dismayed by the lack of celebration in the American church, and yet at the beginning of the service he gave thanks profusely for the freedom we had to celebrate. When has making something easier ever made it more meaningful or passionate? We so often don’t celebrate freedom because here in America, it’s free!

  • Great points, but I feel that the lack of celebration for the freedoms that we enjoy comes only indirectly from our possession of it and more from our taking it for granted (a reflection on human nature as a whole). This is, to me, an important distinction. In that perspective, I don’t see a conflict in the pastor’s celebration of freedom sermon.

    The question, as the devil’s advocate in me quips, is why does such a correlaction between persecution and explosive growth of the Chinese church exist? Do we only cling to religion like a prized possession when our claim to it is threatened? Do we only flock to the call of God when his voice threatens to be silenced by an immediate threat? That, to me, seems to paint the spirituality of personal religion in a far more materialistic light than I usually associate with it.

    God may have granted us everything we enjoy today. Whether they are gifts or curses or neither is up to personal interpretation. I myself find no harm in celebrating the United States’ return/preservation of most of these rights and liberties, though glossing over America’s proud history of slavery and personal gain might be a bit too much.

  • Certainly we should celebrate, but I think the celebration we’re called to is something many Americans wouldn’t be able to stomach. For one example, there’s the celebration of Jubilee, where the Israelites were called celebrate the prosperity of the past fifty years by giving it all back and redistributing the wealth.

    I wonder how many Christians spent more time deciding on which brauts to grill than thinking about whether they should celebrate their freedom by inviting a homeless person to the barbecue. Our definition of celebration so often only involves indulging ourselves, but the Bible always seems to depict celebration with bringing in friends and strangers to share in the blessings.

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