Tuesday, December 18, 2007

America First, God Second

Jim Wallis, the evangelical author/activist, has something important to say to American Christians. I urge everyone to read the whole thing, but in summary, he takes American Christians to task for their blind support of U.S. wars and a foreign policy that oppresses our neighbors. He calls this our “Achilles’ heel, our biggest blind spot, our least questioned allegiance, the worst compromise of our Christian identity, and the greatest failing of our Christian obedience.”
Even in the subset of born-again, Bible-believing evangelical Christians around the world, an overwhelming majority are against American policy in Iraq. Many Christians I’ve spoken to go further and say that America’s aggressive role in the world today has hurt the cause of Christ globally, especially when an American president dangerously conflates America’s role with God’s purposes.

Some on the American Christian Right are now calling for all-out war against “Islamofacism,” and recent presidential endorsements from the Religious Right even suggest that winning the “clash of civilizations” with Islamic fundamentalism is really another “life” issue, perhaps even a higher priority than their traditional concerns such as abortion. Shouldn’t it give us pause that virtually no other Christians or churches around the world take this position, finding it utterly appalling and contrary to the gospel of Christ? Do these militant Christian nationalists, who would again call us to war, know something that the rest of world Christianity does not? Even many Christians who live in or near Muslim countries, and sometimes suffer for their Christian identity, find the warlike theology of their aggressive American brothers and sisters very frightening.

Could it be that far too many American Christians are simply Americans first and Christians second? To say, “We are to be Christians first and members of a particular nation second” is more about our understanding of church than it is about our politics. That simple affirmation, if ever applied, would utterly transform the relationship of American Christians to the policies of their own government.

This message resonated with me today, because I had to drive past Two Rivers Baptist Church this morning. Every time I see that massive building on Briley Parkway all I can think of his how this congregation opened its doors for the Justice Sunday II event, a partisan piece of political theater staged as much (if not more) for the national media than any issues of faith.

Yes, faith informs political views, but when your faith tells you to support procedural maneuvers in the U.S. Senate while ignoring much larger moral issues like war and poverty, something is very wrong.

Much is being said about faith in this presidential campaign. Every endorsement from a faith leader such as James Dobson or Pat Robertson is dutifully reported in the press. But few have stopped to examine these leaders' motives and intentions. Our media is quick to present someone like CBN's David Brody as a legitimate pundit, but no one has ever bothered to ask how well CBN or Focus On The Family (his previous employer) represent Christian values. The media assumes these people represent "the voice of Christianity" but they don't even represent all of American Christians, let alone the global faith community--what Wallis calls "the body of Christ."

I have to wonder why these faith leaders and their misguided flocks still have so much influence in our political debate.