I’ve always been a little uneasy celebrating the 4th of July, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. It’s because on Independence Day, even some of the most devout Christians I know become very convincing pagans, exchanging their worship of the God of scripture for some kind of American god. It’s all this tied up in this “God Bless America” nonsense, and it needs to stop.
It has to stop because we don’t want God to bless America. What I mean by this is that we don’t want the God of the Bible to bless America. We don’t want him to love liberally all the peoples of the earth. We would find it nearly impossible to say “God Bless Iraq” or “God Bless North Korea,” because we want the blessing all for ourselves, not for the other, the enemy. What we want is more akin to a tribal god, a powerful national protector whose chief concern is the well-being of one nation, our nation. (Wes over at Theophilusian Fragments wrote great piece on Jonah and the dangers of a nationalistic faith).
We want an American god, one who will look after our own interests, and not the interests of Iraq or China or Australia. We want this American god to bless us, aid us in battle against our enemies and make us the superior nation on this planet. We picture him big and strong and very Anglo-Saxon. He hates communism and wants to bless every American business with prosperity, despite the fact that many American business engage in very unethical practices. He wants to kill America’s enemies, despite the fact that the majority of our enemies are innocent civilians unwillingly tossed into a war they didn’t start, given a freedom they didn’t ask for. He wants to make sure American boys and girls succeed at everything, despite the fact that many of them aren’t willing to work for what they want. He only wants the best, and only for us.
And it’s disgusting, especially when this alien deity is propagated by the church who calls the true God lord and king. It’s heart-wrenching to watch otherwise honorable clergy assent to the worship of the American god by asking him for the things I’ve just described in the paragraph above. It breaks my heart to watch American clergy hold a place of pride in their hearts for America, when they know that their real God is a God of all nations.
God is much bigger than America, bigger than her wars and economic situation in the world. He’s concerned much less with our happiness and much more with our holiness. He cares about America, true, but also about Uganda and Canada and Nicaragua and all the other nations of the world. He cares about individual soldiers, yes, but his desire is for peace on earth. He is not safe, like the American god it seems we desire, but he is good and he loves deeply. His goals are wider and far more profound, but they are also so much more fulfilling than simply economic prosperity and temporal happiness.
So let’s abandon our American god. He’s not real, anyway. Let’s remember that God wants to bless all nations, and through Christ, has begun the long and painful process of bringing those blessings about. Let’s stop petitioning him for help in war when his aim is peace. Let’s embrace him as he has revealed himself to us, not as we wish for him to be. This Independence Day, let’s celebrate the independence we have in Christ, and hold it so much more dearly than our political independence.