In case you are new to the internet or the Christian blogosphere here is a post I wrote for my friend, the Tamed Cynic himself, about the 4th of July, apple pie, Americana, and American Christianity identifing more with the Union than with Christ.
Happy belated 4th of July! Americans love to celebrate. I am no different. Holidays are a great opportunity to be thankful, visit family, take a day or two off from work, and grill/smoke some meat on your assortment of Weber products. The 4th of July is no different. In fact, I would venture to say that the celebrating is a little more intense. From cookouts and parades to pyrotechnic shows with illegal fireworks from North Carolina or Pennsylvania, Americans tend to be a bit more extreme with their 4th of July celebrations. And you can’t really blame us right? Fireworks and cheap watered down beer goes hand in hand (or in just one hand if you blow one off with a firework mortar).
The 4th of July is a time to celebrate our identity as Americans. We are blessed to live in the land of the free because of the brave. Our kids receive top notch educations, the vast majority of us enjoy three squares a day and a roof over our heads, and we can worship any god that we want to without fear of government persecution. It’s a sweet deal.
In February my son was baptized. My wife and I were able to pour water over his head as he received a new identity. This identity supersedes any national allegiance or pride that we or society might will pass onto him as he grows up. Baptism takes us and pulls us into a new identity where Christ is the focal point and everything is secondary.
A friend of mine from college posted a picture on Facebook Friday afternoon from a 4th of July parade. From the pictures I gathered that it was your typical smalltown parade, marshalled by the mayor, Boy Scouts carrying American flags, and civic organizations throwing candy to the crowd. One float though made me scratch my head. The side of the float read, “JesUSAves”. At first I scratched my head and thought, “well that’s a boring float”. But then it got to thinking that the “JesUSAves” float is not only a dangerous mixing of our American pride and Christian identity, to the point where the latter becomes subservient to the former, but when Christianity takes on the form of nationalism a dangerous slippery slope begins to emerge.
Now I am all for national pride. I am proud and privileged to live where I do. And I am proud and grateful to the people who have made that possible for me. But I wonder if our American-Christian identity has begun to focus more on the American part, to the point that the American-Christian identity has little in common with the Jesus that put the Christ in Christian.
Baptism, confirmation, and professions of faith set Christians apart from the world. These acts enable us to call one another brother and sister with people from around the world, and not just within our Main Street churches. I am all for national pride. We should wave the red, white, and blue proudly. The national anthem is something that should still be sung at baseball games, and kids should still say the Pledge of Allegiance (they still do that right?). BUT none of this should take priority or dilute our identity as Christians.
Afterall, remember that it was a parade into Jerusalem where Jesus called out the political and religious establishment to the point that the nationalism he was challenging killed him.