A friend of mine showed me a Facebook group titled “Jesus, Please Save America” which is where I found this photo. After my initial shock, I then moved to a state of sorrow about how wide spread this belief is. I first want to address the caption and then the comments.
“What has our country become?”
Let’s first tear back the presupposition of where this country began. If we are to ‘take America back for God’, it must have once belonged to God to begin with. There is a perverse belief in the heart of the evangelical church in America, that America was founded as a Christian nation but has simply went off course. The line of thinking is that:
- If we can just get the power of Caesar again, we can take it back.
- If we can get prayer (Christian prayer, of course) back into schools
- along with the Ten Commandments and creationist teaching, we’ll be restoring our country’s Christian heritage.
- If we can protect the sanctity of marriage, make it difficult, if not impossible, to live a gay lifestyle,
- and overturn Roe vs. Wade, we’ll be getting closer.
- And if we can keep ‘one nation under God’ in our Pledge of Allegiance we have won this nation back for Jesus Christ.
I repeat, If we are to ‘take America back for God’, it must have once belonged to God to begin with.
In Greg Boyd’s brilliant book, “The Myth of a Christian Nation” he asks when this golden Christian age was:
“Were these God-glorifying years before, during, or after Europeans ‘discovered’ America and carried out the doctrine of ‘manifest destiny’ — the belief that God (or, for some, nature) had destined white Christians to conquer the native inhabitants and steal their land? Were the God-glorifying years the ones in which whites massacred these natives by the millions, broke just about every covenant they every made with them, and then forced survivors onto isolated reservations? Was the golden age before, during, or after white Christians loaded five to six million Africans on cargo ships to bring them to their newfound country, enslaving the three million or so who actually survived the brutal trip? Was it during the two centuries when Americans acquired remarkable wealth by the sweat and blood of their slaves? Was the time when we were truly ‘one nation under God,’ the blessed time that so many evangelicals seem to want to take our nation back to?
If we look at historical reality rather than pious verbiage, it’s obvious that America never really “belonged to God.”
He writes earlier in the book,
“This myth harms the church’s primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, antigay news, or Republican news. And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it.”
Now that that is out of the way, I want to address the comments:
“We need to let God back in our country and stop trying to keep Him out of our country.”
“We need to bring GOD back….”
If I had a dollar every time I had encountered this line of thinking; that we can ‘keep God out of our country’ (from this post alone, I’d have $832). In the words of Rachel Held Evans in her brilliant post God Can’t Be Kept Out:
Brothers and sisters, let’s call this one for what it is: bullshit.
God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t “systematically remove” God if we tried.
God did not ordain this tragedy to pour out wrath. Neither did this tragedy happen because we have “kicked God out”. God cannot be kept out. Stop using this tragedy as an appeal to days that never were.
A step in the right direction isn’t towards days that never were, but for the Christians in America to separate the Christian “we” and the American “we.” Where we regain our prophetic voice in order to speak truth to power. To “come out from Babylon,” to divorce ourselves from the empire once again. And to drop the American narrative that is full of oppression, consumerism, violence, and individualism (the sword) and pick up the Christ narrative of liberation, solidarity, nonviolence, and community (the cross).
We need not go back to days that never were but to begin living as an alternative and prophetic community where we learn to cultivate the characteristics of a Christ narrative. To create a counter liturgical society from the shell of the American narrative we are so steeped in.