What If God Doesn’t Want to Make America Great Again?

 

2016-07-16 14.16.41

Recently I received an email stating that if Christians don’t support Donald Trump for president we can “kiss our country goodbye.” It said something to the effect of, “Sure he isn’t all that decent, but if that’s what it takes for our economy to be strong, our borders to be secure, and our nation to be great, then so be it.” It suggested God sent us Trump to preserve our capitalism, our patriotism, and general way of life; that perhaps Trump is God’s tool to save our country.

I’m not going to comment on whether any of that is accurate or not, but the email did get me thinking…

What if God doesn’t want to Make America Great Again? Or maybe, what if God’s definition
of great looks a lot different than what many of us are hoping for? What if saving our country (whatever is meant by that) is not really what God has in mind?

I’m not saying that God wants to see America destroyed, but I’m wondering if we make some false assumptions when we think God wants us rich and safe or whatever other things people mean when they say they want America to be great again.

Set aside the fact that many of us will disagree on what actually makes our country great and consider why we think God wants us wealthy, secure, and politically free. Jesus was none of the above. Nor were his first disciples or the early church or many Christians around the world today. None of those things are promised to us. None of those things are neccessary to live a faithful life.

Have we become so attached to our stuff that we are certain God wants us to keep it? Have we become so accustomed to having a vote that we assume that’s how God orders the world? Are we so desperate for security that we are willing to compromise our most basic values to acheive it? And so opposed to our enemies that we are confident God hates them as much as we do?

If so, we are misguided. These things do not line up with the Gospels where I learn of a Jesus who says to welcome the stranger, forgive extravagantly, give radically, and do not resist an evil person (and love them instead). A Jesus who erases cultural and political and religious divisions.

Jesus who flat out says, “Whoever wants to be great needs to become a servant of everybody else.

But we have little time for that sort of greatness. “Be A Servant” isn’t an attractive campaign slogan. Not when we have elections to win and businesses to boycott and borders to secure. Jesus says his Kingdom is not of this world, but we would say our kingdom certainly is and, well, all that loving and forgiving stuff works in church, but this here is the real world.

And so we declare our allegiance. We choose earthly greatness and power and success and security over the way of the cross. We justify our lack of loving our neighbors because we have to protect our version of the American dream.  We cling to political liberty at all costs and find ourselves chained to platforms and politicians.

I’m not anti-American. I’m not an anarchist. I plan to vote in the coming election. I’m just not going to assume that God’s deepest desire for us is something as fleeting as prosperity or political freedom. I’m not convinced God is hoping we elect the proper candidate so he can finally get to work in our country.

While I strongly believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and want those things for all people (literally, all the people), I am not dependant on them. Nor do I think those are the highest things a person can acheive.

Not when our Savior started life as a refugee, lived under the military occupation of his enemies, spent his ministry years homeless, and was persecuted to the point of execution.

Not when the majority of our Scriptures were written to or about people with no freedom, no security, and no wealth. Peope who often neglected their faith whenever they had actually attained those very things.

And not when many of us are willing to ignore the teachings of Christ in order to make a nation great. If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.

If we live and love like Jesus of Nazareth at the expense of privilege or safety, I believe America (and the rest of the world) will be greater because of it. Not because we have accumulated all the power and all the wealth, but because we have been faithful. Because being faithful to the way of Jesus is the only way to be truly great.

So inform yourself and vote if you feel so led. But long before and long after your ballot is cast, consider what things you are grasping for, what things motivate and excite you, and what things you assume God wants for you. And then compare them to the life of Jesus.

I imagine we will find we have spent a lot of time and money and energy and yard signs on a greatness that is at best temporary and at worst idolatry. We’ve been invited to something better than anything a politician can offer and we’ve been charged to live in such a way that it doesn’t ultimately matter where we reside or what we possess.

May we be faithful first. Even when the alternative sounds safer and more comfortable. May we choose Jesus and his cross today and every day. Even when it costs us elections and political power. And may we see the world become as great as its ever been.

 

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17 thoughts on “What If God Doesn’t Want to Make America Great Again?

  1. REALLY hit the mark on this one, Chris!! It is so frustrating to have ultimatums given to force people to vote a certain way.

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  2. Democrats are more living in my opinion. Less divisive. The right to bear arms is really the most unchristian thing in my opinion. And devaluing people bc they have darker skin or different beliefs also wrong. Justice.

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    • I think both sides can be down right awful and dress it up in pretty language. I’m certain that both have good things going for them and both have massive room for improvement. Thanks for reading.

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  3. This is truly excellent. I live in China (a place most American Christians view as a horrible place for Christians) and you know what, the church is alive and thriving here. And not just secretly like you’re told. It’s in the open and it’s beautiful. Though there are restrictions (On all religions and organized groups – it is not a war on Christianity here) the church flourishes in all environments. Why Americans believe the church will fall apart if our president isn’t an evangelical is nonsense. Jesus is doing pretty great in countries with less freedoms and has been since … forever. Love the article! Great work.

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  4. Thank you for writing this. I think it’s the best thing I’ve read on the subject of this election. I am enthusiastically sharing. I hope you’ve picked up many new followers because of this post. I am hitting the follow button now. Blessings, Lynn

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  5. Hello Chris,
    Thank you for the thought provoking article. My response to you is the fact that God uses the USA to finance and support missions around the world. While I am not in favor of the prosperity ethos, I do see the need to keep our economy free and healthy in order for the church to continue to support ministries and missions around the world. For this reason, America being great equates to God continuing to use it to bless the nations of the world with the Gospel. Your thoughts?

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    • Thanks for reading Brian. I agree we do A LOT of good and I think a healthy economy is good for people. It helps us lift people out of poverty and educate our kids and have access to healthcare, and as you mentioned reaches around the world. So I absolutely think we should work for a good economy. The rub is when I’m willing to compromise my values for a good economy (or any other thing). Even great blessings can become idols (I think family and sports are two of the most common). So we engage with our processes and do the best we can while remembering those things aren’t what matters most. Not sure if I’m making sense or not. This article isnt a call to disengage, but to rearrange our priorities.

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  6. “If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness.”

    Thank you for this perspective. Absolutely spot on. I’ve seen more hate and vitriol in this election cycle come from fellow Christians.

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  7. Thanks, Chris. I love the way you resist the pull to align yourself with either end of the political spectrum but call us to embody the values of Jesus which sometimes align with those of one party of the other, but more often radically critique both. This is a message the church needs to return to–that Jesus’ way of bringing transformation (thy kingdom come on earth) is fundamentally different that the way of the political parties. When the church becomes identified with a partisan political movement, we compromise our nature as salt and light.

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    • Thanks so much Eddy. I really believe that our partisan politics have deeply impacted the world’s view of the church. As some said its like mixing manure and ice cream, doesn’t hurt the manure but ruins the ice cream. Thanks for the encouragement!

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