Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The United States: A Major Idol among Christians Today

In writing an article entitled ‘The United States: A Major Idol among Christians Today’ it would be very helpful if I were an American.  However, I am not, so in an attempt not to appear offensive to Americans, I would like to begin by stressing a few points:

First, the motivation for writing this article is only to make constructive criticism, to attempt to correct some wrong views of things.  I am not trying to put anyone down. 

Second, although I am not certain, I think my own country, the United Kingdom, is probably even more displeasing to God than the United States.  That is my sincere opinion, so I am in no way writing from some imagined position of superiority. 

Third, if I were miraculously transported back in time to the end of the nineteenth century or thereabouts, and were able to write a similar article, it would probably be entitled ‘Great Britain: A Major Idol among Christians Today’. 

Fourth, the idolisation of America is not a problem that affects only Americans but those, including Christians, of other nationalities too.  This article is aimed at Christians of whatever nationality who idolise America

Fifth, I have no doubt that very many American Christians are well aware of the danger of idolising their country. 

Sixth and similarly, I have read one American Christian writer who has criticised what he saw as idolisation of America, and I am sure that there will be others who have written along the same lines. 

Seventh, if anyone were to write criticising the UK, then, as long as the criticism were warranted – which it is not difficult to believe it would be – I would be the first to offer my ‘Amen’.  Besides, the whole notion of national pride is one that leaves me cold anyway.

Given these points, I really hope that American readers of this article will not be offended by what I have to say.  Please don’t be.

There are actually two ways in which I believe that America is idolised today.  The first of these is not my main concern, so I will just touch on it briefly.

Firstly, then, there is what we could call a general type of idolisation of America.  This idolatry affects people throughout the world, and Christians are not immune.  It is basically a kind of unwarranted awe.  Sinful people are very impressed by power and prestige, and therefore have a tendency to worship things, including countries, that are powerful and prestigious.  At the present time the US is the strongest and the wealthiest country in the world, and hence it is idolised.

Any form of worshipping what is created rather than the Creator is of course a very serious sin, as the Bible tells us on a multitude of occasions.  Sadly, human nature being what it is, we are all in danger of falling into this type of idolatry.  It is therefore very important for us to remain on our guard so as not to be drawn into this kind of sin. 

We must remember too that the Bible often criticises, or even pours scorn on, humans or human things that have power or prestige.  We can think, for example, of Paul’s assertion that ‘God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put the wise to shame, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame, and God has chosen the insignificant things and the despised things, the things that are not, so that He might nullify the things that are . . .’ (1 Cor 1:27-28). 

God is the one with the real power and prestige and our worship should be given to Him alone.

The second type of idolatry is the one that I want to concentrate on:

There are many Christians today, predominantly Americans, who clearly have the idea that the United States is a country that is unusually special to God, and that God is on America’s side more than He is on the side of all or nearly all other nations (leaving aside the state of Israel, which is an exceptional and complicated case).  Some Christians go so far as to describe the US as ‘God’s country’, and there are even some churches where allegiance is pledged to America at the beginning of church services.

Admittedly, and thankfully, there are not many Christians who go so far as to pledge allegiance to America in church services.  Nevertheless, it is common to find American Christians, and some of other nationalities, who believe that America is a country which is unusually special to God.  It is not just nominal or ‘Sunday’ Christians who believe this.  It seems clear that more than a few genuinely born-again believers take this view, even some of real Christian maturity.  It is this belief, which I think can justifiably be described as a form of idolatry, that is my main concern in this article.

The first thing we need to note is that America today is a country that rejects the will of God in some extremely serious ways.  Here are a couple of examples that serve to remind us of just how sinful America is:

First, there is the issue of abortion.  In many countries today abortion is a practice that is – except perhaps in exceptional circumstances – illegal.  The people of those countries recognise what an abhorrent thing abortion is and outlaw it accordingly.  This is not the case in the US, however.  In America at the present time, all – or at least almost all – of the individual states, with the democratic backing of their citizens, have decided that women who choose to have their unborn children aborted in the first however many weeks of pregnancy can do so perfectly legally. 

The seriousness of this sin can hardly be overstated.  Because human embryos have a human spirit from the instant of conception, abortion, except perhaps where the mother’s life is in grave danger, should be seen without qualification as a form of murder.  The affront to God that is involved in this practice is enormous.

As a second example of the sinfulness of Americans, let’s think about sexual morality.  There are a number of countries in the world at the present time where the people by and large recognise correctly that sexual relations are designed by God solely for the lifelong marriage relationship of one man and one woman.  There are even some countries where it is illegal to have sex with someone you are not married to.

Contrast that with the attitude to sex in America (and the other Western countries).  Those who insist that sex is for marriage alone are typically ridiculed.  Adultery is usually seen as no more than a minor vice, and by many as not even a vice at all.  And homosexual practice is widely condoned.

In short, the American people have chosen to ignore God’s blueprints for humanity as regards sexuality.  The affront to God is, again, enormous.

There are many other serious sins that could also be mentioned, but there is no need for me to make a long list of ways in which America has rebelled against God.  These two issues are enough for me to make my point, which is that the country that is the United States is one that unrepentantly engages in great evils that are completely at odds with the will of God.

Now, one of the real strengths of American Christians (here and for the rest of this article by ‘Christians’ I am thinking only of genuinely born-again Christians) is that they are keenly aware of the evil of abortion.  American Christians are also, I think, on the whole quite well aware that sexual relations should be reserved for marriage.

What is so remarkable is that it often seems to be the same Christians who are well aware of the evils of abortion, sexual sin and other sins widely condoned in America, who believe that the United States, despite its widespread practice of these things, is nevertheless a country that has a special relationship with God.  Why is this?  On paper, at least, it doesn’t seem to make any sense. 

I admit that I am not sure of the answer to this question, not having spoken to people about this topic very often.  Hazarding a guess, I wonder if the reason is that some Christians think that something of the Christian agenda of the Pilgrim Fathers, and those who lived shortly after them, continues to affect the country’s relationship with God.  Maybe they think that despite their sins, God has pledged Himself indefinitely in some unconditional way to America.

It is true that if we think back to the time of the Pilgrim Fathers and soon afterwards, a good case can be made for the view that the American colonies to some extent had a special relationship with God, because the people involved had a specifically Christian agenda.  I think it is even possible that for a time after independence America was unusually special to God in a much weaker sense.  (On balance, however, I think this is very doubtful, because, to my knowledge, any genuinely Christian agenda seems to have disappeared by the time of independence.)

However, we can surmise that the reason the colonies would have had a special relationship with God is simply because they had a Christian agenda that was lacking in other parts of the world.  When that agenda disappeared, as it did long ago, we would expect any special relationship with God to have disappeared too.

Now, I don’t claim to know exactly how God views individual countries.  He may have certain attitudes to some that He doesn’t have to others.  Nevertheless, nothing suggests that today there is anything that could be termed a special relationship existing between God and America

It is noteworthy that in the Bible God reveals Himself as someone who doesn’t show partiality; see Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Acts 10:34-35; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; 1 Pet 1:17.  We can note too that Acts 10:34-35 and Rom 2:11 teach us that in the present church age God does not even favour Jews above Gentiles.  (In saying this, I am not implying that God has no unfinished business with ethnic Israel.)

All people are therefore on a level playing field as regards their potential standing before Him.  Like other countries today – including the UK, which in my view is even worse – America is brimming full of sins, and condones some great evils that are not condoned in many other countries.  In fact, instead of being a country that is unusually special to God, it might even be the case that God is more hostile to the US than He is to most other nations. 

I would therefore strongly encourage those Christians who naively think that America today is a country that has a special relationship with God not to be deceived.  Instead, the United States of the present day is a nation full of people who desperately need to repent of their sins and find the saviour, Jesus.  It is to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that our worship should be given, not to worldly countries that keep multiplying their sins.

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