Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Non Biblical Origins of a Christian Nation

Nation- A people who share the same lies about their past, hatred of their present neighbor, and illusions about the future.

Ernest Renan

The myth that America was founded on Christian principles is so embedded in the psyche of our nation that questioning it's veracity is considered blasphemy. Many patriotic Christians point to biographies, autobiographies, and the Constitution instead of the Bible to validate this claim; what they disconnect is the fact that most Revolutionary history was written from the perspective of politicians and generals. It doesn't take a very smart person to understand that history told from the top down doesn't reflect the views of the average person. The native, the slave, the housewife, or the poor would have a different view of the same events based on their social positioning. This isn't a relativist argument. If we can't look at the past objectively, how can we look at our present condition with all of the emotions associated with our individual beliefs, critically?

One book you rarely hear a sermon preached out of is the book of Habakkuk. Fire and brimstone pastors can find parallels between our times and a litany of Old and New Testament prophecies and genealogies, but you never hear Habakkuk 2:12-13 which reads as follows:

12 Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! 13 Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? (KJV)

Hermeneutics aside, scriptures that call into question the moral (or immoral) origins of our nation are, as a rule, excluded from Christian discourse by many pastors. The fact that so many churches avoid the evils visited upon those on the underside of American history is telling. If my reading of the gospels is correct, no nation could be righteous if they don't care for the people Jesus taught his followers to care for. America was founded on Christian principles if you negate the way we acquired the land, and gloss over the way we treated our neighbors. What if some of our current social ills are a product of our origin story? In heaven the son doesn't suffer for the sins of his father, but we're on earth and the scars and wounds our forefathers left us have real world consequences.

The last few weeks have been a Rorschach test for America. Person A sees the Confederate flag and it represents x while their neighbor looks at the same flag and sees y. Depending on where you live Black Lives Matter means hatred of whites, and white silence to the atrocity in South Carolina is perceived as indifference. All week long I've read articles and commentaries about scheduled flag burning events; some of these comments meet the legal threshold for premeditation. The anger in those comments is real. Sadly, the same people making these threats over the flag can't muster the same anger for the black churches that have burnt down. While some will spending their Fourth of July worrying about flag burning, I have friends (pastors and deacons) who will spend the next few nights sleeping in the sanctuaries of their churches. 

Renan was more right than wrong in his definition of a nation. How can we understand a past we have limited access to if we are to fragmented to understand our current situation?