The Christian church has played a major role in American History. From the First Great Awakening in the 18th century to the culture wars of the late 20th century, the church has influenced and has been influenced by the politics and culture of American society. While the number of Americans identifying as Christians has declined in recent decades, it remains the country’s most prominent and practiced faith.
Many Christians since the late 20th century have argued that America has abandoned many of its Christian values that defined the nation since its inception. Sects of evangelicals have suggested that cultural revolutions of feminism, gay rights, and secularism have destroyed the moral fabric of the country. Christian political factions like the religious right (usually aligned with the Republican party) has opposed many policies and ideas that they feel has made America less “Christian” including gay marriage, abortion, and sex education. These Christians have condemned many changes to American life and have argued that they are living to please God and not to accept and conform to society’s ideals.
While other evangelical (and some non-evangelical) Christians have had different perspectives about the policies and ideas in America, many have preached about their role in the world. Citing scripture, they argue that they should not be conformed to the world (Romans 12:1). Unfortunately, many church institutions have looked more like America than Christ. While Christians speak vocally about living for Jesus and not for man, so many are deeply submissive to and defending of, the ideals of Americanism. Below are 4 ways the church looks more like America than Christ:
- Patriotism: Christians are often condemning of others who don’t share their patriotism and uphold a belief that America is God’s chosen country. When football star Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in protest of police brutality, many Christians condemned him as if he were behaving in a sinful nature. The Christian outrage to Kaepernick is one example of how too many Christian communities believe that to be a follower of Christ is to be fully submissive and supportive of America. The problem is that America was never destined to be God’s chosen country.
- Militarism and violence: Those who serve in the military and fight overseas are some of the most celebrated and esteemed members in Christian communities and preachers are some of the biggest supporters and lobbyists for American wars. Furthermore, Christians are quick to label civilians in war-torn countries as enemies and often advocate for some of the most vicious and vile policies against those deemed to be threats to the American people. When Christians see Muslims as enemies to defeat rather than neighbors to love, it demonstrates their loyalty to the militarism of their country rather than to the message of Jesus. When Christian military soldiers are viewed as more valuable in the church than other believers, it shows the deep lust and desire for war and militarism over the advancement for the Kingdom of God. While people serving in the military should be honored and supported when they return from war, they are not more valuable or worthy of appreciation than other Christians. Furthermore, Christians should not be the biggest advocates for war to defend the state. It is inconsistent with the gospel of Christ.
- Racism: Racism is America’s original sin and it has conflicted our country since its inception. Historically, Christians have served as both some of the biggest opponents and most ardent defenders of racism. In the 20th century, many Christian universities upheld racial segregation and fought against any efforts towards integration. My Alma mater, Abilene Christian University was segregated until the early 1960’s and when it did start to integrate, it treated black students harshly and churches affiliated with the university refused to allow black students to attend their church services. Rather than taking radical actions to follow Christ against the practices of the world, they sustained themselves as one of the biggest agents of institutional racism. While overt racism is no longer socially acceptable in American society, subtle and colorblind racism is. As society has celebrated and advocated for colorblindness and the censorship of black voices, the church has conformed to the world by avoiding discussions and engagement on racial issues. Many Christians are simply unwilling to speak honestly about racism and examine how institutions including the church are agents of systemic racism, which is consistent with the practices of America.
- Sexism: In our society, qualified and experienced women are routinely denied opportunities to accommodate less qualified men. The church mirrors such marginalization when women are denied leadership in the church for men who are more spiritually immature and less qualified simply because the bible, as they argue, advocates for male leadership and female submission. The church also reinforces society’s sexism through its defense and silence of domestic abuse and rape. Preachers are regularly celebrated and defended for their abuse of women while their wives are shamed for speaking out. This is not unlike the larger society where prominent men are defended and supported during rape allegations while women victims suffer ridicule and shame. In many cases, such women’s livelihood and future are jeopardized because of their willingness to speak out against the promiscuity and rape-culture of men who abuse them. Rather than challenging the sexist culture that bleeds American society, Christians celebrate and uphold sexist customs that marginalize women and limit their capabilities.
Usually when Christians in America complain about the evils and godlessness of American society, they are referring to the acceptance of secularism and/or different views of sex and sexuality in our society. They fail to recognize how their racism, sexism, patriotism, and other evils represent and reflect the nature of this country. Furthermore, such Christians are unable and unwilling to recognize that their defense of such evils are contrary to Christ. It is time for the American church to reject the American gods of racism, sexism, patriotism, and militarism for the sake of following Jesus Christ.