"Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.”But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day; with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods; so they are doing to you also.” -1 Samuel 8:4-8
I'm often a conflicted person when it comes to national holidays...especially the ones that celebrate wars, soldiers and events of past bloodshed. Now I'm as grateful as the next person for the sacrifice of our military men and women and their families but I find my faith and my origin of birth at odds with each other. I know many people don't have a problem with this kind of image but I do. I know the arguments about the freedom of speech and the blood that has been spilled just so I can even question the ideology behind such blending of faith and patriotism. Again, I am grateful for the freedoms that Americans are losing more and more but that doesn't eliminate the theological briar patch that I find myself within; especially when I see an American flag and a "Christian" flag (as if there is one) sitting next to each other on a church stage. I get jittery when led in songs that celebrate militarism and patriotism within the context of worshipping God.
On the 4th of July, I can offer a prayer of thankfulness for being in this country but that prayer isn't offered in some kind of exlusive sense of pride; but out of sincere gratitude for the blessings that I have here. But in the same moment, I am held to the call to live out the truth of Phil. 3:20:
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ"
The tension in that reality isn't always easy to live out without sounding like a Gandhi quoting, granola munching, leftist hippie or a gun toting, RNC card carrying, Jeezuz fish wearing, fundamentalist rightwinger.
The temptation to enthrone Jesus as leader of whatever group, issue or campaign we are most geeked up about; is viral in the church and on the campaign trail. It seems Jesus is a chameleon these days...in some circles he is the tough guy whose an odd mix of Chuck Norris, George Washington and the tomahawk wielding dude from Last of the Mohicans. On other stages He is channeling Oprah, Howard Cunningham and Mr. Rogers and is always softly humming the Barney song. For some He is an incarnation of Noah the grand marshall of the animal loving kingdom...for others He's a buck hunting, hairy chested outdoors man with blood on his jeans and a chew in His lip. Sometimes He's a soft nursery worker and other times a hard bouncer. In the halls of crinkle brow He's a tee-totaling, creationist, or sterile scientist or bearded, Ben & Jerry lovin history teacher or politicized geneticist.
It gets wearisome trying to sort out the many versions of Jesus that are being traded these days in America.
I guess this 4th of July...I'm just going to burn and blow something up on Saturday...and say my prayers on Sunday.