Worshiping Empire America This July 4th Sunday

I originally wrote this post 6 years ago when July 4th fell on a Sunday. I think the basic message still fits despite it falling on a Friday this year:

Far too often American Christians (particularly evangelicals) are far too caught up in prostrating themselves before Empire Americana.

A few years ago I read a rather prophetic book on the subject, Teavangelicals. It chronicles the hyper-involvement of Evangelicals with the upstart Tea Party movement. It’s quite shocking and not a little scary—though perhaps I shouldn’t be considering I worked in for Empire America for 5 years and saw first hand the whorish relationship between the Church and State.

Anyway, here is a reminder for the Church that we bow before one Person and one Kingdom alone: Christ and His Kingdom.

American Jesus
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Tomorrow, churches all across America will incorporate the Hymns of Americana into Her worship hour. “My Country Tis of Thee,” “America The Beautiful,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” will all be sung with as much gusto as “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and “God of Wonders.”

Worship of God will be replaced by worship of America.

Rather than affirming our commitment to God and our faith in Jesus Christ by reciting the Apostles Creed, we’ll seig heil to the American Flag and renew our commitments to Empire.

Worship of God will be replaced by worship of America.

Rather than praying to our Father who art in Heaven that His Kingdom will come, His will be done on Earth as in Heaven, we’ll ask God to bless our Kingdom and the fruits of Americas labor.

Worship of God will be replaced by worship of America.

Rather than confess our collective sins as a nation, we will ask protection for our troops as we wage an unjust war and seek relief from the pump so we can return to serving Mammon with glee.

Worship of God will be replaced by worship of America.

This Sunday morning, rather than bearing prophetic witness to the values, authority and Way of God’s Reign as an eschatological community by calling on Empire America to atone for its flagrant abuse of Eikons of God through torture in the name of a pseuro-war on terror, Her mass exportation of a culture of smut, Wall Street’s mass economic exploitation of the Global Brown Man, and our collective flagrant abuse of God’s Creation, the American Church will bow before Lady Liberty once again, kissing her ring, suckling her bosom. She will split the fattened calf over The Table, burn the required incense, and break bread at basement potlucks festooned with Red, White, and Blue, thus making peace with god Americana until next July 4th…

“Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.”



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  • Jason

    It’s crazy how easlily worship of God and thankfulness for our country can be blurred.

    Somehow we need to see how illogical some of the beliefs we hold about our country are in comparison to the values of Yahweh.

    Hopefully we can start to parse the fine line between being thankful for certain aspects of our empire and others to be discarded.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy

    Yes, and its that blurring that has me irritated! I’m all for being thankful for what we have through America…and there is much for which we can and should be thankful. But when we simply kow-tow before Lady Liberty and use our gatherings to praise Her, even ALONGSIDE God…that’s when I begin to have probs!

    thanks man!
    -jeremy

  • Ben

    One of my favorite entries so far.
    I think many of us forget that we pledge allegiance to our savior before we pledge allegiance to our country.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy

    “many of us forget that we pledge allegiance to our savior before we pledge allegiance to our country.” DUDE! right on…right on!

  • David

    Thanks, Jeremy. This entry was very powerful. I’ve been wrestling with this in my context, and I’ve realized if you want to upset an American Christian talk like this will raise some rukus quicker than anything else.
    At one point we removed the flag from the auditorium at our church, just to find after a month or two and a number of complaints that it had returned. This brought about a discussion that resulted in someone being extremely offended over even the possiblitiy that we shoudln’t have the flag up in the context of giving allegiance to Jesus.
    The flag is just a symbol, but a powerful symbol…and with so many politicians using god-language and identifying the cause of god with the cause of America we need to do everything to stop the blurring of lines between God’s reign and the reign of America, and help American Christians to realize that America’s god isn’t the same God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    We need affirm the goodness of freedom and democracy for government, but we musn’t ever allow people to blur the lines between “Jesus is Lord” and “America is the greatest nation on earth”….although that statement I supose depends on your definition of “greatness”

  • http://www.feelmyfaith.blogspot.com Brian

    Take comfort, no one going to church in Cuba tomorrow will be worhsipping America!

  • http://www.feelmyfaith.blogspot.com Brian

    sorry, “worshipping”

  • http://goodwordediting.com Mark Goodyear

    I do like the Battle Hymn of the Republic though. That’s a great song–and I used to make my high school English students parade up and down the school singing it at the end of our Grapes of Wrath unit.

    “… he is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…”

    Lord, have mercy. I’m grateful for my country, but not nearly as grateful as I am for my Lord. Lord, have mercy.

  • http://www.jakebouma.com Jake Bouma

    Thanks for this, Jeremy. I was wrestling with whether or not to post something similar, but you’re spot on. Link forthcoming.

  • Renee

    So, no thanking God for the wonderful blessings we have received to live in a country that allows us to worship our God freely, without fear of being killed or imprisoned?

    While I agree that we should never put anything before our Lord, we definitely should be praying for our country, our leaders, our neighbors, THE WORLD. I suppose you have encountered some very worldly churches…I have too. But, many good churches can talk about our country’s birthday simply to say “praise God for this blessing”. I don’t care how bad America is getting…we have is really dang good over here and we best not forget it.

    I profoundly disagree with leaving everything at the door when you come to church. Don’t ignore the world, the events that are happening, the holidays being celebrated, the history being remembered…talk about it and remind everyone what God does for us and how He is a part of everything.

    Many “Americana” songs are praise songs to GOD about the gifts he has given us, this free country where we can speak our opinions and worship the Lord in peace. Perhaps we should look at the lyrics of some of these songs again, because many of them are wonderful praise songs that are very much like the Psalms. “God these great gifts that you have given, Thank you”.

  • http://godsnowhere.wordpress.com Erik U.

    Why do we need to reference Independence Day in our worship services? I can think of no other secular holiday that has its own collection of hymns in a Christian hymnal / missal / songbook. We don’t sing sappy love songs and read from Song of Solomon in February praising God for the blessings of romantic love. We don’t praise God for the gift of laughter and practical jokes on April Fools Day. Why do we need to offer special credence to notions of patriotism in worship this weekend?

    I agree that we should be praying for our country, the world, leaders, military, etc…but not to the exclusion of all the other needs in the world. I also think we are right to praise God for all the blessings afforded people living in the United States…while with the same breath confessing the sins of our nation, of which we are culpable as its citizens.

    The hymns are what put me over the edge. They seem blasphemous and are successful in clouding the already murky waters of religion and politics. In my home church, for example, “America the Beautiful” is sung the first Sunday in July every year. The only reference to God is a declaration (or request, depending on how you read it) of grace to be shed upon the country. “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, another hymn often found in Christian hymnals, is a war anthem, essentially claiming that God is on our side. It calls for people to take up arms and fight – an interesting juxtaposition to Jesus’ words about turning swords into plowshares and turning the other cheek. “America” (my country ’tis of thee) is no more religious than the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same title, with only one verse that mentions God. Why do we allow such overtly patriotic and passively religious songs into our worship?

    All is to say, my fervent prayer is that God’s will be done in our country, in our worship, and in our lives.

  • http://www.novuslumen.net Jeremy

    Renee I agree with you that we are very fortunate to live in America. We do have blessings that the rest of the world can only dream of. I am also confident that God directs the affairs of nations and, for whatever reason, has allowed us to enjoy very good gifts.

    I’m with Eric U on this one, though. My problem is in incorporating this secular holiday into our worship gatherings. When the church ‘churches’ weekly, its about God. Period. Its one thing to praise God for blessing and thank him for what we have as Americans. Its entirely different thing to sing the songs of Empire, which is REALLY what these songs are about.

    And this actually gets to a larger problem: why do we allow the secular, rather than church, calendar to dictate our worship gatherings? Near mothers day I could have easily written a similar post, though the back hand of my mama stayed me! On Mothers Day it was also Day of Ascension. Now which do you think of these days were celebrated? Am I for honoring mums? Sure! Am I for thanking God for the wonderful creatures? Definitely! But to build an entire day around it when we gather as Christians?

    I think the same is true for Independence Day Sunday, but on a much more massive scale.

    btw…thanks for the link Jake!

  • DC

    Well…I celebrated the Fourth by buying “The Myth of a Christian Nation” at Barnes and Noble. I giggled a little bit on the way out of the store.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    I still remember the revulsion when I first said the Pledge of Allegiance IN church followed by a pledge of allegiance to a Christian flag and a pledge of allegiance to the Bible … all done in the sanctuary of a church during the service of a Christian private school. The mixing of authority between church and state and God made my stomach turn … especially because it was being done to young impressionable minds. My skin crawls remembering it … our allegiance is always to God first, and last … especially in His house.

  • http://goodwordediting.com Mark Goodyear

    I think what bothers me most here is our insistence that the house of God and the experience of Sunday worship time are somehow more sacred than other buildings and other times.

    I understand that we have a particular goal when we gather on Sunday morning, but I think discussing relevant issues is not altogether inappropriate.

    And I STILL like the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It rocks. : )

  • http://www.mosaiclife.org Shane

    I’m so glad that someone was able to paint/sketch that picture of our dear Lord as He ascended into the clouds after His death, burial, and resurrection while wrapped in the beloved red, white, and blue. My heart melts with the thought of Jesus looking down upon this country (nation under God) and smiling with all that we have done and accomplished in His name. Praise be…yes…praise be…God (continue to) bless America!

  • Ben Irwin

    As someone who also spent some time working for "Empire America," let me just say: well said.

  • http://www.cliffymania.com/ Cliff Richardson

    At first I was upset by this, but then I realized that you wrote in 2008 when political rhetoric from conservative Christians seemed to be at a fever pitch. It seemed we were spending more time extolling the virtues of the US Constitution than God’s Word. While I think we should be grateful for the freedom that God gives us and the US gives us the greatest opportunity to express that freedom – you are right. Too often we put America first ahead of God and too often we seek change politically instead of trying to convert hearts and minds to Christ. It’s a good reminder. Thanks, Jeremy.

    • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

      Thanks for your comments, Cliff. And sorry I upset you initially! I also originally wrote this when I was a bit more angst toward Church-State engagement because of my work in Congress.

      But, yes, I also think we should be grateful for our freedoms to freely worship and pray and teach, as well as others—I frequently thank God in my church for these things and pray for the persecuted church.

      And DOUBLY yes: “Too often we put America first ahead of God and too often we seek change politically instead of trying to convert hearts and minds to Christ.” Which was my original intent for the post…

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