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The Fallacy of a Christian Nation

At this moment the U.S. leads the world in the number of new COVID-19 cases. We can add this to the list that includes the highest rate of mass shootings and mass incarceration. None of these things are brag-worthy. In fact, they are shameful, as is every act of the current Administration that removes protections and rights from any group of peoples. Police violence and shootings are probably high on the list of what this country has more than other countries, too. I’m appalled any time someone insists on the U.S. being a “Christian nation.” If this were, in fact, a Christian nation we’d be in better shape. More people would be wearing masks and physical distancing out of love for neighbor if not self. We would have limited access to guns for the same reason. POC would not be incarcerated at a higher rate (and we wouldn’t have for profit prisons) because all people would be treated equally as God’s beloved children. If the U.S. were truly a Christian nation, then every Administration would be actively seeking justice and equality for every human being, not just those elevated in a society built on white supremacy.

It’s easy for some people to demand a return to our “Christian roots.” My question is when was this country actually Christian? When we were killing First Nations Peoples and stealing their lands? When we stole African peoples from their lands and enslaved them? When we indentured poor people as servants for life? When our forebears cried out for religious freedom but meant only their kind of religion? On this Fourth of July weekend look more closely at our colonial history and you will find nearly every kind of activity except the kind that is based on love of neighbor as yourself.

As people protest the wearing of masks because they have a right to do as they please, reveals the ugly underbelly of U.S. history. The narcissistic insistence of individual “rights” over the well-being of many is pervasive and far from new. The same people who refuse to wear a mask and continue to denounce science will also cling to Jesus words – “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  These words can be used to enhance the perceived difficulty encountered when advocating for individual rights. They are comforting for those who think they are afflicted. However, if you read further, these words are not so easy and ought not to be used to affirm one’s weariness so readily.

The very next line is, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” This is where it gets real. To take the yoke of Christ upon one’s self is not as simple as it might sound. To be yoked to Christ is to be yoked to Divine Love. To be yoked to Christ is to serve the greater good rather than one’s own ego. To be yoked to Christ means to learn to live as Jesus did—speaking truth to power, healing the broken, and welcoming the outcast. To be yoked to Christ is to embody Jesus’ gentleness and humility. Only then will we find rest for our souls. Before the rest comes, there is work to do.

For those of us on the progressive side of things, this caution is for us as well. We may not be advocating for a “Christian nation,” though I wonder if we are really wanting to uproot white supremacy from all of our social structures. We can easily name the wrongs committed by those on the other side of the theological divide. However, are we able to admit to the wrongs we have committed? Are we able to say that we are afraid to live in a country without a police force that grew out of slave catching? Are we able to say that we are reluctant to let go of the fears and prejudices that have kept us benefiting from racism? Are we able to say that we afraid of what we will lose if all our neighbors have the same privileges we now enjoy? Can we confess our sins of complicity and reluctance to change everything for the sake of all our neighbors?

Before we give in to the sentimentality that glosses over Jesus’ invitation to live as he did, to love as he did, and rest in that, we have work to do. To be yoked to Christ is to bear the burden of the work that remains before us, to do our equal share. Are we truly yoked to Christ? Or do we just want to rest and avoid the deep weariness that comes from working toward a future that can actually say that there is justice and liberty for all?

RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 5, 2020
Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 or
Zechariah 9:9-12 with Psalm 145:8-14
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Photo: CC0image by free-photos

By rachaelkeefe

Hi. I am a pastor, an author, a painter, and a poet. Find out more about all of my work, including spiritual direction and suicide prevention, on my website (BeachTheology.com).

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