This was a song I learned as a 6 year old in Miss Self’s music class. Never liked the melody but didn’t understand what it really meant until later. It was just one of those songs as Americans we were supposed to sing. Many years later on September 11, 2001, the afternoon of that horrific day, Speaker Dennis Hastert and the members of the House and Senate addressed a shocked and grieving nation. It was a demonstration of national unity, that while we were being attacked, we were going to respond as one proud country. They closed by singing God Bless America. That gesture of solidarity was short lived.
But as they sang that song, while I shared the sentiment, I wondered…you’re invoking the blessing of which god? As the American Church, we lay claim to a Judeo-Christian heritage. Yes, still arguable. In recent years, there’s been debate over the elimination of the dollar bill and a return to a dollar coin. But with this change was proposed a simple alteration: the elimination of the phrase “In God We Trust.” Oh, the protests began. At the center of the controversy was attorney Michael Newdow (a University of Michigan graduate ::rolls eyes::) who fought to have the phrase “One Nation Under God” removed from the pledge as well as “religious overtones” in both President Bush’s and President Obama’s Inaugurations. Once again, the Christian community rose up in arms about its rights, showing less than Christlike attitudes. It’s almost as if God needs our help to defend Him.
Do we really understand what we’re fighting for?
Funny how we place so much allegiance in decorations. Evangelicals get on Catholics for “idolatry” with pictures and statues. But man, Christians can sure get defensive about their bumper stickers, praying hands sculptures, t-shirts, hats, and locker magnets. Back in 2006, Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland fought aggressively for a display of the 10 Commandments in both Houses of Congress. He later appeared on the Colbert Report declaring how America had lost its godly heritage and how the plaque was of absolute significance in returning to our roots. But, when pressed to name the commandments, the congressman was unable to recite them. Maybe, maybe they should be in our hearts versus wall hangings?
Do we put more trust in outward demonstrations versus inward practices?
Sometimes I wonder if we contradict the phrases we’re fighting for with our actions. DO WE REALLY TRUST IN GOD? Or do we place more hope in the culture we’ve built around ourselves which we believe will protect us against the evil world? In 2003, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was ordered to remove a monument of the 10 Commandments from the state’s Judicial Building. He violated the order and was removed from his post, as well as the monument. His supporters demonstrated, once again acting in a way less than becoming of God’s servants. So I ask, which is more important…a display of God’s laws on an inanimate object or the demonstration of Christ’s love in our lives? Attitudes? Actions? Did a single person say, “Hey, I wanna be like those people screaming on national TV?”
Do we let insignificant and sometimes irrelevant ideological differences sidetrack us from the greater issues?
It makes me feel sick at times: the miniscule issues we get worked up over, the amount of money that is wasted on things that have no eternal value and only feed our inflated egos, and the projects that make us consumers instead of sacrificial givers. Is this the legacy that John Wesley, Lyman Beecher, George Whitfield, Peter Cartwright, DL Moody, Billy Graham desired to pass on to us? Have we lost that sense of responsibility? That passion for service vs. self-preservation? We are called to usher in the fullness of His presence in history, and to live out and demonstrate Christ’s care and compassion for hurting people. We are to work for justice, fight for those who can’t fight for themselves…thus becoming effective agents of change that point people BACK to God!
As the Church, it’s time we lay down our lives in obedience and gratitude, and let God be God. Perhaps it’s time for…America to bless God!
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” – President Abraham Lincoln