Normally this post would be a meditation guide for reading and reflecting on a passage of scripture, today however I am addressing and attempting to encourage thoughtful reflection both in myself and many of you who read these. This article and reaction will be talking about the question of whether or not American Christians Idolize being American. This is a reaction and analysis of the article linked below:
First I would like to address this passage from the article:
\”Christians sum up Jesus’ words here with the phrase “dying to self.” They love the term and use it often. But for the most part, it’s a poetic abstraction, a form of spiritual idealism. It’s a difficult conviction to hold when your cultural ethos focuses on your individual right to pursue happiness.\”
The Author previously describes the passage where Christ talks about taking up the cross and following after him, the author, I would argue, is correct in his summation of that passage in the term dying to self. I disagree with the description of it being poetic abstraction as the scriptures are abundantly clear in just how literal that turn of phrase is. Despite my disagreement with the analysis of that turn of phrase, I think that the author has struck a chord of truth about the Christian culture in America, where patriotism and Christianity are connected, I would argue that this should not be the case. Our primary Identity for those who follow Christ is not \”American\”, it is in fact \”Child of God\”, and I think that the author is also correct when mentioning the difficulty of maintaining the dying to the self attitude in light of American/Western Culture, all one needs to do to see an example of that is look at the Prosperity Gospel. Ultimately Christians do not, in a biblical sense, have an individual right to pursue a self-definition of happiness, because the greatest joy we see in scripture is the fulfillment of the Father\’s will.
The Next passage I will address is this:
\”American Christianity makes salvation a personal commodity. It’s something you acquire through invocation–say the right prayer and you’re in. It places certain social and moral expectations on us, but it doesn’t infringe upon our liberty. No one can place expectations upon us. It’s an insurance policy we purchase that allows us to pursue the American dream without fear of our eternal future. \”
It makes me sick to my stomach to say this, to write it even, but the author is spot on with this generalization, and I think that in a lot of ways this is an attitude that permeates through the congregation of every church in some fashion. The reality of accepting Christ is that if we understand scripture correctly then we surrender our liberties at the foot of the cross. I have already touched on this concept in my article Stewards of Free Will. John Burke in the first chapter of his book Imagine Heaven talks about the idea that we shouldn\’t be chasing and sacrificing for the sake of retirement or worldly pursuits but that rather we should be chasing and sacrificing for the Glory of God and the increase of the Kingdom, in short, his idea is that we should be chasing heaven rather than earth. Christianity has expectations of those who follow after Christ, for a brief list I would refer you to the following passages 2 Timothy 4:1-5, 1 Timothy 6: 11-21, and 2 Peter 1:3-15. In no way are those passages exhaustive but they are a starting point on learning the expectations of a disciple.