A lot of Christians seem to believe that America is the new Promised Land – that somehow the blessings and promises God gave Israel that are recorded in the Old Testament somehow have carried over to us. It’s not true, but I’ve run into that line of thinking a lot.
Israel was called as God’s people group – called to represent God to the world. Part of that calling was the promise of land and blessing. That promise is not for us because we are not part of Old Testament Israel. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, a good Jew, declares that being part of God’s people is no longer about ethnicity but about faith.
I bring this up because many people in the United States seem to confuse faith and patriotism, as though they are interchangeable. If one is a patriot one must be a good Christian. If one is a Christian one must be a good patriot. Our military men and women almost take on demi-god like status on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July. On these special weekends many churches seem to forget what our real object of worship is supposed to be. Jesus gets put on the back burner for the American flag, patriotic songs, and pomp and circumstance (not all churches, I know, but some do).
In the Old Testament there was a mix between the nation and faith. In fact, when Joshua led the Army around Jericho the priests led the way!
The Lord said to Joshua, “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you. March around the city with all the men of warm circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s horn trumpets in front of the arc. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the trumpets… (Joshua 6:2-4)
Chaplains lead the way!
But that’s not who God’s people are any more. We’re not a nation looking to take the land God has given us. We are a people of faith in Jesus. That faith is what brings us into community, not land or birthright. What I do as a Soldier is not because God has called America to be His nation. This is not His nation (any more than England, Russia, New Zealand, etc.), and the whole “If my people will turn…” is not a promise to Americans.
So why do I serve?
I have long felt a call to service and to ministry. I had considered the police department. I had considered being a military pilot. The idea of serving the community and/or country greatly appeals to me – to be part of something much bigger than myself, to contribute to the general welfare. But that would not allow me to carry out my calling to minister to people. But being in ministry wouldn’t allow me to fulfill my calling to serve.
So for me the Chaplaincy was a perfect fit. I get to exercise both aspects of my calling: to minister to people and to serve the nation. Not because this is God’s nation, but because I believe in the ideals of a democratic republic – because I affirm with Winston Churchill:
It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.
On this Veterans Day I want to say “Thank you!” to everyone who has served or currently serves in any element of the U.S. Armed Forces, Active, Reserve, and Guard. This country is what it is because of men and women like you.
And, while this nation is not blessed because of our special relationship to God, I think it’s a pretty great place – and I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.
Happy Veterans Day! God bless!
– Patriotism Vs. Faith
– The Decline of Christianity in the U.S. Army
2 Replies to “America Ain’t the Promised Land but it’s the Land I Love: Why I Serve”
Chris, I refused to go back to a specific congregation after its pastor heavily promoted Thomas Jefferson in his sermon, with the understanding that he had a key role in the “New Israel.” I understand how someone could use George Washington to promote the “Christian nation myth,” but Jefferson, a man who took scissors to the Bible to cut out the parts he disagreed with (e.g., Jesus’ miracles), was not the kind of canonized saint they make the other Founding Fathers into. This pastor had no real understanding of history, even as he was clearly equating Jefferson with the likes of Paul of Tarsus. This type of thing is what the “Christian nation myth” promotes: a mistaken view of history and an idolatrous compromise of the Christian faith. The reality is that no nation replaces Israel, but that Christians are grafted into it. The U.S. is just one of the “nations” (i.e., Gentiles).
Absolutely. Thx for sharing!