Revolutionary Faith: Why the American War for Independence was Unbiblical

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let me begin this post the same way I begin any conversation I have where I talk about a Christian response to Independence Day and the American Revolution:

I am a Chaplain (Captain) in the United Stated Army Reserve. My two younger brothers are both Active Duty U.S. Army. My father was in the Army. My grandfather was Active Duty Navy, was enlisted and sunk at Midway, finished seminary and went BACK into the Navy as a Chaplain. I have several uncles and cousins that have been part of the military. Clearly, then, I support the military and believe that a military, like a police force, is a necessary part of society. I do believe in Just War Theory. I don’t speak for the Army or for the government, but I want you to get where I’m coming from.

Now – to the point of the post: I believe that the American War for Independence was unbiblical and should not have taken place from a Christian point of view. No, I’m not crazy. I’m not some left-wing nut. I’m actually fairly conservative and (totally honesty here) am a registered Republican. But I whole-heartedly believe that the Bible is supposed to be our guide for what we believe and how we behave, and I believe that the New Testament would tell us that The Revolutionary War was wrong.

Looking at the New Testament book of 1 Peter will explain where I’m coming from:

1 Peter 2:11-17 ~ 11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.

First, Peter calls us strangers and temporary residents. Some Bible versions use the word “aliens” to describe his audience. No, not the little green men, but people who are foreigners. His primary audience were Jews of the Dispersion. They had been scattered from their homeland and lived abroad in “Gentile” territories. They were literally foreigners. He calls them to live exemplary lives among the non-believers so that even the non-believers will end up giving glory to God.

While we might be naturally born citizens in America but we find ourselves in a country that is more and more turning its back on the ideals and belief systems of Judeo-Christianity. We are fast becoming the minority. We need to remember that, no matter where our home or citizenship lie, our ultimate home is heaven. We too often forget our heavenly citizenship and cling to our earthly citizenship.

There’s a band called Building 429 with a song that says:

All I know is I’m not home yet. This is not where I belong
Take this world but give me Jesus. This is not where I belong.

That’s the attitude early Christians had. The longer we stay here the more we forget that we don’t belong here on earth – we’re passing through.

Second, Peter flat out says that Christians are to obey human institutions from the Emperor on down to local governors. That pretty much says it all right there. Extend Peter’s principle through history and imagine that he is writing to Colonials, separated from their homeland in Britain. “Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the King as the supreme authority or to local magistrates….” Boom! End of revolution.

The Christian principle and ideal in the Bible is one of submission and appropriate behavior. There is no exception clause for open rebellion. Rebellion is contrary to the Spirit of God.

I will admit that changing our understanding does not change history. We are where we are. What I would like to see changed is the American predisposition to believe that we are righteously called to be God’s people in this land. We are not.

Our nation was not founded on God. Our nation was founded on the Constitution of the United States of America (which, yes, does have some Christian principles in it). Ancient Israel, with its covenant and Torah, was founded on God (Yahweh). America – not so much. Here our country singers sing that “We’ll put a boot up your @$$” and claim that it’s “The American Way.” Shame on us for confusing America with Christianity.

It’s time to accept that Yahweh is the God of all nations, not just America. So please, Christians, stop chanting: “USA! USA! USA!” as though we have special divine favor. Please stop asking God to specially bless our country as though we are his special nation and are better than other nations. Stop reveling in rebellion and mourn the fact that so many Christians are caught up in the national cult of patriotism and worship at the throne of Uncle Sam when we ought to be putting our emphasis on our citizenship in heaven and worshipping at the throne of the Almighty.

So, it’s the 4th of July. The day when Americans tossed the Bible aside and said, “It’s more important to us to have freedom from the economic constraints of England than it is to follow the biblical model of submitting.

Because that’s what Jesus would have done. He would have fought tooth and nail for his freedom and liberty. He would have demolished the opponent and then celebrated every year.

Oh, wait. He didn’t, did he? He submitted – even unto death.

May God forgive our arrogance and disobedience….

**Note – I fully expect 90% of Americans to disagree with me. That’s okay. If you’d like to participate in civil conversation I really do welcome it.

Related Post:
~ Patriotism Vs. Faith
~ The Rebellious American Spirit

Patriotism Vs. Faith

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m a patriot. I have taken an oath to protect the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic. I’m a Chaplain. I’ve served as an officer in the United States Army Reserve and now on Active Duty in the Navy. I work with Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and their Families. I’ve performed weddings for service members. I’ve performed funerals for service members. I conduct worship services, preach, and give the Eucharist to Soldiers.

Even though I serve in uniform, I have some funny ideas about God and country. Let me tell you three things I believe are important for Christians to know this 4th of July.

First: I believe that there must be a distinction between patriotism and faith. I believe that there are too many Christians who feel that there is a connection between God and country. Years ago I heard a song whose refrain said:

I believe in God and country – in the good ol’ USA
I believe in God and country – God and country all the way!

I heard it in a church worship service. I take issue with that. Who are supposed to be exalting God, not the nation. When I was a civilian pastor I recognized patriotic holidays and events on Sunday mornings. I’ve even done it in uniform. But when we do so our patriotic element is at the very beginning of the morning and not part of the worship service proper. Once we launch into worship the focus is on God, not the nation.

I caused quite a brouhaha some years back for some patriotic holiday when I told the worship leader that I didn’t want us to be singing any patriotic songs during the service. I had planned a tribute video to service members that we would play before the service but didn’t want anything in worship to be nation-focused. He became quite agitated and told me:

By you telling me we are in a way not allowed to sing patriotic songs on Sunday, following Veteran’s Day is offensive to me. I feel we need to sing ‘God Bless America’ following the offering and pay tribute to our great nation and those that served in our military.”

He was offended because I wanted to focus on Jesus and didn’t want to “pay tribute” to “our great nation.” I found it ironic that he wanted to pay tribute to America right after we took the offering. Jesus saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” kept going through my head. Too many churches have lost the distinction between faith and patriotism and blend the two into some weird national cult.

Let me remind you that I am a Chaplain United Stated Armed Forces. I believe in honoring and doing right by our Service Members. But as a Christian I know that my patriotism is not my faith. Should the day ever come when I’m forced to decide between God and country it should be no choice – God wins every time.

Second: America in the 21st Century is not Israel of the Old Testament. It is bad theology and biblical interpretation when we take revelation God gave to Israel and appropriate it to our own society.

Case in point: one of American Christians’ favorite verses to quote is 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 ~

If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to consume the land, or if I send pestilence on My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

Evangelicals CLAIM that verse, baby! We use it to call America back to prayer. But the thing is – the verse is not about us. It clearly says “My People who are called by My name.” That was Israel, the theocratic nation that received the promised land from God. Land and blessing were part of the original covenant between God and the people. They lost the land after they turned their backs on God. The people were conquered and dispersed to Babylon and other areas.

American is not the land of promise. We are not God’s “chosen people.” There is no promise of restoration of the land if we turn back to God. There is a general principle present about the need to seek God and turn away from evil and pursue righteousness, but the promise in the Old Testament is not our promise.

America will never fulfill that passage of the Bible because it’s not for us. We have never been a theocratic nation. We are a nation founded upon biblical principles, but we are not a Christian nation.

Third: Overemphasizing patriotism and national pride undermines the principle that God is the God of ALL nations. The God of American Christians is the God of French Christians and the God of Russian Christians and the God of Pakistani Christians and…you get the idea. The Bible says that the old distinctions of nationality and ethnic background are null and void in Jesus. We are part of something BIGGER that God is doing WORLDWIDE!

usa-1439915_1920Thumping our chests and proclaiming: “USA, USA, USA!” ignores that our God is the same around the world. It places too great an emphasis on our affiliation with the country and ignores our spiritual connection to the global Church.

Finally: I’m sick and tired of Christians who proclaim: “I’m proud to be an American!” Really? What did you do to achieve it? I didn’t do anything. I happened to be born here, so my citizenship was automatic. There’s nothing to be proud of when you didn’t do anything to get it. I’m proud that I was able to graduate from school. I am proud when my children behave as shining examples out in public (I do try to teach them that). But those are things I work towards. I was fortunate enough to be born in San Diego County. I am THANKFUL that I am a citizen in a nation that allows me to worship God as I please. But proud? Not really. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our terminology.

When it’s all said and done I will celebrate the 4th of July. We will remember the freedoms that we have and the price that was paid so that we might enjoy those freedoms. But keep it in perspective. Our national home is not our faith. America is not any more special than any other nation on earth. It’s not about “God Bless the USA.” It’s about, “God, let your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Make sure your priorities are right.

God doesn’t want to play second fiddle to the nation – any nation.

Related Posts:
~ Revolutionary Faith