Thursday, January 7, 2021

America's True God


As a person reads through the Hebrew Scriptures it is easy to notice how Israel continually turned to idol worship. With all that God had done for them, Israel, time and time again, turned their back on God and worshiped the gods of the nations around them.

We think this is odd because we give no power to idols. We see them as nothing but objects of metal and wood that superstitious people worship. 

Idols are not false gods, rather they are the images of false gods. While we may not worship a "statue," the spiritual forces behind those idols are still at work. This video from BibleProject will help you understand what is going on.


 The United States of America is not immune to these spiritual forces. 

I think, because we don't acknowledge them, they are able to have far deeper hold on people than we realize.

Today is January 7, 2021 and yesterday I saw a surreal scene as people who supported President Trump were able to break through security and enter the Capital Building as Congress tried to certify the Electoral College vote. The whole country was shocked by the events.

It is easy to condemn the violence and talk about how this is not the American way. I think to go for this low hanging fruit is to miss what is really going on.

In addition to condemning violence, I think it is time to call out the false god that has its grip on many American Christians.

I know that when we see American flags, hear the Pledge of Allegiance, and witness other trampings of American patriotism that it is easy to point and say the idol is Nationalism.

I am not denying that is a part of it. 

People on the right certainly have the tendency to worship the United States as an idol (this is why I think it is dangerous to say the Pledge of Allegiance and celebrate State holidays during our Sunday worship times).

Yet, pointing to Nationalism misses at least half the problem. The other half of the problem is the Left's love of State Power. They want to use the power of the State to shape the country into their ideal nation.

While there are great differences between right and left, their hopes converge on one thing: democracy.

Democracy is the great god of the United States.

Jeff Deist, former chief of staff for Ron Paul, tweeted:

It is not hard to find this type of religious language used for the American system of government. 

In an article written about election integrity, Kay James wrote, "The right to vote is among the most sacred rights we have as Americans. It is fundamental to our democracy."

We love democracy.

Take this opening paragraph from an article from The Atlantic for example:
We have promoted democracy in our movies and books. We speak of democracy in our speeches and lectures. We even sing about democracy, from sea to shining sea, in our national songs. We have entire government bureaus devoted to thinking about how we can help other countries become and remain democratic. We fund institutions that do the same.

C. S. Lewis was right, we do venerate the word democracy. 

I know you are skeptical and that you think I am crazy, but stop and listen to what we are being told. Look at these headlines.

We are being told that our god is in trouble and needs to be defended. 

We are going to be told that to honor this great god we need to make some sacrifices. 

We are going to applaud as it happens.

We have done it before. 

We cheered as the government sent men and women to fight wars around the world to spread democracy.

The reality is that the demonic force behind democracy is not in trouble. What we are witnessing right now is what false gods always want: chaos and destruction. 

They don't care about you, all they want to do is corrupt and destroy God's good creation, and if they can deceive you and use you as a pawn they will do it.

So what is the solution?

I don't know if I have the answers, but let me offer a few suggestions.
  1. We need to commit ourselves to God and His Kingdom. I firmly believe that American Christians need to think through our relationship with the State. For far too long we have allowed an unhealthy relationship to exist between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to America. As a starting point I would recommend thinking through whether or not you should say the Pledge of Allegiance. If you are pledging your loyalty to America how loyal are you to God?
  2. We need think through our relationship with politics and political parties. This is another area where are loyalty to God and His Kingdom gets divided. A good place to start here is discovering the value you place on voting. Voting is the greatest way we can honor the god of democracy, and that is why I believe Not Voting is a Legitimate Option.
  3. Commit to treating other people with respect. One of the best ways we dehumanize people and rob them of God's image (at least in our eyes) is by name calling. Long ago, back when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and calling President Clinton "Slick Willie," I was convicted of this point. Ever since then I have done my best to refer to people by their names and titles. It is what God expects me to do as His representative. This directly pushes back against the chaos and division the false god of democracy wants to plant in our families, churches, and communities.

I know you are probably thinking, "All this pondering stuff has made Paul a little nutty."

I am not denying that that is a possibility, so let me add one last thought. 

This is not a plea to scrap the whole system or to say that Christians should not involve themselves in politics. Rather, it is a word of caution. Democracy is more than just a political system and there is a spiritual reality behind it. We need to be careful in our interactions with it. 

God's people are commanded to only worship Him. So once again I will stand with Joshua and say:

“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15; NLT)

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