I saw a church sign this morning with a not uncommon sentiment posted on it: “Choir goes patriotic this Sunday, come worship with us.” Now this advertisement prompted two immediate and visceral questions in my mind.
The first question rose from a deep sense of hurt and grief: when a church sign says, “Choir goes patriotic this Sunday, come worship with us,” who or what are they inviting people to worship? The sign didn’t say “we’re exalting Christ this Sunday, and thanking Him for our freedom in America, come worship with us.” It said “choir goes patriotic . . . come worship with us.” It implies they mean us to come and worship America with them.
The second question follows then: “why?” Why is the choir going patriotic this Sunday? I’m certainly aware July 4th is the following Thursday, but what does our nation’s Independence Day have to do with the body of Christ gathered to worship? Sure, God had something to do with our founding just as He had something to do with the founding of every other nation on earth. But the church will not be singing primarily to or about God in a patriotic worship service. The church will be singing about America.
For the body of Christ to dedicate a church service to America is massively problematic for at least four reasons. First, it is nationalism (think racism, sexism, etc.) of the worst kind. Second, members of the body of Christ from other nations who happen to be present will not only be excluded but will wonder what in the world the church is doing (as many non-American Christians have explained). They don’t experience anything similar in their nations of origin. Third, the body of Christ will be confused as to its identity; the church will be equated with America and the all too common notions that America is God’s country; or that God and country are on equal footing; or that to be a good Christian one must be American; or something equally shameful will be reinforced. Fourth, again, the church of God will actually worship America instead of God – and that – is idolatry.
I can promise you one thing: this Sunday the church of which I’m a part won’t sing anything patriotic. In fact, I can safely say not much will be further from our minds. We’ll be gathered to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords – and nothing else.
(And by the way, if you want to have some good barbeque and watch a really good fireworks show on the 4th, come to my house where we’ll be joining in on an enjoyable cultural holiday, and thanking God for it, just as we will also thank Him for our British and French friends who will be with us as well).