Monday, July 4, 2022

For Freedom

For freedom, you have been set free.

That is just one of the many Christian references you are likely to hear today, if you haven't already been hearing them all weekend. The church just loves to take whatever culture is doing and try to "baptize" it by making it about Jesus, especially when Jesus professes an affection for the very same sorts of things. Today, America is celebrating her freedom, but Christians know that it is Christ who set us free. 

You realize this is why the world hates us, right?

We think we're baptizing these concepts, but what we're really doing is hijacking them for a cheap attempt at evangelism. What we're really doing is weighing them down with more of our Bible thumping, trying to take something that brings the world joy and tell them it's meaningless, that it's nothing, that it's a shadow of a real thing. Can't we just let the world have joy?

What's worse is that we're not actually offering them Jesus on a day like today. We're just throwing His name out there, using His branding, trying to put Him on spectacle - hang His cross in the public square when it looks like the whole world is looking on, just so they can see what He looks like in His passion. 

And us? We're less than passionate. Us? We're less than sacrificial. We tend to just get really "in your face" about things like this, about declaring stuff like "America isn't free; Christians are free." But we're not preaching, and certainly not demonstrating, love.

You can probably tell by now that I really hate this sort of thing, that I hate the hijacking of cultural moments when all we're doing is using them to brand Jesus for a consumeristic world. For example, and I say this with all love for my own congregation (who was not the only congregation to do this) - just look at a recent "Night of Worship" we had. We have a night of worship regularly, but our most recent one fell near the end of June, as did many other events in our broader community and churches around the area. 

So instead of having a "Night of Worship," as we routinely do, we branded this one a "Freedom to Worship" night and put a poster out with a bunch of red, white, and blue stars. Because hey, July 4th was just around the corner. 

Our night of worship had nothing to do with being Americans, with American freedom, with the things we celebrate on the 4th. We hijacked a cultural moment and branded it for Jesus. 

Another one of our local churches brought in a very famous retired (I think) military official who happens to be a Christian to preach their services for them last weekend. Why? Again, to try to capitalize on a cultural moment. 

It just results in this very dangerous blending of Christianity and American patriotism that is no good for the church or for the country, and it certainly isn't a Christian value. There's nowhere in the Bible that God tells us to do this. Pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, yes, but don't baptize your citizenship in a foreign nation. We are a people of God from a heavenly Kingdom. When we do this sort of thing, we just get everything all confused. 

And this is extremely important this year, especially, as our country is wrestling with "conservative Christian values" and the "legislation of faith" and even the notion of "separation of church and state" on the heels of some very big, very bold decisions by our Supreme Court. Of course, this seems like a great week to talk about some of those things. 

And yes, I realize and feel the sting of hypocrisy here. At least, to some degree. I've wrestled with this. Because on one hand, I hate the hijacking of cultural moments to brand them for Jesus, and yet, here I am capitalizing on a week in which our patriotism is in the forefront of our minds to talk about what it means to be American Christians at a time like this. 

But I think the difference lies in the fact that I'm not talking to the world; I'm talking to the church. I'm talking to Christians on this one. I'm talking to us. And I absolutely think it's important that we talk about things that are touchpoints in our culture (you know that by now). 

So we're going to talk about a few things this week that are coming up right now in the cultural conscience precisely because we're so good at doing what we should not be doing on a day like today - hijacking, or "baptizing," culture to brand it for Jesus. 

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