The Nationalistic Corruption of Worship in America

Nationalistic Worship
I recall years ago on a Sunday when I was on vacation doing what I normally would do at such times: I went to visit another church in the community. This particular church was one of the ten largest in the country. The sprawling campus was perfectly landscaped and the huge building was impressive. My family and I were running late. We rushed from the parking lot, through the doors to their “worship center.” But what I saw stopped me in my tracks. A color guard in full military uniform was about to walk down the main aisle with an American flag hoisted high. It was only then that I remembered it was the Sunday before Independence Day. I took my children by their hands, turned and walked away to find another place to worship.

Our world is filled with institutions that would like to gain our affection and attachment.  These use images, music and slogans in order to impact us.  The institutions range from the universities, to the movie theaters, to restaurants, to Federal Express and Delta Airlines.  These variously provide us with services, entertainment, education and more.  From us they expect remuneration, payment for whatever it is they have provided to us.  These institutions attempt to win our loyalty.  But the word “loyalty” here is narrowly defined.  At best it involves only a small sliver of our lives.

The nation-state is different.  It is an institution that calls for comprehensive allegiance of a sort that supersedes every other loyalty.  The nation-state is, to use the words of the first of the Ten Commandments, a “jealous God” who has little patience for competitors.  This institution demands body and soul.  Loyalty to it is a matter of life and death.  In other words, it is religious devotion that is expected of citizens.  The rituals and practices of the nation-state aim to form, define and deepen our loyalty and in so doing shape our identity so that who we are above all – at least for those in the United States – is American.  Of course Christianity is welcome, even applauded in many quarters.  But being Christian is assumed to be a subcategory of being American so that those in the church in the United States are American Christians, not merely Christians in America.

Historically, if there has been little serious conflict in the United States between Christian devotion and American allegiance it is not due to some Christian nature of America that some people imagine exists.  Instead this is an indication of the extent that the church has been conformed to American ideals, interests and identity.  No clear distinction between being American and being Christian is even a possibility because the two have become one in the hearts of many.  The God being worshiped is the American God and the nation they love is in some fashion God’s nation.  Consequently, many Christians find it incomprehensible that incorporating the rituals of America into the worship of the church could be anything other than a positive, edifying practice.

Related: Why Worship Without Justice Dishonors God — by Morgan Guyton

On those all-too-rare occasions when an objection is raised about the presence of the rituals of American nationalism in the worship of the church, those who respond are usually quick to rehearse the myth of the Christian origins of America.  It would not be fair to declare the myth entirely baseless.  Surely William Bradford and then John Winthrop believed their colonies had a special relationship with God somewhat similar to that enjoyed by the people of Israel.  While the founders of the United States did not intend to establish an expressly Christian nation, many politicians and preachers through the years have borrowed biblical language and imagery to speak of America.  The belief that America is in some fashion “chosen” by God has been widespread and enduring.

Fortified with confidence that the cause of humanity and the cause of God just so happen to coincide with the cause of the nation, Christians have repeatedly taken to the battlefield under different flags.  There they kill and maim one another, to say nothing of the injury they cause to others who make no claim to follow the Prince of Peace.  Regardless of which nations are the victors and which are the vanquished, nationalism wins and the church loses.

Nationalism generally provides answers to at least two important questions.  First, is there some kind of group smaller than the entire humankind that is of central importance or is there not?  For the nationalist the answer is that there is and that group is the nation.  Second, is it voluntary or involuntary belonging that is the basis of obligation one has to his or her community or communities?  The nationalist says that involuntary belonging is most important.  The nation is the community to which one belongs from birth and to which one is most obligated.  Christians generally agree with nationalists that there is some group smaller than the entire humankind that is of central importance.  But in contrast to nationalists we must insist that membership in the group and the basis of obligation to others in this particular community is voluntary.  For Christians that group or community is –or rather should be- the church.

However, for the nationalist it is not enough to view the attachment and obligation to the national community as merely important to who we are and what we do.  Loyalty to the nation cannot be secondary to loyalty given to the church.  National loyalty must be most important.  Because the population is divided in many matters, political leaders are intent to unite people by appealing to a shared identity that will supersede all other understanding of the self and, as philosopher Charles Taylor noted, “take precedence over a host of other poles of identity, such as family, class, gender, even (perhaps especially) religion.”

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The best way for nationalism to take precedence over religion is for it to wear the mantle of religion, even if unofficially.  This can be done best, not by an assault on religion, but by the subversion of it.  Nationalistic ministers even more often than politicians are the most frequent agents of this subversion.  On the one hand, this takes place as religious leaders make much of the ceremonial use of “God” in the national motto, the Pledge of Allegiance, in political speeches, and by treating the myths of national origin as somehow revelatory.

On the other hand, the subversion is furthered by incorporating elements of nationalistic liturgy into the life and worship of the church.  The result is that churches become what historian Carlton Hayes called “auxiliaries to nationalist fervor and nationalist endeavor.” By prominently displaying the American flag, by singing the National Anthem or other songs that glorify America and foster pride in the nation, by offering special honor to the U.S. military, and perhaps even pledging allegiance to the flag, the nation is invited to take a seat on the throne of God in such close proximity to the Lord that distinguishing the two becomes virtually impossible.

Also by Craig: Death, Violence and America – Is God the Answer or the Problem?

Several years ago, after serving as a visiting professor in an American seminary Swiss theologian Eberhard Busch, friend and biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, found himself disturbed.  He sat down and wrote, “A Letter to Ministers of the Church in the U.S.”  In this open letter he reflected on what he observed as he spent time in this country.  “I got the impression,” he wrote, “that among Christians… what it means to be a child of God and to be an American has become confused.”  This state of affairs led him to be concerned for the credibility of the American church.  He had seen firsthand in Germany what damage could be done when church is subverted and enlisted the by nation. The confusion of Christian identity he observed is evident above all in the worship of the church in the U.S.

The church in America will not be a Christ-centered community of peace so long as it is determined to celebrate its identity as American.  It is imperative, I believe, that all traces of nationalism be removed from the church’s worship.  Otherwise, in times of international crisis, instead of being an instrument of reconciliation, it will continue to embrace the role of handmaiden of war.  God cannot be praised in the same breath that America is honored without God being dishonored and replaced by another god.  The church cannot be itself so long as it is defined by its location, complexion or culture.

But ridding the church in the United States of the marks of nationalism will be a formidable task for those who are willing to face it.  Many in the church will intensely resist.  I cannot help but recall the words of a long-time lay leader who was in the middle of a discussion about the prospect of removing the American flag from the sanctuary of his church.  In an unguarded moment of nationalist fervor, he passionately thundered: “Some things Jesus Christ himself can’t make me do!” That says it all.


Craig M. Watts is the minister of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, Florida and Co-Moderator of Disciples Peace Fellowship. He authored the book Disciple of Peace: Alexander Campbell on Pacifism, Violence and the State (Doulos Christou Press: Indianapolis, 2005) and his essays have appeared in many journals such as Cross Currents, Encounter, the Otherside, DisciplesWorld and more. Craig blogs on the Disciples Peace Fellowship’s, “Shalom Vision.”

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  • 22044

    The Gospel is for all people in all nations – so any reform by churches to embrace & apply that truth should be embraced.

    • Drew

      From now on, though, you should log in as “Everything.” If you respond with your own name, you are leaving out other people. If you respond with “human being”, you are leaving out animals. If you respond with “breathing things,” you leave out inanimate objects. 22044, why did you leave out the numbers 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9? Why did you use the numbers “2″ and “4″ twice? You are a numberist.

      • 22044

        I’ll try to keep that in mind…hmmm.

        • Drew

          Also, your name is displayed prominently. Maybe try to leave your name blank.

          • 22044

            I might have to contract that out….

          • Drew

            If my purpose in life is to be offended, I will offended at everything. If my purpose in life is to follow Jesus, I will be more concerned with following Jesus than creating rules not found in the Bible.

  • Drew

    You are not concerned about nationalism as much as you are concerned about adding rules to the Bible that support your political ideology. There can now be no American flags at a Church or no tributes to the military? Fascinating how much in common fundamentalist liberal Christians have in common with fundamentalist conservative Christians. Both want an extensive rule book dictating how we should incorporate the Green Party and Tea Party platforms into our Christian lives.

    • Samuel

      Drew, you say, “There can now be no American flags at a Church or no tributes to the military?” like this is something that shouldn’t be questioned. Watts makes real arguments. You don’t. You take the legitimacy of a bad tradition for granted. Watts’ point is that the practice offends against the nature of the church. As he wrote, “The church cannot be itself so long as it is defined by its location, complexion or culture.” The church is international, inter-racial and classless by its very nature. Your judgmental statement, “You are not concerned about nationalism as much as you are concerned about adding rules to the Bible that support your political ideology,” is misguided.

      • Drew

        You want to talk about misguided? How about going to a Church to worship and walking out of the Church even before you get through the door?

        • Samuel

          The worship itself was misguided. He did exactly the right thing. I commend his integrity.Ben’s letter above shows biblically grounded understanding that I don’t see in your comments. You just throw accusations and offer no reasoning.

          • Drew

            The fundamental difference between Ben’s post and mine is that Ben agrees with the author fully while I disagree. Disagreement should not be synonymous with bad reasoning, but apparently you have made the correlation.

            No, Craig did not do the right thing. It was self-righteous. It smacks of adding laws to the NT as some far right fundamentalists do. Craig appears to be more interested in keeping his own man-made laws and getting good blogging material than honestly wanting to get to know about this particular Church.

          • SamHamilton

            I don’t think we can say that Watts did the wrong or right thing because there is no objectively wrong or right response to seeing a color guard in a church. I think a good case could be made that he could have stuck around and given the church a chance. Who knows, maybe the color guard could have been used in a completely appropriate manner. We’ll never know. One could also make a point that if the color guard’s presence was going to distract him from worshipping that morning it was probably best to leave.

          • Frank

            If it was going to distract him doesn’t that say more about him than the church?

          • SamHamilton

            Frank,
            Possibly. But it still might be better to leave.

        • I. E.

          Drew, even though I don’t completely see things from your viewpoint on this matter, I agree with you that Watts walking out of the Church even before he got through the doors is misguided. Without attending the service, he drew up a conclusion. He should at least have attended, then made the conclusion about the Church after the service. Not turn away because of a Color Guard and his US Flag. He made his decision based on his pre-conceived notions. What if his assumptions about this Church were wrong?

          • Drew

            I think we see more eye to eye than you think. I agree with Craig that nationalism is wrong; however, I question his definition of nationalism. I think it is much to broad so that even the slightest whiff sends Craig into fundamentalist mode. Is Craig attending other Churches out of a deep desire to see how they worship, love, and interact, or is he visiting other Churches so he can be self-righteous?

        • Jonathan Starkey

          I’ve heard a good sign of the demonic is an inability to worship. So I’ve put beliefs up to check when they’ve prevented me from doing so.

          • bluecenterlight

            Oh my good Lord, now people who disagree with us are demonic, wow.

          • Jonathan Starkey

            I’m not saying people who disagree with us are demonic. I’m saying if your beliefs are preventing you from worship the maybe they’re suspect.

          • jonathan starkey

            Maybe, I’m reaching though. I have to addmitt I probably be a little disturbed if I saw the military in full uniform raising the flag high and marching down the center isle.

    • otrotierra

      Craig Watts offers a thoughtful commentary. But all we see from Drew is more frothing-at-the-mouth and intellectual sloth. Again I must ask: why is Jesus missing in your comments?

      • Drew

        So you use ad hominems and then ask why Jesus is missing in my comments? #projection

        • SamHamilton

          Drew,
          Why is your name appearing as 22044?

          • Drew

            Disqus does this quite a bit.

          • 22044

            This is truly 22044. Disqus messes up names quite a bit. This reply might even appear as someone else’s for a few minutes. It should work out eventually.

      • SamHamilton

        otrotierra,
        You might get a better response by telling people what you agree and disagree with about what they’ve written rather than responding with your repetitive and holier-than-thou question about why Jesus is missing. Just a thought…

    • 22044

      Definition time:
      Otrotierra agrees with the post – it’s thoughtful!
      Otrotierra disagrees with the post – it’s frothing at the mouth!

      • Drew

        Add Samuel to that list.

        I have no problem if people disagree with me, but to say I’m angry or hateful or unintelligent simply because I disagree with you is the definition of being angry, hateful, and unintelligent. It’s “football fan mentality,” that you cheer everything that is preached to the choir and boo anything that is disagreement.

  • Ben

    Nationalism is like racism. And it has exactly the same legitimacy in worship, which is to say, absolutely none. No symbol, sign or song that celebrates one race or nation to the exclusion of all others belong in church where dividing walls of hostility have been broken down to create “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15). We as followers of Jesus come together, not to affirm what we have in common with all other Americans , but to lift up what we have in common with disciples from every place and of every race. In Christ we are “clothed with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (Colossians 3:10-11). America and one’s feelings about it are no part of the Christian faith. Love for the world for whom Christ died without distinction is at the heart of our faith. Thank you, Craig Watts, for underlining this important lesson that seems to have been forgotten in churches that give a place to nationalism. Great article!

    • SamHamilton

      Ben,
      I don’t think nationalism is like racism. I can’t think of any situation where racism would benefit someone or a society. However, Aaron Taylor makes a good point that nationalism can be used for positive purposes. What do you think of this blog post?

      http://sojo dot net/blogs/2011/02/15/when-nationalism-healthy (Replace the “dot” with a period.)

      Watts makes some good points, but I think he’s taking his crusade a little too far.

      • Eric

        I don’t see Watts objecting to an individual Christian being patriotic. Wearing a flag pin or singing a patriotic song at a ball game or civic event isn’t the issue. Worship is the sole focus of this article. To impose a value or identity that is not given by faith on the entire faith community is the problem. Nationalism in worship lifts up an attachment and affection that is not required by faith not shared by the whole church. It forces a “rule” -to echo Drew- on the whole body and essentially say, “If you don’t share this value, identity, attachment, affection, too bad. It is not enough to just love Jesus. You must conform or get out.”

        • Drew

          You entirely miss the point and corrupt what I said to massage your talking points. Nobody is forcing the issue and saying flags have to be in a Church, and nobody is forcing someone to attend a Church that has a flag present. However, to take away the freedom and ban having a flag at any Church and in any place in the Church is a Pharisaical rule. There is no Biblical basis for it, just a man-made, burdensome rule that we must write down in our rule book. “I love God, there’s no American Flag within 10 yards of MY church” just seems pathetic.

          • Eric

            The biblical basis for it -or at least a little bit of it- can be seen in Ben’s post. You just want to insist that you have the liberty to ignore the nature of the church and push something that elevates a narrow interest, loyalty, love which disregards the broad welcome of the gospel that should be seen in the church. Your rule say, “You are welcome if you share my local loyalty.” And that is what is pathetic and lacks a biblical basis. It is no different than a church giving a special recognition for people of one race above others.

          • Drew

            Do you spend more money outside of the country than inside of the country? If you are not, it is economic abuse towards other countries. Why should every country not get your prayers and money?

            My point is this – we can go to great lengths to be offended by minutia. You cannot make a Biblical case for your beliefs nor can you even make a pragmatic case for your beliefs. All you have said is that someone, somewhere, might take a flag the wrong way, so that we need to create a new rule, maybe enforced by you, to get rid of all flags at all Churches around the world. You think you are honoring God; I think you are being a Pharisee. Funny thing about Pharisees is that they always think they are honoring God when they create an additional rule.

          • Eric

            You apparently love the rule that has been created by misguided churches in the US. Many churches don’t abide by the rule. You can find Lutheran, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic condemnations of flags and nationalism is church, to say nothing of Anabaptist and Quaker perspectives. The theological basis for the common practice is non-existent. Timid local pastors just don’t want to deal with the irrational backlash. I don’t worry that “someone, somewhere, might take a flag the wrong way.” There is no right way to take it in the church. You cling to a misguided bad habit -it doesn’t deserve to be given the noble word “tradition”- that is found in many congregations. The bad habit reinforces the deadly political divisions of humankind. If churches displayed a donkey or elephant at the front of the sanctuary, this would be no more divisively, destructively intrusive than the American flag and patriotic music. The elimination of nationalism in church acts against narrowing of Christianity in America. It is your support for the nationalism in church rule that is truly Pharisaic.

          • Drew

            Eric, you will see that you are projecting on to me rather than critically addressing what I’m saying. I am not a fan of Pee Wee Herman logic – “I know you are, but what am I?” in online discussion. Please drop it.

            I am not saying there needs to be a rule that every Church has to have a flag. What I am saying is that Churches have the freedom to have a flag or not have a flag, just like Church members have the freedom to not eat meat or eat meat. Jesus wants us to obey him but he freed us from man-made, Pharisaical rules and regulations designed to burden the people and make the Pharisees elite. What you are saying is that Churches absolutely cannot have a a flag, which takes away freedom, and is a guideline not found in the Bible. Until you realize I am advocating free choice, while you are advocating a hard and fast rule, we will get nowhere in our discussion.

            There is no theological basis for having a flag at Church, just as there is no theological basis for not having a flag. By your fundamentalist interpretation, we must all brush our teeth three times a day. Our body is a temple, after all, so we can say that we should follow the ADA recommendations of brushing and flossing, and if we do not, we are breaking the Gospel and we are sinning.

          • 22044

            Yeah, I’m wondering where this “rule” is that churches must display a flag?
            Someone enlighten me please…except for Eric.

        • SamHamilton

          I agree with all of this. What I disagree with is what you and Watts consider to be displays of nationalism. Having a flag in a sanctuary is not a statement demanding conformity. It’s not divisive. I wouldn’t be offended at all if I traveled to another country and that country’s flag was in a church sanctuary or they asked during a time of prayer for special prayers for their country and its leaders.

          • Drew

            Eric has demonstrated that he is offended, so it should be a rule. That is all he needs to hear. If it offends almost nobody else, that is our problem, not his problem. Unfortunately, some people want us to stoop to a lowest common denominator and take away our freedom for even the slightest thing that offends anyone. It is unfortunate.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            …provided (as is implied) that the flag is not put in a place of honor, such as at the altar. Figured I would state explicitly what you implied, so that there was no room for confusion.

          • SamHamilton

            Yes, right!

          • bluecenterlight

            It’s not divisive for you. Flags and soldiers marching through church is offensive to some, native Americans come to mind, and a long list of people who have seen horrible things done to them under that flag. Whether you agree with it or not there are a lot of people who do not like America. To associate Jesus with America I think creates an unnecessary hurdle. I also agree that it’s ridiculous to create a new law and ban flags from church. But we shouldn’t need laws to love the lost. What ever happened to becoming all things to all men that I might win some? The flag has become more than a symbol, it has become a God to some. If you doubt me, suggest taking it down and see what happens. It is apparently a “necessary” part of our “worship”

          • SamHamilton

            I wouldn’t want flags and soldiers to “march” through my sanctuary either. But I also don’t have a problem with the American flag being present in a sanctuary. It’s mere presence is not nationalistic nor does it make it a God. As I’ve said several times here, the presence of a flag in a sanctuary could merely mean that the church recognizes that it is located in a particular country.

          • bluecenterlight

            I’m not really offended by the flags presence, off in the corner. But something has happened to us. I turn on the TV and see preachers preaching the founding fathers words with the same authority as scripture, I think that is wrong. We have muddled the two, and I think the church has to push back and bring some clarity. What exactly that means I’m not sure, but I know if you remove a flag from the church people would be infuriated, which speaks to a deeper problem.

      • E. Lee MacFall

        Nationalism is exactly like racism in one very fundamental respect: it is collectivism.

        People are individuals. If you do not judge them as individuals, according to their individual actions and choices, then you misjudge them. Nationalism, just like racism, or classism, or sexism, is an attempt to ignore the individual nature of humanity by categorizing people into large groups. Regardless of one’s reasons for doing so, it always works for the convenience of those who would obfuscate their desire to do evil by directing the public’s mind towards an abstraction. It engenders an “us” vs. “them” mentality resulting in ideas such as the myth of the guilty nation, by which things like total war can be excused. The natural, God-given rights of all human beings can be shoved aside for the sake of one’s “national interests”, which are after all much less constricting than human rights.

        Regarding the blog post: there is absolutely no difference between tribalism and nationalism except scale. Both offer the pretense that one is inherently better than others because of one’s affiliation with an abstraction. Both offer people who feel insignificant as individuals the opportunity to “succeed” vicariously through victory in battle, long-standing tradition, and most of all, slogans and other memes that reassure one that “we” are great. And both are poisonous to the global nature of the Church.

        No one can serve two masters. Either you will have Christ as your liege, or you will have a nation-state, or a tribe, or a sports team, or even a church. You will never have both. Of course, you can be loyal to a person – that is love. You can even be loyal to an organization that genuinely attempts to live by the Word of God – but only while and to the extent that it does so. And what person honestly believes that his government is truly loyal to Christ? If I ever met such a person I would wonder if he really knew Christ himself.

        The nations of men exist for the sake of plunder, power, and bloodlust. In the US we often hear the slogan that “America is a Christian Nation!” But that is false. There is only ONE Christian nation: it is the Kingdom of Heaven. Its only sovereign is Christ, and He does not respect borders, languages, or cultures. His Law is Love, and His Gospel is Peace. The nations of men would make a mockery if they ever claimed to exist for the sake of those things.

        • bluecenterlight

          I agree, although I think it goes a little far to question someones relationship with the Lord. I have always had a sincere faith towards Christ, I have also believed flawed things over the years. I use to be a name it claim it Christian, I jumped on the war bandwagon after 9/11. We all have to be teachable. True objectivity is subjectivity rendered conscience of itself. We all have agendas and skewed perceptions. But you are right the only way to transcend all of our personal agendas is to cling to Christ and His, which is something we should have done all along.

          • E. Lee MacFall

            I went full-on warmonger after 9/11, and it took me a good four years to get over it. I understand how easy it is to look to Caesar for protection – after all, he’s the one with all the swords, right? And a citizen is someone who owes a duty of allegiance in exchange for a duty of protection. So moving from there to claiming Christ as my only liege – along with all of the political implications of that position – was not an easy process.

            It hurt.

            Like the setting of broken bones.

          • bluecenterlight

            I think we all are going through the questioning process. I just started going back to the gym so I know any positive change is painful, lol. But the church has a long way to go before we are anything like “glorious”, so I think we are in for a lot more pain. I think the point of this article for me is, the bible teaches Every kingdom will fall, including this one. I think we are seeing it happen. We should not be too attached to it, it’s like naming farm animals. The warm fuzzy’s we get from nationalism for an empire on the rise, looks a lot different on the way down. It looks more like feral dogs fighting over a carcass. To be honest it kind of scares me what that might look like. But this I know, it is more important than ever to be the people Christ has called us to be. There are already a lot of hurting people out there, I think it is going to get much worse. But that thought doesn’t make me want to store food in my basement, buy a gun and shoot at anyone who walks in the door. It makes me want to be a Christian. I have been a Christian for 30 years, in the ministry for 5, but I’ve always held back something, some part of myself. But Christianity is not so, the price of admission has always been everything. There is something about hard times, going through the crucible, that produces change. I think God is going to put the screw to us, but in the process, we will become our better selves.

          • E. Lee MacFall

            “The warm fuzzy’s we get from nationalism for an empire on the rise,
            looks a lot different on the way down. It looks more like feral dogs
            fighting over a carcass. To be honest it kind of scares me what that
            might look like.”

            True enough, and that’s the point at which a people at large begins to abandon its imperial hubris. But what the empire on the rise looks like is very different depending on one’s perspective. To Romans, Rome was a glorious protector and provider. To everyone else, Rome was a brutal giant with a petty temper. Ask the few remaining Afghan Christians what they think of the US’s “liberation” of their country. Responses will differ, but they will not be largely favorable. Or ask a Palestinian Christian what he thinks of the US’s cheering on of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of their country. The conservative talk radio line is “Palestinians are all Islamic terrorists – there’s no such thing as an innocent Palestinian”. The Palestinian Orthodox Christians who die alongside their Muslim neighbors from Israeli rockets would beg to differ.

          • bluecenterlight

            I had a Palestinian teacher in bible college. When he taught for the first time, as if he were reading all of our minds he said, ” You do know that’s where Christianity started don’t you? It never left”, lol. That is the danger of nationalism to me, history is written by the victor. Christ is concerned about the defeated. They are not stories you will hear in the nationalist narrative. It also concerns me that you cannot become President of this country without being a professed born again Christian. Which to the rest of the world put’s everything America does under the blanket of Christianity. It’s very sad. Jesus and hell fire missiles, not a good combination.

        • Tammie

          We need to make sure we are in unity with the True Disciples of Christ Obedient to the Fathers Will not mens will, not everyone who says ,Lord,lord ,shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven ; but he that does the will of my Father which is in Heaven .Many will say to me in that day ,Lord ,Lord , have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy Name done many wonderful works ?And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me , ye that work iniquity.Matthew 7:21-23 The Bible warns to not eat with a brother who is a willful sinner practices sin iniquity, now a person in the world that is not learned in the word thats different they need salvation and to be taught in the word to be Discipled . I Corinthians 5:9-13 Jesus said those that do my Fathers will are my family. Remember The Roman Catholic church is a occult and mixed with Jesus who ruled with hitler and this is a mixture of many religions including the satanic church and this is not correct Body of Christ and the socialism in this church is very alive and the antichrist will rule in this system so not all are to be together it was this occult Roman church who persecuted and killed Christ Our Savior only because they were allowed by Christ, so you see the Babylonian Roman catholic church of every religion is not Good at all and any 501c3 church is owned by the Roman Vatican catholic church because she owns the IRS and Jesus said come out of her so you dont share in her judgements my people in Revelation 18 be ready pray your counted worthy Jesus said when He comes to get His Bride not a mixed unclean whore as babylon we are set apart as His clean Bride without spot or wrinkle holy for His use and He is Worthy and it is His Blood that makes us Righteous and Spirit who sanctifies us and makes our works perfect but we have a part as well and that is obeying Him because we love Him John 14 Covenant is Relationship of two God and us His child having mercy toward one another respecting each others expectations with in Gods will. We need to come out of the world activity and sin and Love Jesus in Righteousness and True Obedience in His powerful Grace to overcome sin.Covenant is respecting one anothers expectations within Gods will toward God First and then our neighbor respecting each others expectations within Gods will and this is Righteousness in hebrew- Is.54:14 Loving God First ,and then my neighbor, and this is the Ten Commandments, first five love God next five say love neighbor .Loveing Him always

      • Tammie

        Ben socialism is communism.Hitler ruled with it and the communist in this country are doing the same calling it socialism to get away with bringing us into a one world system and we know this is not good it is antichrist and everyone who takes his mark 666 a chip in the hand or forehead will be put in hell Revelation 20 Jesus said I am the Way Truth and Life He that follows Him will have Life in Heaven He is the only True Holy Sacrifice that was given for us by God the Father to take our place for our sins there is no other god who has or can do this for us to be saved for heaven ask Him to come in your heart and life and save you and have a Relationship with Him through prayer and worship read His Holy Bible and make sure it is a King James others have been tampered with .We are in the last days be ready for Jesus return you dont want to be here after he comes it will be His Judgements on the wicked. Read this Book about socialism-communism Guardians of the Grail by J.R. Church you can get it on Amazon I got mine for a penny. I pray the Lord shows you this Truth as He has for me.God Bless .

    • Tammie

      We need to make sure we are in unity with the True Disciples of Christ Obedient to the Fathers Will not mens will, not everyone who says ,Lord,lord ,shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven ; but he that does the will of my Father which is in Heaven .Many will say to me in that day ,Lord ,Lord , have we not prophesied in thy name ? and in thy name have cast out devils ? and in thy Name done many wonderful works ?And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me , ye that work iniquity.Matthew 7:21-23 The Bible warns to not eat with a brother who is a willful sinner practices sin iniquity, now a person in the world that is not learned in the word thats different they need salvation and to be taught in the word to be Discipled . I Corinthians 5:9-13 Jesus said those that do my Fathers will are my family. Remember The Roman Catholic church is a occult and mixed with Jesus who ruled with hitler and this is a mixture of many religions including the satanic church and this is not correct Body of Christ and the socialism in this church is very alive and the antichrist will rule in this system so not all are to be together it was this occult Roman church who persecuted and killed Christ Our Savior only because they were allowed by Christ, so you see the Babylonian Roman catholic church of every religion is not Good at all and any 501c3 church is owned by the Roman Vatican catholic church because she owns the IRS and Jesus said come out of her so you dont share in her judgements my people in Revelation 18 be ready pray your counted worthy Jesus said when He comes to get His Bride not a mixed unclean whore as babylon we are set apart as His clean Bride without spot or wrinkle holy for His use and He is Worthy and it is His Blood that makes us Righteous and Spirit who sanctifies us and makes our works perfect but we have a part as well and that is obeying Him because we love Him John 14 Covenant is Relationship of two God and us His child having mercy toward one another respecting each others expectations with in Gods will. We need to come out of the world activity and sin and Love Jesus in Righteousness and True Obedience in His powerful Grace to overcome sin.Covenant is respecting one anothers expectations within Gods will toward God First and then our neighbor respecting each others expectations within Gods will and this is Righteousness in hebrew- Is.54:14 Loving God First ,and then my neighbor, and this is the Ten Commandments, first five love God next five say love neighbor .Loveing Him always

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Craig Watts. Indeed, Jesus must be prioritized over nationalism, imperial hubris, and the power of Caesar’s horses and chariots. Will U.S. evangelicals listen? Time will tell.

  • I. E.

    This article has some merits: There are indeed many in this nation who see nationalism and Christianity as synonymous. However, I believe we ought be able to celebrate our country like flying a US Flag inside the church or celebrate our veterans without being confused with what it means to be a Christian. There should be times we agree with our country and times we disagree. Being American has nothing to do with being a Christian. Inability to make this distinction is a problem, and this is one reason politicians can manipulate many Christians. I cringe every time I hear “God and Country”. How about just focusing on discovering God, loving him and our neighbors? This ought be our most important priorities!

    • SamHamilton

      Amen I.E. I agree. I think Watts make some good points, but he takes things to extremes too.

      • Eric

        A little nationalism is a good thing like a little racism is a good thing. In that sense, Watts was extreme… in a good way.

        • 22044

          If you can’t see a distinction between nationalism & racism, then you aren’t very bright.
          Race is an immutable trait; citizenship or membership in a nation is not.

          • Eric

            Both are involuntary. You are born with both race and nation of origin. But racism and nationalism have to do with attitudes. Who is not very bright? Might be better to avoid the personal attacks.

          • 22044

            Both are involuntary? Tell that to convince the millions of people who change or add citizenships during their life. Sounds like you’re proving my point.

          • Eric

            Proving your point? LOL! The issue is racism and nationalism, both are destructive and divisive attitudes. You are missing the point entirely. You should get a grip on the basic terms before commenting.

          • 22044

            Wow, you want to self-appoint some kind of barrier before I comment? At this point you’re just contracting me for its own sake. Be well.

          • 22044

            s/b you’re just contradicting me for its own sake…

          • SamHamilton

            Hey Eric…

            Have you gotten a chance to read the blog post I recommended about why racism is not comparable to nationalism?

            http://sojo dot net/blogs/2011/02/15/when-nationalism-healthy (Replace the “dot” with a period.)

            It might benefit you to read it before continuing your discussion with 22044. I think Watts is taking things to extremes and not in a beneficial way.

          • Eric

            I have. But what Watts is addressing is something very different. The article you posted has to do with the importance of having a loyalty bigger than tribalism. Nationalism is a form of tribalism, just larger. We do need to think outside of narrow loyalties. Watts is criticizing the celebration of loyalties that can and have damaged the loyalty Christians should have to the household of faith worldwide. He didn’t object to patriotism on a personal, individual level. What he is opposing is bringing into the worship body a value and affection that isn’t really part of what the church has been called to be. The flag points to a division in humankind. All do not see it positively, even in the US. But that shouldn’t matter in church because what unites us in worship is not about a nation, race or class.

          • Frank

            What if your church is full of veterans and on Veterans Day you celebrate their service and have a flag and Honor Guard? Is that wrong? Judging from the article Craig Watts would have walked out.

          • Eric

            I grew up in a church full of veterans. They would have been among the first to object to having special recognition in a worship service. Yes, I would strongly object to such a service. What unites the church in Christ is what should be done in worship, not what divides the world. I don’t see it as being compatible with what the Lord calls the church to be. I find it extremely strange anyone would think such a thing should be done.

          • Frank

            I and many others see no problem with it. There is nothing wrong with recognition of nationalism Sorry you feel there is. I just don’t see that as nationaism.

          • Frank

            Meant to say recognition of country not nationalism. I do think nationalism is inappropriate for the church however not every recognition of nation is nationalism.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Thank you for your correction.

          • Eric

            Many have had no problem with racism. In fact racism once was the norm, just like nationalism is now. Both are utterly contrary to Christian faith and the wayward practice of churches that have conformed to the prevailing Americanism. Watts offers sane, well reasoned commentary on the issue. the responses here have been knee-jerk responses that are theologically vacuous and apparently uncomprehending of what the article is saying.

          • 22044

            You keep trying to present a comparison to racism, even when it’s been explained with great care by respected commenters why the comparison is invalid.
            You have no business continuing to comment. Scripture actually commands followers of Jesus not to engage in pointless arguments. See Jonathan Starkey’s post below with the quote from the book of Colossians.
            Regarding Craig Watts, maybe folks should be concerned about him. Scripture also advises that not many should try to become teachers, because they will be judged harsher.

          • Ben

            Who “explained” this? Certainly not you. You clearly showed you don’t know the difference between race and racism or nationality and nationalism. And no one else “explained” it either. They just irrationally denied it because they are accustomed to having the comparison put in front of them. Both nationalism and racism fracture humanity. Both nationalism and racism have led to great suffering, war and discrimination. Both nationalism and racism are grounded in pride in one’s own. But display an inclination to keep “the other” at a distance. So, yes, racism is like nationalism. Denial doesn’t change the reality of the fact which has been well attested to throughout history.

          • Drew

            Civic nationalism does not fracture humanity.

          • Drew

            What we are telling you, Eric, is that while we do not support nationalism, we do not construe everything under the sun to be nationalism. We are not militant extremists looking to yell nationalism at every opportunity because we take pride in being offended.

          • Drew

            You do realize that you are diving people by adding rules and regulations to the Bible that do not exist, correct?

          • bluecenterlight

            The early church debated whether or not soldiers should be baptized because they believed you couldn’t be a soldier and fully commit to Christ, therefore you were not serious. I don’t think they would have had an honor guard.

          • SamHamilton

            I agree with you that we should bring “into the worship body a value and affection that isn’t really part of what the church has been called to be.” But the mere presence of a flag in the sanctuary is not doing that. The presence of an American flag could just be a statement that this church is located in the United States. The flag doesn’t have to be a division in humankind anymore than me saying “I live in Virginia” is a division in mankind.

            I continue to maintain that nationalism and racism are not equally offensive. How nationalism is used matters. That’s the point of the Taylor blog post.

        • SamHamilton

          Actually, nationalism can be used in positive ways. See the link to Aaron Taylor’s blog post I posted above and let me know what you think. Racism can never be used in a positive way, at least that I can think of, so the two are not comparable.

          In my comment above I pointed out where I think Watts is taking things to extreme.

        • Drew

          It depends how you define nationalism. Watts defines it as when a Church has an American flag on premise and/or ever honors the military. Most rationale people find that to be extreme.

          • Eric

            What he is getting at in the article is the global nature of the church which should be attended to in every local situation. You simply refuse to acknowledge the God-given nature of the church. The church is not rightly American or Chinese or German just because congregations are in these places. The German, Chinese or Cuban Christian should not have to have American national identity shoved in his or her face when worshiping in the US. If you think nationalism is celebrated by Christians in every nation -or every one that is not expressly anti-Christian- you are very mistaken. Most “rational” Christians are disturbed by the practice they find in many American churches, one they consider “extreme.”. The perception of the Swiss theologian Eberhard Busch, mentioned by Watts, is not exceptional. These people are justly offended because they are not received as equals. They feel like second class citizens in the kingdom of God. The problem is not that they are hyper-sensitive but that the church is being distorted and bearing false witness about its nature by including nationalism.

          • 22044

            Best to let Drew handle this one, but I’ll briefly note that your points (and Craig’s post) end up being all hat/no cattle, when it doesn’t point to the gospel, but an inflated condition of hubris and self-righteousness. Gross.

          • Drew

            Just to clear up all your false statements… I know that the Church is global and not bound to any one nation. I fully acknowledge the God-give nature of the Church. I have attended Churches in other countries and am aware of their existence. I never said extreme nationalism is celebrated by Christians in every nation.

            I feel sorry for Watt that he has created Pharisaical rules to live his life, that whenever he sees an American flag in Church or a display of support for our troops that he has to run away and divide from these fellow Christians. I would feel terrible going to a new Church every week only to look anxiously for a flag and be prepared to run as soon as I saw one. What other “displays” does Watts run from when he is in a Church? Our Church has missions posters up of certain countries but not others, maybe they should be torn down because they support one country over another? It’s just absurd.

          • bluecenterlight

            I think most “rational” people would say that the church post 9/11 has delved too deeply into nationalism. What is your suggestion on correcting this?

          • Drew

            It depends on your definition of nationalism. As we have seen, some people see everything as nationalism, kind of like how some people think everything is racist. If we view the world through the lens of nationalism, trying to see how everything can be construed as nationalism, you’re bound to see everything as nationalism.

            In what ways have you seen the post 9/11 Church delve deeply into nationalism in a way that you disagree with? This will help me to determine what your definition of nationalism is. Either I will disagree with your definition and say I have a different one, or I will agree with you and can come up with a suggestion on correcting it.

          • bluecenterlight

            Making the founding fathers words equal with scripture, I have seen it preached from the pulpit. I agree, we as Christians should be neutral about the flag, and I think it’s a little weird to make laws about displaying it, but I know in most congregations if you remove it, people would not be neutral but hostile which makes me think we have an unhealthy allegiance to it. The majority of evangelicals were “cool” with torture. Christians seeing their allegiance to a political party as a sign of their spirituality ( in both directions). We form opinions about current global political situations through the matrix of how does this affect “us” and not what does Jesus think about this, which is only natural, but still not the way we should look at the world. Equating military service with Godliness. I could go on, but that’s a good start.

          • Drew

            I think most of those do not have to do with nationalism but rather elevating a political ideology ahead of the Bible and a Christian worldview.

            I have mentioned this as a problem at least weekly on this blog and have written that in my opinion it is the number one problem in America today. I was against the use of torture and against the Iraq war. I rebuke folks like William Green that come to this website and try to preach the founding fathers rather than preach the Gospel.

            One thing I am in minor disagreement on is equating military service with Godliness. Military men and women sacrifice everything so that we can live in freedom and peace. We are to pray that God gives us a government that allows us to lead quiet and peaceful lives.

          • bluecenterlight

            It is a difficult stance, and not something I have come to lightly, but I have to stand with the Anabaptist’s. I think if the first 3 centuries of the church didn’t pick up the sword, then I can’t. If they did not pick up the sword to defend the gospel, then what greater cause is there? Freedom, personal security? The founders of our faith readily gave up those things. I believe when I die I get to spend an eternity with my Lord, if I kill a man, I most likely sentence that man to an eternity separated from God, I don’t want to stand before the Lord with that on my conscience. I will die, and not kill. This is my personal belief and I hold only myself to it.

            I think you are right, elevating anything over a Christian world view is a problem. I think our biggest problem (from a Christian perspective) is, we are surrounded by noise, ( TV, internet, radio, etc.) a constant drone of information. How can any of us truly be objective. I heard someone say once, true objectivity is subjectivity rendered conscience of itself. The only way to truly be objective, is to realize I’m not. We are surrounded by so much noise it’s hard for God to get in. Try fasting for a couple days, you start to get the withdrawals when the noise stops. We entertain ourselves so much that we can’t see it. We can’t see the ocean of lost, broken humanity right in front of us. We might do something here or there, but I don’t think this has become real to us. Scripture claims that we are in a war, a very real war, with real casualties. And that the consequences are eternal. But, because it is spiritual, and most of the world doesn’t care, we get sucked into… life, distraction. I picture being in a foxhole, mortars exploding all around, arguing with a group of guys whether it’s cool to put up a flag in church or not. I’ve never been in a battle, but I think they probably are more concerned about the fight. I think the reason we get so worked up about the war on Christmas is that at least it makes us feel like we are fighting a war. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s a war God wants us to fight. I think we should shut it all off regularly and be quiet before God. I think it would do us all some good. Which means I probably should fast, uggg, lol.

  • Luke

    Sadly, this article is just more hypocrisy coming of the Religious Left. Pastor Watts is right to recognize that the church and the state are in competition. But the hypocrisy comes when the church asks the government to do the job of the church. Biblically, the role of the state is to punish evil and affirm what is good. The state does not bear the sword in vain. The authority of the state to use violence is not an area of competition for the church. The church is never authorized to use violence. However, the DOC has an active lobbying arm is DC where is tells the government to care for the poor. Yet caring for the poor is an area where the church excels and the government does poorly. The adoration of the welfare state the DOC advocates makes the state God and the church merely toddling servants.

    • Drew

      Luke,

      If you haven’t already, you will notice the far left fundamentalist Christians are the same as the far right fundamentalist Christians.

    • SamHamilton

      What’s the DOC?

      • 22044

        Disciples of Christ, I believe.

        • SamHamilton

          Ah, thanks.

        • SamHamilton

          Thanks.

  • SamHamilton

    By the way, does anyone know why some of my comments have to be approved by a moderator and some are going directly to the web? Has anyone else had this happen?

    • Jonathan Starkey

      I didn’t realize there was a moderator. It’s caused me to post things twice. See above.

      • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

        Any site that has Disqus for comments has a moderator – but not all moderators take an active role. It’s entirely possible that the moderator for RLC is trusting us to self-moderate. Of course, it’s also possible that the moderator for RLC just lost their password.

    • bluecenterlight

      Yes, I had that happen to me today for the first time, weird.

  • SamHamilton

    There are a lot of good words of warning here. I haven’t experienced nationalism in the churches I’ve been a member of or even visited, but I don’t doubt this stuff is out there. As Christians, our foremost allegiance is to Jesus. That doesn’t mean we can’t have other allegiances, but they need to be prioritized appropriately. Politicians on the left and right use nationalism to gain power, but we should strive to be immune to their appeals.

    But Watts needs to be careful not assume that any action he describes above is done out of negative nationalistic impulses*. I’ve been in plenty of church sanctuaries that contain an American flag. Is that nationalistic or is it just a way of saying that our church is located in a specific place, our home, the United States of America? Our church sometimes sings America the Beautiful on Sundays near the 4th of July. Is it nationalistic to sing a hymn (if you look at the origins of the song and read the lyrics you’ll see that’s what it is) in church that asks God to bless our country? How is that any different than when, during the time of prayer, we pray for our elected leaders by name? Or is that nationalistic too? What I think it comes down is the purpose behind the acts, not the acts themselves.

    What I’m saying is, I don’t think it’s necessary to go on a crusade to purge American flags from every sanctuary and ban the singing of any hymn that mentions our country to avoid the appearance of nationalism. What we really need to do is confront the attitude expressed by specific Christians represented by the lay-leader Watts quoted in his closing paragraph.

    *I think there’s also a case to be made that nationalism can be channeled into positive, productive ends. Aaron Taylor made some good points here:

    http://sojo dot net/blogs/2011/02/15/when-nationalism-healthy

    Replace the “dot” with a period.

    • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

      I suppose I must be coming from a different place, because I read Craig as saying basically what you are saying, though admittedly the focus may be fuzzier. There is nothing wrong with having an American flag in the church. There is something wrong with giving the flag a place of honor, such as being processed in with an honor guard. There is nothing wrong with singing America the Beautiful (I didn’t see him criticize that particular hymn, but if he did then I agree with you and not him). There is something wrong with singing the Star Spangled Banner. It is no more wrong to pray for elected officials than it is to pray for any other person by name, unless the prayer somehow elevates them in a way that is inappropriate.

      • Eric

        No, I think he is saying there is something wrong with having an American flag in church or singing patriotic music. Why? Because it presents a message that is foreign to the message of the gospel. No matter how you cut it, the flag gives honor to and declares a special place for things American. How is that justifiable? It isn’t. The worship of the church should transcend America. Christian worship should welcome equally people of every nation, race, class, ethnic group, ect. Songs and symbols that give special honor to one segment of humanity to the neglect of others undermines the truth of the gospel which equally welcomes all. The insistence on including elements of American nationalism has nothing to do with a desire to glorify God and everything to do with making sure a creation of human hands (Romans 1:25) gets some recognition.

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          “The worship of the church should transcend America.” I do not disagree. However, we are living in a time of tension, being both citizens of this world and Citizens of the Kingdom. Pretending we are not the former is escapism. Pretending we are not the latter is idolatrous nationalism. Paul was a missionary to the Gentiles, but that didn’t mean pretending he wasn’t Jewish. It’s a very fine line to walk, but you have to be careful not to fall off on either side.

          • Drew

            I think you are now understanding where some of us are coming from.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            I already understood. I just didn’t, and still don’t, see in the original post the catalyst for railing against the Left.

          • Drew

            When you agree with someone or something, you tend to give them the extreme benefit of the doubt. In a way, I like that about you, that you can look at all the evidence, and close your eyes and say “what the heck, I’ll give you ever benefit of the doubt there is.” That comes in handy with forgiveness – I bet you are a very forgiving person, willing to overlook transgressions easily.

            However, I do not give Craig the benefit of the doubt, based on the articles I’ve read of his over two years. If he wanted to mention specifically where the flag was, he would of. The fact that he did not tells me that it wasn’t truly in a prominent place, at least not prominent enough where the average Christian would be offended. Maybe I am completely wrong. However, there is a possibility I am right. You can take me to task for not giving Craig the benefit of the doubt, but certainly, you see my point. After all, you agreed with Sam, and he said the same thing as me (only more generously and with more deference to Craig as to what Craig “might” have meant).

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Forgive me, but I can’t help feeling like that’s a backhanded compliment – “you’re such a forgiving person, you can ignore all of this evidence.”

            No, Craig didn’t specifically mention where the flag was (assuming you mean his quip at the end, which seemed to be less about the flag and more about the lay member’s response). However, his argument as quoted elsewhere by Sam explicitly condemns prominently placed flags, not flags in general. All of that said, I do indeed see your point, and our disagreement amounts to minor details and authorial intent, which isn’t worth a huge argument.

          • Drew

            Exactly Sno.

            It was slightly back-handed in that I think at some point we can use reading comprehensive to figure out the point of the story. It was a true compliment, mostly, because if you can be a person that drops arguments when the arguments are over minutia, you usually are peaceful, forgiving, and a uniter, all positive qualities.

          • Eric

            Escapism? Glad you mentioned Paul. You are right that he didn’t pretend he wasn’t Jewish. At the same time, he absolutely refused to allow distinctive elements of Judaism to be imposed on the corporate church. While individually he honored his heritage, but he would not allow that identity to be pushed on the church. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-27). No escapism here, just unity in Christ unimpeded by the divisions of humankind.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Who here is advocating for a church that has a national identity pushed on it? But Jewish Christians were no more asked to give up their Judaism than Gentiles were forced to take on Judaism. That meant that the early Jewish Christians were worshiping in the Temple, with all of its distinctly Jewish trappings.

          • Eric

            When a national flag is placed before a worshiping body and songs are sung that celebrate the nation in the name of God or rituals are done to assert attachment to the nation, those acts push national identity on the church. Jewish Christians are not like American Christians. Jews were given the revelation of God and called to be a distinctive people. Americans aren’t. But when Jewish Christians were pushed out of the Temple and synagogue and the mission broadened to include the Gentiles, Jews no longer were allowed to have their distinctive marks of identity imposed on the community of faith. Paul went so far as to declare that he regarded his Jewish heritage as “dung” for the sake of Christ (Phil 3:2-11). But I have already seen that a theological/biblical argument will be disregarded and not responded to with theological reasoning but with some lame quip. Seen it too often already. That’s sad.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            “But I have already seen that a theological/biblical argument will be
            disregarded and not responded to with theological reasoning but with
            some lame quip.” Perhaps if the theology was the center of your argument, instead of a side jab, you could get an actual theological debate. As it is, your entire argument hinges on misrepresenting your opposition, and then throwing in a single line of Scripture (out of context) to attempt to shut down those who oppose you. Personally, I find that sad.

            So, was that the “lame quip” you were expecting? Me pointing out how your “theological/biblical argument” is no such thing?

          • Eric

            Snom, I really didn’t have you in mind when I remarked about lame quips. Sorry. But I don’t see how anything I’ve said has misrepresented anyone. The biblical/theological arguments have been consistently bypassed by those taking the anti position. I’d actually like to hear a well argued case from the other side. Instead I get name calling by Drew and the stubborn insistence that a congregation can bring in nonChristian symbols if they want to , a total lack of a basic understanding of terms by 22044 and misrepresentations of Watts by some others. And you last post shifted from real substance to take offense when none was intended, This is my last post on the matter.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            I apologize if I misunderstood you, but in that case, I would urge more caution in your commenting – saying in response to a specific person that you expect a lame quip rather than real substance implies that you expect it from that specific person. I’ll admit to having been guilty a time or two, myself. In those instances, all I can do is apologize for not being clear and promise to try to be clearer in the future. After all, the only other alternative is to get defensive and blame other people for not understanding my unclear comments.

          • 22044

            Eric,
            When you’re fighting too many rhetorical battles with folks who know a few things that frankly, you don’t…you waste your time and embarrass yourself.
            If you want to stay stupid & myopic instead of engaging in helpful dialogue, well…that’s your choice at this point.

          • Roy

            OK. I have read many of the letters on the article. Quite a lot of them show minimal grasp of the topic. And the worst of the bunch offer the most bluster and rudeness. Among the most insightful is Eric. That is not to say I agree with all he says. But given the cluelessness of most of most of your comments ; you are in no position to call someone else stupid. Grow up 22044.

      • SamHamilton

        Snommelp,
        Perhaps I misunderstood what Watts meant when he opposed “prominently displaying the American flag” and talked about “ridding the church…of the marks of nationalism” and then went on to discuss an attempt to remove the flag from a sanctuary. I took that to mean he believes a flag should not be in the sanctuary. Personally, I wouldn’t be offended if a flag was removed or was never there in the first place. I’m just making the point that it seems a bit extreme to declare that the mere presence of a flag is nationalistic and that it should be removed. Maybe Watts didn’t mean that, but he should have been more specific about what he thinks is appropriate and what he thinks is “nationalistic.” (For what it’s worth, it sounds like Eric read it the same way I did.)

        As for “America the Beautiful,” no he didn’t mention it in particular, but he did write, “by singing the National Anthem or other songs that glorify America and foster pride in the nation…”. Perhaps he had other songs in mind that people sing in church that don’t belong. I’ve never heard the Star Spangled Banner sung in church, by the way, but perhaps it is.

        Thanks for the response.

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          All fair points – I personally took “prominently displaying the American flag” to mean giving it a place of honor, perhaps behind the altar. It’s entirely possible that my reading is incorrect. I have no issue with a flag being in the church, provided it’s not the center of attention – I can’t recollect right now if our sanctuary has an American flag in it, which means that if we do, it’s not prominently displayed. And I agree that Watts could have been more specific.

          That quote from Watts does seem to implicate America the Beautiful without directly naming it, you’re right. I suppose it would depend on context. Singing through the lyrics in my head, I’m not hitting anything that “glorif[ies] America,” but it could “foster pride in the nation” if combined with other things that emphasize pride in the nation – the climax is “God shed His grace on thee,” to which I would add that we should indeed want God’s grace for everyone.

          • SamHamilton

            Thanks, and it’s entirely possible my reading is incorrect as well. Maybe Watts is reading the comments and would like to clarify.

            I know that my church has an American flag up front off to left hand side in the corner behind where a couple priests sit when they’re not leading the liturgy. I don’t see it as nationalistic at all. But perhaps I’m taking offensive needlessly.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    I’ve processed and I come to think Christians are to be the purest form of Nationlists. God is about the nations and so should I be? I cannot however give my allegiance, because there might come a time when I cannot (Is that strange.). If you don’t love your nation the way God loves your nation how can you intercede? I’m a nationalist, maybe I’m a globalist.

    However, I’m just a stranger passing through this land. A Pilgrim in this life. An National Alien and my citizenship is to the kingdom of God. But I believe I’m here in America for a purpose. A prophetic purpose? Maybe to remind people that this Nation isn’t eternal, but then to also speak hope of a coming kingdom?

    In short hating America isn’t Christian either.

    • Jonathan Starkey

      Should American Churches have an American Flag on their stage simply for intercession?

      • 22044

        In & of itself, I don’t have a problem with that.

      • Drew

        Should we add to the teachings of Jesus and strictly enforce a ban on Churches that have an American Flag on their grounds?

        • Jonathan Starkey

          No, I don’t think we we should it would just be legalism in the opposite direction. I’m proposing having a more balanced approach. Nationalism in the wrong sense is just one of the many areas we have the opportunity to miss the mark. Historically radical adjustments as the one you’ve described above have landed the Church into uglier places.

          I believe even though we may not like our Nation it still has a role in God’s bigger plan.

          • Jonathan Starkey

            Besides I think we are told to pray for our authorities and to pray for our Nation. I don’t think God would have us to pray for something and not somehow have hope for it at the same time. That would present a crisis in my mind.

        • Jonathan Starkey

          I used to cringe anytime I saw someone wearing an American flag shirt or hat or something (especially at church), I felt like a vampire seeing a cross. Even though I thought it was wrong, I knew there was also something more wrong with much strong opposition?

          So it has caused me to reevaluate my belief?

          I need the right belief.

        • bluecenterlight

          To be fair, Jesus didn’t teach anything about the church because the church didn’t exist. He taught on how man should deal with each other and God. So discussion about how the church conducts itself is not adding to or taking away from what Christ taught. But He did have a tendency to avoid anything having to do with the state.

    • Jonathan Starkey

      The person I believe got one of the highest compliments of anyone ever was the “centurion.” Of which Jesus said of him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.”

      How is a person who is not in the house of Israel to have even greater faith than someone who is in it?

      I also want to be a person who understands this type of authority.

  • 21st C. Episcopalian

    The RIGHT’s worshipful alignment to government-MILITARY culture/goals (or cultural trends that flow from self-focused eisegetical hermeneutic) is sin. To add anything to Jesus is to take away from Jesus; syncretistic idolatry.

    The LEFT’s worshipful alignment to government-SOCIAL culture/goals (or cultural trends that flow from self-focused eisegetical hermeneutic) is wrong. To add anything to Jesus is to take away from Jesus; syncretistic idolatry.

    I agree with those who’ve already weighed in on the simplistic hypocrisy of this article. It points out something important, but stumbles into irrelevance due to it’s one-sided blindedness.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    I used to cringe anytime I saw someone wearing an American flag shirt or
    hat or something (especially at church), I felt like a vampire seeing a
    cross. Even though I thought it was wrong, I knew there was also
    something much more wrong with my strong opposition?

    So it has caused me to reevaluate my belief?
    —-
    I could actually wear a flag now. It would be more of a prophetic statement.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    What is the at heart of negative Nationalism, is it the belief we are God’s sole “Chosen” nation?

    This is what I think causes deliberating Christians to think that something is not right, and rightly so. And there are plenty of evidences.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    What is at the heart of negative Nationalism, is it the belief that we are Gods sole “Chosen” nation?

    I believe this is why many deliberating Christians have a problem. Because there are many evidences that people think this way.

    I had a strong overreaction? God how do I rightly view our Nation/Nations?

    It’s hard to support a Nation with the wrong type of Nationalism? Do you curse it though? Is it better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness?

    • SamHamilton

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I think it’s important to differentiate the ways nationalism can be used. I think it helps to think of two types of nationalism that stem from two different uses of the word “nation.” Nation can mean country, but it also can mean ethic, racial or cultural group. When nationalism is used to unify different groups into one “nation” it can have positive effects, but when it’s used to unify one ethic or racial nation against another it’s usually negative.

      Countries that are already unified along racial, ethnic or cultural grounds should only use nationalism in small doses. Trying to completely squelch nationalism has downsides too (the stories from the UK where people are told not to fly the Union Jack because it’s “offensive” to recent immigrants come to mind). Nationalism is part of what holds a country together and gives people a sense of belonging to a greater community. It can be used for positive and negative purposes.

      • Jonathan Starkey

        I’m for some reason reminded of the squenching of culture. We have adopted internationally, and have learned that being “color blind” of culture is actually a negative thing. But I think a part of loving someone elses culture/nation I have to somehow figure out how to love my own. I can’t love and recognize your Nation/culture if I can’t love and recognize my own. As Tony Compolo in “Connecting Like Jesus” says Love yourself, and then love your neighbor.

        How can I take ownership, it’s only through hope and purpose. I believe America was built for a purpose. And rather than tearing it down I’m going to build it up.

        • Jonathan Starkey

          We are not a “color blind nation” we are a “multi cultural family” nation I see you. There are some good things going on here.

  • yelimir

    Wow! Finally a little of enlightenment from US that we, people outside US, can understand and appreciate.
    Thanks for sharing with us. Greetings from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    • Drew

      Don’t base your opinion of America on one man that feeds your preconceived notions about America.

      • DrewTwo

        Trust me. The unfortunate marriage of American nationalism and Christianity is clearly seen by many outside the U.S. and this perception is certainly not based on the opinion of one man. Greetings from Canada. (…and we’re not entirely immune from that distortion here.)

        • Drew

          I never said that it doesn’t exist. What I said is that it seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy to predict that American Christians are nationalist, see an article that says American Christians are nationalist, and then say “thank you for proving what I already thought.” Greetings from America, from someone that loves their country, but does not worship their country, because we need not correlate the two in every instance.

          • DrewTwo

            Never said you said that. (Say that three times fast. Heh heh.) I’m just saying that it may have been a bit of a leap to suggest that Yelimir was basing his perspective of American Christianity on one opinion simply because he found this article to be a breath of fresh air. I’m sure there are loads of Christians in the U.S., like you, who are grateful to live in America yet don’t confuse their patriotism with their faith. However, I think you’re only likely to find those Christians when you actively look for them, online for example. I’ll wager that the most visible (and loudest) examples of American Christians that the rest of the world (as well as non believing Americans) sees are those whose faith and patriotism are dangerously intertwined. Whether or not they typify the average American Christian, I don’t know.

          • Drew

            I do not agree with your anecdotal claim.

          • DrewTwo

            Well, I haven’t had time to survey the planet. Impressions gathered from the boob tube. As I said, this sample may not be representative.

          • Drew

            Well, on one hand there is a reason why this website exists. There are many folks across liberal Christian denominations that dislike conservative Christians in the U.S. (If you stay here long enough you will see that most articles do not promote Red Letter Christianity but instead are negative articles about conservative Christians.) Some have good reasons and good arguments and it is an accurate portrayal; some folks have bad reasons and bad arguments and it is an inaccurate portrayal.

            In this instance, what you are seeing is that the extremist, Pharisaical liberal Christians want to add a rule to the Gospel – no flag in a Church or on Church grounds. Some Pharisaical conservative Christians add a rule to the Gospel as well – the American flag “has to be in a Church or on Church grounds.” However, the vast majority of Christians believe there is freedom, that a Church does not have to “ban” flags or make flags “mandatory.”

            By the way, if you’re learning about America from news, you are inherently only going to hear the worst stories. The only stories I’ve seen on Norway are about oil deposits and the mass-shooting that took place. I take it with a grain of salt – the media is in the business to get viewers, and frankly, good things happening in the world does not get a lot of viewers.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    We taught to good verses at Children’s Church last night. Sometimes you need a good Sunday School lesson.

    From the massage… I mean message.

    Col. 4:5 – 5-6 Use your heads as you live and work among outsiders. Don’t miss a trick. Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. (Be wise when you talk with others about Jesus.)

    And.

    Jer. 29:7 – 7 “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
    “Pray for Babylon’s (America’s) well-being. If things go well for Babylon (America), things will go well for you.”

    • Ben

      Praying for Babylon/the Emperor is a far cry from celebrating them in worship alongside God. The problem with nationalism in worship is that it sanctifies a value that doesn’t deserve to be sanctified. We need to love America as we love the world. We should not be elevating America. We don’t gather in worship to let our Americanism show, squeezing in some praise for “us” as we praise God. Any pagan can do that. We gather to submit ourselves to the One who gives us new life, a new identity and a new hope that doesn’t depend upon human hands.

      • Drew

        Have you ever prayed for one nation, one person, or one leader before, in essence excluding other nations, other people, or other leaders? If so, are you “elevating” that one nation, one person, one leader improperly, or is it proper to pray for one nation, one person, or one leader? I’d be interested to see where you draw the line.

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          Disqus showed this comment coming from Eric. Seemed incredibly out of character. Now that I see the true author (I think… this is Drew, yes?), it seems much more fitting.

          And now that I’ve written that entirely off-topic comment, let me add… actually, let me add nothing. Because I’m also interested in seeing where Ben draws the line, and I don’t want to accidentally influence his response before he has the chance to write. Guess I’ll just let this pad my comment count for no good reason :-P

        • Ben

          In answer to your question, no, not so much. I pray for leaders of the US and leaders of other nations in the same breath.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Do you pray for all world leaders, or only specific world leaders? And if it’s “all world leaders,” how do you word it?

          • Jonathan Starkey

            Pray for rulers plural, but have a special prayer for your homeland?

          • Drew

            Ben disagrees with that 100%, Jonathan. Furthermore, Jesus prayed for individuals and healed individuals. Why did Jesus not pray for everyone and heal everyone only? Is Jesus a nationalist hate-monger because he never left the Middle East? Or did Jesus never have a rule about praying for, visiting, or helping/healing specific countries (not because we should play favoritism, but because authentic relationship is important and it is impossible to do everything).

          • Drew

            On one hand, it is good that you are consistent. If you believe it is better to pray for groups than individuals and to pray for general needs rather than specific needs, than I think you have some freedom to do that.

            However, there is no hard Biblical basis for what you are doing. Jesus prayed for himself and for specific people. He also prayed for groups of people and to honor God. I think our prayer can be diverse and need not to have extra rules and limitations on it.

      • Jonathan Starkey

        Can you speak to America with elevating/prophetic/warfare language. As Paul says I know longer recognize anyone according to the flesh. Is it also possible to not look at America according to the flesh. So rather than tearing it down, by constantly looking at it’s faults you begin to build it up with language. Saying to America don’t you know you were called for great things, despite your past you can start today. Or don’t you know you’re a shining city on a hill. Are these bad things. Can you say to Nation you’re better than this and be proud of it?

        Or do we only look at the Nation through eyes of the flesh?

      • Jonathan Starkey

        I think my comments. Are in reaction to trying to find a middle ground. Because, I get disturbed when they recognize vets at our churches, and like I posted earlier my own strong reactions about seeing American flags and things in Churches.

        I know Nationalism, Militarism, xenophobia, Racism, Sexism are real things and take place in our mainstream Churches.

        I deal with this stuff everyday in the midwest.

        One of our parent Churches has a Marine sign up table right it in it’s lobby on Sundays.

        So I apologize if I’m being Devils Advocate.

        I’m just trying to not have a hard heart in response.

  • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

    Saw that it was a political post with over 60 comments, and came in fully expecting to see the wall filled with posts from a familiar face who regularly represents nationalist idolatry here. He is nowhere to be found, and instead I see other familiar faces who normally shout down his idolatry, now complaining that the Craig is wrong for shouting down nationalistic idolatry. I am terribly confused.

    Yes, you all are right to point out that we need to be wary of nationalism from the Left as well as the Right. Is Craig at fault for not being impartial enough in his warnings? Maybe. Maybe not. I see Liberal nationalism far less often in the Church than I see Conservative nationalism. Perhaps if I saw the former more often, I would agree that Craig should be criticized for his oversight. Instead, the arguments appear comparable to preaching a sermon on chastity in a monastery – accurate, but probably not necessary.

    • Jonathan Starkey

      Likewise to your comment then – accurate, but probably not necessary.

      • Jonathan Starkey

        Or as they say in AA, “Spot-it-you-got-it.”

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          …I don’t know what that means. Translate?

          • Jonathan

            It means you only see clearly in others what is true about yourself. How else would you be able to recognize what others do so well, it’s because you do it yourself.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            I see. In that case, I have to disagree – it doesn’t even seem to be true of alcoholism. I daresay the families of alcoholics can see the alcoholism without being addicted themselves.

          • Jonathan Starkey

            You are offtrack over semantics and reading beyond what I have just written. And you’re accusing everyone on here of doing the same.

            That’s the point.

            The spiritual principle behind “spot-it-you-got-it.” Is the irony of being judgmental. Or making observations about others failures, that you yourself are prone to commit.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            You’re going to have to show me how I’m “reading beyond what [you] have just written.” I fail to see it, and everything else you are saying hinges on that point.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            You’re going to have to show me how I’m “reading beyond what [you] have just written.” I fail to see it, and everything else you are saying hinges on that point.

      • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

        Perhaps – although I think there’s at least an argument to be made for the necessity of getting people back on track, rather than arguing against phantoms.

  • E. Lee MacFall

    There is never an indication in scripture that the mystical, incorporeal entity known as the State has any proper place of honor in the heart of a Christian. But there are plenty of prohibitions against honoring it: everywhere that the worship of a false god is condemned. Jesus Christ is the anti-Caesar, and the same spirit of Antichrist that worked through the wickedest Caesars now works through the modern state. The State, then, is a false god. Schoolchildren pray to it every morning. People call upon it to make them prosperous and secure, and to make their neighbors more moral. And I refuse to partake in any act of obeisance to it, its agents, or its emblems.

    So, whenever the Pledge is spoken I say the Lord’s Prayer, and I do not salute the flag, ever. Much less in church. And like the author, I would walk out of a church where the prayer to the flag was spoken. I applaud Mr. Watts for his stance against the idolatry of Nationalism. It’s not an easy stance to take. From the left, a Christian must deal with attacks in the name of political correctness, but attacks come from the right with no less intensity in the form of “patriotic correctness”. I fear that most Christians will have to see the State that they choose to honor collapse and go the way of other empires before they will stop giving it a portion of the honor that is due to Christ alone.

  • Eusebius

    I disagree . Church is to worship god . Government should be left at the door

  • Tammie

    We need to seek Jesus everyday and then we will know the Truth He said seek me with all your heart and you will find me .He said to the church at Ephesus I have somewhat against you .because you have left your first Love Remember thereforefrom whence thou art fallen and Repent and do the first works ; or else I will come to thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick (churches) out of his place ,except thou Repent. Revelation 2:4-5

  • Joel Solliday

    I see that you don’t think you can make
    your argument without first misrepresenting what you are judging. The American
    nation-state does NOT call for an allegiance that supersedes all other
    loyalties. America has never considered herself as
    a “jealous God.” I am 59-years-old and I have NEVER seen any evidence or heard
    any claim that Christianity is just “a subcategory of being American.” Gratitude,
    even for earthly blessings like America, is compatible with an undying Christian
    faith that puts God first and foremost above all else.

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