Don’t Confuse America with God’s Kingdom

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by Shane Claiborne

You’d think it was a Saturday Night Live skit or a fake headline from The Onion. But it was real. A televangelist really did kick off a rally for Donald Trump in New York by saying that black people don’t exist.

This is exactly what Mark Burns said at the Rochester rally last week:

The fact of the matter is there are no black people. There are no white people. There are no Hispanic people. There are no Asian people. There’s only one color that matters—and that is the color of red, white and blue.

He went on to denounce the current administration for being divisive and trying to convince people that the color of their skin is more important than being “red, white and blue.”

And then the pastor led the crowd in chanting “USA.”

God wants unity, but not uniformity

Monoculture is what we had when we built the Tower of Babel, impressed by ourselves in all our human pride. But God toppled the idolatrous tower and scattered humanity into all sorts of tribes and languages. God seems to be a big fan of diversity.

Monoculture is what empires do. Conformity. Uniformity. Sameness. Empires make coins and people all look alike. But diversity is what God does. God is an artist and painted the world in full color—each person with a unique DNA, fingerprint and smile. God loves unity—but unity is different than uniformity. It exists in contrast. It is about harmony not homogeneity. The whole Bible ends with every tribe and tongue and nation singing the praises of Jesus—not the national anthem.

The Bible never says, “God so loved America.” It says, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16).

The temptation for Christians in an election year is to misplace our hope in a person or a party rather than the person of Christ. As my friend Tony Campolo likes to say, “Mixing Christianity up with a political party is like trying to mix ice-cream with horse manure. It doesn’t do much damage to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice-cream.”

Christianity becomes toxic when we lose track of Jesus.

The sin of election years
In his 12-minute address, Burns only refers to God once, and that is sarcastically to ask God to help the liberal media.

When pastors become pundits, we have a problem. It’s not just a Trump problem—it is an election-year problem.

We too often to see pastors talking more about their favorite candidate than their savior. We begin to hear crowds chanting “Trump” or “Hillary” instead of “Hosanna.” We start to sing the praises of other names than the name above all names.

Christians need to pause
I want to invite those of us who claim to be Christians to pause. And to set our minds on Jesus.

When we lose our focus on Christ, we begin to talk a lot about stuff Jesus didn’t say much about, and we don’t talk much about the things about which Jesus had a whole lot to say.

Shane Claiborne is a Red Letter Christian and a founding partner of The Simple Way community, a radical faith community in Philadelphia. His latest book is Executing Grace.

Don’t Confuse America with God’s Kingdom” originally appeared at relevantmagazine.com. Used with permission.

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2 Responses

  1. Beverly says:

    I would also say there is no USA, RATHER THE WORLD!

  2. Kimbrough Leslie says:

    Fundamentalists, some Evangelicals, and the “Christian” Right, at least since the days of Billy James Hargis’ “Christian Anti-Communist Crusade” has long confused American patriotism and violence, e.g “God, Guts, and Guns.” Southern churches used “faith” to cover educational segregation for years after the Civil Rights movement. And millennialists use Darbyist eisegesis of the Bible to sanctify Israeli violence against nearly invisible (to them) Palestinian Christians. What is sometimes more subtle is American Protestantism’s and American leader’s civil religion that sanctions American (vs. no, or international) flags in worship settings; military chaplains; hymns, songs, and celebrations that don’t just honor veterans or remember the dead, but glorify the military and U.S. empire at the expense of people, including Christians, around the world. Involvement in politics, given that Christianity is inherently political, is appropriate as long as it cuts in every direction, continually taking a prophetic stance for justice and peace and, without violence in rhetoric or kind, for or against the policies of any candidate or elected official. Citizenship in the Reign of God comes before all else. There is a reason that Christians who proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord,” were persecuted by a state that demanded citizens recognize Caesar as Lord.

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