Monday, July 04, 2005

land of the free?

I guess I'm not very patriotic. Maybe I should be, I don't know. I mean, I greatly admire those who have fought for our country - my own father did. There is a man in our church who was captured in France during WWII and barely escaped with his life - I honor him for his service. In no way would I ever want to downplay the sacrifice that so many have made so that our country might be free. That's really not even the issue here.

There is a part of me really adores America. It offers me comforts far too many to name. And I even get that warm fuzzy feeling every now and again when I hear someone sing that countrified Lee Greenwood song that everyone feels compelled to stand up for and salute. I voluntarily gave money to the FDNY after 9/11. I like fireworks, BBQ, Wal-Mart and even apple pie. Most would consider me to be a good American and upstanding citizen. Yet, there are often feelings about my country that lurk inside, that I would rarely express. Mainly, because if nothing else is understood where I'm from, the fact that being a Christian means loving America and voting Republican, certainly is.

So here begins my confession. Go ahead, I'm prepared - call me a rebel, anti-American, traitor - whatever - but I don't always like saluting the flag. I usually do it, but I usually don't mean it. Maybe it's just trivial or arguing semantics, but I have a problem pledging my allegiance to a nation, and an even bigger problem having to do it in church. I am committed to America, I guess - but I'm also committed to brushing my teeth and keeping my house clean. I struggle because I sit here, enjoying all that America has to offer, while criticizing it pretty harshly.

I certainly believe that God has blessed America and I thank Him for that - but I don't think that as a country we're chosen or any more special to Him than, say, Syria or Somalia. America has become very arrogant, and me right along with her. Its Christianity is stale and lifeless, and often considered nothing more than a segment of the political right. Our churches may be massive, but they're weak. America offers freedom, but there seems to be a paradox, because so few are really free. We're able to worship openly, but we rarely even do so privately. Yet, in places where people are dying - that is where the Gospel is thriving. China puts more believers in prison than any other country, yet the Church grows. Around 3000 Chinese come to Christ each day. The house church movement, which accounts for a large portion of China's Christians, has endured unbelievable persecution, yet the Gospel is still preached - no matter the cost. In Sudan, the Muslim government has declared jihad against the areas populated by Christians. Omar Hassan al-Turabi, one of Sudan's Islamic leaders, has stated that anyone who opposes Islam “has no future." Fathers are killed. Mothers are raped. Children are sold into slavery. But the Body grows.

Whether I like it or not, I live in America. Obviously, I'm no flag-waving nationalist, but I realize that God, in His sovereignty, placed me here for a specific purpose. Do I want to live in a country that is bombarded with persecution? I don't know. But I know I want more. I want real freedom - and it seems the only place freedom is authentically experienced is where it is restricted. Go figure.
posted by Christie