The Bill of Rights found in the Constitution of the United States starts off with the protection of the right to free expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. That freedom of religion includes the right to not participate in particular forms of religion, even the religion of America where the liturgy is cloaked in patriotism but is a religious faith nevertheless.There is absolutely nothing inconsistent with a Christian living in America who chooses not to participate in the national religion of America. In fact, I find myself far more in sympathy with the historical Anabaptist position than I do the cultural faith of the American church that seamlessly blends patriotism and Christianity, militarism and grace, a flag and a cross.To Mennonites, a living faith in Jesus means faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and it looks like a cross.
It’s a strange tribe to which I belong, and sometimes it’s hard to be strange. We struggle to be inclusive in our welcome yet passionate in our identity. Our desire for acceptance, for approval, is strong, and we don’t always live up to the convictions that we set before us.
We must repent of that, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a people who show a holistic way of life. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid.
The world cannot know the unsurpassable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it - in the fetus, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the soldier, and in the enemy.
These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for the church and a passionate desire for the church to be the church.
I am growing increasingly interested in seeing the church outside of the lens of American-style Christianity and as I do I fear that we are exporting to the world the American religion, not the Way. In seeking to replicate the rapidly collapsing American church culture to the world we are in a way dooming them to repeat the failure of American Christianity and invariably its decline and collapse. More on that later after my headache hopefully fades.