A former pastor of mine shared the following controversial quotes from William H. Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas in “Lord, Teach us: The Lord’s Prayer & Christian Life”
“To invoke the name of the free, mighty God as patron of our causes is to take the name of God in vain. So when a president prays a public prayer, calling on God to bless our troops going to war, that is blasphemy. God’s name is not to used as a rubber stamp for our causes. Luther said, whatever you would offer your daughter for, that is your God. We justify the sacrifice of our children based on our support for American democracy and freedom, but it may be a matter of worship and prayer.”
“Our culture has a way of driving out of the discussion those who do not bow at the culture’s altars.”
These are strong words… and I am not sure I completely agree. For example, asking God to bless the troops, really does not sound like blasphemy to me. God does not appear to completely reject war, at least in response to greater evils (admitting that there are relatively few evils greater than war… God may not a “hawk” but not a complete “dove” either). And even if God was completely against wars… I can hardly see why it would be wrong to (humbly) ask God to side with individuals forced to put their lives at risk by people of power. I was in the military and, in fact, served in a war (although I neither had to fire on the enemy nor receive fire). I would like to think that people can feel free to pray for my well-being without incurring God’s wrath for “blasphemy.”
Still, the tendency to gleefully mix religion and war, and God and country is a concern for me. The German military put “Gott mit uns” (God with us) on their armor from the formation of the German empire until the end of World War II. Russians did similarly with “Съ нами Богъ!” They are, of course, not alone.
I am an American citizen, since I was born in the USA. I presently live in the Philippines, but I am not a citizen of the Philippines since to do so would require me to renounce my US citizenship. I don’t see myself ever doing that. My wife and children are blessed with the option of dual citizenship… being citizens of two nations.
However, I do have two higher citizenships… giving me three and the rest of my family four. One of those is to HUMANITY. That means that I identify my place as a human as being higher than my place as an American. As a missionary, that is especially important. I have to care about people I serve in the mission field more than I care about people of my own nationality or ethnicity (or maybe I should say that I care about all peoples and people equally). The other is to God (or God’s Kingdom). As a Christian I must serve God first, man second. This is, of course, touchy.
Some people seem to disobey a surprising number of diverse laws on the pretext that it violates God’s higher law. Years ago, a “Christian” School of Law, lied about its tenure policy on the (highly doubtful) argument that God opposes tenure. I doubt God feels that much one way or another about tenure. I have known people who don’t pay taxes because tax money gets used for ungodly things. Of course there probably has never been a millisecond of time anywhere on earth where civil taxes only got used for godly things. Since God’s Word does not condemn paying taxes, one must assume that individuals today are applying sophistry rather than godly discernment to the issue. Still, there are times where God’s commands are in clear unambiguous conflict with human law and one must decide which law is higher in one’s life.
But, changing the subject, and returning to the quotes above, I am reminded of a skit in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. (I can’t seem to find it right now. Do I have the right show?) But there were two medieval kings facing each other in split screen. Each is praying to God as a representative of the righteous against the evil enemy. Obviously, there is a problem here. Both think they are right, the other wrong, and that God should be siding with “The Us” against “The Them”. The screen then splits along the other axis and we see an anthropomorphized God looking down at both and uncertain what to do. Then God flips a coin and based on that coin flip, God decides to favor one king over the other. Obviously, the skit is meant to be funny and somewhat irreverent. But more than this, it draws into question the idea of God.
For me, however, it draws into question a logic that actually goes back thousands of years. In our polytheistic past, gods were tied to countries. When a nation/people conquered another group, it was felt that their god conquered the other’s god.
With monotheism came a different view. There is only one God. Countries then seek to link God to their own nation. “God is on our side so others are on the side of evil.” One might note that this more modern view is simply a monotheistic version of the same logic.
But that is actually minor. The obvious flaw is that it reverses things. It asks whether God is on our side rather than whether we are on God’s side. (See Joshua 5 for this).
God is not a member of any one nation. God is not even a “dual” citizen. God is also not a member of a particular denomination or religion… nor is He ecumenical or interfaith. We have it reversed. As missionaries, we like to think that God is on our side. But we also have it reversed.
Are we on God’s side?