Singular allegiance

It is inappropriate, in a Christian assembly, to sing the praises of military sacrifice and of American freedoms.  It is inappropriate on Veterans Day and on every other day of the year.

Among the reasons for gathering as Christian believers is to remember and honor the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.  His ultimate sacrifice is the one that merits attention.  No one else’s matters, in comparison.  Today, though, the precious communion of the saints, in at least one place, was severed by thoughtless, even blasphemous comparison to the Lord Jesus’ atoning death.

Many things have upset me during Christian assemblies in my years on this planet.  Most Sundays in my adult life, in fact, something said or done has run contrary to what I find supported by scripture and/or logic.  In other words, many matters have displeased or upset me, but I can’t recall any that have aroused my ire like this one today.  I guess it caught me off guard, but there was no way I could stay in this assembly in which we were a) exhorted to honor the sacrifice of our veterans and b) treated to a prayer that thanks God for the same.  This thinking has no verbalized place in church gatherings at all — and certainly not in prayer to the Almighty God who is above every political entity.

I am indignant at the lack of discernment.  So many souls move blithely through American life, with their thinking all askew, assuming that

Christian = Republican = Militarily Involved/Supportive

No.  Not at all.

While I would typically sleep on a topic that fires me up, not so today.  Long after the emotion has subsided, the scruples, which are well founded, will remain.  (Read about the core of the good news in 1Cor 15.  Read about the death of Jesus toward the end of Mark 9 and 10 and tell me a military death, no matter how sacrificial or gruesome or untimely, has anything to do with the death of the Lord.  Read about identifying with Jesus’ death in Romans 6.  And read 2 Tim 2:4 and tell me what the “army” is — for the soldier of whom Paul writes, metaphorically.)

Different opinions on matters such as this may coexist.  Coexistence must not lead to the public preaching of one side “in church,” however.  It does not maintain the Spirit’s unity to force one set of unsupported opinions on the entire congregation.  Wisdom ought to realize that obvious displays of American patriotism are not only inappropriate, but they have the potential to be divisive.  To call attention, during a Christian Assembly, to the giving of life for a political or military cause is as heartbreaking as it is shocking.

Universal church, you should strike Veterans Day and Memorial Day from the internal church calendars.  (Until the day of fruition, though, I will need to watch the calendar more closely for my family, so we can avoid pretty much all U.S. churches on these days.)

The rest of the country may fly its flags and honor veterans, and that is to be expected.  It doesn’t bother me in the slightest for a private American citizen to have a flag flying or a yellow ribbon tied, or for an American Walmart to have a veterans’ organization doing a fundraiser out in front.  But not the church — not the group that is called out of this world.  Oh, and lest we forget, not all of the world is American.

As Christians who are also American citizens secondarily, we must pledge allegiance only to the Lamb.

An individual I once worked with briefly, and whom I have grown to respect, once said this:

I grew weary long ago of those who love usurping God-time with praise for their country and the illusion of this world’s freedoms. I think they insult both God and country: God by taking away from His worship and country because they don’t want the inconvenience of having to schedule separate time to honor their country. “Isn’t it so much simpler since we’re all here together anyway to just go ahead and celebrate our nation?”

People who are so fond of praising and serving “God and country” do not comprehend that our God is a jealous God.  – Harold Arnett

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3 thoughts on “Singular allegiance

  1. Tom 11/20/2012 / 9:59 am

    Good morning Brian,
    Thanks for the thought and effort that
    you put into your blog. I was hoping you were
    one of the leaders of the Alumni chapel at Harding’s homecoming this year with the
    Richeys. But even without you, Bob and the others did a great job. That’s expected!

    Is there ever a place for patriotic songs to be
    sung during worship? Over the span of my
    song leading career I’ve led “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies”
    only once that I remember and I wasn’t
    comfortable doing that in worship.

    I need to rethink this issue because I
    recently recommended to our songleaders that we recognize holidays like Independence Day. Well I’ve rethought, and I agree that because of their divisive nature and disregard for Christ, these songs would only be a distraction in our worship. This blog topic was timely for me.
    Thank you.
    Tom

    Like

    • Brian Casey 11/21/2012 / 1:51 pm

      Dear Tom, what good memories I have of you and singing in proximity to one another. You were always a row behind me in Chorus, I’m pretty sure, and had such a resonant voice. Did you have a music minor? I remember your singing in recitals, but maybe you just took elective voice lessons. Anyway, I’m so glad to hear from you, and not at all surprised to know that a guy like you has continuing, serious thoughts about singing, worship, and the church assembly!

      My answer (and it’s only mine) to your first question would be that songs that include patriotic elements might well be included, and the two songs you name are ones I might actually lead at some points. They don’t seem to have singular patriotic focal points, and therefore can be seen as drawing attention to a few of *God’s* blessings (as opposed to rallying around national pride or political causes). One could also make a case for the inclusion of anything that would be OK in one of our private homes, since, after all, the church house is just a house. 🙂 But, since some of us don’t support the flag-waving, my-country-right-or-wrong kind of patriotism, such can be divisive when injected into any Christian gathering, no matter whether it’s a place with a sign outside or not.

      Recognizing Independence Day in the assembly initially troubles me, but only 10% as much if it takes the slant offered by one of our current friends here — she recalled that her church “back home” would be found saying something with this import (in a heavily military church, by the way): This is a great day for our nation — Independence Day, in which we celebrate national freedom. *But never forget that the freedom we have in Christ is the lasting type, the type that matters for all eternity. *(And thus the emphasis is changed appropriately, in my book; the external goings-on become a jumping-off point for something that matters to everyone.) Hope this thinking helps in some way!

      Sorry I couldn’t be there at Homecoming. There was actually a concerted effort to get more extended family members there this year, since my grandparents’ old house site is now part of a new housing area known as Legacy Park, and one of the buildings is the “Ritchie House.” My musical life now consists almost entirely in instrumental music — and I had major Symphonic Winds concert to conduct that same evening. Recently, my Uncle Andy led singing in one of the regular chapel times, as Pres. Burks spoke about Legacy Park and all its honorees. I’m sure the alumni chapel was rewarding, too.

      Like

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