When the Idol of Patriotism Meets the Idol of Race

I’ve been encouraged this week by the number of white, Conservative Christians who are willing to speak against the Idolatry of Patriotism that has been growing since Trump’s election.

People who usually prefer not to be confrontational are trying their hand at judging their friends, and pointing out issues for fellow white Conservatives that need addressed. That’s a good thing!

Earlier this week, I saw a post being shared among some old college friends which said:

“One day, everyone will bend the knee–and no one will be singing the National Anthem.”

This has the potential to sting certain people, if their priorities have fallen out of order.  If any Americans have placed their identities as “Patriots” above their status as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, this quote might trigger them…

I’ve certainly met some politically-active Conservatives who would argue about that quote–even though it’s pretty obvious we won’t be singing the The Star Spangled Banner in Heaven. And I’m sure you’ve met them, too.

But I was pleasantly surprised by how many people gladly accepted the light criticism and didn’t take offense.  There were plenty of “likes” and “shares” and “amens,” even though I think the author of the quote probably expected some would react defensively.  (I certainly expected that, too.)

A little later, a blog post was brought to my attention: a letter to the Conservative, White Christian.

It’s a very kind and carefully-worded plea with the White, Christian Church not to bow to the Idol of Patriotism, and it’s worth a read:

“I am afraid that we are equating our hope in Christ with our hope in America. Can I be blunt? Our hope is not in America. True freedom is not ours because we are American. It is ours because of Christ. Now, don’t hear me wrong. I am incredibly grateful for those who have given their lives for this freedom. Yes, I am grateful beyond measure to God that I have been born in America, but I’m afraid we have become idolaters of this great country.”

Idolatry needs to be called out wherever it rears its ugly head, because it’s the most serious sin of all…and it has a way of spreading through sub-cultures like a virus.

This is why, once again, I was happy to see Christians generally responding favorably to the warning, rather than choosing anger and tightening their grip on the deadly idol.

All of this encourages me! When members of the Body feel at liberty to speak freely with each other, even about hard topics, I believe the Holy Spirit can do great things.


 

But what makes the “Idol of Patriotism” so alluring in today’s culture?

Why have certain Christians turned to this false god in recent years?

I believe those particular white Christians have responded wrongly and in fear of the “Idol of Race” that was exposed with President Obama’s election. 

Long before Trump took the office (with 58% of the white vote)–President Obama earned 95% of the black vote with his first victory.

That’s nintey-five percent.

When he was up for re-election in 2012 (in which he eventually received 93% of the black vote), black Conservative Alan Keyes had some thoughts about the Idol of Racial-Pride in his article “Black America: Reaping the Harvest of Racial Idolatry.

“Obama’s 2008 victory depended on virtually unanimous support from many black Americans. Among them were professing Christians, who put aside every consideration of faith and conscience to support someone dedicated to socialism, rooted in the God-erasing ideology of scientific materialism. This dedication led him to take stands on moral issues (like abortion and the law-enforced acceptance of homosexuality) that outrage and directly assault the tenets of the biblical faith these black Christians otherwise profess.

But for Obama’s sake, they put the idol of false racial pride above their respect for God and His word.”

Ouch and amen? Like the Conservative Christians have responded widely while their idol is challenged?

Or “Ouch, but you just don’t understand why I NEED this idol…”?  As I expected the Conservative Christians would react?

In another article, Bishops are Putting Race Above Values of God, Keyes wrote:

“Barack Obama is a dark-skinned man. But how can it be anything but the worst kind of racism to suggest that his skin color has greater significance for good than his dedication to [abortion] has for evil? Whatever significance we attach to the characteristics of the flesh, don’t the teachings of Christ…clearly ascribe essential significance to the characteristics of spiritual life…? Are we now to believe that God is a respecter of skin color?

[Christians] should know that their vocation calls them… to preach to Obama and all his errant followers the way to Christ…rather than to seek, on account of the idolatry of race, “things that unite” them to Obama, though he wars unceasingly against God’s will.”

In other words, Christians have been making idols out of political figures for at least a decade.  But, let’s be honest, it’s probably more like “forever.”  This is a human problem, not strictly a white one, which crops up when communities feel threatened by each other, and they start yearning for safety in political power rather than in Christ.

Many white Conservatives feel there is a double-standard when very little was said eight years ago about black Christians who were struggling with the Idol of Racial Pride.

-Maybe they just weren’t listening.

-Maybe there were more Open Letters to the Black Christians (besides the one written by Alan Keyes), and white Christians just missed seeing them.

-And, yes, regardless of whether a double-standard exists, it’s wrong to respond in fear by crowning an Idol of their own.

But that’s WHY these idols have such power and room to grow in today’s culture.


 

If we care about our white brothers and sisters enough to warn them about their idolatry (and we should), then we must also address the ways the Black Community has been guilty of the Idolatry of Race, which replaces Hope-and-Change in Christ with identity politics.

Both idols damage Church unity.

And it’s not okay when any Christian puts something in God’s place.

We must take a step back in compassion and empathy and think about the reason our Patriotic brothers and sisters believe “God’s Nation” is in jeopardy, and we must be bold enough to tell them when their fears are misguided…

…be bold enough to say, “You’ve let half-truths push you into the arms of an Idol.”

I’ve been encouraged to see that happening this week.

My question is, will we only call out the idols of the Christians who fit the stereotypes or physical category we put ourselves in? (Only speaking to other white, Christian, females, for example?)

Or will we be ready to address both the idols of Patriotism and of Race, when necessary for the sake of the Kingdom?

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3 thoughts on “When the Idol of Patriotism Meets the Idol of Race

  1. Wally Fry

    Thought provoking and thoughtful. This struck me

    If any Americans have placed their identities as “Patriots” above their status as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven blockquote>

    I am a veteran of one of our several conflicts and do love my country. Absolutely I do. I also live in the South where Patriotism and faith are seemingly inexorably linked. Upon which I call hogwash. Even though I would do it again if asked, and do believe God calls me to be a good citizen….my citizenship is NOT of this world as the Bible teaches. Sometimes my views regarding Patriotism and faith make my brethren look at me funny, and treat me like the crazy uncle. In the end, there IS not linkage between my Patriotism and my faith. I can have one without the other and vice versa, and neither is measured by the other.

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    1. mrsmcmommy Post author

      I have a friend who is American but spent a majority of her childhood in Japan. (Missionary kid.) She and her husband returned there a few years ago and had a couple kids off their own, and the just moved to Texas last year… It’s the first time her boys have lived in the States.
      Any way, it’s interesting to hear her perspective on culture shock. Moving to THE SOUTH especially, she has said she is uncomfortable with what appears to be flag worship from some people. (She said the Japanese national anthem is literally a praise song to the emperor, so Christians there have been less “patriotic” for years.) And displaying the flag just is NOT as common in Japan.
      All of that to say, I am convinced the Constitution and original vision of the United States is the best in the World. I’m happy that the flag stands for opportunities that are unparalleled, and that people who genuinely want to better their lives CAN, thanks to the American system that was built in godly principles. But I’m not too proud to admit if/when our application of that system goes astray.

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