Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Nationalism, The Church, and The Bible

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nationalism, The Church, and The Bible


Any regular reader of The Beast's Lair knows that I have some problems with Patriotic worship services performed in the church. For at least one day of the year in early July, we allow ourselves to innocently forget the teaching of Scripture and do a strange blend of worshipping God and the United States.

Christians should thank God for the United States, do not misunderstand. We should ask for His blessing. We should be proud of our service men and women and respect and honor them for their service to our country. We should all be patriotic.

But the church just isn't about that. I mentioned to our staff almost a year ago, who are also sensitive to this issue, that I would like to see a 4th of July service where every flag from every nation is represented. Boy, that would confuse people.

I have just recently noticed something fairly new to the lineup of Bibles offered by Lifeway Christian Resources. Lifeway gets quite a bit of criticism on all kinds of issues from all kinds of people, but they have really stepped up their game in the student ministry literature the last few years, offering meaty literature options that are doctrinal and not just topical. However, they have mis-stepped on this release. . .

Lifeway is now offering the "Military Bible Series" where the logo from the various branches of the military is stamped on the front of the Bible. Now, I have always been somewhat annoyed with the zillion different "kinds" of Bible's out there. We have "womens", "graduates", "firefighters", "police officers", "teenagers", "divorce", and the list goes on and on. Now, there are military Bibles, for the Marines, Army, etc. I have always just kind of ignored these specialized Bibles and don't have a problem with people who own them. But, here is where the "Military Bible" has gone too far:

Mixed in with Scripture are quotes from General George Patton, President George Washington, and President George W. Bush. Also included in the bible are "America the Beautiful" and "The Star-Spangled Banner", not to mention the "Enlisted Oath." I am really just at a loss on what Lifeway is thinking here. I understand the well-meaning nature of this kind of Bible and I understand its potential appeal to many, I have a teenager who is right now at Parris Island, training to be a Marine. I am proud of him. Heck, he might even have one of these Bibles. But regardless of the well-meaning nature or the fact that a Bible like this might strike a heart-cord with a soldier, we are grossly over the line of blending Nationalism with Christianity. Believe it or not my friends, God has not forsaken all other nations in order to bless America.

Some things just need to remain simple. Scripture stands on its own. We don't need to become so creative that we shoot ourselves in the foot. The church needs to worship God and delight in Him. I'm just not sure how a Patriotic service or a Military Bible fits in to the vision and purpose of the local church.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Adam said...

The other problem with a bible such as this and other patriotic/religious things is that they have a tendency "sanctify" the state. Quotes from W or any other president placed in a Bible lends them unwarranted religious credibility. Placing this type of stuff in a Bible tells those who read it that they should have faith in these leaders, in these songs, and in the country they represent. Obviously, we should have faith in none other than the Lord. I wrote the narration for our church's 4th of July service last year, and did my best to include only things that were Christian and not just "American," but it was very difficult to keep an appropriate balance. I agree that we should love our country, but our country and its leaders have done, and continue to do, awful things that make me leary of including them in a Bible. We should temper out patriotism with truth, not try to enhance it through the church.

August 10, 2007 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Paul, in Bethel Park said...

Amen...

August 10, 2007 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Agog said...

Thank you for saying it!

August 10, 2007 4:47 PM  
Blogger Bennett Willis said...

The phrase "God and country" is not an accidental one.

There are significant teachings about honoring the government we find ourselves under--and a lot more about honoring them than overthrowing them (or even complaining about them).

Some marines might be more willing to carry a "Marine Bible" than a regular one even if the words are the same. And his father might be more willing to send him one because of that. It will probably make some money for Lifeway.

What translation is it? I know someone who might like one.

Bennett Willis

August 10, 2007 11:53 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Bennett,

Thanks for your response and for reading the Lair. I have included the link to the Miliary Bibles below. The translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

http://www.lifeway.com/hcsb/

As to the nature of your comments, you are correct to say that the believer is called to honor and respect our government and leadership. That obligation is due to the complete sovereignty of God who puts into leadership those whom he chooses. Rom. 11:36, 13:2. However, our obligation or duty to country is clearly secondary to our obligation to the Law of God. To have the "Soliders Enlisted Oath" immediately procede Scripture is just not healthy. That is not to say that the oath is a bad thing, but that it is very secondary and separate from Divine Revelation.

Many blessings to you and to your friend who might enjoy the Bible!

August 11, 2007 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Good post, you're quite correct. In my college years, I once had to sit through a completely pointless sermon series devoted to certain American presidents. The point was to try to convince us that all of these men were devoted Christians, or at least some of them sort of were, or at least they believed in God, which somehow meant that American atheists should get it through their heads that we're really a Christian nation. It hurts my head just to think about it.

Another time, someone put together a patriotic Power Point program commemorating 9-11, and in one slide there was a huge portrait of a smiling President Bush, with a quote from him underneath. I don't think I've ever seen anything so grossly inappropriate. Well, maybe I have, I've seen a lot of crazy stuff happening in God's house...

August 12, 2007 12:53 AM  
Blogger Bennett Willis said...

I did not read your blog as carefully as I should have and missed the paragraph on the quotes, etc. My bad.

I see your point much better now.

Thanks for the response.
Bennett Willis

August 14, 2007 1:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> I agree that we should love our country

Can you provide me a verse from the New Testament that specifically states that a servant of Jesus Christ is supposed to 'love our country'? What happened to, 'Love not the world, nor the things of the world..."?

August 14, 2007 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> We should be proud of our service men and women

Are we honestly supposed to be proud of a group of people who are political pawns and who are paid to traverse the globe and attack nations that have never harmed our country? 'Ashamed' seems like a more appropriate term.

August 14, 2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Anonymous,

Let me know who you are and what church you are associated with and I will be happy to dialogue with you.

Blessings

August 14, 2007 10:42 PM  

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