Full disclosure: I’m starting to write this article with Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna’ Take It” blaring through my earbuds. “We’ll fight the powers that be” indeed.
I did not watch the inauguration of the 45th POTUS. But when I read a snippet of his address on an internet meme and felt dread wash over me, I thought I should read the full text. Because first-hand information is important, and internet memes aren’t usually a good source of accurate information.
“You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before,” I read. Is the “historic moment” Trump references here the astonishing reality of the other candidate winning vastly more votes than he did? Probably not. Also, the promise to “make America safe again” doesn’t seem to apply to my friends whose parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents lived under the fear of white racial terror.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.”
I pause. This is problematic. America first? No. What about “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”?
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”
I feel the chill of fear.
“A total allegiance to the United States of America.”
Jesus was clear: “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: America First.'”
Oh, wait, no…that’s not how it goes.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31
In Jesus’ name, I reject the heresy of total allegiance to any earthly kingdom. The United States of America is not my creator, not my savior, not my Lord.
I reject the heresy of total allegiance to any earthly kingdom. The United States of America is not my creator, not my savior, not my Lord.
“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.'”
I get angry, even though I can set aside the irritation stemming from the blatant pandering and the surely inevitable reality that someone on his writing staff Googled “Bible verses about unity” and dropped it in.
But. “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
What?! First, Nazi Germany. But then, let us please consider that the POTUS is claiming that patriotism, the devoted love and support of a country, can take the place of repentance, lament, reconciliation, and redemption…actions that will actually crowd out prejudice, possible only through the redemptive work of Jesus. These United States aren’t going to save us from anything. When you open your heart to JESUS, there is no room for prejudice.
“When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.”
Is that our goal? To be unstoppable? I can’t help but think of Jesus, sitting down and calling his disciples to him, saying, “Anyone who wants to be first should unite with other powerful people so they can be unstoppable.” Shoot, no, that’s not how it went.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” – Mark 9:35-37
“We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.”
Unless we disagree, speak out, protest. We won’t be protected then. We will be ended. Protections are for those who toe the line, pledge allegiance, submit blindly to authority, no matter how corrupt. And what of our brothers and sisters around the globe? Are they somehow less Christian, less protected by God because of their national origin?
“A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions…whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.”
This is idolatry, pure and simple. Only idolatry could delude someone to believe that loving a nation, a flag, or a system of government could bring healing. The conflation of American nationalism with Christianity that has embedded itself in the social and political landscape must be resisted on all fronts.
The conflation of American nationalism with Christianity that has embedded itself in the social and political landscape must be resisted on all fronts.
I prefer what Paul wrote:
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority…He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:8-15
In other words: “You’re so condescending / Your gall is never ending / We don’t want nothin’, not a thing from you / Your life is trite and jaded / Boring and confiscated / If that’s your best, your best won’t do….We’re not gonna’ take it anymore.”
Sarah Withrow King is the Interim Director of the Sider Center, the co-director of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They’re Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology (Cascade Books) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan).