A Letter to Christians Living in America from a Christian Living Abroad

I hear you.

Some of you are angry and disenfranchised. I’m on Twitter. I know.

You see the church and politicians wedded at the hip, and you throw up.

You feel like the American church has sold her soul and is rejoicing about the bargain.

You’re embarrassed, like a cool kid with an uncool mother, and now you’re asking to be dropped off a couple of blocks away from school.

You’re not quite sure what to do. Do you fight and rant and protest? Do you take the Benedict option? Do you just disappear out the back door?


Can I just encourage you to pause long enough to remember? To consider the extent of context and history?

Remember: the Church existed before America.

Remember: the Church will endure long after America.

Remember: the Church is older than Western civilization. 

This is old news, of course, but worthy of remembrance. Because we forget.

It sounds like some people believe that losing the culture war is equivalent to losing all of Christendom. It’s not just hyperbole; people act like this, defending every inch of ground with all their might.

But we must remember: the Church is global, and she is not dying.

She is not getting into bed with politicians of opportunity.

She is strong and she is bold and she remains defiant and glorious in the face of oppression and injustice all around the globe.

So remind yourself. Read the old stuff. Sing the old hymns. Re-discover the old Church, full of embraced mystery and deep sacrament.

And then read the new stuff. Sing the new hymns. Discover the young and vibrant bride of Christ, expanding and exploding all over the world.

The Church has been around a long time, and she will remain, and the very gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

And the American Church? She may seem warty and haggard to you now, but she is young. She is learning. Above all, she is his. She is loved. A washed bride. And he is jealous for her affection.

Remind her.

Love her.

Pray for her.

Lift up your head, and see the glory of the global Church. She is beautiful.

Lift up your head, and look at the One she’s been pointing to all this time: Jesus. He is regal and he is King, and he’s coming back.

His promises are true.

He is faithful.

And he is not blind or deaf or mistaken. He sees things as they are and for what they are. And he continues to love. And he continues to pursue.

And whatever corner of planet Earth you call home, these truths resound and these truths remain:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

“I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.” (Luke 2:10-11)

God Bless America! (and other dangerous prayers)

I love America.

I love her mountains and her National Parks. I love her North Atlantic coastline and her national anthem. I love her freedom of speech and her universities.

As an attorney, I especially love her Constitution and her history of Law.

God bless America!

But that’s a dangerous prayer, because often, with the same tongue that we mouth “God bless America!” we spit “God destroy Iran!” Or North Korea. Or China. Or whatever.

We want to bless America and curse our enemies. And while that kind of talk is certainly in the Bible, it’s not very Biblical. It is not the way of Jesus.

As believers in America, we’re taught, often accidentally, that to be a Christian is to be American, or at least to look Western. But Jesus, the guy from the Middle East, would disagree.

We’re taught that the prototypical American is a salt-of-the-earth, hard-working, white Christian. Thomas Jefferson would disagree. Benjamin Franklin probably would too.


Patriotism vs. Nationalism
When nationalism starts parading as patriotism, you end up with a riot.

The patriot says, “I love my country, my homeland, my people!” And that’s great and not necessarily inconsistent with the way of Jesus.

The nationalist on the other hand says, “I love my country, my homeland, my people! And I think our culture and our values are better than everyone else’s!”

The patriot says “God bless America!” but would be thrilled if God blessed Algeria and Russia too.

The nationalist says “God bless America!” but would be thrilled if God absolutely destroyed all the “bad people,” convincing the world that we really are superior. Obviously.

Now, there is nothing particularly surprising (or wrong) about a country wanting to make itself great again. Several countries are predictably trying to do that very thing right now. But while the desire for national greatness is not necessarily evil, it is necessarily secular.

And when the line between patriotism and nationalism gets blurred, we must speak up. As followers of a Refugee who grew up in occupied territory where public executions and infanticide happened, we must speak up and call patriotism good and nationalism evil.


Under His Banner
As followers of Christ, our great desire is that he would be made great. We desire that his greatness would be known everywhere, not our country’s. We want the banner of our God to be raised up, that his Love would be seen, and that all those who see it will run to Him and be saved.

As citizens of America, we should celebrate and honor and cherish the United States. She remains a fantastical experiment in human government, bought with blood and sacrifice. (She is far from perfect, of course, and some of her story is violent and abusive and should be labeled as such. But that is an article for another time.)

As citizens of the Kingdom, we should celebrate and cherish and love the global Church, the Bride, wherever she may be found. Her flag is our flag.

And she is not just in America. She’s in Algeria and Russia and Brazil. There are millions in the Kingdom who speak Arabic and Urdu and Mandarin. Our fellow citizens live in the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon.

And everyone who’s not already a part of the Kingdom of God? Well, we want them to know they’re invited!

So may God bless Algeria and Afghanistan and Argentina.

And may God bless America!

We should pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We should pray for justice to run down like a mighty river. And we should pray for a heart like His that wants no one to perish, not even ISIS soldiers.

Is it unAmerican to talk like this? I hope not, but maybe.

Our first allegiance is not to Rome, or Washington. It certainly must not be to elephants, donkeys, or three-lettered news agencies. This was settled long ago; our first allegiance, our deepest love, is towards the King.


I do hope God blesses America. I pray that He blesses America with peace. I pray that we would learn to love one another, and perhaps even our enemies.

I pray that more and more people would meet Christ, and be changed.

I pray for the religionists like Paul, that they would meet Christ and be forever changed.

I pray for the government contractors like Zacchaeus, that they would meet Christ and be forever changed.

I pray for the militant nationalists like Simon, that they would meet Christ and be forever changed.

I pray for the white collars like Nicodemus and the blue collars like Peter.

I pray for the rich women like Joanna, and the used women who show up at the well at noon.

I pray that they would all meet Christ and be forever changed.

Will you join me?


After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, 

“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”

(Revelation 7:9-10)