American Jesus

by Joel on November 29, 2004

Years ago, a church worship leader was preparing to introduce the morning’s affirmation or creed, which I had selected to be “A Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada.” The leader turned to me and in a voice that could clearly be heard throughout the sanctuary boomed, “Canada! Why are we reading this here?” I’d like to say I gave an articulate and eloquent response, but being flustered, I think I muttered something like, “because it’s in our hymnal.”

But why is it in our hymnal? That “Canadian” affirmation just happens to be my favorite, but it gets rotated among many other creeds. I like this particular affirmation because of its sense of community (”In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.”). I treasure the affirmation for its sense of discipleship in doing as well as believing (”We are called to be the church: to celebrate God’s presence, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.”).

Are Americans on the whole able to see Jesus apart from nationality? Has “godandcountry” become one word? Do we truly believe, as a “Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church” provides that we believe in the one God who is the “Father of all nations”?

Although there are a lot of very faithful people who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, one downside of American developments may be an increasingly civil religion in which our faith is proved by our patriotic zeal as opposed to being an unmerited gift from God that is tested constantly by our reluctance to take up the cross.

Consider the first verse of the hymn “This Is My Song.”

“This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.”

Lloyd Stone, 1934.

I proclaim a risen Savior who is in the world but not of it.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Eugene 11.30.04 at 5:43 pm

I totally agree. I am concerned when
Christianity is veiled ethnic or national
identity. I became a Presbyterian because
my Scottish ancestors were.

However through the Presbyterian Church
I recommitted my life to Christ. Jesus
for me is not wearing tartan.

The Triune God is truly the God of all
nations.

One time I was part of a fundamentalist
Baptist Church. I found most of the time
it was promoting an American culture
veiled as Christianity. I wanted to
wear a kilt and they frowned on me saying
that it was effeminate (and of course
there is the sexual connotations of what
a Scot wears underneath his kilt).

I do not have a problem celebrating
God within an American, Scottish,
Canadian, or Korean context. I have
a problem when the congregation demands
that God wants us to be like American,
Scottish, or Korean and nothing else.

God truly made more than one nation.

2

Richard 11.30.04 at 7:28 pm

A kilt effeminate?
They’d obviously never been to the Highlands of Scotland!

I agree with you completely Eugene. The gospel can be celebrated through our various cultures. But it also challenges them. It should most certainly never be identified with any.

3

Eugene 11.30.04 at 9:41 pm

Yes the gospel can also challenge a culture.
The ancient Greeks were immensely challenged to renounce
their multiplicity of gods and embrace one deity.
Is it any wonder why the Word of God is described as a
two-edged sword? It can cut up culture and it can defend it.

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