God bless us, every one. The most dangerous blog I’ve ever written.


OK, this little rant’s been building up for awhile. And it will probably tick somebody off. That’s really not the intent. And I hope if, once you start reading, you start getting angry or offended or whatever, you’ll stick with me and approach this with an open mind. Because I think it’s worth thinking about.

I understand going in that this is a dangerous topic. But I really want to know what people think.

So here’s what’s been getting my shorts in a wad lately: “God Bless America.”

Ticked off at me yet?

It’s not that I don’t want God to bless America. I love America and I’m grateful to live in such a blessed country. There is nowhere else I’d rather be. And that’s just the thing, as Rob Bell points out so eloquently in his “Rich” video from the NOOMA series. God already HAS blessed America. He CONTINUES to bless America. Just look around you. If there is a more blessed nation on the face of the earth, I’d like to know what it is. We have arguably the highest standard of living, societal & political freedom, plentiful resources…the list of “blessings” goes on and on.

What has me a little bent is not so much that people say they want God to bless America. It’s that what I’m afraid many–maybe even most–people really mean when they say that, is “God Bless ONLY America.”

Now, if you’re still with me and haven’t begun to fire off angry comments or delete me from your Facebook friends, let me unpack that thought a little more thoroughly.

What I’m trying to point out is that it seems like when a lot of people run around with bumper stickers or window graphics or online avatars or whatever with the “God Bless America” slogan, what they really mean is they want God’s blessing on this country exclusively. Like somehow we and we alone are deserving of His blessings. And the logical extension of that is that other countries–especially our “enemies”–should be cursed.

You see, it’s my belief that God provides blessings to people (or groups, families, churches, communities, nations, etc.) in order that those blessings may be shared with others. Yet I feel fairly certain that a lot of the “God Bless America” crowd really wants God’s blessings as sort of a commodity that we alone deserve. I mean, sure, I want God’s protection for our country, but shouldn’t we want that protection not so much as a wall against others but as a means for bringing others into that protection? Not just some kind of political/military/economic protection, but the kind of kingdom protection that Jesus is really all about?

Now, before I get too deep in your doghouse, I understand that many, many Americans do use their blessings as a means of blessing others. In addition to the blessings I listed above, we are also probably the most charitable and missionary society on the planet. So why would we embrace exclusionary slogans?

As for me, again, I am proud to be an American. I love all the great things our country is and what it stands for. But my desire for blessings is for all of Creation. How can we ask for God’s blessing on our people without also asking for it for all of His people? And I’m not talking about blessings just for Christians, either. I want God to bless everyone of every nationality and every faith system. Because it’s through God’s blessings that we come to know Him and have a relationship with Him.

Peace will never be gained by using God as some kind of cosmic stick to beat people with. It will only come when we ask for–and-receive–God’s blessings on all people.

So, yes, God bless America. And England. And France. And China, Japan, Australia, Russia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Greece, Mexico Italy, and Ireland. And Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Liberia. India. And yes, even Canada.

Again, I realize this is a dangerous topic. But I hope you’ve stayed with me and kept your emotions in check. There’s nothing wrong with asking God to bless America. But let’s understand the bigger picture, too. Let’s continue to share God’s blessings with the poor, the sick, the marginalized. And, if we have the courage, let’s also try to extend those blessings even to our enemies.

Then let’s all see how God has REALLY blessed us.

Rant off.

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5 thoughts on “God bless us, every one. The most dangerous blog I’ve ever written.

  1. Why should such a thoughtful, open-minded post “tick anyone off”? If a sincere desire for the good of all–the “poor, the sick, the marginalized”, people who live in other lands and practice other faiths, and our “enemies”–and not just for a homogenous group, gets you in trouble with that group, perhaps you should look into your heart and think about what that might mean. If treating others as Jesus asked us to do, with compassion and tolerance, makes certain Christians angry, then perhaps they should look into their hearts as well.

    Really nice post–thanks.

    Sara
    http://saradode.wordpress.com

  2. Hi there,
    Your “rant” definitely doesn’t anger me. I understand what you’re talking about, but I’m not replying to your post because I want to share all the ways I agree with you. Rather, I would like to share something from the sermon I listened to today, which I believe speaks to what you wrote and perhaps in an unexpected way.

    A friend of mine is leading the sunday sermons at church for the next five-weeks, and he is focusing entirely on the sermon on the mount from the book of Matthew. He began today by directing us to The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12. “The Beatitudes”, he explained, are essentially “The Blessings”. So it is interesting to look at what Jesus means by blessings. In English we have basically replaced the word bless with the word happy, and anyway we use their meanings interchangeably. When we ask for a blessing we are asking for something that will make us happy, it is about what we want and how external circumstances can bend to meet our wants. Therefore our prayers have more to do with what we want from God than how we can be of use to God.

    Reading “The Beatitudes” though, it is interesting to realize that Jesus teaches a very different concept of being blessed than we typically have in the States. According to Jesus, a person is not blessed because they have money, power, good looks, cute kids, or anything that amounts to any material possession or status on earth.

    According to Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount, which are the blueprints for building christian discipleship, a blessed person is “poor in spirit”, “those who mourn”, “the meek”, “those who hunger and thirst”, “the merciful”, ‘the pure of heart”, “the peacemakers”, and “the persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. (Matt. 5:3-10)

    God bless America has a different ring to it when you think about it in the way Jesus asks us to. I agree that most people are thinking about it the way you suggest, and I also agree with you that we sell our Christian vision short by promoting homeland security and national defense. Still, coming from this moving sermon to then randomly checking your blog and finding this post, I had to reply this way.

    In the way Jesus means it, man, I wish America was actually a nation of the blessed, “the meek”, “the merciful”, “the peacemakers” etc. What is so interesting is that the reasons that America believes it is blessed and the ways in which we ask to be blessed are all totally the opposite of what Jesus tells us it means to actually be blessed.

    Asking God to bless America, in the way Jesus describes, means relinquishing all national pride and purpose. It is not a prayer in which we ask God to make America a rich and comfortable place. Rather it means praying to be a humbled nation, praying that we as Americans will be pleasing to God, that we will never value the earthly nation over the heavenly kingdom, that we will have no want or will other than the Lord’s, and no purpose but to draw closer to Him. God Bless Everyone is still a better slogan, but with the right intentions God Bless America could at least be an appropriate slogan.

  3. wimberlyjournal,

    Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful response. I love the different perspective you bring to the conversation. Glad you shared!!

    Joe

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