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.