I am a Christian, even a conservative Christian by many people’s standards. We Christians are supposed to follow Jesus’ teaching of love for our neighbors, forgiveness, charity, and mercy.
I am also an American. The principles and beliefs that we hold most dear as Americans include the rule of law, the assurance of some key personal freedoms, the ability to elect our government leaders (or to throw them out if they are not representing the common good), and the capitalist free enterprise system for creating wealth and assuring our material prosperity.
But our American values are, at times, in conflict with my Christian values. Sometimes our government commits un-Christian acts in the name of preserving American freedom and prosperity. In these instances, our government’s actions and positions are not inspired on moral or religious grounds, but rather on nationalistic and patriotic grounds, regardless of what some of them might say to the contrary. This does not always make them wrong, of course, and many times the patriotic and nationalistic agenda of America causes us to do much good.
But we Christians should be careful to watch out that patriotism, and our desire to “preserve the freedoms and quality of life in America” don’t cause us to do erode the very values that we hope to protect. Surely no Christian would argue with commandments like:
– Don’t hurt or kill other people
– Don’t lie to other people
– Don’t cheat or steal from other people
– Treat other people in ways that we would want to be treated ourselves.
Our actions and attitudes toward our Muslim neighbors of late seem to me entirely inconsistent with what the Bible’s New Testament teaches. I ask you: What did Jesus do in the face of people who were trying to persecute him, silence him, and kill him? Did he fight back with force? Did he judge them? Did he encourage his friends to do any of these things?
It seems to me that our Lord stuck to his principles of love, tolerance, forgiveness, and mercy. He remained non-violent. He chose teaching and dialogue over aggression and “judgement.” He chose not to be policeman, or politician, or judge of others. Instead, he used words. He showed mercy, and love for his enemies. He chose to be killed rather than to sacrifice these principles.
Ghandi once said that everyone in the world would be a Christian if not for the behavior of Christian people. Sadly I believe he is right, and this is especially true today.
We American Christians should encourage our government, and our friends, to follow the examples of Jesus. America’s freedoms, and our quality of life, are core to our nation. And in most cases, these ideals can live happily along side our faiths and moral codes. But as a Christian, my Jesus-inspired values must come before my country. Otherwise, I violate the main rule that all Christians say they will follow – to put no other ‘gods’ before Him.
I pledge my allegiance to my nation, UNDER God. So if I am forced to decide whether to follow a course that is good for my nation but erodes my Christian values, I must answer “No.” We should encourage our leaders to find another way.
This I believe.
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