My friend is no longer young, no longer able to dance. But inside, the young, beautiful woman she once looked like, still lives, joyous, and longing for the day when she will be free. Grace, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

I was visiting a friend in the nursing home last week when I found myself trapped, holding my sleeping friend’s hand, forced to sit in the same room with a Christian television show.

Those of you who read me regularly know that I’m not big on TV in any form — corporate network news with its disinformation tops the list of things I’ve cut out of my life, and corporate network Christian misinformation digital fare has never been allowed a place in my living room, mind, or psyche.

(Years ago, I was similarly trapped with a digital evangelist who was bent on selling me, and millions of others, a statue of David and Goliath, which he assured us would encourage us through the trials and tribulations of life, and all we had to do was touch it, feel it, look to it, and pray for strength.

The blur line between art and idolatry was pretty strong.)

Idolatry Is Easy to Fall into

Back to my imprisonment in the chair. This particular evangelist wasn’t out to sell me anything — at least in the forty five minutes that I was stuck with him — but he was pretty big on convincing me that America and Christianity were one and the same thing.

“We are a Christian nation,” he told his co-host, sitting raptly at his side and asking mock-perspicacious questions like,

“So you’re saying that our nation was founded by CHRISTIAN men, with CHRISTIAN values, and the liberty and financial success we enjoy is because of our CHRISTIAN heritage?”

“That’s it exactly, Bob (Jim, Nate, Andrew — I’m sure he’s famous but I don’t know his name). We are a CHRISTIAN nation.”

As with the statue of David and Goliath, the blur line between Christianity and idolatry was pretty, well, blurred.

When, Exactly, Were We Officially Christian?

In non-stop prattle with visual after visual flashed in front of the camera, the speaker explained how our very liberty — as from King George and taxation without representation — derives from the Christians who were called to flock the churches and bow their knees in prayer. This obedience on the part of the people, and the purported godliness of the Founding Fathers, set the foundation for what we are today:

A “Christian” nation with a disturbing history of enslaving people, capturing land that belonged to residents who were here first, levying excessive and increasing taxes, starting wars throughout the globe, turning a blind eye to questionable business practices, relying upon the fine print in contracts to deceive people into doing what they had no intention of doing, and not being particularly honest with its citizenry. When people say they want to go “back” to our Christian roots, I wonder,

“Just when are you talking about? At what point in this nation were we — the citizenry AND the government — living by the commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’?”

Money and Riches Aren’t the Same Thing

Contrary to what is frequently preached in the pulpit and on the TV screen, many people in America are not rich, and those who are, are not necessarily Christian. Many who are materialistically poor bow their knee to Christ, not the American flag or the American dream. The number of people who are Christians does not correlate to the number of people attending church.

Freedom, wealth, riches, liberty — these are open-ended words with multiple meanings. When we apply them to Christianity, we want to take time with those meanings. Diaphanous, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

When Christ talks about riches, he doesn’t mean money; when the Apostle Paul writes about freedom (check out Galatians 3), he isn’t talking about taxes.

If we are a Christian nation, it’s not one on this earth, and it’s one that extends through all the countries and continents:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2: 9)

The allegiance we pledge isn’t to a flag but to God, and when we confuse the two, we weaken our faith by diluting it.  In the same way that we cannot worship both God and money, we cannot worship both God and country. It’s not that the latter is bad; it’s just that it’s not divine.

As an American, I live in — not a Christian Nation — but a nation with Christians in it.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage readers to grab the hand that God is holding out to them, and allow Him to lead us forward. To trust Him, we really need to know Who He is and what He’s like, and the best way to do this is to read the book that He’s given us — the Bible.

Read it for yourself, and don’t be satisfied with a weekly interpretation of its contents by the “experts.” As the 1 Peter 2: 9 says, we are priests, able to come before Christ in worship and prayer, and able to learn from His words and His wisdom. Depending upon others to do this for us leads us into dependence, insecurity, and spiritual weakness.

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