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Wow, so yesterday's poll sure stirred things up didn't it? Sorta expected it would. But that wasn't the point.

While I was at Glorieta this weekend I caught up on some blog reading and lapped up Brant's commentary on a recent TIME magazine article concerning a poll taken of American Christians. The Pew Research Group - reputable pollsters for sure - asked American Christians if they were "American" or "Christian" first.

Less than half of American Christians said they were Christians first. This was much lower than the percentage of Muslims in various countries - also polled - who said they were Muslims before citizens of any nation. Yet the comparison was made for the millionth time between Christians and Muslims - Christians being a potential threat to security and democracy everywhere. The not so subtle message of the piece being that anyone devoted to a religion to the exclusion of anything or anyone else is dangerous. The ideal loving American thing is to be non-commital or universal or agnostic.

Heard it before. Boring.

What was interesting about this article though - to me anyway - was the shock and surprise of the, I'm guessing, non-Christian TIME writer. He seemed unpleasantly surprised that there were so many Christians in America espousing such a dangerous level of allegiance to their faith.

I felt for him. I really did. He didn't understand why the choice between being American and Christian first even exists in the mind of some folks. He was perplexed that the Christians polled didn't laugh at the question, didn't think it was a silly one. They validated it instead by answering it.

I think he can rest easy for now though. These words may not mean to the people polled what he thinks they mean - what they mean to him. It's a bad question for that reason isn't it? I mean, define the terms with me.

American: 1) A citizen of America. 2)A resident of an American territory. 3)Someone in agreement with the values of the majority of those living in America or with American citizenship. 4)A capitalist. 5)Someone who is patriotic. 6)Someone who is pro-military 7)Someone who thinks America is the best country ever. 8)Someone who obeys the national, state and local laws and Constitution of America.

Christian: 1)Someone who believes Jesus is a god or a prophet or a good teacher. 2)Someone who believes Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to reconciliation with God 3)Someone who goes to a Christian church 4)Someone who is "born again" 5)Someone who follows the teachings of Jesus. 6)Someone who's nice and believes in God. 7)Someone who prayed a "sinner's prayer" when she was six. 8)Someone who believes in Jesus so they can go to Heaven one day. 9)Someone who doesn't do drugs, play poker, drink alcohol or do other "bad" stuff.

And you could add so many more definitions to these words. This is a problem that makes attributing meaning to this poll's results nearly impossible.

For instance, someone who says they're an American first may be thinking chronologically. They may reason that they had to have the freedom first - as an American - to attend a church or have a conversion before they could hear about Jesus and Christianity. They may also define "Christian" as a set practices (like going to church or owning a bible) we can't engage in without the religious freedoms of a place like America. They may NOT be saying, as I'm tempted to assume, that if they had to choose between renouncing beliefs about Jesus and renouncing citizenship in America that they'd renounce Jesus. They may not be saying they love country more than Christ.

Likewise, someone who says they're a Christian first may not mean what I assume they mean. They may prefer a theocracy to a democracy or some other nonsense. Or they could SAY they're a Christian first but live that out differently from me - voting for pro-life candidates but not actually doing anything with their time and money and church to prevent unwanted pregnancies from occurring, for instance. When I say I'm a Christian first that has far reaching implications on my reponse to abortion and just about every other issue generally handled by politicians. It means that instead of insisting the government "fix" abortion - to stick with that example - I'll mentor teens, take care of kids at my church, adopt kids, buy sonogram machines, put a pregnant woman up in my house for nine months and beyond if her family shuns her, etc. But from the looks of things, being Christian first doesn't have the same consequences for everyone - different definitions don't you think? It sounds good to say we're Christians first, in other words, but I wonder what that really means to Christians who continue to abdicate mercy showing duties to a government we claim isn't our first love?

I wish the poll reported 100% of Christians in America saw themselves as Christians first, but that's because I'm defining the terms in a way that differs from the author over at TIME. I empathize with everyone who answers differently than me and I'm suspect of everyone who answers the same as me because I'm not so sure we all mean the same thing when we say "Christian" and "American."

So I invite those of you who answered yesterday's poll to define the terms as you understand them. Your definition no doubt determined your answer. What is an American and what is a Christian? Now THAT, unlike TIME'S poll, will help us understand each other a little better.

(PS. Try not to use Sunday School or patriotic cliches in crafting your definition. It's hard but I'd like to know what these words mean to you.)


Blogger benstewart said...

Just off the top of my head:

Christian: A person in relationship with Christ devoted to following and his teaching above all else in life.

American: A citizen of the United States of America (and, thus, bound to its laws).

And here is how I read the question: If the American Law and Jesus's teachings ever contradicted (...as if...) which would you follow?

Anonymous hollybird said...

When the term Christian first came to be, it was actually a slam to the followers of Christ. It meant "little Christs". When I think about it like that, I have to ask myself, Would I lay down my life for others like He did? I call myself a Christian, but does my daily living reflect that kind of love? If I am blatantly honest with myself, I have to say no. But in my heart, in the deepest part of me, I DO desire to be that kind of person, to be just like my Jesus.

Blogger Brody Harper said...

"9)Someone who doesn't do drugs, play poker, drink alcohol or do other "bad" stuff."

Great! There goes my Wednesday night.

I agree with benstewart. If government laws contradict what God has told us to do, then is has to take a back seat.

Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

Christian: Someone who is forgiven of all sin by their acceptance of the death and ressurection of Christ who is Gods' Son. AND also at least tries to live for and like Christ.

American: Someone born in the United States of America.

Anonymous jwise said...

Jesus did such an awesome job of cutting through the shiny veneer right to the heart of the issue. "Love God; love your neighbor." Don't come to me telling you your name or your nationality.. Don't come saying, "Lord, lord," but then disobey everything I've commanded. They will know you by your love. They will see your obedience and glorify your Father in heaven.

Shaun, if you do half the things you encourage people to do on your blog (feed the poor, visit the sick, help the prisoner [incarcerated or stuck in an unwanted pregnancy]), then hats off to you.

I get so worn down by members of the Church (my own brothers and sisters!) telling me that I have too much faith or that I'm asking too much by saying we should DO SOMETHING... "Isn't prayer meeting enough?", they ask, "That's the true measure of a Christian, right?"

I come here just to be reminded that people really are obeying our Lord. Please keep up the obedience. You're at least an encouragement to me, and I'm going to keep encouraging those brothers and sisters to do likewise.

And you're very right -- Christianity is much more than what we do or how many check boxes we can check at the end of the week. It's about being -- being members of the Kingdom of God. Being doers of righteousness, not doers of wickedness.. or worse, doers of nothing at all.

Blogger benstewart said...


...not just "born" in the USA. Remember, some people actually choose to come here from elsewhere and proudly call themselves Americans. Others sneak across a border and try to call themselves Americans, too, but that's another discussion on some other blog.

Also, I totally agree with your emphasis on "tries to live for and like Christ" instead of just saying "lives for Christ." That is why I chose the phrase "devoted to following Christ." I don't think we can just say that a Christian is someone who actually "follows Christ" all of the time because people are not always perfect.

I do think, however, that the phrase "devoted to follow" can be a little stronger than just "trying to follow" because people tend to hide behind the excuse of "I'm trying." Dallas Willard (www.dwillard.org) would say that some people choose to hide behind the phrase "I'm trying to follow Christ" when in actuality they know that they choose thier own path most of the time. The difference to him is that someone REALLY trying to follow Christ -- or as I would say "devoted to folling Christ" -- has some sort of plan on HOW to follow Christ.

(And now for the "impersonal online communication" disclaimer: I don't say all of that to say that you are wrong in any way. In fact I think I was totally agreeing with your point of trying to follow Christ but not always succeeding. I only typed that because: (1) I am bored right now, and (2) I liked your subtle point and wanted to make it into a novel. In this wonderfully impersonal form of communication we call blogging sometimes people interpret things incorrectly and I just wanted to keep that from happening with this little disclaimer.)

Anonymous Jeffrey J. Stables said...

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

First: I answered "Christian."

Second: I don't like the term Christian. It "does not mean what you think it means" anymore. I explained why before. I much prefer "follower of Christ." But for now I'll play by the rules of the poll...

I thought of the question in terms of citizenship. Being a citizen of a country or a kingdom makes you a Country-an or a Kingdom-an. Citizen of Russia = Russian. Citizen of Narnia = Narnian. Citizen of Afghanistan = ...um, Afghan. Anyway...

Thinking of it this way makes it easy—at least for those of us who believe the Bible. The Scriptures tell us that those who are in Christ are citizens of heaven and of the household of God. Also, when Peter's heavenly citizenship conflicted with his citizenship in the Jewish nation, he proudly denied his responsibility to the government, saying "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5).

I think Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we are citizens first of the kingdom of God, and second of earthly nations and organizations. While this line is blurred today because the government doesn't actively and publicly oppose the Kingdom like it did in those days, it is still an important distinction to make if we are to have a Biblical worldview. Even a Christ-follower living in a "Christian" nation is a Christ-follower first.

Anonymous euphrony said...

I think I understand a little where the TIME writer is coming from. It seems to be a bit of the same confusion that the Jewish people suffered from during Jesus' ministry. They kept assuming that the Messiah would come and establish a physical kingdom, when He was about so much more. The TIME writer, and indeed many Christians, believe that in order to follow Christ - to be a part of the kingdom of heaven and to win the nations for His name - then we must establish and maintain a Christian nation complete with Christian laws. This could not be further from the truth. Frankly, if God Himself would not force people to act in righteousness, then who are we to legislate such actions? (NOTE: I'm not saying that we should not work to change the law, but I seriously question how and why we do such things.)

It is also not mutually exclusive to be either a Christian or an American/Canadian/Russian/Serb/Brit/Lilliputian. I say Christian first because that is the start of the definition, my first priority of action. I can also understand yesterday's commenter who said American first, because that allowed her to be a Christian - that's the chronological order Shaun was talking about.

Anonymous Ryan said...

Had a conversation with someone the other day and here's the definition that I got.

Christian: someone who believes there is a God and that if you do ok in this life you'll go to heaven.

American: someone who lives in the US and believes what they believe and doesn't try to push that belief on others as long as it doesn't threaten their life.


Anonymous Ryan said...

Personal definition that I have a hard time with, mainly because I fail so often.

Christian: someone who disciplines themselves to try to do what Christ would do in any given situation.

Anonymous maxwedge said...

Being a Christian and being an American are not in conflict with each other. America was founded by Christians. Being American means to me to be born into a nation built on a belief in God. As popular as it might be to throw stones at America these days remember this: Jesus healed ten lepers and only one came back to thank him. We (Americans) are born into a nation that once held God in high regards and were blessed for doing so. In early America many learned to read from the Bible. Bibles were used to record events such as births and deaths and were as good as any court records. Today, many homes don't even have a Bible in them, but do have a Playstation or an X-box. I know many that call themselves Christians that never read the Bible. The poorest American is better off than most of the rest of the world. Poor people in America have air conditioning, poor people in America have several TV's in their homes, America has FAT poor people for goodness sakes! (think about that for a second).... Being American should mean being thankful to God for being born into plenty. Thankful for being able to worship without fear of persecution. No nation in the history of mankind has had as much as we have. We can do more than any Roman Emperor could ever dream of. We have plenty so we can share it. We have every opportunity to succeed, or to fail, or to sit and do nothing. But to do so under a nation that once held God in enough esteem to include him in the forming of this nation. Thank you Lord for letting me be born into an American home.

Being a Christian is to first be awestruck by what was done for me and to me. I deserve nothing, yet the creator of the universe actually loves me enough to send his son to die for my sin. Being a Christian is to realize why you were made and who you were made for. To do what you were made for and for whom you were made. No longer do I serve me, but I serve the creator of the universe. A great and mighty being that loves his creation. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Max, no one has "thrown stones" at America here. Your defending your country against insults that haven't even been made. Why?

Blogger Seth Ward said...

Max you said: "Thankful for being able to worship without fear of persecution..."

Max, do you believe that being a good American also includes the freedom to abstain from worship or belief?

You said: "Being a Christian and being an American are not in conflict with each other."

When I read your comment it seems that you go further than this and you are equating being an American with being a good Bible-reading Christian. If what you really mean is -striving to be a law abiding "Good person” and being an American are not in conflict-, then I would agree.

To me being an American also means i can:

1. Live in a State where you can legally pay for a Hooker.

2. Gamble free and all I want.

3. Choose to worhip nothing and believe there is NO God, or...I can believe in a hundred gods.

As a Christian I can believe in One God in the Blessed Holy Trinity. As a Christian, paying for Prostitutes is pretty much the worst moral choice I can make, and gambling my money away, while a gray area to some, is not being a good steward of my money.

In short, as an American I can either live like as an amoral, goddless, sex-craved Pagan or...

I can live in Texas.

So I would say, being an American and being a Christian conflict from time to time.

Right now, the U.S.A. is a country that facilitates worshiping God without being eaten by Lions. I can go to Church in total safety. There is plenty to eat and I am in a place where I can be the one helping others. For this and other things I am very thankful and am very glad to be living here. The American government, state or federal, also fosters and encourages all kinds of things that I don't want any part of. To some this might make me a bad American.

About the founding fathers bit. I am sad to say that Thomas Jefferson was NOT what you would consider a Christian. Just take a gander at the "Jefferson Bible" and you will see a man who stripped the Gospels of what he equated with "Dung" like the miracles, references to the Trinity, and any reference to the divinity of Jesus. He is quoted as saying to a letter to John Adams about his "edited bible":

"In extracting the pure principles which he (Jesus) taught, we should have to strip off the artificial vestments in which they have been muffled by priests...which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill."

Translation: "I took out all the hocus pocus stuff added by people who believed Jesus was God and Savior and left the Good moral teaching stuff"

Anonymous Burt said...

Christian: Being a complete follower of Christ, declaring Him to be my Lord.

American: Born in the U.S.A.

Being a "good American" doesn't make me a "better Christian," but being a "good Christian" makes me a better American. (I'm not comparing myself to others here...but rather to my own potentials).

Anonymous euphrony said...

I was going to bring up the Jefferson Bible - no fair you got to it first. But I will let people know that they can read it out online or download it here. Let me also add this quote from Jefferson:

"Among the sayings and discourses imputed to Him [Jesus] by His biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same Being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore to Him the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of His disciples. Of this band of dupes and impostors, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and first corruptor of the doctrines of Jesus." - Letter To William Short from Jefferson, Monticello, April 13, 1820

And here is a quote from Ben Franklin:

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend that it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."

By and large, our founding fathers were moralists, deists, but would not be called Christian by any of the definitions I read here. Being and American is a great thing (and being a Texan is even better) but the American ideal, the American system of freedom, often rushes headlong into the face of Christ's teachings and pushes them aside in favor of personal satisfaction. Thus, I am, indeed, a Christian first.

Anonymous keith said...

I came across this article in my Christian spemail and found it interesting in light of the discussion here (i.e. more fuel for the fire).

As to the question:

Christian = one who believes the good news of Jesus' life and death... and life as described in 1 Corinthians 15 among other places

American = one who pledges allegiance to the interests of the USA

interests = individual freedom in most any area

Being a Christian, first, means believing and sharing the story of Jesus even when it conflicts with the interests of the USA.

Anonymous maxwedge said...

By saying that America was built on a belief in God, the American people once held God in high regard. America is not its leaders, but its people. We can have the most pious benevolent leaders and have a corrupt nation. Leaders come and go, but the soul of America is us and our beliefs. Do we believe in one true God and that he blessed us with freedom and prosperity? Or do we go to Vegas, chasing hookers like Seth mentioned? We have the freedom to choose sin or redemption. Same goes for us as a nation. We can allow sin and corruption or not, it's up to us.

I don't mean anyone here is or has thrown stones at America. But, I see lots of young people in many places who could care less for this country. Why? We are blessed. Truly blessed. If we take God's blessing and dismiss it as nothing, then maybe we don't deserve the blessing? Patriotism is not a bad thing. If your patriotism takes a back seat to your belief in God, that's fine, and as it should be. My patriotism is more like being thankful and yes, proud, of what God has done for me.

Anonymous Stephen said...

Maxwedge, you said "If we take God's blessing and dismiss it as nothing, then maybe we don't deserve the blessing?"

Why do you think you deserve it in the first place? What did you do to deserve it?

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

GOd blesses...

The poor in spirit (that's us for sure)

The mourning (how many Americans mourn their loss of innocence?)

The meek (not quite. the meek aren't worried or angry - see Psalm 37:1-11 - but AMerica is the most anti=depressant taking nation on the globe and judging by our homicide stats we're pretty pissed about something.)

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations stated that a capitalistic nation like ours doesn't survive on righteousness but only on selfishness. His works were influential in the founding of America.)

Those who show mercy (We're pretty good at this I'll admit. We give lots of money and we've gotten better at tending to the needs of others around the world.)

The pure in heart (Kierkegard said the pure "want one thing" and for Christians that is the kingdom of God, the Good News in Mark 1. Don't think that's the one thing on the mind of most Americans.)

The peace makers (are we really aiming to return the world to a pre-Fall state of Shalom?)

The persecuted (Not even close.)

So, yes, God has given Americans much good. But good is far from blessed - a word that in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) means "complete and wanting for nothing." We are not complete as a nation - not in the spiritual sense.

I am very thankful for American citizenship. I don't understand how the leap can be made between seeing America's faults AND virtues and being against her. It's not being against my wife is it for me to know all her good and bad traits? There is much good about America but she does not always jive with my God and my beliefs about Him. In such instances I choose God over her. That's not a negative to nation. That's a positive to my convictions about God.

Blogger Loren said...

Take the Evangelical EQ Test:


We'll be sure to weed out the lefty loosie's from this board.


What will it be like when America falls, there has not been a nation that lasts forever?

Anonymous Jeffrey J. Stables said...

I got a 110 on the EQ test.

Shaun, you said:

?Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations stated that a capitalistic nation like ours doesn't survive on righteousness but only on selfishness. His works were influential in the founding of America."

From what I know of Smith's writings, he argued that capitalism survives on self-interest, which is distinguished from selfishness. Selfishness seeks self-gratification at the expense of others. Self-interest seeks to improve the individual by legal means. The fundamental hypothesis posited by Smith in Wealth of Nations was that individuals' and firms' pursuit of self-interest actually serves the social interest. (What's good for the individual in a free market translates to the benefit of the entire market.) I'm open to corrections if you have some other insight into Smith's tome.

Blogger Amy said...

I like your response up there Shaun. It feels like a very healthy way to look at things.
It's funny how as little kids you get taught how great America is and how benevolent, etc. etc. Then you get to high school (I took history of the americas--american, south and central american and canadian) history and you suddenly feel like everything you ever knew was a lie. There is a place of balance in there somewhere, and a lot of it comes from knowing that if America isn't perfect, if America has flaws, that's ok, it's to be expected in fact, because ultimately one day, it's not going to matter if I was American or South African or French, all that will matter is how I lived and loved.
Taking your identity from being American is free. You do nothing to earn it. You do nothing to earn being a Christian either, but it asks you to give up your whole life for others. It requires you to live a life of self-sacrifice and often make very difficult choices. It's something (or Someone!) you choose to identify with rather than something that is yours simply because of where you were born.

Anonymous maxwedge said...

"everything you ever knew was a lie"

How so? Is American evil? America is no better than the people that call themselves Americans. That's easily said. It's easier to tear down than to build up.

"Why do you think you deserve it in the first place? What did you do to deserve it?"
Steven, I never said I deserve anything. What I do deserve is death for my sins, and that debt was paid. I was fortunate enough to be born an American and have opportunities that I bet (guessing) upwards of 80 percent of the world does not have. Am I wrong to consider this a blessing? Should I be thankful to God for where I live and the opportunities I have? This nation has been blessed because at one time wer WERE one nation under God. Are we still? What are we becoming? If any American cannot see themselves as being blessed, then I guess there will be no pleasing them. If you are an American, do you pray for this nation? If you are of another nationality, do you pray for your country?

Shaun, you said: "It's not being against my wife is it for me to know all her good and bad traits? "

But would you continually point out her bad traits to her? "Hey baby, those pants DO make your butt look big" "Man you're sure packin on the pounds" "If you get any fatter, you're gonna need turn signals and a license plate" "Hey, is that bug spray or perfume you sprayed all over yourself?"

Then you and she are not going to have a very good relationship.

If I live in a mud hut and swat flies all day and wish I had something to eat, would I be closer to God? Can I be thankful of the opportunities that I have and that I am able to help, when I can, those that do?

We should be cheerful and thankful in all circumstances.

Anonymous Stephen said...

Maxwedge, 1+1=2.

You said "If we take God's blessing and dismiss it as nothing, then maybe we don't deserve the blessing?"

The antithesis of that is "If we are thankful for God's blessing, then we deserve it".

Blogger The Cachinnator said...

We were never one nation under God. A nation under God doesn't slaughter people to the point of extinction to take their land. A nation under God doesn't enslave an entire race of people. A nation under God doesn't spout crap like "Manifest Destiny."

As for the people who make up this nation, you'd be hard-pressed to make any argument that our people present the picture of a Christian nation. Seth and Shaun already made that argument pretty well.

We should be grateful for our blessings, but among them is not living in a Christian nation. There never has been such a beast, nor should there be.

As for being cheerful and thankful in all circumstances, try telling that to the people who do live in mud huts and swat flies all day. Or those living in Baghdad wondering if they'll be blown up that day. Or those whose lives were washed away by the tsunami in Indonesia. That kind of crap rings pretty hollow to most of the world.

There's a big difference between being blessed and being cheerful. Blessing is more along the lines of what Shaun outlined in the Beatitudes. And none of those have to do with freedom or wealth. Freedom and wealth are resources to be spread. If we find ourselves in possession of those resources, it's our responsibility to spread them as far and wide as possible - not to sit on them feeling lucky or hoard them as we Americans so typically do with our wealth.

So it’s nice to have jobs that pay us enough to live in comfort. And it’s nice to have enough to eat. And we should certainly be grateful for these things – because we’ve done nothing to earn them. But that’s different from being blessed. All these things are passing.

I don't hate America. Neither do I love it. It is what it is. I know that it has no more to do with God's relationship with people than any other nation. True, as Shaun said, our churches and our people are getting better at giving to those around the world with less than us. But that's not commentary on America. It's not American churches; it's churches in America. And the more we see ourselves in terms of our nationality as a qualifier on our faith the further from God we'll drift. Hopefully, we're just getting better at being Christians.

Anonymous maxwedge said...

We WERE once a nation under God. Americans included the language into their founding documents and prayed to him publically in their legislatures. Like I said, Americans once learned to read from their Bibles. Now they read nothing at all, especially not the Bible. Manifest destiny, slavery and all, we are not perfect, never did I say that. Nor do I believe we were. It is THROUGH God that we have been founded and without him we will fail.

"And the more we see ourselves in terms of our nationality as a qualifier on our faith the further from God we'll drift." If we put nation before God, yes. But what is wrong with recognizing that we are here because of God? That is my point. Why shouldn't we be able to say "thank you God for giving me what I have"? And be able to share that with others. We have been here just a short time. In the 230 years of an American nation we have influenced the world arguably more than any other nation before us. We weren't given all of this for nothing. Indifference is dangerous and lazy.

Freedom and wealth can be a blessing. Am I to feel guilty because I have more than someone else? No. Should I feel for the person that has nothing and help him because I am able? Of course! I believe God has blessed me with the ability to help others. No one can take that blessing from me but him.

I just don't get the sneering, "I'm better than to call myself an American" from lots of people these days. And always looking for the negatives in this counry. Can we say something NICE about America? Is it THAT bad? Many that don't call themselves "Americans" sure can feed from the trough though.

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I'm out of this discussion about whether America is or is not "godly/Godly." Been there, done that. Goes nowhere guys.


I apologize if it's ever come across that I'm pointing out America's bad points in a post. I've done that in the comments here in response to other commentors - and I probably shouldn't have. But I've never done so in this - and I think - in any other post. I may not have communicated as well as I'd hoped though and could have lead folks to think I wrote this post because I was against America.

I am not.

IF America (her people, her government etc) tempt me or command me to go against my understanding of God (the one that calls Jesus His boy) I'm siding with my God and not America. That's really the guts and extent of my convictions on this whole topic.

I'd hoped we'd talk reasonably about what an American and a Christian are. Maybe one definition we could glean from the discussion here is "a person who likes to be right more than be at peace with others."

I'm guilty.

Now, about the Adam Smith stuff. You are right in your wording. "Self-interest" is his word and not "selfish". Selfish is how I characterize self-interest. As a Christian I'm told - commanded actually - to consider the needs of others before my own. (That's apostle Paul talking.) Self-interest is great for capitalism but makes a navel-gazing Church. Is that clearer? Do you disagree that self-interest is in conflict with Christian values? I'm interested to know if I'm just making too much of Adam's philosophy. It's always bugged me...even when I was very much a gung-ho patriot with a flag on my wall and an Elephant button on my backpack.



Blogger The Cachinnator said...

You're right, Shaun, that conversation does seem to go nowhere. But it is at the heart of the original question. And I'll reiterate what I said before, that to draw any kind of a contrast between the two is a non sequitur. No Christian should honestly be able to even consider the two on the same level as far as an identity is concerned. That's why I find the question an odd one. Like I said in the last post, if we aren't to put family above Jesus, how can nationality even show up on the radar?

To keep the definitions simple: a Christian is a follower of Christ. An American is someone who holds American citezenship. Sure you can be both easily, but you can't identify with both. Being American is self-evident and obvious. But calling yourself a Christian doesn't make it so. This goes just as much for our founders as for us, but not all who call, "Lord, Lord," will be recognized by Jesus.

Anonymous maxwedge said...

"IF America (her people, her government etc) tempt me or command me to go against my understanding of God...I'm siding with my God and not America."
I can't think of this happening in America on any organized level. If it ever happened, then I'm with ya. Viva la revolution! But, honestly, when has this happened? And I don't mean any Waco cookout, Branch Davidian stuff....

"I'd hoped we'd talk reasonably about what an American and a Christian are. "
I thought we were. You brought up the topic. All I wanted to say was that we are living in a nation that has lots ofg good going for it. We are here because of God and should recognize that. If you glean from me that because I disagree, ("a person who likes to be right more than be at peace with others.") am I not welcome here? What did I say about being thankful that was wrong? I want to know. Am I wrong? About being thankful for being American?. To me it looks as if a link is trying to be made as if to be American means to be selfish. Are Americans the only ones guilty of this? Europeans are not? Certainly the muslims are not selfish?

Selfishness is everywhere. Selfishness is what got satan kicked out of heaven. Selfishness causes women to terminate a pregnancy. Selfishness causes people to kill, rob, rape and destroy. Selfishness is the opposite of selflessness. Others first.

Self interest is not the same in my thinking. Self interest is more like self maintenence. To take care of yourself, but not necessarily at the expense of someone else like selfishness. If I take care of my body and my fincnaces somewhat, then when you need my help I can help you move that furniture or buy you groceries.

Anonymous Jeffrey J. Stables said...

Shaun, you're right in saying that Smith's economic philosophy makes for a poor worldview. But I don't think anyone's tried to apply his economic theory to Christian living (or living in general).

Also, central to the command to consider others' needs before our own is our sense of our own needs—self-interest, if you will. Take, for example, the Golden Rule: "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). Putting others first requires a knowledge of what you wish for yourself—self-interest again. Then (in the passage I believe you alluded to) Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." This command is not to the exclusion of self-interest, but in fact builds on it, telling us to consider our self-interest and then consider others' interests above even that. So, no—I don't think self-interest is in conflict with Christian values. I think it is an essential part of our existence (think fight-or-flight response and the like) and a jumping-off point for going the extra mile for others.

Now if anyone has tried to bring Smith's philosophy of economics into the Church, well, you and I both know where that's headed. Capitalism makes for a lousy principle of living, especially for the follower of Christ. However, I do think that it's making too much of Smith's philosophy to say that it conflicts with the message of Christ. That's bringing economic policy into an arena for which it was not intended.

Anonymous Jeffrey J. Stables said...

And, yes, I like being right. I'm guilty, as well.

Blogger dockanz said...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are one nation under God.

...under God's judgment.

That was Lincoln's original, and clear, meaning in his Second Inaugural, a speech that makes GWBush look like an ACLU lawyer, and would prompt immediate impeachment hearings today. (Wha-? Americans died because "God" was punishing us...? Who does Abe think he is, Pat Robertson?)

Yep. We're most definitely under God.



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