America First is Nationalism


One of the most vital things an American Christian can do right now is resist the hijacking of Christian faith by American nationalism.  —Brian Zahnd

I want to start off by saying that I don’t hate Trump.  I feel quite sorry for him actually.  He is a deeply wounded soul that is hurting others because his pain has never been transformed.  In the words of Richard Rohr (my favorite author, writer, speaker, mystic, spiritual guide) – “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

Trump tapped into many wounded souls and grew a platform based on fear.  I was shocked white christians not only supported him, but championed him as their guy who will save America #MAGA. He was called God’s chosen one despite saying he has never asked for forgiveness, which is foundational to the christian faith.  The sexual assault, the vulgar language, the name calling, racism, xenophobia, building a wall Mexico would pay for, saying I could shoot someone and I would still get elected, etc. did not matter and only seemed to boost his popularity.  People in pain liked seeing those of us with a different point of view being called names. I won’t write too much more on this because I have written about it in previous blog posts.  Trump captured the American fear.  Fear is a beast.  What happens is we become what we fear.  People are now talking and saying things I don’t think would have publicly come out of their mouth before.  I can say the same for myself as well.

Trump was happening at the same time my own personal life was falling apart (I have written a lot about this in previous blog posts).  I wasn’t alone.  Jonathan Martin said to not be surprised that while the world is falling apart, your life is falling apart too.  Jonathan spoke words almost daily that hit the pain of what I was feeling that day.  He had been there and was guiding so many of us.  I learned God is doing something new, and America is in trouble.  We are doing what all empires do when they are about to fall, try to go back to the good old days.  There is this belief America was perfect at one time, or close enough to perfect that we should return there.  What got overlooked was American history has another point of view other than white male.  We forgot we got started by stealing people from their homeland, made them slaves and believed they were better off serving as our slaves than living in their homeland.  We forced them here – we did not persuade them.  This statement is directed at Senator Ben Sasse.  We also did not persuade the Native Americans to let us kill them, rape them, take their land, or if merciful we let them assimilate and lose their heritage to be white.  We also did not persuade women to let men do all the voting, decision making, and tolerate abuse because “boys will be boys”.  I will list books I have read that give the point of view of others who experienced America a bit differently in the “America again” phase of life.  I am not saying America hasn’t done anything good, but we have a really hard time talking about our sins.  This continues today.  I understand why we have a hard time confessing these sins.  It is painful.  Losing the full narrative is hard.

I grew up Church of Christ.  I guess we were patriotic, but we did not talk about it that much. We were pretty good about separation of church and state.   I said the pledge of allegiance at school, but my honor for those who have served wasn’t from my pledge to a flag.  Honestly, I always thought I don’t pledge allegiance to a flag–I pledge allegiance to God.  When people were upset because some people did not want to stand for the pledge for religious reasons – I thought we should be sensitive to them and allow them to sit out.  Freedom of Religion should make room for this and does, but people are not allowing it.  Strange because to me that is freedom when we have the freedom to choose. This was before I knew the flag was going to be the American idol draped over a cross.  I thought it was genius the Founders (who are not God and made many mistakes) made it legal to protest the flag-even burn it.  That is a really good thing they thought important, provided they were escaping their own nationalism!  I am not promoting burning the flag, but when I see the flag coming before human lives it pisses me off.  We honor those who served by taking care of them.  We help them assimilate back to life with anything they need (mental health, money, food, shelter, etc), and work like hell not to go to WAR.  Also, we need to remember those who built America – black lives.  The president calls their countries shitholes.  Those shitholes built America.  They worked for our freedom, and then had to work for their own freedom and still are.  It is disrespectful we won’t let them kneel during the anthem to honor their lives.  Their lives built America, and their lives are being taken unjustly by police and the justice system.

I did not write that above paragraph to make myself sound great and others the bad “other”.  I had hang ups.  I have written about some of them in previous blog posts.  I just never was particularly moved by the flag.  During the Olympics – yes, or during the funeral of someone who served – yes.  Those instances can move me to tears.  But even in the Olympics the flag can be protested, and I have written about some who have protested and then are sent to exile–Vera Caslavska to name one.  We get confused on loyalty.  All countries do, but I am going to focus on America because America is my home.  Those who say “America First” will say they are doing the same thing.  That is a great argument, but the world is on fire.  We cannot run away from it.  American has the biggest military in the world.  We are occupying places – like Yemen- and we never ask why.  We go to wars that don’t make sense – George W. Bush took us to war even though we did not find weapons of mass destruction.  This sent ISIS into full throttle when we could not help Iraq rebuild.  ISIS was coming, but we destroyed a nation and left them to dry and in danger.  We have to say when we make horrible mistakes.  Bush is now an artist honoring those who served.  It is a great start, but I am still waiting on repentance.

What we don’t see is fear leads to nationalism.  We want to feel safe.  It is understandable.  We read the Bible and the ones we view as “bad” we do not typically picture ourselves as one of them.  We have always viewed ourselves as the hero, maybe not Jesus hero, but the ones we think are “good”.  Even the ones we think are “good” upon closer look have some major hang ups, horrible hang ups actually–makes me wonder why we think they are the hero.  This is not an excuse to act like any of them, but to take comfort we are all deeply flawed, but God uses us – even the ones we view as “bad”- we are them too.  The Bible is complicated and I love it.  It is a messy human story, just like us.  It is easy to demonize the people who cheered for Barabbas and let Jesus die.  We call out Pilot who we might view as weak when he did not really want to kill Jesus, was warned by his wife not to, and said the blood would not be on his hands.  Ouch!  That actually sounds a lot like us.  The people cheering for Barabbas and Pilot.  Jesus scared them- Jesus scares us.  He was and is different. Jesus’s sermon on the Mount is quite clear, but they/we act like it is a puzzle because it requires dying to ourselves.  Jesus was and is telling us about a living God who was and is moving to new territory, and the empire wanted and wants the good ole days.

Barabbas reminds me a lot of Trump.  He is someone we know isn’t who we think a moral person should be, but the change that is happening is far scarier than letting them loose.  They speak the language of their/our country they/we remember, and they/we explain away everything we know is absolutely horrible for our “safety”.  In the process of doing this we kill Jesus again (people are dying).  The Pentecostal movement, when healthy, know they are serving a living God, a God who moves.  Jesus was killed because he moves too fast.  The Spirit moves too fast for us.  Where the church is wrestling – that is exactly where the spirit is.

I have more to say that I will say in another blog post.  I will talk about my journey listening to pastors on what nationalism is, and why they believe Barabbas was a good ole boy nationalist vs the image we previously had of him.  I had to write this first before I can get there.

From the movie A Star is Born, the lyrics from the song “Maybe It’s Time” speaks to America right now.

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change a man, hell it takes a lot to try
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead
Some folks just believe in the things they’ve heard and the things they’ve read
Nobody knows what awaits for the dead

I’m glad I can’t go back to where I came from
I’m glad those days are gone, gone for good
But if I could take spirits from my past and bring ’em here
You know I would, you know I would

Nobody speaks to God these days
Nobody speaks to God these days
I’d like to thank He’s looking down and laughing at our ways
Nobody speaks to God these days

When I was a child they tried to fool me
Said the world lament was lost and that the hell was real
But I’ve seen hell in Reno and these walls want big ol’
Catherine wheel spinning still

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change your plans, hell of train to change your mind
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Oh, maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

My favorite picture of Blake!  Kids teach us we cannot hold on forever.  They change and grow, and that is exactly how God planned it to be.  We change.



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