This time is a time of nationalism in North America, with July 1st being Canada Day and the 4th being Independence Day. What does this mean for Christians though? I recently read this quote in an introduction to the philosophy of religion and I think its is a poignant reminder by an outside observer of what it means to be Christian in North America:
A religiously sensitive visitor from another planet would doubtless report that we divide our energies in the service of many deities — the god of money, of a business corporation, of success, and of power, the status gods, and (for a brief period once a week) the God of Judaic-Christian faith. […] when we rise above this practical polytheism, it is generally into a henotheistic devotion to the nation […] in order to enjoy our solidarity with an in-group against the out-groups.
Our devotion in this time is the epitome of this lattermost henotheism, the primacy of nation. In this time where we raise our flags and sing our anthems we forget that one core truth of what it means to be Christian: we are a new ethnic, not bound by nation or ideology but by a common belief in Jesus Christ, and we are a new ethnic, not because we associate with any nation but because we are first and foremost Christian above all else.
Christians are aliens in this world. Peter exhorts us as “aliens and exiles.” Why then are we aliens, those not part of where we reside (nations of this earth)? We are aliens because we are in Christ. Paul puts it this way:
our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation so that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
We are aliens to this world because our citizenship is not of this world; it is in heaven. We are citizens of heaven, able to receive life by virtue of being in Christ. Why then is it that when we are asked where we are from on this day of nationalism we say that “we are proud to be american / canadian / insert nationality?” It makes no sense as a Christian to say this. We cannot say we are proud for something that was intrinsically given to us at birth and we also cannot forget that it no longer matters (to a large degree) what nation we are from so long as we remember that we are in Christ first, and subject to human powers second. Christianity is not a democracy, it is a monarchy governed by that one truly just and able king, Jesus Christ our Lord and as Paul tells us, he will make all things subject to himself.
We are Christian first — not black, or white, or asian; not rich, or poor, or middle class; not American, or canadian, or mexican — we are Christian. We have been united to Christ who is over all things. How can we ever forget this for mere partisanism? How can we be proud of something we did not earn (our citizenships, unless you are an immigrant)? We are now all part of the household of faith, let us then care for Christians around the world — for the Copts in Egypt, the Catholic and Orthodox in syria, for the house churches in China, for the pentecostals in Africa, and for the church at home in North America. Christianity is transnational; it is the ultimate equalizer in placing everyone under God. Perhaps it is about time that we rediscover just what it means to be part of this household, a household that has so far tended to forget its members across borders defined by humans, by people who are not our supreme Lord, Jesus Christ. Let all look to heaven and await with earnest longing our Saviour, Jesus Christ our Lord who will end all wars and bring peace to this broken world. Let us also not forget our neighbors who have not yet entered our household so they they might also rejoice in a new citizenship, a citizenship imperishable.