The other day, I came across this question on Twitter, “What’s worse, the prosperity gospel or the patriotic gospel?” My first reaction was it was a bit of a toss up. But the more I thought about it and observed the discussion on my Facebook page, I do think the patriotic gospel needs to be spelled out a bit. I don’t know the author of the tweet so I have no idea what he meant by it but I thought I would write out a few thoughts about what I believe it is. I suspect that some will disagree but these are my convictions.
I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with patriotism, as long as it is kept in perspective. I see no prohibition in Scripture where one cannot love their country and want what is best for it. Though America has not always lived up to her ideals, we can celebrate her victories.
However, the patriotic gospel is more than just a love for country. I actually do believe it is a form of the prosperity gospel so let me lay that out. A common misconception about the prosperity gospel is that it is about money or getting rich. Actually, wealth is just an outcome of its foundation. At the heart of the prosperity gospel lies the notion that material gain symbolizes favor with God. Material gain can be wealth but also comes in different forms, such as employment success, social standing, houses, cars, and other earthly treasures. While proponents of the prosperity gospel will say they are placing their faith in Jesus, in reality, hope is placed in obtaining material gain since that represents right standing with God. It’s why you see so much emphasis on the material in prosperity teaching. Sadly, I think softer forms of prosperity teaching run rampant in mainstream American evangelism.
Now, let’s make that application to the patriotic gospel. I think the most obvious form is believing that the United States has a special status with God and therefore, supporting her prosperity means continued favor. It’s treating the US as if God has made a covenant with her. This line of thinking sees no problem with inserting patriotic symbolism into Christian expression such as Bible verses and church services.
But I think there is a more subtle form that is more rampant and easily morphs patriotism into a patriotic gospel. It is the belief that Christianity is beholden to governmental systems and we therefore put faith in the system that delivers the best outcome for Christianity to thrive. I believe this becomes especially acute if we take the position that the US has some special favor with God and therefore Christianity is entitled to receive it’s rewards from the government that benefits individual Christians, churches, and other Christian organizations.
I want to be careful here. In full disclosure, I lean politically right because I favor limited government in the interest of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. I laid out my position out in this Family Discussion Season 2 podcast episode. The more government intrusion, the more such entities can dictate how people are to live. I do believe that in support of the church, we should advocate for policies that will protect her especially considering our brothers and sisters in Christ who live under regimes that are repressive to Christianity. Out of priority for Christ’s bride, we can take steps to preserve freedom for religious expression and moral ethics according to scriptural standards.
I’m not talking about simply supporting policies. Rather, I’m speaking to actively placing hope in the system such that we believe our righteousness is affected if we don’t achieve such favor. And you see what this does under the banner of love for country. Just as prosperity teaching drives people to place an emphasis on material gain, this impulse will drive an inordinate passion for government to be on the Christian’s side and treat anyone who opposes this drive as an enemy of Christianity, even brothers and sisters in Christ. The patriotic gospel sees less governmental favor on its behalf as actually taking a loss for Christianity.
But this is where I believe the patriotic gospel fails. As long as Jesus is building his church, Christianity will not lose. Our righteousness comes from him not favorable circumstances that makes it look like we are winning. It’s actually worldly thinking that assigns success of Christianity on material rewards. At the end of the day, the Christian’s allegiance is to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his kingdom above all else. In him alone do we put our trust.
“put faith in the system that delivers the best outcome for Christianity to thrive.”
It’s not about putting faith in a system, but believing that finding a place where we are free to worship according to the dictates of my conscience is necessary. Should the Pilgrims stayed in England and not seek a place to worship? This is what I believe we should be doing now, protecting to the best of our ability our freedoms, not “believing” in a system.
It is the belief that Christianity is beholden to governmental systems and we therefore put faith in the system that delivers the best outcome for Christianity to thrive.
Here again, there is an equation with governmental systems on the one hand (object of faith) and that system delivering an outcome. I think where you have it wrong is in substitution of the idea of freedom, in this case, to worship and “governmental systems.” Freedom refers back to “inalienable rights” which are God given, and the first expression of such rights is the free exercise of religion. Freedom therefore is not beholden to a system, but the idea that Moses espoused to Pharoah, “let my people go” that they might serve Me. To be free to worship is the antithesis of governmental systems. It suggests that there ought to be the possibility for human beings to believe in a power greater than government. This is where Jesus clears up the controversy: “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
It is a request that the government respect my autonomy as a person, and may not dictate what I believe is ultimate reality.
Yes, Christ can build his church in any circumstance, but the frank choice today society has made is for Christ to go in the closet, because gays have been deemed the proper group between the two to come out by society. This would take effect if Joe Biden gets into office. He says he will of first order raise the status of gays and LBGTQ to amend Civil Rights legislation which gave blacks essentially personhood. This is wrong. For it will by law deny me the right to believe that what the Bible says about sexuality is wrong. We lose the right to defer to a higher power because gays could then use Civil Rights legislation to destroy ecclesiastical authority. It has nothing to do at root with hating gays, but in the right to treat the Bible as the word of God.
I believe that it is a straw man, equaling our current ideas about patriotism with prosperity, when the truth of the matter is that it is of great value to reserve in our churches at least, the final call to a holy God, and not to men.