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February 20, 2005


Kevin Powell


You write, "As a pacifist, I want to temper my anger at the Church with gratitude to people who fought decades and centuries ago for the freedoms I enjoy. It seems a bit contradictory..." Isn't life constantly lived in the tension between two competing visions of life? Sin and grace, life and death, competition and cooperation, conflict and peace. Faith, I think, is recognizing the contradictions and living (sinning?) boldly in their midst.

I think the answer you gave to the question is a deeply biblical one. Any allegiance before or equal to God is idolotry, biblically speaking. That's why it makes me uncomfortable even having a flag in church.

Just some thoughts on an early Monday morning.

Grace and peace,



I liked you definition, I just picked up Hauerwas' "Performing the Faith: Bonhoeffer and the Practice of Non-violence," and I'm looking forward to reading it. I was in an ethics class during the 9/11 incident, and I was shocked at the time to see Christians lining up to kiss the flag it was amazing. Our teacher (although he was a retired chaplain) had us read Richard Hayes' ethics book, "The Moral Vision of the NT," (which should make those of more liberal leaning happy). He quoted the Catholic priest who prayed over the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, he later repented of his actions.

I'm sure you guys have heard Derek Webb's "I Repent" and have seen his pic on the back of the album he is wearing a jacket with the flag upside down.

I'm also uncomfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance and having flags in the church...


"I'm sure you guys have heard Derek Webb's 'I Repent' and have seen his pic on the back of the album he is wearing a jacket with the flag upside down."

Didn't know about the upside down flag. Wow. That's really gutsy.

Joe Kendrick

Greg, here is an interesting article you might like.
An American Gospel
by Andy Fletcher

Surely Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers never could've predicted what their grand experiment in democracy, freedom, and individualism would eventually produce in America.

Me and Jesus

Our "radical individualism," as Chuck Colson calls it, has led us to develop a theology of "me and Jesus"— where he and I have a deeply intimate relationship, where Jesus died for my sins, not for our sins. The songs we sing with our students reflect that self-centered, narcissistic friendship with the divine where it seems God often comes in second place to our wants and needs. God is just the provider; we're those provided for.

Count how many times words like "I" and "me" appear in our choruses compared to words referring to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. It's become all about me. Most of our songs could play on secular radio, because they sound like descriptions of a love affair. There's even one song ("Your love is extravagant" ) that, appallingly to some, sounds like having sex with Jesus; yet we sing it all the time in churches.

Maybe we should be more offended by that.

Loss of Community

We've lost most of our sense of the Kingdom of God, the community of believers, the family of Christ. When we lose that, we also lose our sense of responsibility toward that community and toward the world around us. Our theology is all about our personal morality, which (in the terms we use with our students) means that if a kid avoids sex and drinking, he or she is doing a pretty good job as a Christian. Add to that having the right opinions about abortion, homosexuality, gun control, creationism, and taxes—and your student is almost walking on water.

Maybe we should be more offended by that, too.

The American Dream

Our exaltation of consumerism has led us to believe in the American dream in a warped way. The dream is no longer just about caring for your family's needs through your work—it's now about creating wealth. And it's not just the Hollywood dream; it's the American dream—even the church pew dream. We seem to have forgotten what Jesus said about the rich and the poor.

The rich have become our heroes, our Bruce Wayne/Batman, and the poor are no longer those whom Jesus loved the most. Jesus is clear about what he thinks of those who refuse to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and welcome the strangers living in our land and working in our fields. Yet many of us see the poor as failures, the sinners lying in the dirt before us as we eagerly cast that first stone, those who've been cast out by us to places of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We should be more offended by that, too.

One Nation over God

It seems that God's main job (since my salvation is all about me) is to keep me healthy, wealthy, and happy. My prayers are about my life, not about the poor and suffering in the ghettoes or far-off lands. So when tragedy strikes (as, we often fail to realize, it always will), I struggle to find answers from a loving God who shouldn't allow suffering to happen to me; though when it happens to people in far-off lands, my emotions somehow are unaffected.

As a "Christian nation," we send into the world our message of democracy and this individualized brand of freedom. That's our gospel, the "gospel of Jesus" we take to the world.

Maybe we should be, well, more offended by that.

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