Let's untangle Christianity from patriotism and make both better – Iowa City Press-Citizen

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I’m tired of Christianity’s bad image.
I’m tired of Trump and the blindness of MAGA Christians who connect faith with Making America Great.
I’m tired of evangelical Christian Nationalists for their insistence that the US will be “blessed” for supporting Israel, even amid Palestinian genocide. (Note that support for Israel as a nation and Netanyahu is different from supporting Jewish people and Jewish faith.)
Let’s calmly agree: America is not a Christian nation. No nation can be Christian.
Let’s look at history and remind ourselves Constantine was wrong when he destroyed the lines between church and empire. They remain a blurry mess today.
Now is a good time to recall the words of author and sociology professor Rodney Stark, “Far too long, historians have accepted the claim that the conversion of the Emperor Constantine caused the triumph of Christianity. To the contrary, he destroyed its most attractive and dynamic aspects, turning a high-intensity, grassroots movement into an arrogant institution controlled by an elite who often managed to be both brutal and lax.” (This is from “For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery.”)
Being Christian has become tangled with more than following Jesus. It’s become entangled with patriotism and national identity. It’s become tied to being a good American — perhaps for some, it is even tied to a certain political party.
Being from the US doesn’t make anyone Christian. A trickier question is whether US bombs are seen as connected to Christianity. I was reminded of the ripples of American actions as I read Preston Yoder’s words. Yoder, an Ohio pastor, talked about voting for Bush but beginning to feel uneasy when the president initiated the Iraq War after 9/11. Yoder began to ask whether his ballot was tainted with blood. Then he heard from Indonesian Christians how they noticed a change in their Muslim neighbors. They perceived the war as Christians declaring war on Islam because they saw the US as a “Christian nation.”
Constantine’s soldiers were marked with a sideways X, a mark of Christ on their shields. Do our bombs hint of Christian markings?
The “God Bless the USA Bible” has increased my indignation and exasperation. Trump has included a copy of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Pledge of Allegiance, and the words “God Bless the USA” with the Bible. It has been wrapped in American sentimentality.
Trump has said the Bible is “his favorite book” while he doesn’t seem to know much about what it says. Instead of welcoming the stranger, he has used his Bible-based faith to pick and choose who to welcome. Not those “diluting the blood of Americans.” Instead of loving enemies as Jesus calls his followers to do, Trump calls his enemies “vermin” whom he will “root out.” 
We can’t impose our moral values or faith on others, but we can dream of being a nation that cares about the common good. We can live in ways that show our faith, whatever that may be. Christians need to find ways that show love for everyone, ways that encourage our nation to spend less on bombs and more on feeding the hungry, and ways that value the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis.
I don’t care how many Bibles you have. I do care how we together become a nation that feeds the hungry and speaks out against cruelty around the world.
Maybe those of us in the Christian camp can rediscover the attractive and dynamic aspects of Christianity as a grassroots movement, not an arrogant institution controlled by a vocal elite.
Let’s become a healthy democracy for all — not a Christian nation.
Jane Yoder-Short lives in Kalona.


Written by: Christianity Today

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