I Love America, But…

Theses on Christianity and Patriotism

  1. The Church and the State have their own separate realms, both of which are God’s.
  2. In the Church God rules according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; in the State God rules according to His Law, written into creation itself.
  3. Each has its own rituals, songs, liturgies, and traditions.
  4. The rituals and traditions belonging to each should remain in their respective realms.
  5. The facts of Christianity are not nor can they be known to everyone, because they are made known by revelation.
  6. The Trinity, Jesus, forgiveness of sins, the Sacraments, the Gospel, and similar things are only known by faith given by the Holy Spirit.
  7. Thus, outside of the gathering of the saints of God around His Word and Sacraments, or outside of the witness of Christians in their vocations, these words and teachings should not be brought into the ceremonies of the civil realm, i.e., those events sponsored by the State.
  8. The facts of the civil realm are available to any person by reason and law.
  9. Laws, creation, morality, the existence of a deity can be known by experience, reason, and examination of the natural world.
  10. The State has an interest in regulating and legislating these things; therefore, they are not, nor can they be, Christianity.
  11. Therefore, Christianity in itself is not morality, law, the good things of creation, or citizenship in any nation.
  12. Christianity does not destroy law, government, morality, citizenship, or civic duty.
  13. Rather, Christianity wishes to keep them in their proper realm: the civic realm, where people have duties and responsibilities toward one another.
  14. Christianity wishes to keep its own realm, the Church, free from legislation and morality, because these will end up subsuming the Gospel back under the Law.
  15. Morality is good, but not in the Church.
  16. That is, the Church does not exist to teach morality.
  17. Legislation is good, but not in the Church.
  18. That is, the Church can legislate nothing.  She has only the Word of God.
  19. This does not mean the Church refrains from proclaiming the Law of God.  She must do this, or risk turning the Gospel into something less than the full, free, unconditional forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake.
  20. But the lack of morality in the world, or the lack of holy living in the Church, cannot be solved by preaching the Law more.
  21. This must, and will, create either spiritually proud people, or spiritually despairing people, unless the Law is preached as a tutor leading to Jesus, who is the end and fulfillment of the Law.
  22. The Church, which will be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God,  is where Jesus alone reigns through His cross, death, resurrection, and the forgiveness He gives.
  23. The United States is neither the Church nor the Kingdom of God.
  24. The Reign of God is beyond all national borders.
  25. God reigns in the United States, as in all nations, only according to His Law, which can only say, “Do this; don’t do that.”
  26. In the realm of the State, the Law is the final word.  There is only Law, and there is only justice.
  27. In the realm of the Church, the Law can never have the final word; it is always God’s “alien” or “strange” work before He does His true or “proper” work of the Gospel.
  28. Whenever these two realms are mixed or confused, the Law ceases to be a demanding and merciless word, and the Gospel ceases to be a free and unconditional word of mercy.
  29. Thus, generic songs about “God,” which are really directed to the State, are not appropriate in the services of the Lord’s House.
  30. This is because we do not have a generic “God,” which has to be interpreted as the Christian, Trinitarian God; we have a specific, explicitly revealed God in Jesus Christ.
  31. A generic “God” is appropriate in the realm of the State, which can know of a deity, but not who this deity is.
  32. Further, most people recognize that there is some “higher power,” by which we are held accountable for how we act.  This is good in the realm of the State.
  33. The Church should pray for the State, and the members of the Church are always citizens of some State.  They should act as responsible citizens for the good of all the other citizens (e.g., by voting, letters to the editor, activism, and any other means open to them).  If the State proscribes religious practice, the members of the Church must obey God rather than men.
  34. Since the Church is the realm of the Gospel and of revealed Christianity, the symbols of the State do not belong in her buildings (e.g., national flags).
  35. Since the State is the realm of Law and of reason, the symbols of the Church do not belong in her buildings (e.g., crosses).
  36. The Church should never give the impression that she is anything other than an outpost of the Kingdom of God within whichever State it finds itself.
  37. The Church is always in a State, but she is never of the State.
  38. The Church should never give the impression that she belongs to a particular State, because the members of the Church are scattered throughout every nation.  Therefore, she should not sing songs that do not apply to any Christian in any State.
  39. The Church should always retain a critical distance from any State, even when the State seems to support the free exercise of the Church’s rites.
  40. The State’s laws can always change; the Reign under which the Church is found never changes.
  41. The State and the Church often use similar words, and yet, according to their proper realms, these words signify completely different things.
  42. Freedom in the realm of the State does not signify the same thing as freedom in the realm of the Church.  Since there is no such thing as sin in the realm of the State (only the breaking of laws), there can be no such thing as freedom from sin in the realm of the State.
  43. Soldiers do not fight and die for the same freedom for which Christ died.  They are absolutely distinct, and must be kept that way to preserve the Gospel itself.
  44. Righteousness in the realm of the State does not signify the same thing as righteousness in the realm of the Church.
  45. Righteousness in the realm of the State is external and earned, not given–and as condemning before God as the worst sin.  Righteousness in the realm of the Church is in the heart and freely given, not earned–and as saving before God despite the worst sin.
  46. Christians ought not put their hands over their hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance or the Star-Spangled banner, because they cannot serve two masters, nor do they have room in their hearts for both Jesus and the State.
  47. The United States is the worst country on the face of the earth–except for all the others; Christians will remember that though she is an excellent and prosperous Babylon, she is still Babylon.
  48. When we ceased to be strangers and aliens to the people of God in Christ, we became, by definition, strangers and aliens to whatever country in which we find ourselves.  Whatever we are as citizens of the United States (rich, poor, governor, governed), we remain in the Church vagrants, beggars, and supplicants who live only by the mercy of God in Christ.
  49. We will take advantage and use fully the benefits which all people are accorded in this country, but we will never rely on them for our life.  They are in the end, like all things that are not Christ, only death.  We will keep the laws, as long as they do not interfere with what God commands, or encroach upon the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel and administration of the Sacraments.  We will give thanks that we do not have to pay taxes on church buildings, etc., but we will not pretend that the Church lives or dies by its tax-exempt status.  We will give thanks for the protection of the Church under the First Amendment to the Constitution, but we will not pretend that the Church lives or dies on whether the government recognizes that freedom.
  50. The Church lives or dies by one thing only: whether the Gospel of the free forgiveness of sinners by Jesus Christ is preached from her pulpits and given out from her altars.

[Open for debate!]

Timotheos

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2 thoughts on “I Love America, But…

  1. Excellent article! Well thought out, well reasoned, well argued. I am sure some might be able to poke holes in some places, BUT that still would not ‘sink the ship’, so to speak. Keep up the good work.

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