Unpopular Annual Post: "Why Christianity and the '4th' are Incompatible" OR "Why this is NOT a day to celebrate" OR "Why my friends wont like me for the next week or so"

I want to start out this post with a huge disclaimer… what I am about to say may sound radical or irrational to some. I also want to say that I have a great respect for those who differ with me on this issue that I am about to discuss, so I invite your ideas on this post as well. Finally, I have a great deal of respect for those who are Christians and who ‘support’ military and our troops. Those who serve our country (although I may disagree with it from my standpoint theologically) deserve respect for their sacrifices and I am glad to have some friends who have served or are serving in the armed forces.

With all of that said, I have been struggling with the idea of the 4th of July for the past couple of years or so. Each year we get together and remember the day when America won her freedom. We reenact the story through live action plays, we set off fireworks as a display of joy, and we sing prideful songs about our freedom from oppression. In many ways, we treat Independence Day like the Jews in Jesus’ day (and even to this day) remember the exodus from Egypt. Now here is the issue I have: No matter what position you hold in regards to being a Christian and war (I happen to hold to nonviolence); I cannot justify glorifying the ‘wining’ of our independence from our friends across the pond, even if using ‘just war theory’ criteria. How can we celebrate that we killed thousands upon thousands of people (MANY OF WHICH WORSHIPED THE SAME GOD!) over the fact that they were taxing our mammon without giving us representation in parliament or whatever?!!!!! This seems just plain wrong!!!!! Yes, there might be some kind of justice issue here, but the greater injustice to taxation without representation is the violent killing of our brethren.

Let me add that I love fireworks, BBQ’s, and any good excuse to hang out with friends.  I do not think that by simply attending a July 4th gathering that you are sinning.  In fact, I often make the trek to the beach to watch the fireworks over the Pacific… while not choosing to actually ‘celebrate’ the holiday.  I also love that I have had the privilege to grow up in this country.  So, I am not “anti-America” by any stretch; I am happy that I live here.  What I think is that as Christians we need to recalculate our past and allow the Gospel to be critical of certain things we now celebrate.  Is it honorable to kill because the colonists didn’t like being taxed or chose to believe other conspiracy theories?  I think the Jesus who says “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” would probably say “no.”  Mark Noll, who is a historian that is read in almost every seminary across America, said the following in an article he wrote for Christianity Today about just war and the Revolutionary War:

During this confused misunderstanding, the Bible was used as a reservoir of images, moral principles, and types. Many sermons in America (and some in Britain) supported revolt, while a few in America and England argued against it. Serious exegesis, however, of what would seem to us like the relevant passages (such as Romans 13) was very rare. Rather, it was much more common for patriots to liken George III to Pharaoh and George Washington to Moses, or to depict the conflict as a struggle between the Woman and the Beast of Revelation 12. Patriots and Loyalists were both much more likely to add scriptural authority to political reasoning rooted in some other ideology than they were to attempt reasoning from the ground up on the basis of Scripture.

What is quite interesting is that Noll properly points out that the “Just War” principles of St. Augustine were not followed as criteria for the war for Independence.  This war was not rooted in scripture, but in a false political agenda.  And why was it false?  Noll reminds us of how history played itself out: “Americans fought a war to gain the kind of freedom that Canada, New Zealand, and Australia were simply given after not too many decades.”  Our nation, in other words, killed other Christians in order to gain independence that would have eventually been granted to them in a “just” fashion, had the founding fathers not been so trigger-happy over issues of taxation and other conspiracy theories.

The most popular rebuttal to what I have said (based on a similar post last year) will probably have to do with the issue of freedom.  We have freedom today because of this and other wars.  I think that this is a false assumption.  I challenge the idea that my freedom to choose came from our independence.  I am free to choose because God has given me a free will.  Just like the Christians who suffered persecution during the first century and so on, I have the ability to choose because of the grace of God.  Even if we had not separated ourselves from England, most likely it would have turned out pretty good.  As was already pointed out – Canada never revolted, and they are doing just fine (socialism aside, they have basic freedom).

Is there anyone out there who agrees with me or am I just crazy [if you disagree take it easy on the crazy comments (-; ]? If you agree, why? If not, tell me your thoughts on this historic day and Christian biblical theology.




  • http://www.danceswithklingons.wordpress.com Steven McDade

    You put into words on how I have felt about the holiday (though it is NOT holy).
    A few years ago my family attended an alternate 4th celebration on how we depend on God and not our independence from others.

    It was inspired by Shane Clairborne’s “Jesus For President”.

    I think the fireworks are a waste of resources and are too expensive now. I love the tradition of BBQ, camping and being with family.

    As for my stance on military, I believe that WWII should have been the last war and all the others including the current war with Iraq and Afghanistan are going against God’s beauty.

    You are not alone. I love living IN this world. There is more to it than politics, religion, hate and fear. We are free in Christ. We need to re-examine what it means to BE Christ to the world.

  • http://ruthkaup.wordpress.com Ruth

    I posted a similar topic today. I am a new blogger, but I’m reading Peace to War (as Assembly of God this book facinates me) and just couldn’t help myself. I agree with you. Yes, it is VERY unpopular these days. In fact, I’m guilty of not speaking out sometimes because I just do not feel like dealing with all the “haters.” It seriously shocks me that Christians can want to bomb other people groups. In my present reading, the first Assembly of God groups were totally against war. This has changed and I am determined to find out why! (I live in central, PA and my Amish friends completely avoid this holiday. I’m thinking maybe we should also.) Soldiers can do good, especially during time of disaster. But as followers of Jesus, we are required to be like him in every way. I just can’t picture Jesus picking up an ak47 and marching into Iraq.

  • http://dalebest.com Dale Best

    I’m jiving with you. I am completely and utterly sad and ashamed that this Sunday, July 4th, most American churches will choose to drape an American flag in front of, next to, around the crosses that symbolize our worship every other Sunday of the year.

  • Pingback: Concerning the 4th « Hope, Faith, and Love

  • http://www.chadholtz.net Chad Holtz

    Keep writing, Kurt :) I still like you.

    Each year I do the same thing – this year more or less reposting things from the previous year for discussion. Last year I wrote a post about celebrating Happy INTERdependence Day, which can be found here: http://chadholtz.net/?p=885

    God bless you this week!

    grace and peace,
    Chad

  • http://www.jmsmith.org James-Michael Smith

    Kurt, I sympathize with your position and resonate with much of what you say. Here are my thoughts on this holiday:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-8276-Methodist-Examiner~y2009m7d2-July-4th-and-Jesus

  • Michael Todd

    Kurt, you and I are in total agreement. The church has a calendar, but too often follows a nationalist calendar instead. Christ followers are citizens of an invisible kingdom, who too often show allegiance to the kingdoms of men. It is sad, but there is a silver lining to this gray cloud, for I am seeing more and more posts like this. It is not just Anabaptists anymore who have what I diagnose as a healthy view of politics and Jesus. I have hope that the tide in the American evangelicalism is turning.

  • Ryan Dykhouse

    I agree that we have much to reconsider as we look back on our country’s history. Our “Christian” nation has never really acted in a truly Christian manner. In the same way, we cannot treat the 4th of July as an “unholy day.” The Revolutionary War was not just about taxation, but about an entire political system. It was not about the Stamp Tax or the Tea Tax or any of the other taxes, but of the unjust subjugation of fellow Britons, as many of the Founders saw it. They believed that they were British citizens the same as residents of England. However, when they had tax after tax imposed upon them and an occupation force thrust upon them and the abolition of their colonial run governments (see the dissolution of the House of Burgesses), the “fellow Britons” realized their error and decided to form a new nation. They first attempted this peacefully, but then were compelled to defend themselves from aggressive actions by the British occupying forces. Thus started the war. I am not saying we did everything right. I am saying that what we did was not driven out of religious conviction, but out of a political and philosophical paradigm shift. So let us rejoice in the establishment of a political system where our church is not controlled by the state and our voices are heard in government. Let us celebrate how we are allowed more freedom than any other nation in the world, especially in the practice of our faith. But let us also keep an open mind with regard to the wars we are pursuing and the culture we are, well, cultivating.

  • http://www.theophiliacs.com Shawn

    @Ruth,

    check out these links – one is to the profile of Paul Alexander, PhD – a professor at Azusa Pacific University. I did some work under him at SAGU workin on an M.A.

    http://www.pcpj.org/index.php/about-us-mainmenu-44/90-members/128-california-paul-alexander

    The other is a link to his dissertation (now published) titled, “Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God”

    http://www.cascadiapublishinghouse.com/ptw/ptw.htm

    • http://ruthkaup.wordpress.com Ruth

      Thanks, Shawn! I appreciate you posting the links! Ruth

  • Anne Deneen

    Hi Kurt, once again–thanks for your gutsy stance on this. Always provocative and a pleasure to read your work, plus the other commentators as well–there were a couple of other essays in there. Glad for your nonviolent conviction, which we have talked about before. Satyagraha would be mine.
    Blessings and peace, Anne

  • http://findingmeaningin.blogspot.com/ Tucker

    Looks like you are getting more support than anticipated! I suppose those of unlike opinions probably read the title and just decided to skip to the next one :)

    I think you are right in calling us to reconsider our history and the prevailing narrative that has been used to interpret the American experience. The Revolutionary War certainly does not come close to meeting the standards of “just war” that had been accepting throughout most of Christian history, as very few American wars have. I also think it is important for Americans to hear the point you raise in the next to last paragraph; our common assumption is that if the colonists hadn’t revolted we would still be under some kind of British tyranny. In fact, history shows that we almost certainly would have achieved peaceful independence within a few decades. And I think that presumption of a necessary link between violence and “freedom” has shaped the predilection for violence (particularly gun violence) in American culture to this day.

    I will say though, that I am not sure the justness or lack thereof of the Revolutionary War is of central concern to the ethics of our engagement with this holiday. I think that most 4th of July celebrations I have been witness to have been less specifically focused on the achievement of independence and instead more a celebration of generic patriotism. I don’t mean the word “generic” in a pejorative sense, I just mean that typically the 4th becomes a celebration of America as a whole, an occasion to extol the inherent virtues of America and to reinforce the notion of American exceptionalism. I think that these questions may be even more fundamental to the formation of our Christian communities. Even if I were to concede that the use of violence is sometimes morally justified (which, like you, I don’t) I would still argue that it is wrong to place our allegiance in any principality or power, and that our political loyalty lies only with the Kingdom of God (which is a political term!).

  • http://www.faithwalker.net Jeff Strong

    First off Jesus wouldn’t want to carry a .50 caliber Machine gun on his shoulder. They leak oil and you’ll never get the stain out.

    I am a Veitnam era veteran. I spent 16 months in the northern reaches of South Veitnam and Cambodia as a Combat Infantryman. I have killed lots of people in lots of ways.
    In the beginning I joined the United States Army so that I would not be drafted into the Marines because Most of my Graduating class and three of my cousins joined the Marines and then were sent to Vietnam and came back in Body bags with in 6 months of their enlistments. I have seen and participated in finding new and creative ways in causing death and crippling
    of my fellowman. I have seen the slaughter first hand for a chunk of real estate that was in the hundreds if not thousands only to abandoned it hours later.
    If there is one scripture that adequately defines carnal warfare it would be James Chapter 4 :1-6.

    So what is my position on this day that the United States and its citizens lift up their glasses and make Grand Toast in remembrance?

    Actually it is quite simple, 38 and 1/2 years ago I gave up my Citizenship to the United States of America and every other government on this planet save one. I became a Monarchist, I entered into a Blood Covenant with a King. Part of my journey requires me to be on a Pilgrimage in a country in whose people are blinded through a gross deception. I have been given Power and Authority and Armour and a Weapon, a Sword, and a Guide who not only leads me through this Land but also teaches me how to best set those who are in bondage free and how open the eyes that are blind.
    So for me I get to enjoy the Fireworks and The BBQs with my brethren and use the opportunity to create some fireworks of my own which results in some eyes being open if only for a moment or two……
    I like Issiah 60 : 1 thru 5. Now that’s Fireworks! I don’t care what anybody says.
    So Steve…….When Last I checked you aren’t and American either you are like me a Pilgrim passing through with Armour and Power and Authority and the same Guide. May He give you a broader and deeper perspective.
    AND ONE LAST Thing……..yes you are crazy….just like me!(Just younger);)

  • Juli

    I was just contemplating this very thing this morning. On the one hand, I do celebrate the freedoms we have here, and I am glad that I live in the place and time that I do. On the other hand, I think we should all remember that this country was founded on much bloodshed – not only the British, but also the Native Americans who already lived here. I have Native American ancestry, as well as German and Dutch. There is something wonderful in the “melting pot” that is the USA, but I agree with your thoughts on the prideful attitude that does not belong. I have mixed feelings about celebrating the 4th. I will be enjoying food and fellowship with family and friends, and honestly I love to watch the fireworks!

  • http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/ Robert Martin

    I’ll add a (relatively) brief comment that contains a little bit of advice. I would suggest that you research the Free Quaker movement that started in Philadelphia around the time of the American Revolution. As you know, the Quakers are and were a non-violent pacifistic faith. But the Free Quakers were those who, while they still held true to the basic precepts of peace, recognized that what was going on around them was something that they were advocating for in their own writings and teachings. The Revolution was not solely about taxes. In fact, the first drafts by Jefferson of the Declaration of Independence originally had a large section indicating that the practice of slavery was something that they wanted to abolish. The Revolution was less about taxes and more about freedom of oppression of a variety of ways. The Quakers supported the ideas of the Revolution for this reason as they were advocating for justice. The Free Quakers came to the conclusion that the world around them was moving in the direction of armed revolt and that, to them, it seemed providential that such events that were based upon their own ideas of justice and righteousness on the part of governments. It seemed like God was definitely, in some way, leading into this direction so they felt convicted to take up arms to follow along with God in what he was leading them into. Do I agree with them? No. But I also recognize that, if it wasn’t for what those Free Quakers did as well as men like Washington, Adams, Paine, etc, did, I wouldn’t have the current freedom to worship and follow Christ in a way that was not dictated by my government. You wouldn’t even have the freedom to write a blog post where you can state, without fear of government retribution, that you disagree with a “holy” day for our nation. Would I take up a gun and join those Free Quakers? Probably not. Would I demonize them and what they did and condemn them and their actions for it? No. Because, quite honestly, God has used in the past the weapons of warfare for enacting His judgment against unjust nations and unjust leaders. Who is to say that He did not do so in 1776 and the years following?

    Just food for thought.

  • http://journeytowardnonviolence.wordpress.com Christianne

    Hi Kurt,

    First time commenting, but I’ve read several posts here recently since you and I became connected through Twitter. (Thanks for the initial follow!)

    I’m glad our paths have crossed because you’re writing on many of the same subjects I’m thinking and writing about these days … you’re just a bit further along on the journey, so I anticipate continuing to learn a lot from you.

    Like most (all?) of the other commenters, I find you articulating something I’ve been thinking about this week, too. I didn’t have the research or thoughtful arguments worked out like you did, but I did have the discomfort* that comes from a day set aside to celebrate our nation, especially because it’s a patriotism rooted in celebrating violence (not just of the past, but ongoing even today).

    I say this is uncomfortable for me because I, too, am thankful for the freedom I have because I live here. I guess this is where I appreciate the two perspectives you offered on this: 1) We can’t say we wouldn’t have our freedom if the Revolutionary War never happened (who can say where events would have led, then?) and 2) We are free because we are human beings, not because a particular nation declares us free.

    Thanks for these distinctions! I find them very helpful.

    * One result of walking the nonviolent path, I’ve found, is that most legal American holidays — 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day — bring about this discomfort now. Ergh.

  • John Hall

    Great post here. I think the big thing you bring up that we forget is that it was Christians killing each other to forward one political agenda or another. Somehwere along the line we have forgotten that our FIRST allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and what THATkingdom stands for. we somehow think the USA is God’s voice and hand on the earth right now and that simply isn’t true. We are told our citizenship is not of this world and yet we cling to the flag so much that we actually have it holding hands with Scripture. This is a dangerous patnership. As Christians, we are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God and our loyalty should first and foremost be to the agenda of our King. Thanks for your post and all who take the time to read my 2 cents.

  • http://www.readhearseefeel.blogspot.com RuthintheDesert

    I don’t think all of us who celebrate the Fourth are celebrating war. I realize that the historical background of July 4th is our independence from England. However, I think many of us celebrate the fact that we live in America. I am thankful to live here. I would rather live in Ireland, and I would welcome the chance to move to England, but I am thankful that at this time God has placed me in America. I am thankful that I do have the freedoms I have here (if I lived in, for example, Germany, I would not have the freedom to homeschool my children). I am not one of those who thinks America is the best country in the world, but I do think we have quite a few things to be grateful for here.

  • Kevin

    Agreed… and, oh yeah, I’m Canadian.

  • Samuel Adams

    I want to say that I completely respect your opinion. I think if you look at it historically they were more worried about being subjugated by an empire. As the British fired on Lexington and Concord in 1775. The threat may not have been as dire as Ireland in the 17th century, but the political philosophy was about relieving people of a king so that there would not be tyranny. There was talk about revolution for a long time. John Adams talked about the fears of being subjugated like Ireland. I don’t have the book John Adams by David(?) Mcullough(?) anymore so I can’t give you the page. The fear was of a king who could do whatever he wanted. According to Ben Franklin’s Autobiography put together by collecting his papers where his actual autobiography left off, Britain was collecting taxes when America already gave more than was required of them. They were then being forced to pay for the empire though they were loyal to the empire. America did not attack first Britain did. Before the declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. The people of America had still not decided on independence until a full(?) year after lexington and concord. History is not taught very well these days, It’s not your fault if you actually believe me, and think it’s your fault you listened to people who said that. Not trying to be condescending. I reserve the right to be wrong on anything I say.

  • http://criticalbelief.com/ Marc

    The problem with your thesis is that Jesus certainly celebrated passover which reminded of the Exodus which was a violent liberation. I’m all for non-violence as the most excellent way but two things bother me:
    1) Sometimes violence is the only way
    2) The Bible is riddled with violent solutions from God, including the cross

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      marc… certainly Jesus celebrated the Exodus. But remember, he brought about a ‘new exodus’, one of a suffering lamb who would bring about ultimate liberation. Also, Jesus repeatedly says… “you have heard it said… (Old Testament) … but I say to you.” He has no problem taking his tradition and moving it forward to God’s intent in the world. This is clearly what Jesus does with the issue of violence throughout the gospels and particularly the sermon on the mount. In fact, no New Testament passage allows for a Christians to be involved in any form of violence. The only form of violence allowed is what you mention… the cross. You call it a “violent solution from God” and indeed you are correct. Except you fail to recognize that it is the powers of evil and the evil empire that inflict the violence on Jesus… not the other way around. Christianity is about enduring violence not inflicting it. Listen to what Peter says:

      19 For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

      22 “He committed no sin,
      and no deceit was found in his mouth.” [e]

      23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        Marc… I should have also added that in the Exodus story… the Hebrews do not fight!!!!!! God does the fighting and He alone is the one who has the right to take life (in light of what the New Testament reveals about God).

  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

    The comments thus far have been generous and well informed. Even those with whom I disagree, I am thankful for your contributions. Shalom!

  • http://www.mskelli.wordpress.com Kelli

    Wow, you said so much of what I would like to say. My church is spending this Sunday celebrating America and referring to the phrase “Christian nation” rather than spending the day in God’s Word. The cantata even has a spoken part about submitting to governing authorities-words spoken by Jesus- but is a big celebration of our forefathers thumbing their noses at authority! It was not until homeschooling my children that I even realized that the taxes the Americans were being asked to pay were because of the large amount of money that the British government used to finance the protection they gave us during the French-Indian War. How is that a model of gratitude?

  • addowns

    Hi Kurt,

    I am loving the discussion–perfectly timed!

    As my friend likes to say, I have too many trains leaving the station at the same time to hope to get them all, but two things are burning on me this morning:
    1) appreciating freedom (and democracy)
    2) our understanding of oppression

    1–
    As a pacifist, I always have a hard time with the presupposition that we all are forced to swallow that “freedom” is only found through violence, and that I must publicly apologize for believing that violence creates violence and that the sacrifices made by diplomats, UN envoys, and those brokering peace all over the globe are of true value.

    AND
    The way we use the word ‘freedom’ (like ‘democracy’) is not only inaccurate, but entirely self-serving. It seems to me that our political framework is no more democratic than Canada’s or Brazil’s, and we ourselves do not have the market cornered on democratic ideals–far from it. Having been in seminary in Canada during the 2004 election, it was clear that Canadians (including twenty-somethings) were highly informed about their government and ours while we tend to display a great deal of bravado about our country but little real expression of its values. Is this a true expression of freedom and democracy: to choose to not give a damn? Isn’t democracy dependent on a highly educated and motivated citizenry? We seem to lack both. Similarly, many of the Latin American nations have been expressing a vibrant, grass-roots democracy (arguably the only kind) that we ought to listen to (instead of condemn and control through the IMF). We seem to fear those countries with vibrant democracies and call them names, like the S-word. This leads to–

    2–
    Our understanding of oppression, and I think the space between what Kurt is talking about and what “Samuel Adams” was saying, is that Americans tend to worry more about economic oppression and complete autonomy than other concepts related to oppression and tyranny. Anti-British sentiment was fostered in the 17th Century between two ideals: not wanting to adhere to the British authority and wanting the freedom to trade with France (among other things). Britain’s strong-armed approach to bring the colonies back in line ultimately backfired, but let’s not commit ourselves to the heroes and villains roles. It seems that the interest was less about liberty and freedom than simple autonomy. Ask a teenager about this desire.

    And just in case we forgot the place religion plays in this discussion, ;) our country was founded by people that sought religious autonomy (and “freedom from oppression”) and then came over, set up their own little camps and oppressed the heck out of each other.

    Perhaps what many of us react too isn’t simply the contradictions and the confusions and split-loyalties that we are most reminded of on this day, but the very question of justice. Just as the mother of a fallen soldier needs to believe that s/he didn’t die in vain, we need to believe that 1) our revolution was justified, 2) that the Founding Fathers crafted the pinnacle of human achievement, and 3) that we are (and always are) doing “good” in the world. I can totally understand this need, but I gotta say, it sure gets in the way of an honest appraisal of ourselves. It’s like we all wake up and look in the funhouse mirror that makes us look super skinny and we say “damn, I look good!”

  • Jon

    A few thoughts..The American Revolutionary War started in 1775..The Declaration of Independance was ceremonially ratified on(as we all know, July 4th) so i think that the holiday is more meant to connote the struggle for liberation,freedom & new possibilities in this new world more so than simply a glorification of the war.

    Secondly, America wasn’t founded as a “Christian” nation in the truest sense of the word “Christian”. The founding fathers as afar as what I have read were mostly deists.. If you have ever taken a look at the “Jefferson Bible” he takes out all mentions of any miracles. Likewise, if you go to the Smithsonian, there is a huge George Washington statue that is obviously meant to look like Zeus..

    I’m sure you would agree with the above point and will say”that’s my point, this isnt a Christian nation..” However, what do you do with Revalations 19..I’ll paste the passage below..This isnt Sermon on the Mount, Jesus..This is Jesus going to war.

    I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
    KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Jon, Revelation is a picture of what is happening in the spiritual realm… especially in the first century. This was a vision, not a ‘literal’ reality. No time to comment further, but simply said: God has the right to fight and take life… but according the the New Testament, humans do not. Wish I could say more but no time!

  • http://www.sofolo.com/ Christopher

    I know I posted this link in a previous discussion, but considering that I wrote it specifically on this topic I thought it was deserving of reposting.

    http://sofolo.posterous.com/independence-day-67

  • Loyd

    I am so glad to have read this post!! I have long felt this way, but, given the attitude of Family and friends kept these sentiments to myself. Thanks so much for articulating these true but unpopular ideas. I think that this is true Christianity/politics.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      thanks Loyd!

  • http://achorusofechoes.wordpress.com j

    Kurt,

    I enjoyed reading this. For an outsider (being not American) you raised some good issues. Basically, it does heighten us Christians to be more discerning in how we understand things pertaining to our countries (politics) and how that translates to our faith. This has given me interest to look at the Malaysian context, in responsible living as a Christian rather than just following the flow.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Jon, I always love when you bring your context into the conversation! Thanks!!!

  • http://officehourthoughts.blogspot.com Nathan McCorkindale

    Wow Dude! Great post until the end. Let’s not forget that it is the American government that subsidizes all your farmers so that no one in America pays the real price of food. I went to buy cheese here in Canada and nearly passed out after living in Cali for the last year. It is easily double the price, maybe even more. I hate to break it to all you Americans but you are as much if not more socialist than your neighbors to the north.

  • http://officehourthoughts.blogspot.com Nathan McCorkindale

    Oh, and I enjoyed your post.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Nate… thanks bro!!!!! Miss seeing ya every week. Hope things are good up in the Socialist republic of Canada ;-)

  • http://www.charismanglican.com The Charismanglican

    My wife and I are considering fasting from fireworks. In the context of the 4th, fireworks aren’t about joy but about rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. Not the sort of moral imagination I want for my kids.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      That makes complete sense to me Joey! Not planning to see any ‘intentionally’ myself… but I have to admit they are fun ;-) Totally respect your tension on this aspect of the 4th.

  • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

    July 4th, 1776, was not the occasion of a major bloody battle; it was the occasion of the signing of he Declaration of Independence from the British government. It is this document I will be ‘celebrating’, because of the principles contained in it – not the fighting which resulted because of those principles. Whether or not the fighting was justified, I believe the principles are very just. Just as a reminder, here’s an excerpt from the Declaration:

    “IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    One of the most basic principles enumerated there was that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the people. This is logical and reasonable; and if one believes that in order for a thing to be right and just it must be ‘Biblical’, I believe the principle can be shown to be Biblical. When God Himself gave His Law to Israel, the people consented to that Law. Later, when Israel wanted to have an earthly king, despite the fact that it was pointed out that this was contrary to the will of God – and their desire amounted to a rejection of God’s authority – God told Samuel to accede to the wishes of the people; but to warn them of what a king would do to them.

    Concerning Romans 13 and similar Biblical passages, there’s a very interesting sermon preached by Jonathan Mayhew on Jan. 10, 1750 which became very popular among the Christian colonists prior to the Revolution. It can be found here – http://hushmoney.org/UnlimitedSubmission_Mayhew.htm – though there are a few places where transcriptional errors were made and sentences got cut off. I believe the points he makes could be summarized in saying that when Paul (and others) said that there is no authority except from God, he was saying that anyone who asserts authority, but rules in an ungodly manner, is not a true authority because his rule comes from Satan rather than God. One can tell the difference between true God ordained authority and false (Satan inspired) authority by the ‘fruit’ the rulers bear. A God ordained (and therefore legitimate) authority which must be obeyed rules in a just manner, for the good of the people. He is a ‘terror’ to bad conduct, but not to good conduct. Where you have a ‘ruler’ who is a terror to good conduct, his authority does not come from God but the Devil, and therefore according to Paul, he is NOT an authority. James 4:7 says to submit to God, but resist the Devil. Anyone who, as shown by his actions, is an authority set up by the evil one not only MAY be legitimately resisted; we actually have a DUTY to resist such an illegitimate ruler. And that’s precisely what the Declaration of Independence said. The legitimate government, approved by the people, has the right and duty to resist and overthrow the ungodly tyrant who only has a usurped authority.

    HOW an ungodly authority is to be resisted is another matter. Is the use of violence justified in the act of resisting and overthrowing? I personally don’t believe so; I believe the example of Jesus and his disciples, and the early church, shows that nonviolent resistance (as for instance practiced in relatively recent years by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) is the approved Christian (and godly) method of resistance. One should be willing to die for his beliefs, but not to kill for them. However, Paul – in that Romans 13 passage – seemed to think that godly government DOES in fact have a legitimate right to use violence in subduing evil; because he says that legitimate authority (that which is ordained by God) bears the SWORD and is God’s servant to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. That would seem to indicate that in Paul’s view a legitimate government, acting with the consent of the people, has the right to raise armies (the power of the sword) to resist and ‘execute wrath’ on the evil and tyrannical usurped authority – as the newly united colonies did to resist the tyranny of the British government. It should be noted, though, that the colonies acted in self defense. It was King George who sent his armies over here; our armies did not cross the ocean to attack King George, the Houses of Parliament, and the British people. As pointed out by Samuel Adams earlier, the British armies attacked the colonists about a year before the Declaration was signed.

    But as I said, I don’t see any example in early church history of Christians taking part in the violent overthrow of evil; so I find it hard to reconcile Paul’s statement about the just power of the sword with Christian practice. For my part, I oppose lethal violence under all circumstances. If someone attacks me, I may or may not try to physically subdue him in a nonlethal way; but I cannot take someone else’s life even in self defense.

    So I will honor the Declaration of Independence – and the subsequent Constitution of the United States of America – on July 4th; but I will not honor the bloody warfare used in the resistance to tyranny.

  • Eric

    First off, I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind out there, but I have zero problem with celebrating Independence Day. I’m not commenting on the threads because I don’t have enough time to go and read all the links.

    The statement about “trigger-happy” founding fathers is quite misplaced. They had been working for years to bring their issues before King George. The main reason for fighting was for self-governance like they had been doing for the previous 150 years as colonies. They had exausted all other options and the British response was to occupy Boston with troops. Many of the signers were wanted men by the king at the time of the Declaration of Independence. In the words of our President, “Let me be clear,” I think that it is false to assume that those who fought for our nation were war-mongers. In fact, they were losing the fight for the majority of the war. Washington’s army was constantly on the run because they were outmatched in both men and supplies. Sickness killed off many more than musket balls. They were literally fighting for survival the whole time.

    In an ideal world, war wouldn’t exist, and it has become a dirty word in many circles. In the real world, it is a necessary evil. Many have pledged their lives so that others can live fuller ones. Jesus said that the greatest love is that one lays their life down for a friend. Are we limiting that only to Jesus on the cross? Do we discount the man who falls on the grenade to save his buddies? I hope not.

    I hope you find something fun to do on Sunday. I’m going to go out and enjoy our nation’s Independence Day, guilt free. Why should I feel guilty about it anyways? I instead feel blessed to live in this nation that has been a shining beacon of liberty and freedom to the world since its inception. I’ve seen some of the national pride in other countries and to say that we are arrogant shows ignorance to the reality in the world. I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom, a resident in this world, and I occupy a place in the USA. I love this country, and in my mind there is no way that Christianity and the 4th are incompatible.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Eric… there no guilt involved in this post. Not sure where that came from. Also, you never really address the question this post poses to you about legitimating your view from the Scriptures and classical “just war” theory. Logic is not theology my friend.

    • Mick

      Yes Eric I found the need to use the bad guy America approach to convey a Christian view a bit off the mark also. It should not matter if yu talking about a Christian view if you say your killing a person for a bad reason or a reason that you believe is protecting your life and that of your family and neigbors. Perhaps it could be better discussed if we had those who agreed that America was indeed a good place to live , that indeed we have a place in the world that people flee to not from. That our freedoms are important to fulfilling Gopd’s potential for us . Then we could discuss the fact of war , and are we somehow violating a Christian Belief by celebrating the fourth . Seems Kurt had to throw in some America is the imperialistic greed machine . So the conversation was out of whack from the get go for me too. If you don’t believe this place is a good place to live and offers much . there is a disconnect from the beginning on the bigger issue I believe Kurt was getting to . That could have been a better discussion.

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        Mick… You say: “Perhaps it could be better discussed if we had those who agreed that America was indeed a good place to live , that indeed we have a place in the world that people flee to not from.”

        I said very clearly: “Let me add that I love fireworks, BBQ’s, and any good excuse to hang out with friends. I do not think that by simply attending a July 4th gathering that you are sinning. In fact, I often make the trek to the beach to watch the fireworks over the Pacific… while not choosing to actually ‘celebrate’ the holiday. I also love that I have had the privilege to grow up in this country. So, I am not “anti-America” by any stretch; I am happy that I live here.”

        hhhmmm… not that fair my friend :-)

        • Mick

          Wait Kurt be honest here. Your asking all of us to be . You used in your opening that the reason for war was based on
          ” other conspiracy theories? ”
          So you did try to make the case that the war was not important to freedom but made up stuff . . That Canada had the same freedom as we had , socialism aside.
          So yes you trying to paint a picture that the war meant nothing to actual freedom . That does take away from the issue in my opinion . Because the war having consequences to our rights should not sway your theological belief . Almost everyone that I have debated with this has a negative view of America and has brought up our mistreatment to Natives, minorities etc . So the issue is not really being discussed as if we as Christians should go to war for liberty, its being discussed should we celebrate our birthday with our neigbors because our neigbors and us are citizens in alousy country with a rotten history. You can’t see that ?
          My point is fair , because from a Christian perspective it should not matter if it Is King George or Hitler with regards to what Christians believe . It should not matter if the war was indeed neccessary as many of us believe, that if fought we would have lived under tyranny . In fact that is the better way to debate it , not that the war meant little to our lives , but the war did have meaning to our freedoms . Then you get to the crust of the matter . Can Christians celebrate a day that freed them from tryanny.
          That they became the leaders of the free world because of it . Debate that and I believe we have had a better discussion and more of willingness to come tot he issue of who we are In Christ, what should we do on issues like this. Not fair my friend . God Bless! Have a Nice Sunday .

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Here is my reference for the “conspiracy theories” comment. I am following the logic of a historian, Mark Noll BTW. He states in the article that I sited as a major source…

            “When it comes to the British actions toward the colonies in the decade before 1776, almost all historians concede those actions were insensitive, based on lamentable misconceptions of colonial life, and often simply stupid. George III, a responsible family man who tried to act like a Christian, was far from the ogre pictured in the Declaration of Independence. But he had no real feel for life in the colonies, and he, when choosing advisers, allowed political loyalty to take precedence over sound assessments of ability. So colonial leaders complaining about mistreatment from Britain were not making things up.

            But were the admitted abuses serious enough to warrant an armed revolution? Patriot leaders thought so, but there is a problem with why they thought so. They were troubled less by actual evils (like the tax on tea, which, ironically, had made tea cheaper in the colonies than in England). Rather, they interpreted the bumbling British actions as a conspiracy to exterminate liberty in the colonies.

            This belief explains why, as political tensions increased, patriot leaders accused the British of behaving like Roman Catholics. Decades of warfare pitting Catholic France against Protestant Britain had taught all the British, even the colonists, simply to equate tyranny with the pope and freedom with Britain. In short, it was the patriot fear of what Britain intended to do that led them to take up arms.”

            http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1999/february8/9t2070.html?start=1

  • http://emergentpillage.blogspot.com/ emergent pillage

    “Is life so dear, is peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almight God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”

    Patrick Henry, and echoed by myself.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Tell that quote to the millions of enslaved Africans during that period ;-)

      • Mick

        Actually Kurt many African Americans were told just that. many African Americans fought on both sides during the war. Slave and free blacks .
        Interesting note though when Henry got older he stated he would rather loose a leg then loose his freedom . It seems when we get older we cling on to life more then principles I guess. Hope your Christman blog is more tradional . ;o)

        • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

          Mick, I can’t see how the later statement of Patrick Henry is in any way a softening of principles. How is it, in principle, any different to say he would rather lose a leg than be a slave, than to say he would rather lose his life or peace than be a slave? Both statements say that freedom is more dear to him than other things which, in the normal course of things, are held very dear.

          • Mick

            Oh yes Mystic I agree Patrick was a fireball for liberty and freedom . A very zealous Christian from what I have read also. I guess i was interjecting some of my own changes in how I view things. Being a Grand Father I tend to be more less concerned about making sure my Grand Kids eat everything on their plate like I did with their parents. Or I find myself being less concerned about the minor things and more concerned about the major things in life . I thought perhaps Patrick feeling more appreciative of life when he got older because you know its value more he might have only considered a leg is worth liberty because he clung to life more. Did not mean to suggest that liberty was not important. I myself have been blessed with never having to fight in a war. I do however have a deep respect for those who have .

      • http://emergentpillage.blogspot.com/ emergent pillage

        Very well, they can be told. It takes nothing away from Henry’s words.

      • MarinePatriot

        Enslaved Africans? How many would be enslaved today if the environment of freedom had not been bought and paid for by the men and women who gave their lives before them? How many would be enslaved in other nations? What nation rises to the rescue and champions peace more then our country? I tell you the truth, there is no country that exists today that could possibly have fostered the change in freedoms and peace (yes, even in Great Britain!!!) than the United States of America.

        So some of us will openly admit that living with the freedoms we have, including the ability to blog and respond freely in a forum such as this, was paid for with a serious cost of lives. Others hide behind a cloak of passive-ism, while enjoying the same freedoms.

        • http://emergentpillage.blogspot.com/ emergent pillage

          Well put!

          • MarinePatriot

            Thanks Emergent Pillage (nice nick, BTW.) Are you pillaging or being pillaged? :)

            I abhor the use of race as a tool by people to make a point. Racism will not die (probably ever, though) until we put an end to its use as a weapon to get one’s way. The outcry of one group of people against another in any form or fashion is racism (please drop the reverse discrimination refuse at the door!) and it continues to fuel more racism every time it is used. There will be no reconciliation until we recognize the plank in our own eye and stop trying to clear the sawdust out of our neighbor’s eye.

            The scary thing is when one is racist against oneself. Reminds me of an elected official, somewhere in this fair land of ours…

          • MarinePatriot

            No response is required to this post. We completely understand from the lack of response.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Kurt and others,
    I am struggling on this. Easy for me to fall in line with simply a kind of black-white take, but something of where I am now is in this post I did this morning. Maybe a bit overboard, though I don’t think it is wrong to love one’s nation kept in context of God’s kingdom in Jesus.

  • Mick

    While some have some problems with America to the point they feel they need to not join in with the rest of us to share community and say Thanks together for our freedoms, I like to say I am glad I live here here . Believe we produce better fufilled potentials who have made valuable contributions to us and all human kind because of those freedoms and the respect we try to live up to.
    Perhaps I can share my thoughts and defenses to some criticisms that may at least share a different perspective. This nation was founded because of colonialism/imperialism. Not unique to anywhere in the world . If you really can not celebrate the fourth , Ok , but unless your willing to give your home and possessions back to a tribal sovereign nation in this country , your not above some hypocrisy in your position . We are quite the plural nation and cultures in this county , but we do have a link to Christianity and a majority of Christians do live in this nation. I like having Christians in my country.
    Minorities , Women, homosexuals, live here more freely and enjoy a higher standard of living in the United States than any other country. Exceptional is is frowned upon and seen as arrogant , its not arrogance but some thing I see to feel fortunate about that we enjoy more overall individual liberty, freedom, and economic opportunity in the United States and it is superior to other nations by far in those regards. Capitalism I see as a good thing so I can see perhaps why those who support social justice to the extent of redistribution may find our system less then . But buck up, its only one day. My dog will be glad its over also, we live in an area where illegal fireworks are used all the time and it really gives him the creeps . God Bless, Perhaps Christmas will be a time we can celebrate together then ?

  • Pingback: Unpopular Annual Post: “Why Christianity and the ’4th’ are Incompatible” OR “Why this is NOT a day to celebrate” OR “Why my friends wont like me for the next week or so” (via groans from within) « Kevi

  • Pingback: Unpopular Annual Post: “Why Christianity and the ’4th’ are Incompatible” OR “Why this is NOT a day to celebrate” OR “Why my friends wont like me for the next week or so” (via groans from within) « Kevi

  • Pingback: Unpopular Annual Post: “Why Christianity and the ’4th’ are Incompatible” OR “Why this is NOT a day to celebrate” OR “Why my friends wont like me for the next week or so” (via groans from within) « Kevi

  • jason

    greg boyd just had an article published online at relevant magazine that i feel talks about this issue from the proper perspective….check it out:

    http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/current-events/op-ed-blog/22131-the-idolatry-of-patriotism

    • Brad

      Thanks Jason! Great article! I have wrestled with this topic for a while too and it one of the reasons I am uncomfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance, because my allegiance lies with the Kingdom of God rather than to any one nation regardless of how Christian or “under God” that nation claims to be.

      I am not “anti-America” for I am grateful for the freedoms and liberties that I and all Americans are afforded as citizens of the U.S. I do, however, reject the notion that to celebrate my country I must celebrate violence. To follow that logic would be the same as saying to celebrate my car, I must celebrate the pollution it creates.

      Yes, I am free; Yes, I am proud to be American; Yes, I am patriotic, but my allegiance to my country will not overshadow my allegiance to the Kingdom of God! I will be celebrating my freedom this weekend; I will not be celebrating the violence that won that freedom.

      I will be celebrating the fact that I live in a country that allows me to celebrate the ultimate freedom, the freedom from sin that only comes through Jesus Christ!

  • http://jaaigner.blogspot.com/ jaigner

    Kurt,

    Thank you for these thoughts. It summarizes (much more coherently than I can) my viewpoint on the holiday. I think the fact that we celebrate this day in church is thoroughly unchristian.

    Unfortunately, I have an interim music job at a church where this sort of thing is propagated, and I will probably be asked to say the pledge with the congregation tomorrow.

    Last time, I went along with it as to not draw any attention to myself.

    Tomorrow, my goal is to stand with my hands at my side. Hopefully I have the courage.

    My allegiance lies elsewhere. This kingdom will perish. We serve a higher throne.

    • Brad

      Amen Jaigner! I pray that you have courage to stand your ground tomorrow.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Thanks for your kind words brotha! Sometimes we have to compromise for a greater good (unity, employment, ministry opportunity, etc.)… if our conscience allows for such. I pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to your conscience and that you will know exactly what to do.

  • http://theholywild.wordpress.com graceshaker

    the vast majority of bible professing people i know seem blind to the fact that our revolution for independence was a matter of christian patriots killing christian loyalists. for the life of me i cant figure out y we think god blesses this.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      AMEN!!!! thanks Graceshaker!

    • Mick

      The way you framed your opinion anyone would agree. Of course perhaps the majority of Bible believing Christians perhaps see it another way .

      By the way , how many people have you brought to the Lord this year ?
      Just wondering if that was also important .

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        Mick… your insults about my evangelistic zeal are just rude. I have a passion to bring people to Jesus. I am in relationships with several nonbelievers who I am trying to show the love of God to. That was arrogant and completely uncalled for. If you want to continue to be able to voice your opinions on this site, please do not assume the worst about people that you have never met, even if you disagree with them on some points theologically. Besides, it has nothing to do with this particular post.

        PS – numbers games are petty… but, yes, I love it when God sets me up to lead someone into his family.

        • Mick

          “I also want to say that I have a great respect for those who differ with me on this issue that I am about to discuss, so I invite your ideas on this post as well. ”

          Actually you invited me to blog here . Interesting when you promoted a False Witness belief of the Founding Fathers in your first post to me . You had no problem judging those centuries away , on one writer ? Without any first hand knowledge , not exactly how we are taught to handle those who bear false witness is it by the scriptures ? If you are speaking to just war, and non violence without using condemning views of the Founding Fathers you might have had a better discussion. You condemned the Pro American Side of the Revolutionary War as those who bared a false witness.
          You made the claim based on one writer it was very forthright , bold , and it actually had no bearing on the topic either. The fact these Founders could have been the clear example of Christian servitude and as I stated before , would have made the discussion better . You appear unable to admit this , or actually be concerned that you did it. When any comment is made you claim it off topic, but you continue as the majority who agree with you need to bring about the Biblical principles of those who disagree with you to have other faults as well .
          Questioning the sincerity , faith , and their understanding of Scripture about people who have moved on to to be with the Lord as something you felt is different them me questioning you . Because its your blog and your alive . This does leave me unable to discuss this with you . You could be right here , but it has nothing to do with you being a better Christian who never bears false witness. Would it perhaps be more a spiritual discernment that God has allowed you to understand ?

          When you set your self as keeper of the law, suggesting to who bears false witness and who is keeper of Biblical principles you set yourself up to needing to obey ALL Biblical principles. Could it had been the Founders were sincere, noble, Godly men who were products of the reformation as you and I are and like you or I just doing the best they could. Maybe they got it wrong but did not bear false witness, maybe their concept of freedom was so great , so important they thought they were obligated to protect the thousands who made the long journey here, surviving great obstacles, witnessing the grace and miracles that God had bestowed on them and thinking that indeed was proof to them that God wanted them to keep those freedoms alive and well.

          Saying you respect others who disagree with you and actually respecting them are two different things .
          Thank you for inviting us here . I hope these words will find you or convey what I mean . There is some anger in them , and there is some love and experience in them . But I found you rude also.
          God Bless,

          • http://groansfromwithin.com jasonekk

            @mick… I guess my issue is, why did you have to bring up how many people kurt had saved? What does that have to do with the topic at hand. To me, that is where you went from talking about the content to attacking kurt.

            You are right, kurt could be wrong about his point on the founding fathers bearing a false witness… but they are not here… kurt is… to call into question what someone did 230 years ago is not going to hurt someone’s personal feelings as much as attacking someone now.

            And, mick… I know kurt personally… actually I would call him one of my closest friends… and I know that comments like yours do hurt him. Also, I know that he does respect people with different views as we both had very different views when we first met but we respected each other. I am not saying that he is perfect (believe me I know he is not)… but lets just take a chill pill on the comments… if you disagree with him great… disagree with him but dont start questioning his zeal for evangelizing and winning hearts for Christ. I know personally that he has a zeal for that.

            I understand that these topics bring out the fire in people but lets remember that we are all still called to love each other.

          • Mick

            Well actually I do see your point . But my point is I was challenged with that question by a Pastor , actually our whole class was during a year long Bible Study I was in last year. I did not get mad or hurt as Kurt did , and had hoped it would have had a different response. In my denominational speak I was “convicted” by it . Meaning it was not condemning , actually almost like a refreshing light . What is important . Helping the poor, Teaching and sharing the love of Christ. Not supporting disagreements or idols that can get in the way of Knowing that love . So yes I was open to this discussion about putting country , nationalism or other obstacles that get in the way of knowing Jesus better. , but am against the way it was presented . I had hoped Kurt would have received the question I asked in the way I had meant it .

            Attacking someone 230 years ago on their failings in Christ is indeed out of order in the way it was done . It is the same as attacking all those who support health care as having their leaders being communist. Or attacking all pro life supporters as having a leadership that is sold out to corporate or anti women beliefs . Thus if you have a position on the issue , it is to be aligned in a negative grouping .

            This was taking the belief of pacifism and making the leaders that started this country as being in a sub par Christian light . If you read some of the Founders , they were calling for Fasting on the Fourth . Would it not be cool if our leaders would do that now ? Our church was praying for God’s guidance and the Holy Spirit moving on our government’s leadership and our people . My Pastor is from Argentina and spoke a little about Argentina whose independence day is July 9th . Please Kurt no more editorials . ;0) If your Fourth of July was surrounded with friends who celebrate Yankee doodle Dandy and our freedoms or if your conscience stops you from doing that I have respect for both . One committed person on this blog spoke about actually disrupting his patriotic church service to make HIS point , then was urged to do this . Almost like the idol of patriotism that was presented as a reason for not being closer with Christ was being replaced with the idol and pride of a religious spirit that was willing to disrupt a church service or the move of the Holy Spirit based on a belief outside their church body and church leadership.

            Let us reason together , not disrupt or call others out on their sin ful natures in order to make us more holy .All of us fall short , and our falling short has nothing to do with this issue and whose walk with the Lord is better . You can be a pacifist and be a chronic story teller . Martin Luther King was a great pacifist in our nation’s history , how many people used insults , accusations of him being a communists, made sure people were aware of his adultery if that was even true to try and discredit his stand to promoting freedom and equality by the pacifism andf the teachings of Christ.

            Our Salvation and walk with Christ is not depended on this issue . I would honor anyone who believe they could not participate , but my point with Kurt was the point to me and the others in my Bible study , lets concentrate on what really is important . Talk about this as equals and as those who both cherish and have their Faith rooted in the Mercy and Grace provided by our Lord.

            Kurt if your reading this , please I am sorry .

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Mick… I know that if we were not separated by miles and a screen that we could have had a much more civil discussion. The medium of text on the web is effective, but can also lead to many gaps in communication. All that is to say, that I fully accept your apology. I always strive to speak on this site with gentleness and respect. Where I failed, I apologize as well. I realize that this is a sensitive subject, and sometimes the passion we have gets transferred into text that comes off bad. I pray that as we continue to dialogue and process various viewpoints, that we can hang onto the areas we agree on (“what is really important”), and have generosity toward each other where we will disagree. St. Augustine said it best: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, and in all things love”

            Shalom brother!

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Mick… I have no problem with you having a different opinion. I was hurt by your comment about evangelism…. and baffled as it had zero to do with the topic of this post.

            As far as judging others… I do not judge the people who chose to use violence in this war or any war… I judge the “theology” (or lack there of) that led them to justify it.

            Jason, thanks!

      • Loyd

        What do you mean by the phrase “By the way , how many people have you brought to the Lord this year ?”
        By it do you mean make converts to the American concept of the Lord?
        Or, do you mean making a disciple of Christ, to my mind there is a difference.
        if you mean a disciple of Christ fine, if on the other hand you mean Americanize then we are on different wave lengths.

  • Bob

    Where is our citizenship – in the USA or in heaven? Are citizens of the kingdom of heaven/God/love to consider themselves as having “dual citizenship”, or rather to consider themselves as ambassadors with certain diplomatic privileges and “rights” here in the USA that they might not have in other countries, and that they are free to exercise a la the apostle Paul? Where is our true allegiance?

  • http://www.varsityfaith.com Trevor

    Hey Kurt,
    I like what you’re talking about here. I’ve been looking at this issue for some time now and finally wrote some thoughts – they’re not a full exploration, but at least a start. I’d love for you to take a look and write a comment if you have a chance.

    Thanks,
    Trevor Hamaker (www.varsityfaith.com)

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Trevor, thanks! I’ll try to check it out when my life slows down a bit :-)

  • Loyd

    Kurt and the other contributors and commentators on this subject. I just finished reading a very interesting article by the title entitled “Don’t Celebrate the 4th of July on Gonzo Times think outside the government box.
    It can be found at: PunkJohnnyCash | Jul 3, 2010 Anarchism. What are your thoughts?
    Thanks

  • DJ

    I think this post and entire site is a good example of why christians should stay away from history and politics.

    They are pretty ignorant.

    I had a good laugh at the author trying to make sense of the Revolution though… good times.

    Idiot.

    • MarinePatriot

      DJ: While there is ignorance at play here, it comes from a heart of a pacifist. The desire to reconcile freedom and peace without war (a.k.a.: non-violence) is a view held with Utopian desires and is a dream world. It does not exist and is non-biblical. I’m tired of the “war is evil” and “poverty is evil” mantras coming from the people who believe that Jesus came to bring justice and peace to the world. It is simply not true. Justice and peace will be served the world as a whole, in the end of times. This world groans for the savior to return. To continue to work towards the former is superfluous. While I believe we should do good works, Social Justice and a World of Peaceful, non-violent people is the world that John Lennon sang about…he’s not my savior…

      But I would drop the idiot remarks. Unfortunately, Kurt went to college to find himself rather than having a firm foundation in his faith prior to going there. We all know what college does to young minds. It twists them up and spits them out into a land of confusion. If you aren’t prepared before you get there, it will turn your brain to mush. Then it is only a matter of time before you listen to the Prophet Shane Claiborne and drink his Kool-Aid…

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        Marine Patriot, Nonviolence is biblical my friend. All you have to do is take off the glasses of modern Americanism to see that to this first century Jewish Rabbi in the midst of the oppressive Roman Empire, “turning the other cheek” “not repaying evil with evil” “love your enemies” etc was the new way of the new covenant. Not a point I wish to argue with you as I doubt you will change your mind.

        “Unfortunately, Kurt went to college to find himself rather than having a firm foundation in his faith prior to going there. We all know what college does to young minds. It twists them up and spits them out into a land of confusion. If you aren’t prepared before you get there, it will turn your brain to mush. Then it is only a matter of time before you listen to the Prophet Shane Claiborne and drink his Kool-Aid…”

        Now this is pompous and simply judgmental. You do not know my story or my ‘foundation.’ I did not go to college to ‘find myself’ as I had already been found in the loving embrace of my Savior. I am not confused… I am hopeful in the Christ of the bible who will “reconcile all things, things in heaven and things on earth.” The Jesus who invites us to live for the “gospel of the kingdom of God.” The Christ of whom we are called to “follow in his steps…” Here is how Peter states it:

        19 For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

        22 “He committed no sin,
        and no deceit was found in his mouth.” [e]

        23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

        Finally, if I am drinking Shane Claiborne’s kool-aid, I am wondering if you can equally acknowledge that you have enjoyed the cold red flavor of Uncle Sam’s Kool-aid? Do you know that Shane didn’t invent nonviolence? The early church did :-) And my ancestors, the Mennonites, picked up where the early church left off before giving into the lure of power from Constantine’s sword.

        Look, it is fine to disagree theologically, but please to not cast judgment and assumptions about the person behind the computer screen. Hope you have a good weekend…

        • MarinePatriot

          Sorry, Kurt, I don’t mean to be this rabid but I’m afraid that I have stereo-typed you as one of those “emergent” Christians. You know the type. They had a concept of the bible before they went to college. They thought they had it all figured out. Then they start to change based upon the rhetoric they are hearing. Their ears get tickled by the “there is so much ‘evidence’ for evolution, how can you ignore it?” Then they look at the failures of the current church environment and think there must be something better (won’t argue that, there is definitely something better). They think “how can we change the world? Wouldn’t Jesus want us to change the world?” Then they begin to listen to others who preach us changing the world instead of being Jesus’ hands and feet. They stop letting God do the work but doing the work for God because this world and the church are failing us. They try to change their own church, not by being up-front about the change, but by making changes behind the scenes and not being truthful about who they are, what their agenda is. Before you know it, they are running a church on a fast track to emergent as people who finally figure this out run for cover. I hope that this does not describe you, my friend…

          Nonviolence is a beautiful thing. I completely agree that that is how you should conduct your life, as Jesus stated and modeled. However, there is no condemnation for war in the bible. (Of course, there is no war without violence) Governments are established by God to serve and defend the people and we are called to submit to their authority (to a point, of course. See Daniel). Turning the other cheek was not given to us as a corporate response but as a private response. I don’t think we are as far apart as you think on this…

          Consequently, the Fourth of July is a celebration of a NON-VIOLENT action: a declaration of independence from a tyrannical and disconnected government. We had not “won” anything but claimed ourselves independent from the British Empire. War was an unfortunate consequence, started by an actual empire, not a perceived empire like the United States. When anyone mentions that the United States is an empire, I laugh. It is an ignorant statement born from a desire to disown a nation that gives them the freedom to disagree openly.

          Yea, sometimes I can be a bit pompous and judgmental online. I am sorry if I come off that way but it gets frustrating to see people take a radical stand against patriotism when it is at an all time low. It is the patriots who defend the ideals that this country was founded on, by the God-fearing men and others who were influenced by Judeo-Christian law. I am absolutely convinced that there would not be the same influence for Christ around the world without the permeation of Christian missionaries from the and financed through the people of this great nation. Canada, New Zealand and Australia would not have been given their non-violent independence without the United States paving the way, either.

          There are a few things that the government today does right (hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while!) I do love my country as there is no better in this world. I love my wife, too. Maybe I should stop celebrating her birthday as she is not perfect either? I, also, love the use of titles like “modern Americanism” as it looks like I have been branded a traitor to the way of Christ and chucked into a trash bin. As so much refuse, with no way to change or form a different opinion, I must not be able to think without the government telling me what to think. It is unfortunate and regrettable. I guess Peter’s unjust pain and suffering is not for me, as I am, apparently, not worthy of such consideration…

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        Marine Patriot… thanks for asking him to drop the “idiot remarks.” I probably will block him from commenting again as that is flat out inappropriate for a Christian website. I know we disagree, but I do appreciate you not going so far as verbal insults…

        • MarinePatriot

          I wouldn’t drop him. His comments might allow him to see himself more clearly. We are all learning here.

          But that is just my opinion…

      • Michael Todd

        23 of the 25 largest denominations in the United States are not growing. Contrast that trend with the first 300 years of Church History. In the first 300 years, the Roman Empire had a don’t ask don’t tell policy toward Christians. Occasionally, some Emperor, like Diocletian would get a bee in his bonnet, but for the most part, unless they were “coming out”, the Roman Empire left the Christians alone.

        Curiously, the Christians spent much of this 300 year time span without much of a public presence, i.e., no buildings, holidays, and they were not the least bit present in Roman politics. Also curious to this time period, the Church experienced phenomenal growth. From 120 at Pentecost to almost half the Roman Empire (30 million) within 300 years.

        All of that changed with Constantine. Somehow, the Bride of Christ got wooed with the Prince of Politics, and she has been whoring herself out to him ever since.

        It is possible that I am idealizing the past. It is also possible that I have it all wrong. Despite 11 of the 12 disciples suffering violent deaths, along with Paul, Stephen, and host of other martyrs, I am not supposed to follow the example of Jesus or those dudes.

        Yes, it is not their example which I should follow; they all died violently, even though they practiced nonviolence. Such, numskulls. I see your point.

        Even though the church grew exponentially when it was less political and more pacifist, I need to adopt the attitude of George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his” and forget the instruction of Jesus Christ: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          Excellent comment Michael Todd! Thanks… and I would also be curious about the stat you shared about 30 million Christians by the time of Constantine…

  • Matthew Yoder

    Okay, now I”m sort of curious about this. Michael…where did you get the 30 million people/half the Empire stats? I’ve done some reading that suggests that by in the first 300 years or so that Christians only made up about 5% of the Roman Empire. However, the small group of believers made such a difference in the Empire that they became a “thorn” in the side of the State. Not to say I’m right and you’re wrong, or vice versa, I’m just curious if there is any place where it talks in depth about the actual numbers.

  • Glen Zimmerman

    Curt my friend, regarding Independence Day, I think we need to sit down for coffee and talk. In some ways, I can see where you are coming from, but not sure about the goal you ultimately have in mind, and what is being accomplished. Who has the authority to say how it could have been. In my own life, I want to be careful about criticism when I am enjoying the life that others before me, made possible? Also, when I take issue, I need to ask myself as a Christian with eternity in view, and with the awesome task of reaching others for Christ, just how important is this issue? I look forward to visiting with you, and I pray that your ministry with young people will continue to grow.

    • MarinePatriot

      Well said, Glen. Maybe the best of us all. : )

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Hi Glen! First of all, let me simply say that I respect you more than most people in the world. I have appreciated the influence and concern your family has always had for me.

      Second, I am always happy to see you and if it works out sometime, I would enjoy a good conversation.

      Third, I understand why a post like this could be frustrating to someone. I want you to know that I by no means take for granted the sacrifices of those who have died/served in the military. Many of them were/are good men and women. (this is made clear in my first paragraph) My concern with this post was pointing out that historically speaking, the “Revolutionary War” does not seem to fit the “just war” criteria that the church has always followed. I personally do not think that Christians should serve in the military because of how I understand the New Testament and the history of the first 300 years of the church (This is not to say that you “cant” be a Christian and serve in the Armed Forces… just that my conviction from Scripture is that violence and God no longer go together under the “new covenant”). However, my point in this post is that the “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” do not fit the classical conditions for Christians (even those who are not pacifists) to support a war.

      Why does that matter? The main issue for me is that I want to do my best to discern how to live in light of the New Testament teachings of Jesus on issues of national pride vs. kingdom of God ‘pride’ and to not glorify something that may have not honored God. For those who differ with me about issues of violence and Christian faith, I choose to not judge them… to worship Jesus with them… but I still want to have a passionate conviction on these kinds of issues. And yes, helping people find Jesus as savior is MUCH more important than this issue :-)

      Blessings Glen!

  • Pingback: Dear Critics of my Sojo July 4th Article: An Open Letter to Mark Tooley and Others « groans from within

  • Loyd

    Kurt, I was surfing the blogs when I came across this from the Jesus Manifesto;
    The ideas and opinions I read there are similar to your views as expressed here. Are you familiar with this site?

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      I am very familiar. Mark Van Stenwek (misspelled that!) is a great guy and I resonate with much of what they are talking about…

  • http://twitter.com/billdaviswords Bill Davis

    Great post, Kurt.

    I’m going to comment from a different angle: how it has grieved me to see the 4th of July celebrated INSIDE the church. That’s another whole step away from Christians roasting a hotdog on the beach to celebrate a war.

     4th of July “church” services are one of my pet peeves, especially after spending our lives overseas in mission work. I feel sometimes that Christians in those services are worshiping America, and the new scripture testaments are the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. It’s all about how America is better because we were (supposedly) Christian, or that God will–or should–bless us (rather than, or more than, other nations?)

    I have experienced more than one 4th of July service, where we were supposed to be gathered around one common Lord, to worship and focus on him, and in the congregation sat people from several other nations. I felt for them. Not only was the service irrelevant for them, but the implied message was that their nation was second-rate. None were English, but how much more awkward would that be?

    So my plea is that even for Christians who want to celebrate the 4th, keep it as something separate from church, along the lines of Labor Day or Groundhog Day.

    Ooh…. Groundhog Day. *click* “Put your little hand in mine….”

    Sorry.

    Anyway, church is about Christ and those of us who are his body, no matter what nationality.


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