Editor’s Note: Here in the US, we just had a national election that demonstrated once again, the different, often polarizing, views that we hold. This former pastor describes uncomfortable moments during Sunday services when politics and sports got mixed up with religion. / Linda LaScola, Editor
By David Mercer
People often mix various aspects of their culture into their religion and call it Christianity, for instance,
The 2nd Amendment Isn’t In the Bible
I remember once at prayer time that I asked the congregation what they were thankful for. A young man spoke of how grateful he was for the nice turnout they’d had at the NRA rally the day before. He said it was a lovely family occasion with a potluck dinner where the kids played. Best of all, his wife won a handgun with — and I’m not kidding here — pink grips.
To make it even more bizarre, everyone in church broke into spontaneous applause at the news. I was disconcerted but I consoled myself that at least we weren’t as extreme as a Baptist church I’d heard of that had its own gun show in their “Family Life Center.”
I grew up in Texas where guns are a part of the culture. I’ve always liked them. But even when I was mired in my conservative evangelical mindset, I was disturbed at how deeply our love for guns was embedded in our religion. In some ways the NRA was our denomination and the 2nd amendment was Holy Scripture.
But let’s move on to other things.
High school football, for instance
Set! Hut! Amen!
I remember that our coach stopped going to church because he would be grilled in his pew over the previous game, especially if our team lost — and that happened pretty often. I also remember an occasion where the lay leader prayed over “our boys,” thanking the Almighty for “how they had showed themselves to be men” even though they’d lost (again) but this time by only one touchdown.
Friday night football was (and still is) their true worship service.
I could say so much more but let’s move on to patriotism.
In some churches where I was a minister our most powerful services were not at Easter or Christmas but rather the ones that recognized national holidays. The Sunday before the 4th of July we would sing patriotic hymns and people would stand misty-eyed, perhaps saluting the country’s flag that hung all year in the front of the sanctuary.
I remain a proud citizen of the United States of America. But patriotism and religion need to stay separated in our minds as well as our churches, schools and government offices. Christianity is dead wrong to use political muscle to force our beliefs onto people through legislation. Christianity’s history shows this to be true. Remember our own religious wars? When we mix nationalism with our beliefs we can make an unholy mess.
You don’t have to be a Christian to be a good citizen. Atheists, Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus, Buddhists, Pantheists, Unitarians, etc… they can all be good Americans. But you can’t be a true “Christian” if you combine all your opinions to make one big superstitious mix.
If you follow Jesus you might want to remember that he wasn’t an American citizen, he didn’t play football, and he damn sure didn’t own a gun.
Bio: David Mercer, aka “Stan Bennett,” was the “Stan” who was featured in the CNN documentary, Atheists: Inside the World of Non-believers and the Canadian documentary, Losing Our Religion. David was a pastor for thirty-five years in Texas and Oklahoma until he quit and moved to Orlando, Florida, where he met and married his wife, Sylvia. David is now fully out of the closet as an agnostic. He is a life coach, a teacher, and a storyteller. He is the author of the blog Deep Calls. This post is reprintedwith permission from that blog. You can also find him on his Author Page on Facebook.
>>>Photo Credits: https://pixabay.com/en/usa-flag-american-united-states-1327120/
By Mike Cumpston – Own work (Original text: self-made), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10546539
By (U.S. Air Force photo by John Van Winkle) – http://www.af.mil/weekinphotos/wipgallery.asp?week=33, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1543470