There have been many articles and Twitter comments on a Freedom Sunday service recently in Texas. You can see the promo here. This article is not meant as an attack on this church or its members. This is an observation of someone who is deeply in love with Christ, who watched the video linked above. My concern isn’t with one church. My concern is with the American Body of Christ as a whole when it come to the melding of Christianism and Patriotism. And Since I have lived on both sides as a Pastor/Chaplain for 12 years and a retired 21 year Navy veteran, I feel I can contribute to this topic fairly even handedly. Here is my attempt.
What is Freedom Sunday?
Before making any comments on the video I watched, I wanted to get an understanding of what “Freedom Sunday” actually is. In my searches it appears these services have been held since 2018. In all of the videos and literature I could find on the current and past services, the point of Freedom Sunday seems to be to celebrate “our freedoms as Americans and our freedom in Christ.” This has apparently been a fairly popular and well attended part of the life of this church.
One of the interesting facets about this situation and service is that the term Freedom Sunday also has another meaning. There is a Freedom Sunday held in the Fall, since 2010 by the Set Free Movement. There info can be found here. This Freedom Sunday is described as
On Freedom Sunday, churches all around the world come together as a united, hope-filled, justice-driven community seeking to end human trafficking. We start with prayer, lament, learning, dialogue, and worship to inform and catalyze our response to this global tragedy. Freedom Sunday is more than a day. It’s more than a worship service. Freedom Sunday is a movement of hope.
So it would appear that what we find are two very different styles of a Freedom Sunday. My first question to the reader is, which one sounds more biblical and in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ
Powerful Worship, Patriotic Music
My entering concerns would come from this promotional video. The first part that catches my ear is that we are invited to enjoy powerful worship and patriotic music. The video shows a panning scene of fireworks, red white and blue and a prominent American Flag. The very definition of worship is to give praise to a divine being. This would mean the divine being does not share the worship. Yet here we are invited to have powerful worship with patriotic music. By making this statement and setting up ones worship this way one seems to be placing the American nation on par with the divine. This is not worship. Some might argue blatant heresy but not worship.
No Body Puts Baby in a Corner…Unless its Jesus
Then there is the American flag sitting in the place of honor on the stage with the pulpit with loud red white and blue stage lighting while the cross of Christ sits jammed in corner. If this doesn’t describe the state of the American Church, nothing does. We tend to put our country and ourselves on stage and draped in fancy lights while we push Jesus into a corner. This symbolism says far more than any pastor could say on that pulpit. It tells me this is a nationalist rally that wants to trope Jesus out every once in a while and not a worship service. I’m ten seconds in and the true meaning of Freedom Sunday Screams “USA…USA…USA…” Without one mention of Jesus Christ.
We are then introduced to the keynote speaker David Barton. I honestly don’t know anything about this man but the article is not about him, its about what the church had him speak on. David is the founder of an organization called Wall Builders. Wall Builders exists to: “Present Americas forgotten history and heroes with an emphasis on our Moral, Religious and Constitutional heritage.” Now I would argue some of the validity of this statement, but the real point is this… This organization plainly states its goals, which are the preservation of national history and nothing to do with theology, soteriology or the worship of Jesus Christ. So why on earth is he in the pulpit giving a message? To me, the answer is simple. The reason this topic was chosen was to make the political point of arguing for a Christian nation founded on the Christian religion. Again, a lot to unpack there and if you want my opinion on the US as a Christian nation check the post I wrote here
Finally we are encouraged to celebrate Freedom. But what does that mean? At the beginning it was celebrate Freedom as Americans and Christians. But nothing else in the 50 seconds that described this event mentioned Jesus at all. As a matter of fact, the name Jesus is never used in the entirety of the promo. I have no choice to assume we are celebrating being American and if there’s time we may talk about Jesus and do a quick altar call. Again this 60 second video is American Christianity in a nutshell. We only trope out Jesus when it is in our personal, professional or political interest to do so. This is not a problem with one church, this is an American problem.
Being a Christian is not Patriotic
We must realize that being a Christian does not make one a good American. On the other hand being Patriotic doesn’t make one a good Christian. When Christianity is tied up in nationalism, regardless of the nation, horrific things occur. History is riddled with examples of why church and state and politics and praise should not go together.
The Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land, resulted in millions of deaths. It was fought for control of the Silk Road into Europe, but Kingdoms convinced their people it was to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslim hordes. The Spanish Inquisition was a state sponsored witch hunt that endorsed the murder of those who were not Christians. The Salem Witch trials did the same. The Manifest Destiny of the United States was a church endorsed slaughter of Indigenous Peoples for their land because “God had ordained it”. Hitler used the German Lutheran Church to further his goals, resulting in millions dead. Take a look at any 1930’s footage of Nazi rallies and then watch this promo again.
As a veteran who served this country for many years I am very proud of the nation I live in. But I also understand the United States is temporary, the Kingdom of Heaven is eternal. I will never put my eternal hope in any piece of cloth, armed force or nation. I am a citizen of the most powerful nation on earth, but I am also a citizen of the most powerful force in the cosmos, the true Kingdom of God. The Kingdom has no flags, no land and no patriotism, yet is the most powerful kingdom in the cosmos.
No Flags in Heaven
There will be no flags in heaven, and no United States in heaven. We must stop worshipping at the altar of patriotism and nationalism and start worshipping at the altar of the eternal. The US, like all nations is sinking sand. Its fate is no different than any other nation. Only Jesus is eternal. And only Jesus will receive my worship. We have starving and hurting people in the world, maybe instead of national pride we focused on that?
Which Freedom Sunday would Jesus Attend?