I am one of those rare, lucky ones that can claim to have had a wonderful father. Mine really is. He is genuinely the most loving, compassionate, patient dad/person alive. Now or ever. And the smartest man I know. Any talent I have as a writer, pales in comparison to that of my father.
Anyway. This weekend, he and I had a conversation that weaved its way from racism to American culture to entitlement to missions to poverty. After making a comment that must have been very profound, as I do not remember at all what I said, he casually remarked, “Sometimes we’re just more American than we are Christian.”
Let’s say it again for dramatic emphasis: Sometimes we’re just more American than we are Christian.
That’s good stuff, right? (And surely the title of a blog.)
I haven’t been able to get that phrase out of my head. Am I more American than I am Christian? But then I began thinking being a Christian and being American (and by American, I mean a product of our American culture) are basically the exact opposite of each other.
Let’s just flesh this out.
Being American means you want more of everything, always insatiable.
Being a Christian means earthly wealth and possessions are empty and meaningless. (Matt 6:19-21; Col. 3:1-4)
Being American means you obsess about being accepted, cool, beautiful.
Being a Christian means you understand that externals are fleeting and shallow. (1 Sam. 16:7; Prov. 31:30)
Being American means you aren’t good enough.
Being a Christian means you are washed clean, perfect daily. (1 Cor. 6:11)
Being American means you are your own first priority, el numero uno.
Being a Christian means your first priority is to honor God, second is to serve others. (Matt. 22:37-39)
Being American means you are highly important and people should pay attention to you.
Being a Christian means you are meek and poor in spirit. (Matt. 5:3; Matt. 5:5)
Being American means you embrace the pursuit of happiness.
Being a Christian means that you embrace the pursuit of holiness. (2 Pet. 3:14-18)
Being American means you are entitled.
Being a Christian means you realize all good things comes from above and are therefore thankful. (James 1:17)
Being American means you are proud, because, duh, you’re American.
Being a Christian means you are humble. (Phil. 2:3-11)
Are we all living, breathing oxymorons? It’s as if being an American and being a Christian AT THE SAME TIME is virtually impossible.
And by “Christian” I mean someone who desires nothing of this world but longs only for the things of God, someone whose sole motivation is bringing His kingdom down to Earth, someone who is consumed by His spirit and lives purposefully to reach and show compassion to others, who could care less what people think because her eyes are on eternity. Because it seems like Jesus was kinda like that.
American culture lends itself to busy schedules and bigger homes and higher incomes and the American Dream and life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All in the name of God. Praise Jesus for blessing us. We deserve it. Because we were born here doggone-it.
We are enculturated to believe that living for ourselves is our right, our patriotic pursuit, our blessing.
So here’s the question… How do we live a life unadulterated by our culture?
How can I be an un-American (yet still American) Christ follower ?
I’m not going to pretend like I know all the answers, but I will share a few thoughts.
First off, we’ve got to admit we have a problem. (Hi, I’m Jordan, and I’ve been brainwashed by my culture.) We’ve got to admit that this life of consumerism and immorality and over-consumption and busyness and self-importance is unbiblical at the very least and spiritually suffocating at most.
Secondly, we must stop comparing ourselves to other Americans, thinking to ourselves how sacrificial we are because we don’t live THAT extravagantly. Well that’s fantastic… because just about 99.8% of the world don’t live that extravagantly. Let’s all pat ourselves on the back for that achievement.
Thirdly, learn what humility means. Read about Jesus — he knows. Humility is one of those really important words. It will redefine your purpose. But move fast, there’s not a lot to go around here in the U.S. of A.
Lastly, surround yourself with people that challenge you to live less normal. We inevitably, naturally assimilate to the culture in which we live — so change that culture as much as possible.
Lastly again, be genuinely burdened for someone other than yourself. Practice compassion and social justice in Jesus’ name.
Satan wields his evil hand in a different way here than he does in other places. He convinces us that our lifestyles are normal, okay, good even. Because our lifestyles are just… American. And that’s what we are after all. Wrong. We are followers of Christ first and foremost. Before we were born into affluence, we were claimed by God and commissioned to live differently, sacrificially, counter-culturally. The very definition of counter-cultural defies the existence of American Christians. The bottom line is we aren’t called to be American Christians.
We are called to be Christian Americans.