I’m Praying for your Church (and mine) this Sunday, July 4th

May we worship at the altar of The Christ rather than the altar of America

This year, American Independence Day falls on a Sunday. The day of the week that we have chosen to spend celebrating and praising The Divine will share a day in which millions across the country spend celebrating and praising the United States.

I would be lying if I said that this fact didn’t make me uncomfortable.

My relationship with and feelings about the Church at large have become complicated, and I often find myself- as many do- frustrated by the Church and American Evangelicalism. (I hope to be able to write more about this as I work through many of these complicated feelings and experiences.)

One of my biggest frustrations with the Church is the way in which many Christians and churches hold their American citizenship and their citizenship in the Kingdom of God at equal importance. Molded and mixed together for many are American patriotism and Christian faith, a fact easily seen in the quote “Stand for the flag, kneel for the Cross” (a response to Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes’ kneeling during the National Anthem in peaceful protest of police brutality) or in the bumper sticker I’ve seen numerous times containing a Bible and a gun, with the words “Two things all Americans should know how to use” underneath.

Despite these frustrations, despite the countless number of times I vent to my wife about the concerning rise of Christian Nationalism in the United States and the threat that it poses to our witness as followers of the Christ, I want you to know something, dear reader:

I am fervently, genuinely praying for your church this weekend- as I am for mine.

I pray that this Sunday, July 4th, our church services are dedicated to praising The Creator, and The Creator alone- not the United States of America.

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, we spend our designated worship times discussing how we can win others to The Christ rather than to a certain political party or ideology.

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, we remember that our faith is in Jesus Christ, a brown-skinned Middle Eastern man, not in any president or political leader, current or former.

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, our preachers and teachers avoid the temptation to preach on the perceived greatness of America or against the perceived “persecution” against Christians in this country. Rather, may they encourage us to follow the example of the perfect, loving, humble Christ, who sought justice and liberation for the marginalized and oppressed; who left the ninety-nine to save the one.

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, “Christ’s Love First” is preached from the pulpit rather than “America First.”

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, the songs we sing glorify The Creator rather than glorify the United States.

I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, the only symbols displayed in our sanctuaries are the Cross and the Eucharist, not the flag.

Furthermore, I pray that going forward, on every Lord’s Day- or whichever day your congregation holds services- we as a church body avoid the evil one’s temptation to hold on equal pedestals our allegiance to America and our allegiance to the Kingdom of God.

If you, dear reader, come to the end of this piece and dub me unpatriotic, so be it. I do love this country and all of the potential it has to be truly great and just for all who reside here. But when it comes to my American citizenship and my citizenship in the global, borderless, open-to-all Kingdom of God- and our mandate to bring said Kingdom to earth- the importance of the former comes nowhere near the importance of the latter.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I pray that on Sunday, July 4th, in every house of worship across this country, from sea to shining sea, our allegiance is pledged to The Divine rather than to a piece of cloth.

Amen.

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Jared Balcom

Jared Balcom

Husband. Foster dad. Aspiring Christ-follower. Advocate. 9w1. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. [He/him]