What sort of attitude and behavior merits God's blessings? In what circumstances might it actually be blasphemy for a nation - thinking particularly of my nation - to ask for God's blessing without being repentant and turning from its present course? Questions like these concern me deeply. So I wanted to highlight excerpts related to these questions from a Sermon on Darfur delivered at the Lincoln Memorial on June 12, 2005 by Brian McLaren, Founding Pastor, Cedar Ridge Community Church, where I worship:
. . . do you feel the irony of singing "God Bless America" when America hasn't roused itself to care for those most in need? Do you feel the irony of daring to ask a just God to bless us when we are heedless to the cry of our neighbors? Think about it: God - bless us! We're already the most powerful, affluent, secure, weapon-rich, nuclear-armed, self-centered, wasteful, and materialistic country in the history of the world - but please bless us more! Bless us more!
. . . the God who is real - not the fictive God of an American civil religion, not the folk deity of Republicans or Democrats - but the living God is a just God, and from the time of Abraham in Genesis 12 to the time of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, we have known that this God does not bless one nation to the exclusion of other nations: God blesses some so they can be a blessing to all. God does not play favorites. God does not take pleasure in blessing the careless and selfish. God favors the least, and God will gladly bless America if we stop seeking to be blessed and instead seek to be a blessing, for we have been given much, and of those who have been given much, much is expected.
. . . We must remember the words of Jesus: if you save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Let's apply that to ourselves: What if we go to war after war, what if we invest more and more in our own security, what if we go deeper and deeper into debt, what if we buy more, sell more, save more, to preserve our own life and way of living - but what if in the process we ignore our neighbors who are suffering and dying? What if we gain the whole world and lose our own national soul? How would a just God, an Almighty God, an engaged God, a living God, respond to us? How can we sing "God bless America" if we do not show greater concern for those in need? What God could we possibly be talking about?
P.S. (June 29, 2005)
George W. Bush is not Lord. The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice. Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Original intent" of America's founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. "God Bless America" is not the Doxology.
Sometimes one needs to state the obvious - especially at times when it's less and less obvious. - Christianity Today editorial, July 2005