Individualism | American Christianity

There’s a line in the song “Long Live the Champion” by rap artist KB that says, “Yes, I love the Kingdom more than I love my nation.” Of course, I do love my nation and I’m grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, but there have certainly been moments over the last few years where my political beliefs have been at war with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t even think that’s always a bad thing, but it’s important for me to acknowledge and wrestle with.

I have seen a lot of confusion. I’ve seen people say you’re not a Christian if you support _______. I ‘ve also seen people suggest you’re not a Christian if you DON’T support ______ (THE SAME EXACT ISSUE). Fill in the blank with whatever you’d like, President Trump, immigration reform, racial reconciliation, and a million more things. I absolutely believe that our religion SHOULD INFORM our political beliefs, but for many, it seems like our political beliefs have BECOME our religion.

We as Americans do have a way of making ourselves the main character, the hero and the victor. We confuse losing political power with losing our religious liberties. We claim persecution when the reality is for most of us, we’ve never really been persecuted. We confuse American freedom and Biblical freedom. I think there is certainly a brand of American Christianity that historically and in other parts of the world doesn’t ring true with scripture.

So where does it come from? I can’t say I’m the right person to answer that. I only know what I am beginning to see and attempting to make sense of it myself. I do believe at its root is our strong lean to individualism.

We as a nation are very much about ME and not so concerned with the WE. Individualism is essentially putting my rights as an individual before my responsibility to the community. It’s a part of our culture and who we are. We can see it in how we interpret the Bible. We put a lot of emphasis on our individual personal relationship, purpose, call to action. It’s easy to take passages that are about US and make them about ME. I’m not even suggesting all of that is wrong, but if we don’t realize we are doing it then we are missing something.

Simply put the culture and community within which the scriptures were written were much more community-centric. That’s why we read in Acts 2:44 that the believers shared everything they had, we don’t relate to that idea. I’m not about to literally share all my possessions with you. In fact, if you just show up and knock on my door my first question will be, “Why are you here?” Rather than just welcoming you in.

Romans 12:13 (NLT) When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Listen, I’m not versed, intelligent, or informed enough to delve too deep into this topic right now, but I truly believe it is something we need to look at. Just because it’s all we’ve known, doesn’t mean that it’s correct. It is my sincere desire to build God’s Kingdom, not to build a Christian Nation. I don’t think they’re the same thing. We have had the luxury to live in a Christian Nation, and that’s wonderful. However, if our life’s purpose is only about keeping what we had I fear we may waste our lives fighting for something we were never promised.

I guess I’ll wrap this up by suggestion we make every effort to read scripture, not with our American eyes, but in a historical and cultural context. Someone asked me recently to share a simple easy way to begin to read it in the correct context, and I simply responded, “I’m not sure there is a simple, easy way.” This means, in part, changing the way we’ve read scripture our whole lives. It’s so ingrained that it will take time to shift our thinking, and that’s never easy.

Let’s just remember that the scripture was not written to an American audience, but to people living in a historical and cultural world very different than our own. We can’t read the Bible as if it was written directly to us. It was most assuredly written for us. It is most assuredly divinely inspired by God and is perfect, useful to teach us, correct us and equip us. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) However, for it to do so we need to read what was intended, not just was sounds good to us.

So let’s lean in. Study, grow, and listen. If we can learn to live out the scripture as it was written, not just an American interpretation then perhaps we can reclaim the good news. We can reclaim unity in the Spirit. We can truly be a people who display and live the love of Jesus and we can truly be about the business of building God’s Kingdom.

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