Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Against Nationalism

Can a Christian be a national citizen in the general understanding of the term? No.

To begin with, we are called "citizens of heaven". That is, we have a citizenship that is not of this world, or to this worlds powers. Therefore, though we are born as 'citizens' of a certain nation, this is only according to secular labels that are forced upon us, and not part of our true identity in Christ.

Christ's kingdom is made up of people from 'every tribe, tongue and nation'. Jesus says that those who are truly his 'mother, and brothers and sisters' are those who 'do the will of my Father in heaven'. Therefore, our familiar identity is found in Christ and those who belong to him.

Our family is diverse and spreads over the whole world. It knows no boundaries or borders and it's identity is not found in national allegiance, but in our common commitment to Christ.

The Scripture clearly warns us both against the making of oaths and dual allegiances. In Matthew 5:34-37 we are told that what we commit to and what we reject is based on our commitment to Christ rather than an allegiance to man made ideologies (based on various superficial, circumstantial, or temporal commonalities). James 5:12 reaffirms this.

Matthew 6:24 teaches us to stand clear of dual allegiances when it says “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." This verse finishes by stressing that one cannot serve both God and Mammon (name of a Greek god associated with wealth). While the context is warning against holding too closely to temporal comforts and pleasures, it certainly extends across the board. Therefore, one cannot pledge their allegiance to Christ and national interest simultaneously. One will always deviate from the other at some point, since their interests are not held in common. Since one seeks what is eternal and the other what is passing away. One seeks the common good and the other the good of a minority.

Therefore, those who serve Christ find their commonality and identity in Christ. The boundaries and borders are then found in Christ and not longitudinal and latitudinal lines. Therefore, our commonality cannot be both national and faith oriented. Faith is not bound by national identity.

Secondly, Christians cannot hold to a dual allegiance. To pledge allegiance to a temporal institution is to be at odds with the eternal institution of God. The two will often be founds at odds and operating according to contradictory principles. This is why a person cannot serve two masters. Not to mention that one cannot truly be sure that national interests are genuine and altruistic.

In conclusion, national allegiance often finds itself in opposition to allegiance to Christ, since it seeks its own good as the ultimate goal. Since the goals and ways of national interest are often at odds with the goals and ways of Christ, one cannot pledge allegiance to both without finding oneself divided and internally in contradiction to oneself.

The citizen of heaven ought to be considered an outstanding citizen wherever they find themselves. Yet this is not because of a spirit of national pride, but a spirit of love toward all people, motivated and directed by Christ. They become enemies of the state in-as-much as they refuse to stand with the state in their opposition to humanity. The state is constantly placing itself in the position of opposition against humanity by being 'against' others based on their temporal 'boundaries'.

And so, the citizen of heaven is a good citizen, but never a true citizen of national interest, since national interest regularly stands in contradiction to the interests of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Duck Rabbit

While in Hilton Head i picked up a milk stout called "Duck-Rabbit". i think i was drawn to it because of the cool rabbit on the box, and i chose to buy it because i had never tried a milk stout before.

Even though i realized that the brew was called "Duck Rabbit" i didn't notice the "duck" for some time. Only after finally realizing that the rabbit also looked like a duck, did i understand the name. And after i realized it wasn't only a rabbit, i didn't like the design as much.

The design is not unique to the beer, but comes from Wittgenstein's Duck Rabbit theory. The idea is that you will see whichever picture you are most familiar with. This was certainly the case with me. Given the name of this blog, you can see i have a partiality to rabbits.

Of course this type of picture is not new to us. We've seen many of these, not least of which is the young lady and the hag. Also, the theory that Wittgenstein sets forth is also fairly common sense, though we choose to overlook it as we look at the world, and especially as we interact with those who see things differently than us. Certainly all of our theories, philosophies, theologies, and world-views are shaped by various factors that influence our views, including all the conditions we've encountered on our unique life journeys.

Kierkegaard builds on Wittgenstein in that he helps us to apply this to our values. What we would like to think our values are aren't necessarily our real values. How do you 'see' what your values really are? One way to 'see' your values is that you will always act out of your true values and beliefs.

In Christianity we often 'profess' many lofty beliefs. Yet in as much as we fail to 'act' on those beliefs, namely loving others, forgiveness, mercy, kindness, patience, pursuing peace, encouraging others, loving our enemies, putting others first... we are able to see what is merely a 'profession of faith' and what parts of our 'faith' we actually believe and value .

[by the way...i don't recommend the "Duck-Rabbit" milk stout. As my sister-in-law describes it, "It tastes kinda like bacon". i didn't care for the after taste. i do however recommend another milk stout: Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout: excellent]

Monday, May 09, 2011


i must say that i am pretty impressed with the backlash at the initial response to bin Laden's death. Yes, there were the immediate victory chants posted on Facebook, but this was quickly counteracted by thoughtful people questioning whether 'celebration' was the right attitude of the Christian in the face of anyone's death, including their enemy.

It wasn't just one or two people who questioned the ethic of gloating and cheering death. This topic has been printed in various newspapers, online articles, and news programing within a day or two of the inappropriate behavior.

I am amazed because for the most part people seem to sense that their is validity to this criticism. Many Christians are in agreement, that while they are glad that bin Laden cannot personally threaten lives any longer, there is really no reason for celebration either. Not only because the problem will continue, but because the best possible outcome is to see our enemy transformed, not annihilated. Not to mention that since we are all worthy of death and hell, we ought to be careful about gloating over the idea that someone else has been sent there, which apparently over 60% of people surveyed feel certain Osama is there right now.

Are we finally waking up? i can't imagine anyone would have taken this constructive criticism seriously even ten years ago. Are we coming to a point where we finally realize that 'evil' is not something completely foreign to our own nature? Are we really starting to believe that it is better to seek the salvation of our enemy over his destruction?

i hope so.

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Matthew 7:2