Thinking Clearly?  

Posted by Ben in ,

This is going to be a very long and hopefully somewhat insightful post. It may not be well put-together as it is midnight and I am rather tired. I just simply cannot go to sleep while this is on my mind. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy (Fair Trade Coffee if you can)!

The other night I entered into dialogue with a friend of mine from back home. He said he’d read my blog posts about Jesus, but not about my “liberal stuff.” To my friend, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I am not saying anything negative but rather I feel that when two people dialogue, it is about a topic. That topic has many important aspects and therefore implications and insights. I think sometimes these insights are beneficial to be shared with a larger population who were not a part of the exclusive dialogue.

For starters, the main topic of this blog comes from my friend’s characterization of me as liberal, which I am ok with as far as he and I go. However, I struggle with these types of base labels. Sometimes they are fitting, but many times they are not and here is why; they only speak of where that person is, not what they have come from and been through in their life.

It all started with his referring my support of Obama and he mentioned Obama’s pastor Rev. Wright and his comments. I mentioned that there are a little more to these comments than the terrible nature in which a listener at home hears them and they come from somewhere most of us are unfamiliar with. First to address the question of where these types of ideas of Wright’s come from. I think we need to look no further than Mike Huckabee’s answer when he says:

“It’s easy for us who are white to look back and say ‘that’s a terrible statement.’ But I grew up in a very segregated south and I think that you have to cut some slack…to people who grew up being called names, being told ‘you have to sit on the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you have to sit in a different waiting room at the doctor’s office, here’s where you have to sit on the bus.’ And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and a little resentment and you have to just be able to say ‘I probably would to, in fact I might even have a bigger chip on my shoulder.”

We have to realize that people are not blank slates. They come at life being shaped by the environment they’ve seen and been around. Also, I am not condoning any of his base statements, but is there some truth to the fact that there are problems with a system when African Americans are still the poorest ethnic group in the country and a nation that sows so much violence has reaped violence? I am not saying that America deserved 9-11, NO ONE, under ANY circumstance would deserve such a thing. What I am saying is that when you sow violence throughout your history, eventually someone will strike you back with violence, and it is usually those who don’t deserve it who get punished (9/11, Our atomic bombs, also Pearl Harbor).

Now, in regards to his “God Damn America!” comments. Another friend of mine quickly called him a traitor and bigot and said Obama had been influenced by him. This friend also told me that I wasn’t thinking things through clearly by saying that there is more to the issue and asked if I wanted to be executed with him for treason. Obviously these kinds of feelings come from a place of passion, which in itself is admirable, but left to itself is dangerous. We cannot claim passion as reason, even passionate patriotism. I have no problem with patriotism, though anyone who knows me knows I am not the biggest patriot myself. It is not that I do not appreciate America and my freedom and religious freedom, I do, very much so. It is just that I believe the IDEA of America is much greater than the reality of America. In that, I don’t desert America, I am just patriotic in the sense that I want America to become what it should be, can be, and promises to be to the rest of the world. America is an amazing idea and I’d like to see that idea become more of a reality.

That being said, is calling Wright a traitor “thinking things through clearly?” Don’t get me wrong, no one should ever say “God Damn America.” That’s terrible and should never be said and is also a foolish way of articulating something which causes people to write you off immediately. However, what would be “thinking through things clearly?” Rev. Wright brings up an interesting point. As Christians we are meant to think through things Theologically, not Patriotically. That being said, “God Bless America” is a statement less about America and more about God.

So, what do we say about God when we say “God Bless America?” The problem with this statement first of all is that it is not inherently Christian. It was coined by religious people with great intentions. However, it was marketed by people without the same great intentions and those of us in the church ate it up, for good reason. Why should we not hope that God would bless us as people? However, I am not sure that God deals particularly with Nations anymore, the only one he ever really did was Israel. Instead his covenant is extended to all people who believe upon His Son. Also, Patriotism is great, it’s fine, I have no problem with it. However, our first allegiance is to God and that must take priority over our American Patriotism.

What do we say as American Christians when we say “God Bless America?” What does a Christian in Iraq here? Iraqi Christians are not particularly in favor of our war. What does a 60 – 70 year old African American Christian such as Wright hear when we say it? African Americans of that age and every generation before it could have lived in many better places in the world than America. Whether we like it or not, as Huckabee stated, it’s true. Does God bless a country that treats an entire race the way we treated Blacks for 200 years? I would have to say NO. Also, what does this statement say to a Japanese Christian who has family that was directly affected by the Atomic Bombings on Nagasaki or Hiroshima? Really? God Bless America?

This statement is not as pretty and friendly as we think it is. In fact, it actually says a lot of horrible things to other people around the world and even within our own borders. We must realize that in saying God Bless America we align our God with all the actions that others see our country take throughout history. So let us “think things through clearly” as Christians, but let us redefine what it means to think clearly. Let’s actually think clearly through GOD and what we say about HIM.

All that being said, I believe Rev. Wright’s comments were said poorly and often in immature fashion. The best way to describe his comments from the pulpit would be “foolish.” But let’s think things through clearly when we talk about God and not let other things get in the way of that, be it support of a candidate or patriotism or from the pulpit. That means understanding what we say when we say "God Bless America" as well as thinking clearly before saying foolish things from the pulpit. We are called to be Christians before we are called to be Americans.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 21, 2008 at 5:15 PM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Sounds like you're a college student! But, some very insightful comments about recognizing that people speak and act out of their personal history. I sometimes wonder how much more gracious we would be towards others if we knew their life story?

Keep thinking, and keep me updated on our summer.


June 1, 2008 at 10:40 PM

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