American Christian or Christian American?

In Christian RealTalk, Politics by Antwuan Malone

I get most frustrated with the Christian presence in America around this time. Every four years, I am reminded of our perceived reliance on government to “Christianize” our nation. And each year I openly wonder where the priority of the American Christian’s allegiance lies.

Aside from how contradictory platform stances are with Christian principles, which is pretty frustrating, I find myself amazed at the passion with which Christians engage with the political circus in general. I’ve written about my ideas on the relationship of Church to the American country (Same Sex, Obama, and the Church, America, Not a Christian Nation, Unequally Yoked: Religion and Politics, etc…) and will no doubt do so again. This is not one of those posts. This post is about one question: Are you an American Christian, or a Christian American?

It’s a simple question. And yet, I think people will struggle with it more than they admit. This is because, for so many in our country. the two are equal. For many, directly or indirectly, to be American is to be “Christian,” or at least to live by some pseudo, socially accepted version of “Christianity.” But in reality, the two are quite different. The principles on which America is built are no where near in line with the principles informing the way Jesus lived, which should in turn define the way Christians live.

With each passing day, the line in the sand between being an American and being a Christian gets more deep. A recent CNN report reveals 20% of Americans claim no religion. That’s 1 in every 5 who does not stand with organized religion. Further, rather than take for granted the supposed Christian morals written into the constitution, this generation has taken to investigating it themselves. And what they find in the constitution is not some set of morality that is exclusive to Christianity. In fact, Jesus, the central figure of Christian belief is no where mentioned in the early founding documents.

So the answer to the question is increasingly important. Where do your allegiances truly lie?

The Difference

There are at least two questions each generation needs to ask itself: Who do we say Jesus is? and What is the defining issue of our generation, and how would that Jesus respond? 

The previous generation enjoyed a happy marriage with government, and so the defining issues were often dealt with by Christian conservatives and political savvies, with hand in firmly grasped hand. Battle cries “For God and Country” echoed heart-felt sentiments of well-meaning Christians seeking to form a country God would smile upon. These are American Christians (though this could be defined so many other ways) — Christians who believe that America holds a special place in God’s eye, and that if we don’t protect that sacred favor of God, he will turn his back on us. There are so many things wrong with this thinking, I can’t even begin to cover it here. I’ll simply say, we know a group of people who felt the same way… and they killed Jesus.

Then there is the Christian American, or perhaps better said, the Christian who happens to be in America. This Christian understands that there is no system of government that will replace the spiritual kingdom of God that Jesus announced. And thus, the Christian battleground against the wiles of the devil are separate from any other battleground, political or otherwise. The focus of the Jesus honoring, Christian (who happens to be in America) is simply people. How can God be introduced to people in such a way that his love for them is evident, that their value to God is communicated and understood by them. Because this Christian believes if we can introduce people to God, He will change their hearts, and he will lead them away from sin, and their lives, their families, their cities, and yes, even their nation will be better for it.

Yeah. That’s the way I see. America is great because it gives Christians freedom to fight for the souls of its citizens without persecution. It’s religious capitalism. We deceive ourselves if we think we will enjoy some special privileges. And thus, we waste time, money and credibility chasing rabbits with no meat on them. It’s time Christians be Christians. If we do that, we just might turn this American Titanic.

How would you define ‘American Christian’ and ‘Christian American’?  Which are you?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.