America is a blessing.
Which is why I’m not proud to be an American.
For many Christians in America, not being a proud American is a controversial, ungrateful, or even blasphemous conclusion to come to.Andy Crouch even experiences the bewilderment of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when he tells them he is not a proud American. “I’ve gotten pushback from Christians because I’ve said I’m not proud to be an American. When are Christians allowed to describe themselves as proud? I’m amazed that people find that controversial or unsettling.”
Like Andy, I am not proud to be an American because I am a Christian. And the Christian part comes first – I am not an American Christian. The gospel of Jesus Christ– not the Constitution – dictates the type of American citizen I am.
The premise for Christian faith in Jesus is based on knowing that I don’t deserve any good thing from God. The depth and totality of my depravity is wired to obtain glory for myself and destroy everything I touch in the process. I do not deserve to know – nor even serve – him.
Yet, because God is forgiving and gracious he chose me – a sinful, weak, low and despised person – and gave me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:27–31).
In Milton Vincent’s A Gospel Primer for Christians, he reminds himself of how to view life’s blessings using the famous “glass half-full/half-empty” analogy.
“The gospel reminds me first that what I actually deserve from God is a full cup churning with the torments of His wrath…With this understanding in mind, I see that to be handed a completely empty cup from God would be cause enough for infinite gratitude. If there were merely the tiniest drop of blessing contained in that otherwise empty cup, I should be blown away by the unbelievable kindness of God toward me. That God, in fact, has given me a cup (Psalm 116:12–13; 23:5) that is full of ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ,’ (Ephesians 1:3) and this without the slightest admixture of wrath, leaves me truly dumbfounded with inexpressible joy.”
What a joy it is to be blessed by God – even if it’s an ounce of blessing. But God goes overboard and gives me “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” This is more beneficial to my soul than being an American.
Blessed To Be An American
Yet – as if the grace of being chosen by God wasn’t enough – how much more of a blessing and privilege is it to live in the United States? My sin deserves the full wrath of God, not the blessings of living in an extravagant nation.
There are many great things about living in the United States. I have the liberty to worship freely and I am protected due to the dedication of our servicemen and servicewomen. And like Milton, I should consider all freedoms and liberties a blessing from the gift-giver (James 1:17) not a right I earned.
However, because pride is my default I can easily find myself finding solace in America’s greatness and my contributions to it. Before I know it I have adopted a “country first” nationalistic worldview rather than a gospel-centered worldview, and my hymnal of hope becomes a plea for God to “Make America Great Again.”
America The Broken
Viewing Americanism through a gospel-centered lens should also humble me to realize that America is broken. There are no perfect communities, governments, judicial systems, or neighborhoods. There is nothing perfect about America because no perfect people exist here. And there are no perfect people because the world is still filled with sin.
This is not a killjoy for all the things I love enjoying about America. It should instead remind me of the future hope I have with God in eternity and how desperately the United States needs the gospel.
This is why I cannot take pride nor place hope in being an American. When I do, I’ll set aside the Christian mission to “make disciples of all nations” and become defensive to protect an empty hope of an eternal America.
I will set reason, sympathy, and compassion aside and become offensive and insensitive. I’ll start complaining about who or what is ruining America’s glory rather than addressing areas of darkness that can be pushed back by the light of the gospel. I will grow numb where the gospel calls me to bear the burdens of others.
This Land Is Your Land – God
Furthermore, pridefully staking claim to this land and placing my hope on it is to misunderstand God’s plan of redemption. God’s rule is never restrained to physical spaces. He is less concerned about our physical residence than he is about our hearts residing with him.
We can protect our land from those who desire to exploit it and do us harm. But when our hope is wrapped in preserving our physical space rather than resting in God’s preservation of our souls, our desires become misaligned.
I agree with Dudley Hall – “The goal is not just getting the right amount of land under control and having the right people in place to govern. The goal is for the ultimate son of David to sit on the throne of God, ruling people whose hearts have been changed to align with the law of God.”
I Need God More Than I Need USA
For me to grow prideful about being an American is to set aside my Christianity. This pride elevates patriotism as my ultimate hope instead of God’s glory.
So instead of singing with Lee Greenwood that “I’m Proud To Be An American I will sing “I will not boast in anything/ No gifts, no power, no wisdom/ But I will boast in Jesus Christ. Then I become humbled to be an American.
I need God more than I need to be an American. My dependence on him enhances my purpose as an American.