The Cross or the flag?

September 11th is a tricky day for me.

I live in the United States. I have for my whole life. And, legally, I’m a U.S. citizen. But that is not where my allegiance lies.

My citizenship is in Heaven (Philippians 3:20).

It’s unavoidable that, as long as a person is living on the earth, they are going to be living in some country (or commonwealth of a country) under that country’s government. I’m not trying to suggest that we destroy the notion of a government. Incidentally, I’m a socialist, so I believe in a pretty strong government, at least economically. But that’s a topic for a different post.

However, as followers of Christ, we are not supposed to hail Caesar as our lord–Christ is our one and only Lord, and it is Him who we hail.

I might be an American citizen, but I am not an American. I am a Christ follower.

Adding to this, and rather shockingly (sarcasm inserted right…here), I’m also a pacifist. I think Shane Claiborne states it very clearly when he writes (in Irresistible Revolution) that “when Jesus said ‘love your enemies,’ he meant not to kill them.” There’s biblical evidence everywhere for a nonviolent, peacemaking sort of life. Again, that’s not the point of this post, but I promise I’ll address it soon.

I think that what happened ten years ago was awful. I don’t ever rejoice at the death of a brother or sister, and even less at the great number of people who died that day. I think it’s completely alright to mourn, to grieve, and to remember the people who died that day.

But, in the U.S., we often forget (or intentionally disengage) the fact that the people who headed the attacks had families and friends too. They died just the same as anyone else. And, if we’re going to mourn the loss of the U.S. citizens who died, we also have to mourn the loss of our Middle Eastern brothers. We have to stand by their families just as much as the ones within America’s borders. They were just as much people as anyone else.

When I say these things to people…well, outside of my little group of ex-patriates, I am often accused of hate speech towards America, and, more shockingly, towards the church.

So September 11th is a tricky day for me.

Let me state very clearly right now: I have a strong distaste for the U.S. government and the way it conducts pretty much everything. Hating it is a very short step away. But it is definitely not my goal. On the contrary, I’m trying to turn my anger into passion and help individuals affected by the government’s actions. I am not trying, nor will it ever be my desire, to stage a coup or a government overthrow or anything else related to it. I keep my hands clean of politics. I want nothing to do with it because I don’t think, as a follower of Christ, that I can impose the beliefs I hold as a result of my Lord on anyone else who doesn’t follow Him as well. So I can understand how my words could be construed as hate speech, but that is not what they are.

I cannot, however, understand the notion that they are hateful towards the church. Christ did not exclude anyone–no matter how poorly society viewed them–from His love. Nor did He ever take up arms against his oppressors and enemies, but asked the Father to forgive them, and submitted to their Cross, even to His own death. If this is the Christ the church claims to follow, then the church should have picked itself up and gone over to the Middle East, joined hands with our Arab brothers and sisters, and worked for reconciliation and peace.

Instead, it (by and large–there are beautiful exceptions) exchanged the Cross for the flag, appointed itself the judge of who should live and die, and took revenge.

Have you ever seen a little kid start hitting another kid for taking his/her toy? We tell little kids not to do this. Why? Because it’s violent, it’s mean, and it’s revenge.

In the words of my little sister, “It’s just not nice.”

Doesn’t revenge seem a little…childish? Immature? Ridiculous for adults with rational minds and (relative) control over their emotions?

The prophets in the OT got thrown into pits for speaking against Israel, even though their words were from God. Why? They were a harsh critique, and no one likes to be reprimanded or corrected.

So when did a few words of correction, or maybe just suggestion, become hateful? That, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to answer.

For anyone who has misconstrued my words as hate speech towards the church, let me state my views clearly: I believe followers of Christ are to be nonviolent peacemakers who are deeply concerned with standing beside our brothers and sisters, regardless of their nationality. Each person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and we are to see His face in each and every person, no matter where they are from or what they believe.

We are called to love our neighbors AND OUR ENEMIES. So today, as you remember what happened ten years ago, pray that love would overcome anger, revenge, and hatred. Pray that the light of Christ would shine into this present darkness. Go out and promote peace–not at the end of the sword, but at the end of an outstretched hand.

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