Is the American Way the Jesus Way?

Brian Zahnd is the co-founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Brian is known for his focus on embracing the deep and long history of the Church and wholeheartedly participating in God’s mission to redeem and restore His world. He is also the author of several books, including, A Farewell To MarsBeauty Will Save the World, and Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Today, as we in the US prepare to celebrate Independence Day, Brian talks to us about the conflation of flag and cross, Christianity’s long history of accommodating itself to the pressures of nationalism, and the transformative hope of local churches to overcome both of these distortions of the true message of Christ.

You’ve said that for many American Christians, the American Way and the Jesus Way are essentially the same way of being human. What do you mean by that?

Many American Christians would be hard pressed to identify five examples of how the Jesus way differs significantly from the American way. In the civil religion of America, the Jesus way and the American way have been conflated into the same mode of being human. In essence this means Christianity exists primarily to support the supreme idea of America. Put just so it sounds ludicrous, nevertheless it remains the tacit assumption of American civil religion. But authentic Christianity is a radical challenge to all other allegiances.

Christians confess that Jesus is Lord and thus “We the People” are not. Christians are far more committed to the Beatitudes than the Bill of Rights. Christians believe that only Jesus has a manifest destiny to rule the nations. Christians proclaim that “the last best hope of the world” is Jesus, not America. And that most American Christians would view these assertions as controversial reveals just how deeply the Jesus way has been subverted by the American way.

You can read the rest of my interview with Brian Zahnd at Red Letter Christians. He’s an amazing writer and speaker — the interview is truly worth a read!

Brian Zahnd headshot

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Celebrating the 4th of July Even When We Feel Let Down by Our Country

As our nation celebrates the 4th of July today, I realize there might be a temptation to think only of the ironies of “Independence Day.” Today, many may think of our nation’s non-liberty-loving and questionable moral actions: Guantanamo, spying on citizens, war and drones. The list could go on.

But this morning as my husband and I were explaining the 4th of July to our three-year-old daughter, I was overcome by the feeling that we, as parents and as a nation, must not give into the cynical temptation to disregard today and other, similar celebrations of our country.

The analogy that came to mind was that of a marriage anniversary. Marriage inevitably brings ups and downs, problems, arguments, maybe even questionable moral actions. We are exposed, daily, to our spouse’s weaknesses. But when the marriage anniversary roles around, those things are put aside, and the love between husband and wife is celebrated. The bad is left to be focused on another day. And those two things are essential: 1) the celebration of what is right and good, and 2) when the day has come and gone, focusing on the problems that do exist.

For better or worse, we are married to a country that, like a spouse, has good and bad and moral and evil. Today is the anniversary of our country. So let’s celebrate, and tomorrow and all the 364 other days that follow, let’s build up our metaphorical marriage by loving what’s lovable, recognizing strengths, and working towards solving problems instead of throwing up our hands in dismissal and disgust.

Happy 4th of July!