Monday, January 4, 2010

Free to worship

Let's not conflate the issues. When we use phrases such as, "We're free to worship in this country thanks to the sacrifices of our troops," we are baptizing the USA's excessive militarism. We're now making the soldiers of this temporal nation-state the troopers of the church within.

This morning I'm listening to the radio (Morning Edition) and hear a young Iranian living in Turkey say, "Praise God that I can practice my belief here."

This struck me, because he's talking about Turkey, not the United States of America.

There are Christians all over this planet who have freedom to worship without needing the US Army/Marines/Navy/Air Force to provide this freedom. And those who live in countries where it is illegal to gather and worship are still worshiping God! Because it's God that deserves worship, not the military of this great country.

When we gather as the Body of Christ, we do so alongside our brothers and sisters in Turkey, Iran, Korea, Taiwan, and Palestine - just to name a few. We are to worship the one true God, the Lord of Ages! Not a nation, not a flag, not a composite soldier. These things only serve to split our allegiance, and create barriers within the Church between fellow worshipers beyond borders.

It's time someone said these troops do not fight for us (the Body of Christ - the Lamb that was slain). They fight for an earthly kingdom; one bound by time and space.


JoeLinux said...

So, if I am following your logic here, those who have created a space in which you can worship God freely are not deserving of thanks? True, they are doing it under the auspices of protecting "the american way of life", but included in that catch-all phrase is the freedom to worship without persecution. I agree that God will continue to be praised regardless. However, to say that those who have created the space wherein Godly atmosphere can be conducted are not deserving of our thanks (not worship) is disingenuous. The same logic could be said about pastors. Should we not thank them for creating a space to worship?

Steven Kippel said...

They aren't creating a space to worship freely. That's the point. Paul and Silas worshiped in prison. We worship God always, it doesn't matter what the political climate is.

It's not disingenuous, and certainly isn't analogous with pastors. Pastors don't give anyone space to worship, they are a spiritual leader.

Jesus told Pilate "If my kingdom were of this world, my disciples would fight to protect me." Christians do not fight to defend our faith, and we certainly don't need soldiers fighting in our stead.

JoeLinux said...

Ok, let's go back a step.

In or about 1776, we fought off the british so we could worship as protestants (among other things).

The next, direct assault that I can pull off the top of my head was against the Japanese in WWII. Christianity would not have been tolerated under their rule. Indeed, they forced everyone to practice Shinto . The US troops repelled them, as you are well aware.

The next direct assault was 9/11 by a group dedicated to setting up Fundamentalist Islam rule. As in World War II, US Troops are in a foreign country, trying to make sure that Al-Qaeda does not follow through with its intent to subjugate the world through violence and sharia law.

While it is true that you can worship God in all of those situations, it is much easier to do so when we do not have to worry about cops breaking down the door and making life hell. Ask an ancient Roman Christian. :)

Expressing gratitude for someone who is trying to keep this country as a safe place to worship is not worship, anymore than expressing gratitude to your local law enforcement officer for preventing violence against a specific church is worship. It's just a different scale.

And pastors sacrifice their time and attention to make a space for us to worship. WE are the church. We need space. We need someone to manage the resources for our church to exist in. So, yes, they lead, but they also create the space necessary for us to worship in. Telling a pastor, "I am able to worship in a congregation in a nice environment because the pastor has set up a nice sound system, assembled a good worship team, and delivered a good, timely message" is not worship. It is expressing thankfulness.

"I am able to worship freely in the US thanks to our troops, who fight to keep that right available."

True, they are also fighting for the right to a free press, right to vote, etc.

But nothing in that statement deifies them. It simply states that our troops are fighting to keep us in an atmosphere where it is permissible to worship as we please without persecution.

Your own statement contradicts your hypothesis: "We are free to worship anywhere ..." vs. your later explanation that Paul and Silas, and all those persecuted, worshipping while in chains.

They are/were not free to worship. Worshipping for them involves risking getting caught. That is the definition of "not free to worship." I fail to see how else that can be taken.

In order for them to be "free to worship" in the open without risk of persecution, they would have to be allowed to worship freely. By a government that has set up that right for all of its citizens. And has the military muscle to repel other governments that might want to take over and take away that right. If you don't think that has happened in our history, see the beginning of this diatribe. :)

Steven Kippel said...

The first point:

The causes for war with the crown on England was not for religious freedom. Reading through the Declaration of Independence you will note the Church of England is not mentioned once.

But this is besides the point, because what our nation's founders did is not where we draw our moral guidance, it is the Holy Writ. How about, "Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

You did miss 1812, but that's OK.

I do appreciate how you have engaged the attacks on the United States. It tells me you have been reading more of my writings, where I have stated soldiers are not protecting our freedoms because they are not threatened. Al Qaeda has stated their goals, and that is to drive America out of the Arabian peninsula, not to establish sharia law in the United States. Certainly the Taliban, a regional organization, isn't a threat to the US. Certainly Iraq wasn't. Even if Osama Bin Ladin topples our government, he doesn't have the man power to take over our government. This is off course. I shall correct...

In countries where Christians are persecuted they say when they are imprisoned it is a great opportunity to bring the message to their captors because they are a captive audience. This isn't so say it's great to be imprisoned, it is to say the Christian mind should work differently than that of the world. If a Christian and a pagan approach the same moral problem in the same way, how has our faith changed us?

You bring up the Romans, which is great because that's the church to whom Paul was writing the above quote. The Christian church under Roman oppression did not rebel against the authorities. I have already stated what Christ said to Pilate.

Further, Jesus, Paul, and Peter each said to do good to our persecutors and those who oppose us. I would assume killing them isn't doing good to them.

I still don't see a connection between a pastor and a soldier. It's quite a stretch. Pastors don't give us room to worship, they help guide us through scripture.

We have a lot of examples in the Bible of persecution, as it turns out the early Church was persecuted a lot. The mandate wasn't to oppose the persecution, but rather to persevere through the end. Because "greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." In fact, "we do not fight against flesh and bone."

The Kingdom of God is not something we war over. We do not expand the kingdom through force, and we do not defend it against opposition. If the church does not do this, why should we give a proxy to the State to do it for us?

I don't know if you have been in congregations on Veterans Day or Memorial Day, or Independence Day, but the ones I've been in certainly do worship soldiers. They essentially say the soldiers fight for us, the Church. This is a fallacy I was addressing in this article. A worship service for our Savior should not be adulterated with adoration for the State - which is in opposition to the rule of our Lord.