The prosperity gospel is fooling a lot of people.
The one that doesn’t have an official name, but that’s more popular than ever.
It’s the one that worships America, the one that worships freedom, the one that worships “rights.” It’s a gospel premised on the idea that Christians should have an easy existence, and it’s as false a gospel as has ever existed.
You might call it the Patriotic Gospel, the American Civic Gospel or maybe even the “Duck Dynasty” Gospel. Whatever the name, it’s way more American than Christian, and it’s ultimately just another prosperity gospel that promises security through something other than Christ.
This form of American Christianity is a frustrating faction of the faith. There are passionate but generic references to God, calls for fervent prayer and public pleas for “morality.”
But the alleged No. 1 devotion to God is usually tied to a No. 1 devotion to the Stars and Stripes, as if one must always be tied to the other.
It’s a gospel that pays lip service to a god that’s in control, but it’s heavy on emotions that say man is really the one who protects us. In other words, it’s a gospel that downplays or ignores the complete sovereignty of God.
Among its other tenets:
- It’s a gospel that suggests living out and sharing your faith is dependent on having the freedom to do so.
- It’s a gospel that looks to the government, rather than the church or the home, to do the heavy lifting on matters of faith.
- It’s a gospel that suggests without conservative Supreme Court justices, or without guns, or without a strong military that life will be unbearable for Christians.
- It’s a gospel that suggests one’s greatest source of identity and value can be found in one’s nationality.
- It’s a gospel that laments the loss of prayer in schools, rather than the lack of prayer at home.
- It’s a gospel that dreads a future in which Christians are persecuted for sharing their faith, but puts no real emphasis on sharing it now.
- It’s a gospel that says it’s better to silence opponents than minister to them.
- It’s a gospel that looks to Fox News for truth, rather than the Bible.
- It’s a gospel that says it’s OK to put biblical teachings aside to “make America great.”
- It’s a gospel that calls for blood when someone “disrespects” the national anthem.
- It’s a gospel that says persecution is having to hear someone say “happy holidays.”
- It’s a gospel that says eating at Chick-fil-A counts as living out your faith.
Friends, it’s simply a false gospel.
As we’ve seen during the 2016 election cycle, America has become an idol for many who profess to follow Jesus.
Just look at the pleas from evangelicals to keep the Supreme Court conservative, even at the expense of other biblical callings and convictions. Look at the responses to Colin Kaepernick and other athletes who sit or kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as if unwavering patriotism is somehow mandatory and non-negotiable in a country based on freedom.
Listen to James Dobson, widely respected in many evangelical circles, saying he’s “passionately in favor of Donald Trump” because America “will go down in flames, maybe literally” if Hillary Clinton is elected.
“I lose sleep thinking about having Hillary Clinton pack that court with people from the far left, and what that would mean for the institution of the family,” Dobson said, according to the Christian Post.
Never mind that Christians take their cues on the family from the Bible, not from the courts. (Also, perhaps Dobson’s sleep patterns would be helped by the peace that surpasses all understanding.)
Listen to Franklin Graham, another prominent evangelical, asking supporters to sign a pledge “for God and country,” as if those allegiances should be equal.
“This presidential election isn’t about personalities. It’s about the #SCOTUS,” Graham tweeted.
Never mind that the Bible’s stances on abortion, marriage and other moral issues are binding for Christians, no matter what the government says. (Also, perhaps Graham should ponder the complete truth of Daniel 2:20-21.)
Dobson, Graham and others use a lot of words to talk about God and the Bible, but their double-speak message — intended or not — is clear: Put your faith and hope in government and the courts, not in Jesus.
Don’t misunderstand: There’s nothing wrong with loving your country. But we should keep that love in check.
Yes, we should want a strong country. Yes, we should be thankful for our rights. Yes, part of the biblical role of government is to restrain evil.
But none of those should become the source of our security, nor should they be the things we value most. They shouldn’t be the reasons we live as Christians. They shouldn’t become our idols.
Here’s the thing: Christians are never guaranteed control. We’re never guaranteed happiness. We’re never guaranteed safety. We’re owed nothing.
What we are guaranteed, according to the Bible: Hatred, real persecution, perhaps even death. The Christian life was never meant to be easy. It was never supposed to be popular, at least not by worldly standards.
If you’ve gotten caught up in this silly Patriotic Gospel, ask yourself: Why are you so concerned with keeping an easy existence as a Christian? Is the easy existence what holds your faith together? Have you made an idol of comfort? Of freedom?
As Christians, our hope and our faith — all of it — is supposed to be in Christ. Everything else — our behaviors, our desires, our perspective — flows from that. It’s not Jesus and … that gives us security. It’s just Jesus.
This is important because when things get hard — and I mean truly hard — people’s real idols will show.
Traditional American comforts are nothing but a false sense of security. They’re a nice sense of security, for sure, but they’re still false — just like every other idol in history.
We hold onto them because we don’t want to be challenged. We don’t want it to be hard. But if you’re living by biblical teachings, it’s supposed to be hard.
You see, people don’t like it when you criticize their idols. People jump to their defense. People yell. People sometimes get violent.
Even good things can become idols. That’s a Sunday school lesson that’s been taught for decades. But idols usually require a sacrifice, and they always lead to spiritual ruin.
You can often tell what people love most by what they’re most quick to defend.
What are you most quick to defend?