August 27, 2014

American Patriotic Christianity: A Canadian Perspective

©2009 GospelGifsBy Michael Bell

This past month we celebrated both Canada Day on July 1st, and Independence Day on July 4th. This inspired some thoughts about getting some Canadian perspectives on “American Patriotic Christianity”. As I am the lone Canadian writer at Internet Monk, I gathered up seven of my Canadian, primarily “unchurched” friends, to get their perspective on the topic. A couple of friends, for personal reasons, asked not to be identified, so I have chosen to refer to all by their initials.

Many of you will find the discussion below stereotypical and offensive. Others may find it enlightening. I would ask that you persevere to the end. After interacting with some of their ideas, I will conclude with some thoughts about the Canadian Church, and how it is impacted by American Christianity.

To get a completely different perspective, from someone who has spent decades interacting with both Canadian and American Christians, I would suggest you read this article.

Now, take a moment, sit in on our discussion, and let us know what you think.

Michael Bell: Thank you everyone for being willing to contribute to this discussion. My first question is this—What do you think of Americans in general?

J.L.: I have traveled widely and frequently in the USA. I find Americans to be extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful. This reflects a quietly confident and respectful spirituality that I believe characterizes America far more than the outspoken and extreme views often quoted in the media.

S.F.: It is a nation with such potential to lead the world with intelligence, foresight and understanding.

Michael Bell: I have many American friends who I hold in very high regard.

Michael Bell: I would now like us to look at the intersection of faith and politics. Politically, if Canadians were to vote in the United States, we would be overwhelmingly Democrat. Canadian opposition parties try really hard to portray the governing Conservative party as closest to American Republicans, but truth be told, Obama has enjoyed an approval rating in Canada that has never dropped below 74 percent. This means that Canadians of all political stripes identify most closely with the American Democrats. If you were to look at policies, issue by issue, you would find that in some issues Canadians are to the left of the Democrats, and on some they are to the right. Politicians in Canada tend to move towards the center of the political spectrum which means that Evangelicals are found in significant numbers in all the political parties. In the U.S. you see Evangelical Christians most closely aligned to the Republican Party. Why do you think this is?

T.S.: There are good, honest, well intentioned Christian people in the U.S. who I believe are being sucked into bad political policies under the guise they are losing their Christian vote and freedoms. It is so sad to witness these events. Adding to the volume of rhetoric is the Republican voice that Obama is not a Patriot—there is even a segment who still does not believe Obama was born an American citizen (The “Birthers”). The GOP is all about fear and obstruction. Those who might fall into the “American Patriotic Christianity” are getting sucked in and don’t see the world outside their own backyard.

J.L.: The fact that patriotism is tied to a specific religious belief system is downright frightening; it implies that anyone who does not “fit” is unfit to be an American. If I understand Christ’s message at all, I believe that He would be frustrated by the exclusionary tone of the American Patriotic Christian movement. Christ taught that all are loved and add value to humanity and that defining one self by pointing out what others are not is hypocritical.

A.S.: Ah yes, this is God’s country, the land of free speech, and the land of freedom of religion. Bring us your tired, your weak, your hungry, and so long as (it’s in the fine print) they conform to the Christian part of our country’s founding fathers’ Judeo-Christian values, they will be welcomed with open arms.

Michael Bell: What other issues do you see with Patriotic American Christianity?

A.S.: If it is not too much to ask our president to say his daily prayers, and thank God for blessing America each day for His and it’s existence, is it not too much to have our children recite the Lord’s Prayer each day in our public schools? We would not have gun violence, gangs, sex, unwanted pregnancies and sin in our schools if our children recited the Lord’s Prayer each day because they would learn it, listen to it, and live it.

Michael Bell: Little bit of sarcasm there A.S.?

A.S.: Maybe just a little!

S.F.: God bless us all should they fall prey to the cancerous rantings of backward fundamentalism and ignorant nationalism. To me, American Patriotic Christianity looks, sounds and acts a lot like Sarah Palin—and that should scare the hell out of anyone who wants the world to move forward.

P.B.: The prosperity gospel mentality is another dark side of American Patriotic Christianity. It’s a beautiful country with some really great people, so it’s really easy to sow in a little patriotism and make the average Sunday school kid grow up believing that heaven will look something like the rolling hills of Kentucky on a perfect sunny day, except with more mansions.

A.S.: P.B. is half right—Heaven IS the rolling hills of Kentucky on a perfect sunny day, or Indiana, with more mansions, flowers, and everyone is carrying their firearm in plain view, a Bible in one hand, a gun in the other, gleefully singing “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful,” like at the start of a NASCAR race, waiting to fight off Satan’s hordes when they attempt to plant their truck-bomb at the pearly gates and invade. Diligence, perseverance and duty are part of patriotism. Who but God’s chosen American people will fight to protect Heaven from the outsiders?

C.S.: The Patriotic Christian American sees the U.S. position in the world as part of Godís plan, thus a position of global dominance is natural and should be defended.

Michael Bell: Your use of the word “natural” reminded me of something that I had read recently, that Americans have “natural God given rights”. How do you respond to that C.S.?

C.S.: The American Christian feels that he’s entitled by divine right to whatever he’s accumulated and, thus, resists any and all government initiatives that may cost him a few bucks.

Michael Bell: I guess that ties back into P.B.’s concern about the “Prosperity Gospel.”

T.S.: Tell me how it is a Christian organization is not in favour of health care for those who cannot afford it? I think it happens because they keep drinking the Kool-Aid of disinformation from the GOP.

Michael Bell: Do you have any fears of this brand of Christianity being exported? You have been awfully quiet there R.C., anything to say on this matter?

R.C.: I was thinking of some of the manipulative things that have gone on between some strong-handed Christian leaders and some smaller African country’s governments, for example their influence to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. (Ed. Note: You can read Americansí Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push for more information about R.C.ís concern.)

A.S.: Once others think and believe as we do, that God is good, that God is great, that God is right, that God is American, they will have no reason to attack us anymore.

Michael Bell: Enough with the sarcasm already! So I take it that you think that Americans believe that if they could just export their politics and religion that everything would be right in the world?

A.S.: Absolutely.

Michael Bell: I would be interested in getting some our reader’s thoughts on that one!

Michael Bell: Thanks to everyone for participating, your comments have certainly been enlightening. I would love to see you interact with some of our readers as well.

So how does this impact the Canadian Church?

Canadians and Americans are in many ways joined at the hip. Over half a trillion dollars in trade crosses the border between our two countries each year. Eighty percent of Canadian exports are consumed by Americans. When America sneezes, the world catches a cold, and Canada goes into cardiac arrest. (This most recent recession being the exception!)

Our airwaves are bombarded by American signals. American programming fills our T.V. sets. American music saturates our radios. It is not surprising that the Christian voice that is heard loudest and most often is the American Christian voice.

The voice that we hear is not the moderate Christian voice, it is the bombastic, outrageous, extreme voice. The voice that tells us that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment, or that the earthquake in Haiti was because of a pact with the Devil.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that there are many moderate American Christians. I read their comments on Internet Monk all the time. Their voice is starting to get stronger with advocates like Tony Campolo, Rick Warren, and Willow Creek. So maybe the Canadian view will change over time. Right now, however, I believe that the Canadian response to Patriotic American Christianity is one of the reasons why Canadian expressions of Christianity has become withdrawn and quiet. We end up having to spend a lot of time and energy to show that “We are not like that.”

That is problematic for me as I already find it difficult to be a Christian up here. For a while in my home city Christian clubs were banned in the schools. At work (a previous employer) a request to play a Christmas Gift Exchange game as part of the “Holiday Festivities” was turned down because some might find it offensive. Christmas decorations were welcomed, but there had to be symbols of other other faiths represented as well. We experience similar situations in our public schools in the area where I live.

On the positive side, perhaps because I have somewhat of an outgoing personality, I have had no problems letting others know that I am a Christian, and that it is not something that I keep siloed and just practice on Sundays. My wife has been invited into the public school to tell the Christmas story. At my current place of employment, while few would share my Evangelical perspective, many have been open to conversations about faith, and several will be reading this post.

So while I get frustrated at times when workmates ask me about Joel Osteen or Benny Hinn, or Evangelical support for the Republican Party, I believe they have a pretty clear sense that Canadian Christianity is different.

I believe that Canadians having such a negative view of American Christianity impacts their receptivity to the good news of Jesus Christ, and as such becomes a hindrance to the gospel.

My questions for our readers is this: Do you agree? If so, what can more moderate American Christians do to rectify this? Does moderate American Christianity collectively have a responsibility to change what it does, or change what and how it communicates?

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this topic.

Comments

  1. I get frustrated when being a Christian and being a Republican become equated as one and the same. I am a Christian, and I am a Republican. However, I am not a Republican because I’m an Evangelical Christian. I support health care for everyone, just not from the government. I’m Republican (and bordering on Libertarian given the antics of the Republican party lately) because I believe in limited government. That being said, I don’t believe in limited government because of my reading of the Bible, but because of my understanding of history and human nature. The only place that my faith intersects with my politics is abortion – and that one is a big enough issue to me (I’m a family doctor who used to deliver babies) that I doubt I’ll every vote for someone who supports abortion rights.

    Somehow, we have conflated Evangelicalism and political conservatism. While that may be a trend, it is certainly not universal. The change needs to occur in this country and among ourselves so that the world sees a faith that is real and vital and not tied to one political party or one issue. Rather, as Christ-followers, we can disagree on how we should deal with the important issues (health care), but still work on getting them done. This should help us with trying to spread the love of Jesus in the USA, but also around the globe.

  2. “I support health care for everyone, just not from the government. ”

    Then from who? The church? The Lions club? Collection cups for change at the 7-11? I am sorry, but this position taken by so many Christians just really, really, really bothers me.

    “I’d love to help the least of these, but since the government would be involved, they’ll just have to be sick.”

    What you are in essence saying is that it is more important to keep the government out of health care than it is to provide health care for poor people. And that’s sad.

    • anontoo says:

      Actually, that is not at all what we are saying. History proves out that government involvement in healthcare leads to worse healthcare for the masses and doesn’t necessarily end up taking care of the marginalized. We could trade stats all day long on healthcare. You would use stats that back you up and I would use my own. That’s not the point.

      The point is that there are good, moral reasons to be against government run healthcare. Simply put, some of us are concerned that it will produce more suffering than it will relieve. So please don’t insult our Christianity, or assume that we are calloused to the plight of the poor. Americans make up the overwhelming majority of charitable giving worldwide. Much of that comes from American Evangelicals the likes of which you demonize.

      Before we all claim that Jesus is on our political side, let’s be clear. Jesus was on the side of the poor. So are people that were against the healthcare bill. For the most part, very few people go without healthcare here. There isn’t time in this reply to get into what I believe about true charity, individual responsibility, and what Christ teaches regarding this. But therein lies my reasons for being against the healthcare bill. Sometimes giving, when done wrongly, can hurt a society more than it helps. Besides, if read closely, the healthcare bill was more about political power than it was about helping poor people get better. Sad but very very true.

      • History proves? No, not really. National health works well in some countries (France, Japan), and less well in other countries (England), and fair in Canada, to name a few.

      • Very few people go without health care? What country do you live in? I go without health care. I go without prescriptions because they cost too much. And I’m not even poor. I suppose your argument is that my wife could get a mammogram at the ER.

        Economically, the US has a second class health care system. We pay more for less care than any other nation.

        From a Christian perspective, our health care system serves Mammon. It is a national sin on the scale of abortion.

        • ‘We pay more for less care than any other nation. ‘

          And why is that? Because of government regulation and our politicians being bedfellows with the middlemen like big insurance companies. Who do you think mandated HMO’s?

          anontoo has done a good job of parsing out the politics from the religion embraced by many American Christians.

        • Thanks to Obamacare, people will have to pay even more. This September, the FDA will try to take the breast cancer drug Avastin off-label because it arbitrarily costs too much. Being off-label will mean that Medicare and most insurance companies won’t be able to insure it, meaning that if someone with cancer wants the three to five months that the drug gives, they get to pay for it all on their own. Ah, well, that’s the price they’ll have to pay for you to get your stuff cheap. At least, until some politician decides that’s too expensive, too.

      • Some Guy says:

        You are exactly right. People were MUCH healthier in the UK before we had the NHS!

        Oh.. wait.. that is crap.

    • Health care is one issue among many. I’m a physician (not currently working due to my own health issues). I saw first hand government health care. I said, “Fine. I’ll take care of this person for free.” But, no, you can’t do that once the government’s involved. They make the rules.

      So, yes, I think the church should do it. It won’t be perfect because we live in a fallen world, but I have much higher hopes for churches running free clinics than the government.

      “What you are in essence saying is that it is more important to keep the government out of health care than it is to provide health care for poor people. And that’s sad.” – NO!! Absolutely NOT!! The government already botches up so much that I have no confidence for it to provide health care for poor people.

      I spent 10 years working as a physician. I saw plenty of people for free and filled out paperwork to get them qualified for public and private programs to cover their care. My issue has nothing to do with a lack of compassion.

      My goal, though, isn’t to convince you that government-run health care is bad, but to make SURE you understand that it isn’t lack of compassion or not caring for the poor that leads me to this position. This is a well-thought out political position.

      But, I’m perfectly willing to believe that you hold a completely different belief because you also care about the poor and marginalized and believe that the government could care for them better. That’s fine.

      Please understand, though, that those of us who are conservative are not necessarily heartless. Many of us are trying our best to live out The Great Commandment and Great Commission. Conservative and Christian don’t have to go together, but neither do they have to be separate.

      • As an uninsured American who has decided to hold off on getting a much desired physical for another two years until Obama’s plan kicks in, so I won’t be paying $1000 dollars (I’ve been told I need an EKG), who pays $350 a month for medications (one of which is generic and cost $5 back when I had insurance, but now costs $150), I find platitudes like this a best ill informed, at worst mean spirited and hypocritical.

        I talk to those over in England, in Canada, anywhere else in the western, industrial world who don’t end up spending 20% of their paycheck on health related costs and I become incredibly angry. I am part of the 20% of this country with no health insurance. I make just enough not to be eligible for medicare or any state program, which would not cover me anyway, as some of my medications are for mental health, which is not covered under New York State’s insurance for poor folks program.

        I have a mole on my back that I believe is precancerous. I won’t know for two years. Tell me, how is the current system compassionate?

        I apologize for the rant. Mike, Jeff, whoever, if you want to delete this you can. I however feel that the prevalent view that the government will somehow create a system that is worse than what is currently around, when what is currently around is nothing, is mind blowing. How can they make something worse than a system where it is in a company’s best interest to fire you for getting lukemia?

        As a closing note, I always read about a distrust in the government running things. The air and water are fairly clean, much more than before the government got involved. Driving is safe and easy, more than before the government got involved (interstate highways, etc.) The subway here is more reliable than cars during the day. I haven’t gotten any food borne illnesses lately, and I suspect that the FDA has something to do with that. There’s no pornography broadcasted over the TV, and I think the FCC had a hand in that. We walked on the moon because of the government. What has the government done so horribly wrong? (In terms of inefficiency- you’ll get no argument out of me on certain moral grounds- Iraq, torture, capital punishment of innocent men, giving tax breaks to those who need them least, etc.) And if you wish to argue morals, how is health care immoral?

      • OK, how many chemo treatments can your church afford?

        Taking care of one person with cancer would bankrupt my church.

        Exactly how does the church provide health care for 200M Americans? Do we post pictures of people needing treatment online for churches to adopt, like we do with stray dogs?

      • David Cornwell says:

        I know compassionate doctors also. But I know persons whose life has taken over by huge health care bills. I have young friend who graduated from college recently. He became seriously ill right out of college before landing a good job. He had to be hospitalized. When he went home he received a huge bill of many thousands of dollars. Soon he was sued by the medical industry collection agency. He’s 25 now and does have a good job. But he can’t rent an apartment because of his ruined credit rating. He can’t get married for the same reason. He lives at home with his mom and tries to work his way out of this huge debt.

        Our system is corrupt is as corrupt as any “socialized” medicine scheme ever enacted. It provides very good service for those who are lucky enough to be insured or rich. The rest must rely on the charity of doctors who are forced to fill out all the paperwork.

        • David Cornwell says:

          My grammar teacher just sent me a grade on my this piece above. From up above I heard her voice say, “not so good David.” Apologies for being sloppy.

      • Jonathan Blake says:

        American churches would have to drop all their building plans as well as the hefty salaries many staff’s get. I went to a church with 300 people (a medium sized church from what I’m told) and the salaries of some of that staff would cause a double take for the hours some worked. Statistics suggest where the money goes there (building maintenance, staff, in-house programs) is typical of American churches. But to get back on point the church would need to undergo some major changes in its goals and focus in order to care for the sick and poor and homeless, etc.

        • The church would not do it. There are too many Christians who say, like someone somewhere on this thread (I think), “I don’t want to provide health care for other people.”

          When it comes to a choice between a new family-life center with a basketball court and paying for health care for someone you don’t know, there will be a church-wide meeting with the architects Monday at 6:00 pm. to go over the floor plan.

  3. hewhocutsdown says:

    Frankly, Canadian Christianity can often be equally disfunctional, in its own ways…it’s not bombastically absurd, but there’s a quiet sensibleness that tends to suppress actions that are perceived to rock the boat…

    …at least, that’s how it was 15 years ago when I last lived there. I’ve moved about a fair bit since, and can’t say that I have a good grasp of what precisely Christianity looks like in ‘my’ country today.

  4. hewhocutsdown says:

    That said, having lived in the states these last few years, the horrors of what passes for Christianity are far beyond any caricature I’d encountered. It’s a travesty and worth mourning. The ‘American’ focus of it is a huge part of the problem, but far from the only one; others have been explored here and in other places.

    • Be careful about painting Christianity in America with such a broad brush. Some of us truly believe the Bible, are as sick of “religion” as Steve Brown says he is, and are seeking the truth and to walk with Jesus. To stereotype all American Christians in such a way is patently unfair and inaccurate.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I’m an American evangelical Christian. But I certainly don’t buy into the nationalistic idolatry that so besets so many other American evangelicals. The discussion above illustrates perfectly how American Christians, and evangelicals in particular, are seen by others. Now is this true of the majority of American Christians? It’s hard to say. It may not be, but is instead the effect of only the loudest and bombastic voices being heard. And while that may end up portraying a caricatured picture of U.S. Christians, caricatures exist for a reason. They do bear some resemblance to reality, even if certain features are exaggerated.

    It’s also important to remember that American Christianity is by no means monolithic. There’s a huge diversity among American Christians, just as there are among other faith communities throughout the world. Just a little bit earlier tonight I wrote to a friend in Thailand about why I call myself an Augustinian Democrat. And I use that strange combination of terms because I wanted to differentiate myself from other evangelicals who typically are quite party line in their affiliation. So while I may be theologically quite conservative, politically and socially I tend to lean much more “liberal” than most of my fellow evangelicals. I think the difference is that I’m more willing to see my own country and its history with a critical eye. Many American Christians are loath to do that. They regularly confuse the nation with being the church. And that always leads to idolatry.
    Lastly, Michael would be very proud of this post. You’ve definitely honored the spirit of the Internet Monk.

  6. Gammell says:

    Canadians tend to come in with extra baggage on this. Probably as a byproduct of our interconnected but seperate nationhoods, the definition of Canadian identity for many of us up here is “not American.” Since religious expression is perceived as a common part of the American cultural landscape, allegiance to this reactionary Canadian identity requires disdain of any form of public Christianity. This does not negate all critiques of American Christianity, but I have long since learned to take a large grain of salt whenever Canadians start evaluating the States from afar.

  7. WOW Michael. This one should be a doozie.

  8. A little reality might help here I think. The egregious “Patriotic christian american” is not representative of America, Christianity or anything of any importance. Yes there are those who deny the judeo chritian heritage of the United States and of Canada as well. That does notmake it less real. Nor does the portrayal of all of our founding fathers as Evangelical Christians make that real. Some were Christian some were not. Some were Deists some were not. Most valued the legal and moral principles espoused in the Holy Bible, but did not necessarilly agree with all the spiritua/theological teaching in that group of books. The Republican party stole the reigns from a small group of Christian evangelicals who were concerned about the morallity of this country socially. Suddenly this spiritually concerned group became a political arm of the Republican party. Now we have extremist violent groups, rascist groups and others even more bizaqrre claiming the tag of Evangelical Christian and we have far too many Evangelicals who have been fooled by these fraudsters and heretics into believing they are Christian groups and inot believing blatant lies about government leaders and policies. The Epistles of James and JUde in addition to statments by Paul warned of us of such possibilities if we sought out teachers for our “itching ears.” This nation has been damaged terribly by both unthinking liberalism and hysterical conservatism. Most so called Christian spokes man aren’t. the American Christian church here is in deep pain and suffering because it has allowed itself to become too American and not enough Christian. If we want to save this country we need to save our individual selves first. Like the story of the little bow with a newspapers says:

    One day a little boy asked his dad to play but dad said he was too busy. To appease the boy he hannded him a sheet of news paper. Tearing up the paper he told the boy that it represented the wolrd and when the boy got the world back togehter he would have time to play with him. The boy returned very quickly surprising his father who knew the boy could not read, yet the paper was taped together perfectly. The boy siuad, ” see Dad, there is a picture of a man on the other side. when I got the man together the world was easy!” Amen. If only we would all understand that message.

  9. Please excuse the typos in my previous posting. I have been ill for a very long time and only just learning again how to write and communicate properly. I hope both my thoughts and the spirit in which they are intended were clear.

  10. I think the Canadian disdain of forms of public Christianity have moved away from ‘not American’.
    Still there, but not as much as 20-50 years ago.
    The discussion starts with identification as Republican and Democrat, did any Canadian identify as NDP, Con, Lib or Green as identifiers or identity?

    Good honest discussion, I think we do our US friends a disservice when we condescend. The subject is evaluating the state of US Christianity and our cultural landscapes are unique.
    Vive la difference.

    Thanks for this.

  11. JoanieD says:

    I just wanted to say that I live in Maine and have made a number of trips to Canada: Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island. I love Canadians! In fact, my husband and I have said that if we traveled the world, we would be tempted to say we were Canadians! But, I do understand now that Americans actually do have a GOOD reputation when they travel. I have read statements from people from other countries saying they like Americans because they are friendly, respectful and tip well. They can’t say the same about folks from some other countries. I was happy to read that. But as rural Mainers, I think we may have as much, if not more, in common with rural Canadians than we do Americans who live in urban areas. There are some Mainers who have advocated leaving the US and becoming a part of Canada! Parts of Maine WERE in Canada many years ago. I know this is off the topic of American/Canadian Christianity, so I will add this: Maine is considered one of the “least religious” states in the US. So perhaps that is also why Mainers can feel just as Canadian as they do American. They don’t equate American and Christian as being one and the same, so to speak. If someone from another country asked me where I am from, I would say “Maine” not the USA. If they didn’t know where Maine was, then I would say the USA.

    (For the record, my “roots” are in Canada with one grandparent coming from Quebec and two coming from PEI.)

  12. VolAlongTheWatchTower says:

    AMEN,AMEN,AMEN,AMEN!! These people speak the absolute truth.
    “Somehow, we have conflated Evangelicalism and political conservatism. While that may be a trend, it is certainly not universal.” At least not YET, not 100%, merely hovering in the mid-90′s or so. As the son of a Methodist minister who is also Chairman of the Democratic Party of _____ County Tennessee, this article is most uplifting.

    • Daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher trying to keep it real in Nashville! This place (TN) is a hot mess, don’t you think? If they had warmer weather in Maine, I would move up there to be neighbors with Joanie D (who sounds so very cool) and leave these backwoods forever. At least in Nashville you can find a broader cross-section of humanity who do not all feel they have all the answers to every single thing on the planet. But, as I type this I can see the state capitol building from my window, and we all know what they are up to in that building most days…Taking back America for the Christians, beginning right here in the great state of Tennessee! Keeping all them illegals from taking all our jobs, Stopping “Obamacare” at the state line…with a boot; protecting our most great 2nd AMENdment rights so we can all go drinking with our sidearms. I only wish I was kidding about even one of these points. God help us!

      • JoanieD says:

        Awww, thanks, Debra! We have BEAUTIFUL weather today in Maine. Dry air, light breeze…ahhhh. But we had weeks of horrible, humid, too-hot weather. So we are due for this respite. I hope it lasts a while.

        • Yes Joanie…but it’s the long, long winters that give me such pause. The adjustment period may just become something that is necessary to go through simply for some peace of mind. The great divide in the south is about to become more than this tender heart can bear. The place is crawling with people who would love to have all of my rights locked away and never to be heard from again. The vitriol from my “brothers and sisters” pains me more than I can say. What would Jesus do indeed?!

      • Chad Williams says:

        What you call the backwoods is most of us in the South would call the real America. Please tell me why enforcing immigration law is wrong? Protecting the Second Admendment is somehow not as important as the First and Fourth Admendment? I am proud to live in a part of Virginia (Bristol) that is for the most part a God fearing area. I am a Republican, but first and foremost I am a Christian and a minister of the Gospel. And yes I do believe God has place America in a privliged place at this point in history. You should be happy to be in Tennessee, it is a piece of real America.

        • Chad, I read your words and see how far apart we are in how we feel and think, and it seems pointless to pretend a discussion with you. That is really sad, and I am not proud of anything that comes from me that could keep me so divided from my brother in Christ. But, that’s reality. I don’t have a relationship with my biological brother because he is too much like you…Republican, “Christian” (deacon in his church) and he disapproves of my lifestyle “choices”. He only sees me as a sinner, and would deny my relationship with Christ….as if he could. He can’t be reasoned with by me, nor I by him. All I can do is love him with all of my heart as Christ commands. That’s where I will leave things with you….with much love.

        • Some Guy says:

          Once you call a place Real America, what does that make the rest? Are New Yorkers not real Americans? Are San Franciscans not real Americans?

  13. Our countries may be joined at the hip, but the distinctives are prominent. Canadians understand them thoroughly. Its a diverse country where, south of the border, most people are clueless about anything Canadian except perhaps Labatts Blue. And many can’t understand why Canadians can be so sarky about their neighbor. There are cultural, social, religious, historical, and legal/Constitutional differences which into play which make for a combination much more difficult to define than a two dimensional religious/political one. What I have noticed is that the roots of humanism are much deeper and older. Most of the Ontarians I interact daily with shake their heads over our religious excesses and find it hard to connect with our world destiny. The opinions of those I typically encounter independently form more around the idea that God doesn’t exist, the Bible is a book of myths, and religion is a man-made means of control. They are either apathetic, or sometimes even hostile, when Christianity is brought up. I only offer my personal observations, albeit that of as a US citizen and outsider. I am certain there are other perspectives. In any event, I have lived among Canadians most of my life and served with their forces overseas in NATO. (Canadian readers will hopefully forgive the lack of “Canadian content”.)

    • What’s Labatts Blue?

      • Canadian Beer. Twenty years ago, if you were a Canadian beer drinker, you were either in the “Labatt’s Blue” camp, or in the “Molson Canadian” camp. I never acquired a taste for either.

        By the way, “Molson Canadian” sponsored a humorous commercial that became very popular in Canada that espouses the differences between Canadians and Americans. 1.5 million views on Youtube.

        You can view it here.

        • C’mon guys, it’s La Fin Du Monde or Maudite! But stay away from Trois Pistoles, it’ll kick yer butt.

        • I wasn’t trying to evoke a side discussion on the relative merits of Canadian beer. I also have some rather fixed opinions; it all was indeed much better 20 years ago when still Canadian-owned. I was using this only as an example of the few things Canadian (besides hockey) that many in the US could identify.

          • JoanieD says:

            Oh, but, Stuart, little side discussions are fun and give us a chance to get to know each other a little better. My hubby has been drinking quite a lot of Labatt beer lately. I read on the internet that it began in 1847.

            Remember the comedic characters, brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie, from “The Great White North” played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas? They drank a bit of Canadian beer, if I recall.

          • Joanie, I am pretty sure you didn’t mean your husband began drinking beer in 1847; there was no internet to read that on ;-)

    • David L says:

      I worked for a software firm in the 80s that had a Canadian version of our package sold and supported by a Canadian company located in Toronto. But western Canada was used to dealing with US distributors and there were other issues. When we came out with a major new release distributed only through the distributor in Toronto all **** broke loose. I was the major interface with Toronto and got a front row seat. The westerners had absolutely no use for DD/MM/YY and were more than a bit indignant that they had software with French words on their computers “wasting space”. The Quebecers were put off dealing with a company who’s primary language was English. And on and on and on. This was during a major phase of the Quebec as a separate company movement. And just after the “forced” conversion to metric. (I was told they didn’t move the “exit in 1 mile signs, they just changed the sign to say KM.) And not too long after most companies had to put every label on their products in both English and French.

      Anyway it was an interesting view of another similar in big things but lots of variations in details culture.

      My general opinion is that Canadians, at least those east of the prairie, accept national government rules much more easily than US folks. And I decided I kind of like the US way a bit better. :)

  14. “Enough with the sarcasm already!”

    Yes. Precisely. I am one of those conservative American Christians who loves his country and is thankful for the freedoms I have here. I am not, however, a gun-toting, flag-waving, Bible-thumping fanatic, but rather someone who has arrived at his convictions through honest wrestling and being genuinely convinced that they are better than the alternatives. I find a lot of the smarmy, sarcastic, ugly comments and stereotypes made in this discussion, particularly by the individual identifed as A.S. really ignorant, offensive, and disprespectful. I am tired of the fashionable America bashing that seems to have become the default, mindless position of certain groups of people these days. As soon as I hear it, I automatically feel like simply dismissing anything else the person has to say, because it’s gives the impression to me they really are not very thoughtful nor are they capable of honestly attempting to understand the views of another or how they might honestly come to hold such views.

    • Gordon,

      I have known A.S. for 32 years. Yikes! Has it really been that long! He is one of my dearest friends who is also one of the most thoughtful and politically astute people I know. He befriended my shortly after my arrival in Canada from Africa, and for several years was the only close friend that I had. It was he who drafted me into the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. One of my favourite memories is having him stay with us in Ottawa while we attended the election of the next leader of the Conservative Party. We would spend hours discussing the political nuances of each candidate.

      Andy’s comments were cut from a much larger letter that he sent me. It was a very sarcastic and very humurous letter, which unfortunately in my editing it lost a lot of its effect.

      I will add that my reaction to it was quite strong as well, as was my reaction to all the comments I received. But then I thought, if people in Canada are reacting that strongly to the phrase “American Patriotic Christianity”, especially people like A.S., whose opinion I greatly value, then maybe this is a story that needs to be told.

      • Oops. Now you know that A.S. is in fact Andy!

        • Michael,

          Fair enough. I understand the difference between knowing someone personally and thus having a larger context for their comments, and just reading something they wrote or said being reported by someone else.

          I actually agree with some of the critique of “American Patriotic Christianity” and don’t necessarily connect my patriotism to my faith directly. I greww up in Jerry Falwell country and I’ve seen some of more extreme manifestations of right wing politicized Christianity and I don’t like them. I think, for example, that national flags should not be present in a church sanctuary, nor do I think that churches should have 4th of July themed services in church, etc. I don’t think, however, that there is anything wrong with American Christians loving their country, being patriotic, or celebrating holidays like the 4th of July outside the church setting, as long as these things don’t come before our love of God and neighbor or prevent us from embracing other believers who have different outlooks.

          As for my reaction to some of the comments made in the discussion, I think there are several things that frustrate me:

          1.) It seems to me that among a certain segment of American and Canadian evangelical Christians nowadays, bashing America and talking about empire, etc, has become very intellectually fashionable. I dislike trendiness, especially in intellectual and theological matters, which are supposed to be about seeking the truth. Often, critiques of America or conservative American Christianity come off to me as meally mouthed and smarmy or are delivered with an air of self-congratulatory condescention that really turns me off.

          2.) I try to be fair to the views of other people. I dislike stereotyping, caricaturing people and broad brush painting people, and it often seems to me that a huge amount of unfair stereotyping is done against conservative American Christians.

          3.) It frequently seems to me that a justly deserved criticism of a too close association between the Republican Right and evangelical Christians ends up going overboard and acting like the right has nothing redeeming about it at all, and then swinging to the other extreme and being just as intolerant of dissenting opinion as they claim the right has been.

          4.) It also often seems to me that those involved in America bashing and conservative bashing haven’t engaged in much serious reflection on the issues at stake and the arguments they offer are weak.

          I attend a church that has connections to the emerging/missional movement and I hear this kind of talk a lot there, so, a lot of my negative response to the comments in the original post here comes from my growing frustration with stuff I continually hear from people that doesn’t seem very thoughtful or fair to me, and that makes me feel personally judged and attacked.

          Alright, this has been too much writing so I’ll stop here. Thanks for listening to/reading/responding to my comments.

          • Gordon,

            I would agree with points 1, 2, & 3. They are fair and valid criticisms.

            As for point 4, there tends to be a mindset that says that, “I have had serious thoughtful reflection on this issue. The other side disagrees with me, therefore they have not had serious thoughtful reflection on this issue.” On other topics I get a lot of “I believe the Bible and I believe X, you believe Y, therefore you must not believe the Bible.” The fact is that people come to the same set of facts with different sets of assumptions and influences, and so come to different opinions.

            I want both sides of the story to be told. You note that you “hear this kind of talk a lot there”. This essay was my attempt to say “Hey, this attitude is out there, let’s discuss and see what we can do about it.”

            By the way, I am unabashedly an Evangelical Christian. I go to an Evangelical church that I am very happy in, so some of the comments of my friends hit a little to close to home for me.

    • Gordon, I agree with you. It seems to me that if you don’t have a liberal view you aren’t considered a Christian. Jesus never said the government should provide health care. He said,”render unto caesar that which is caesar’s etc” If you don’t have insurance go to an urgent care center, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. I don’t want the government telling me I must pay for someone’s health care.

      • “It seems to me that if you don’t have a liberal view you aren’t considered a Christian.”

        Thanks for the comment Vern. The irony here is that liberal Christians so frequently complain that conservatives accuse them of not being Christians because of their liberal views (a valid complaint in many cases), but then so many of them turn around and do the same thing and are equally intolerant of anyone not agreeing with their liberal views.

  15. It’s early on in the comments, and I’ve already noticed a few commenters saying, “But I’m not like that!” I don’t doubt that you’re not. I count among my Christian friends people of all political and denominational persuasions who do not fit the “American Christian” described in the original article.

    But even though you may not have encountered many of them, or any of them, there are many (far too many) American Christians that are as described in the article. From Kindergarten through 8th grade I attended a fundamentalist independent Baptist Christian school. The comments by A.S. that some commenters have decried as overly sarcastic are a stunningly accurate description of the attitude I was taught at that school. There was no distinction between being a good Christian and a good American.

    Someone might reply, “Well yes, but Independent Baptists are a far right fringe group anyway.” I’ll give you that. But the attitude isn’t limited to Independent Baptists. Until a year or so ago I attended a rural but affluent SBC church. Attended there for 17 years. This is the church that the Christian business leaders, politicians, and other pillars of the community attend. Franklin Graham even attends sometime when he’s in town. Again, the “sarcastic” comments by A.S. were a dead-on description of the attitude of most of the members of that Church, and they take their cue from the senior pastor. When my car sported a “Believers for Barack” bumper sticker in 2008, a number of people at the church stopped speaking to me, and a couple went to the church leadership and demanded I be removed as an adult Sunday School teacher. This church does represent the mainstream of American Conservative Evangelicalism.

    There was a comment on an article on Digg.com recently. I can’t find it to quote exactly, but as I remember is was something like this:

    “Jesus and Ronald Reagan didn’t found this country for Pinkos! \s”

    The \s denotes sarcasm. The author may have intended it as sarcasm, but it’s an accurate description of the attitude I was taught in school growing up, and it reflects the attitude of the leadership and most of the membership of the SBC church I attended for 17 years.

    When you say “I’m a conservative Evangelical Christian and I’m conservative politically but I’m not like the people described in this article,” I believe you completely. In fact, you may have never even met a Christian that fits the description given in this article. That’s your good fortune. But, oh how unfortunately, you’re not representative of conservative Evangelical Christianity in America; they are.

    • But you countered anecdotal evidence with more anecdotal evidence and then said:

      “But, oh how unfortunately, you’re not representative of conservative Evangelical Christianity in America; they are.”

      How do you know that is the case?

      • How do you know that is the case?

        I worked for a publication whose subscriber base was 95% conservative evangelical. I worked there full time for 19 years, and as part of my work traveled all over the country to churches, concerts, and other religious events. I’ve met conservative evangelicals from all walks of life and all economic and social strata. I’ve worked in 10 member Independent Baptist churches, to urban SBC First Baptist churches, to concerts in 30,000 seat arenas. The overwhelming majority of people I met and churches I visited were accurately described by Michael Bell’s article.

        I’ll grant you one or two examples is anectode. A few hundred is data. :)

    • MelissaTheRagamuffin says:

      I thought A.S. was a hoot (and mainly because I KNEW he was being a smartbutt), but his send up of American Evangelicals as: “everyone is carrying their firearm in plain view, a Bible in one hand, a gun in the other, gleefully singing “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful,” like at the start of a NASCAR race, waiting to fight off Satan’s hordes when they attempt to plant their truck-bomb at the pearly gates and invade. Diligence, perseverance and duty are part of patriotism. Who but God’s chosen American people will fight to protect Heaven from the outsiders?” Is almost exactly what the majority of the Evangelicals around here are like. It is a large part of what drove me out of the church I had been involved with all of my adult life and into the arms of the Religious Society of Friends.

      I have a former friend who is currently not speaking to me because she knows I voted for Obama.

    • I agree that the Patriotic Christianity is prevalent. In fact, I’m going against the mainstream in my family when I teach my children a version of American History that doesn’t portray America as God’s “chosen people” or “New Israel”. I take a lot of flak for that and get into some serious arguments when I don’t toe the party line with which I was raised.

      I do realize, though, that the only place I’ve been outside the US is Venezuela, and most of that time was spent with missionaries with whom we were serving, so I can’t really speak to how well people in other countries see us. I can say, though, that our attitude as Evangelicals needs to change. We are too committed to materialism, too self-centered, etc. I’m not optimistic.

    • I identify thoroughly with your perceptions. Not all politically conservative American evangelicals are the same . . . but the folks being described here are far from a marginal group. I can recount dozens upon dozens of political conversations with people in my church, the local Christian school, pen pals, etc. during the Clinton and early Bush years where pretty much all the points being discussed were made. They were not only made: they were aired with the expectation that any real Christian (or real American) would agree. (And I should know: I was one of the more zealous players. I even wrote and photocopied a newsletter called ‘One Nation, Under God’ as a young teenager; I can only pray that no copies of it survive to hunt my adult life.)

  16. Your “message” was right on point.

    I am continually amazed at how much “evil” was done, and continues to be done in the name of “Christian values” and in the name of Jesus. Not by the fringe of Christianity, but my the “mainstream”.

    I find myself wondering, how much of the actual words of Jesus are being read in White Evangelical Churches….

  17. I can understand some level of criticism here, the Evangelical church and definitely the Republican party are not perfect by any stretch, but the characterizations in the post were pretty bad (Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen, seriously?). It’s a bit like saying that Green Peace and PETA activists represent the “mainstream” of the Democratic party.

    • Benny Hinn is Canadian………

      • Or to be more accurate… Benny Hinn was born in Israel of Armenian descent. He started his ministry in Canada, and then moved to the States partly because of the issues his children were having in the school yard as a result of their Father’s profile. I know this because his brother pastored a church about 6 miles from my home and good friends of mine are friends of the family.

        That being said, the reason I mentioned Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen, is that, fairly or not, they are often seen as the face of American Evangelicalism, and are the ones I tend to get asked about the most. You will also note that they are people that Michael Spencer had a lot to say about as well.

  18. Canda’s national anthem is a better tune.

  19. David Cornwell says:

    The very phrase “American Patriotic Christianity” is a dangerous one. It became part of the new creed to which every “real” evangelical had to subscribe. There are several other parts of that creed which I will not mention now because they are not related to this patriotic article of religion.

    I worked in London a few years ago for a short period. I liked it a lot for many reasons. I ate almost every evening in a cafe in the Tower Hotel looking out over the Thames. On one occasion a party of Americans came in to eat. Their leader was very demanding of the young male waiter, shouting, complaining and in general making an ass of himself. He didn’t like the table or the food or the service, even though the waiter spent an inordinate amount of time trying to satisfy and sooth him. He was an embarrassment. Later I talked with the waiter and tried to assure him that we all aren’t like that. He was very gracious and and seemed to take it all in stride. There were many nationalities represented in this hotel. All of them, except these few Americans, knew how to act in public. This obnoxious man was probably a good “patriot.”

    At one time I proudly wore the “evangelical” label. This pride went away over time because of issues like this one. I became something else, refusing to use this “brand name” any more.

    I could tell another little story about a United Methodist conservative renewal group making George Bush their Christian man of the year one time. But I’ll pass on that for now.

  20. Mike (the other chaplain) says:

    It’s times like this that I miss the IMonk, and his well reasoned and balanced aproach to this topic. I’m an American Evangelical and political conservative. I took Michael’s criticism very seriously because I felt he was fair and even-handed. He understood the issues, and although passionate, he never came across low-brow. Today’s post is a parody of what used to go on here. How can I take it seriously with comments like “The GOP is all about fear and obstruction?” courtesy of TS. That’s a CNN/Fox news talking point that is as meaningless as it is absurd.

    • Savannah says:

      Mike Bell stated very clearly that these were the OPINIONS of individuals. Just because American evangelicals do not like those opinions does not mean there is no truth whatsoever in them, and that they shouldn’t be examined to make sure American Nationalism has not been made an idol in our individual lives and churches.

    • “The GOP is all about fear and obstruction?” courtesy of TS. That’s a CNN/Fox news talking point that is as meaningless as it is absurd.

      Unfortunately, it also appears to be an accurate description of the facts on the ground. “Conservative” doesn’t mean today what it meant 20 years ago.

      Full disclosure: I was a registered Republican until a couple of years go, for a total of 22 years. I voted straight Republican ticket for many years. I subscribed to National Review for over 20 years, up until a year or so ago. Didn’t renew because I simply didn’t have time to read it anymore, not for any ideological reasons.

      Having said that, the principled intellectual Conservatism that I was a part of, in the tradition of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Buckley, no longer exists. That conservatism and that GOP has been replaced by the anti-intellectual neo-conservatism of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, whose modus operandi is “fear and obstruction.”

      To quote the old chestnut, “I didn’t leave conservatism and the GOP, they left me.” I am now no longer affiliated with any political party.

      • “Having said that, the principled intellectual Conservatism that I was a part of, in the tradition of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Buckley, no longer exists.”

        There still are some good intellegent voices out there, such as Bill Bennett.

      • Savannah says:

        That is very similar to my political journey, having voted for every Republican from Reagan in his first term forward. I believed that I was voting the “Christian way” because that’s what was being preached, and I dutifully viewed the opposition as horrible people, absolute spawns of Satan and concerned myself with an extremely narrow set of issues.

        When GWB’s election was in doubt in 2000, I was very upset about it the whole 37 or 38 days it took to have it “resolved”. My degree of being upset (and the enormous relief I initially felt when he “won”) concerned me at a deeper level, as I began to worry that I had conflated my faith with my politics and couldn’t tell the difference any more. That turned out to be an extreme understatement, and over the next couple of years I started praying about it and reading books by Randall Balmer and Pastor Greg Boyd and many others and for the first time, had some of my constructs challenged in this way. I realized that the values I held really dear and close and were a product of my actual faith, were not being served by my affiliation with the GOP and religious right, on many levels.

        So despite the fact that I now vote for candidates from both parties, I have been tagged as a liberal by many evangelicals I know, which makes me smile. I know some of those who throw that label at me mean it as an insult, but I do not take it as such, any more than I believe the term “conservative” is either a compliment or an insult.

        • I don’t think that the terms “liberal” or “conservative” have any intrinsic meaning. Whether I’m seen as “liberal” or “conservative” depends on the company I’m in. For most people, anyone to the left of them is “liberal”, and anyone to the right of them is “conservative.” A person’s use of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” tell more about the person using those terms than the person or group being described.

      • Re-read some of those old NR issues. You’ll be reminded that the “principled intellectual conservatism” was in the tradition of Taft, not Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater and Phil Crane, not Nixon. But you were right-on with Buckley!

        While Rush and Beck are certainly not intellectuals as, say, Kirk, Burnham, Meyer, Chambers, and Buckley were, they are not neo-conservatives, either. Bill Kristol is the proto-type neo-con, and I don’t expect he’ll be on either Beck’s or Rush’s show anytime soon. Do Rush and Beck run on fear and obstruction? While I rarely listen to either, it seems like charging them with selling fear and obstruction means you disagree with them and will provide no facts to support your position.

        So feel free to disagree with anything I’ve said. But I’ll know if you do, it’s because your modus operandi is fear and obstruction. ;)

        • While I rarely listen to either, it seems like charging them with selling fear and obstruction means you disagree with them and will provide no facts to support your position.

          You might ought to listen to them more often then. Their whole shtick is based on “Obama and the Democrats are going to take away your rights, your freedoms, and pollute your precious bodily fluids.” :)

          I use the word “shtick” deliberately. Beck and Limbaugh are entertainers, and they admit as much. I doubt they believe half of what they say on any given day, but they know what their audience wants to hear and they’re willing to sell it to them. Honestly, I don’t really fault Beck, Limbaugh, et. al.; they’re just trying to make a mostly honest buck by providing political entertainment to the masses. Their work is to real political punditry is as professional wrestling is to real sports. Same for Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore on the other side of the political spectrum.

          The problem, of course, comes in when people actually start taking these guys seriously.

      • “Having said that, the principled intellectual Conservatism that I was a part of, in the tradition of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Buckley, no longer exists. ”

        You and me both. I left the Republican party for just that reason. Then God got me and I became a liberal, believe it or not. From hard-core libertarian to hard-core liberal, and boy were people shocked.

  21. John Allen says:

    This post should be renamed “Canadian Liberal Bigotry Exposed.”

    If someone wrote a post arguing that all blacks are dangerous and violent based on the examples of Mike Tyson, Tookie Williams, and the RUF, they’d get branded a racist and banned.

    But if someone writes a post arguing that all American Christians are ignorant dupes of the Republican party based on the examples of Joel Olsteen, Benny Hinn, and the Religious Right, they get published.

    These people are no better than the racists. Same logic, same attitude, different ideology.

    • That assumes of course that we are all Canadian Liberals. My co-workers would say that I am one of the most conservative person they know.

      But your comment does raise a good point. I do find that the anti-American rhetoric in Canada does verge on racism. I think it is important to note that several of people in the discussion were clear to me that they were not anti-American, just anti some aspects of what American’s were doing.

      This was my attempt to hold up a mirror. Do you not like the reflection you are getting back? Is my mirror warped in such a way that your nose looks too big? If we are getting an ugly image looking back at us, then either the mirror needs to be fixed, or the person looking in the mirror needs a makeover. In this case, I believe both are true.

      • But you didn’t hold up a mirror, Michael. You held up a picture you had drawn from memory. You believe it to be an accurate drawing. And I’m sure it was a good effort, given where you were standing when you looked at the subject, and how much you saw, and how good your eyesight is, and how talented an artist you are, etc.

        There are so many details that you think you’ve drawn accurately, and some of them do kinda look like what you think they are. But, Michael, you’re a lot more Picasso than Rembrandt.

        Being known as the most conservative person in a group only says you’re the most conservative person in that group.

        Like Mike the Other Chaplain says, I miss the balanced and circumspect i-Monk!

        • You held up a picture you had drawn from memory. You believe it to be an accurate drawing.

          Not true on two points. I was holding up a collage created by several people. If I was to draw a picture by myself it would look quite different. My original thought was to post three essays: 1 – The opinions of my friends, 2 – The more balanced article that I posted at EclecticChristian.com and linked to in the introduction, and 3 – My own opinion.

          I decided to let my friends speak for themselves and add some commentary.

          I do not believe it to be an accurate drawing of American Christianity. I do believe that it is an accurate drawing of what most Canadians in Southern Ontario think of American Christianity. As such it should give us pause for reflection.

          If I was to draw the picture on my own it would look quite different. I participate on InternetMonk because there are a diversity of views. On internet Monk I see American Christians like yourself who look quite different from the stereotype. If I was to draw the picture I would talk about the Benny Hinns and the Joel Osteens, but I would also talk about the Michael Spencers and the Michael Mercers and the Michael Pattons. There are many American Christians who I respect and admire, and they would get their place in the portrait too.

          On InternetMonk.com I just finished reviewing “Christians are hate filled hypocrites… And other lies you’ve been told.” It gives the other side of the story. You will note that I highly recommended that book. Christians are not getting a fair shake, and I want to see that rectified as much as anyone on here. Having this kind of discussion helps get us moving in that direction.

          • Well, Michael, at least we agree — I think — that you did not hold up a mirror as you originally asserted. So now it’s a collage — a collection of diverse things stuck together. That’s a better description.

            Does this kind of discussion help get us moving in the right direction? What if half of us get (more) defensive about being caricatured, and the other half get more liberated in criticizing people they disagree with?

            There’s a lot to be said for taking the log out of one’s own eye first.

          • I did call it a mirror. But I called attention to the fact that mirror may be warped and need fixing.

          • When Michael wrote about the coming evangelical collapse. He did include any statistical support for what he was saying, and he got a lot of people upset by it. I jumped in with statistical support to back him up. That is why he invited me to write for Internet Monk. The facts in this case are that Canadians in my neck of the woods have a poor view of American Christianity. I could survey 100 Canadians and get the same results because I hear it constantly. Is it justified? Partly yes, and partly no.

            I read cariactures on here all the time. I have taken Michael Spencer to task for his characterization of “contemporary worship”. It was a technique that he quite liked to use. I readily admit that my piece was a one sided characterization. It was intentionally so to promote discussion. And there have been some good points made.

            I feel like you are “shooting the messenger” George. I am looking for a discussion about how we can overcome these stereotypes. I have seen some comments that move us in the right direction, but would love to read a lot more.

        • Evathek says:

          This seems to be the new ‘below the belt, last ditch punch’ people seem to have latched on to lately. If they don’t agree with something somebody has posted here, they wax nostalgic on the ‘old IMonk’. Give it a rest. Michael Spencer pissed people off too.

          • Michelle says:

            I totally agree with you, Evathek.

          • Ev — You’re missing the point. Of course MS pissed off people. Neither Mike TOC nor I complained about being pissed off. Nor was it that we simply disagreed with something posted. What we, as you put it, wax nostalgic for is the rationality of argument and the breadth of facts encompassed by the argument.

            Suppose Mr. A said the US health care finance system must be good, because if you adjust the mortality statistics to exclude death from murder and traffic accidents, Americans live longer than people in countries with single-payer systems. Suppose Mr. B said the US system is worse because those opposing single-payer are greedy business owners.

            Both may or may not be true, but some of us prefer, or wax nostalgic for, the rational over the emotional.

            On the other hand, Mark Twain once said something like there are good arguments to be made, but I’d much rather rant and rave and froth at the mouth.

        • I think maybe you’re arguing against something that this post isn’t meant to be. I think it’s meant to be a picture of the impression that some Canadians have of American Patriotic Christians. I don’t think that it’s supposed to be an exposition of what APCs really are. There’s nothing wrong with getting an honest look at the impression that we’re making on people.

      • John Allen says:

        Thinking that nonchristian Canadians are going to paint an accurate description of American Christianity is like thinking that the Klan is going to paint an accurate description of nonwhites.

        Sure, there are some crazies in American Christianity, just like there are some crazies in Canadian secular culture.

        But again, judging the whole on the basis of a few is the logic of bigotry.

    • cermak_rd says:

      You know, I think these were honest observations by the folks offering their opinions. And to be honest, I and the non-christians Americans I work with and talk to frequently have these same attitudes. So it’s not just a Canadian thing.

      Who do we hear trying to connect every natural disaster to someone’s sin or political position? An Imam? No, it’s always some idiotic reverend. Who worked hard to keep Sunday a day when stores were closed? Rabbis? No, repressive reverends. Who argued strongest against women’s suffrage? Lamas? No Christian reverends.

      So, it’s not just Canadians.

      And to a great extent, Christians in America suffer from this too. After all, Catholics in Chicago can’t shut Jerry Falwell up (I know, he’s dead now). Methodists in Nebraska can’t control religious bigotry in Murpheesboro and Orthodox Christians in Dearborn can’t do much about Binny Hinn.

  22. In order:

    - “Do You Agree?” With the notion that the Patriotism, America, and Christianity are connected in an unhealthy way? You’d better believe it. The most depressing thing I heard in Central America/the Caribbean awhile back was an American preacher talking about the need to get “God Back in America Again(tm).” I hate that phrase, I hate what it represents, I hate that it was being aired thousands of miles away from the US, and I hate that “Getting God Back” always means voting for the right person. Yuck.

    Yet painting the whole Evangelical movement with such a broad brush is ultimately unhelpful. Sarcasm is cute at first, but useless if that’s all you’re going to give. America is not one giant Bible Belt anymore than Canada is one giant southern Alberta, nor are Toronto churches all like the laughing revival church.

    “If so, what can more moderate American Christians do to rectify this?”

    - First, they should never call themselves “moderate American Christians,” as it sounds quite condescending. I make a point to never use the phrase “moderate Muslims” because those Muslims don’t see themselves as such — they see themselves as quite devout.

    However, to avoid the Christianity = America trap, focusing on serving others instead of our own rights and wants is a huge step. Keeping a global view of Christianity is also of major importance (Prof. Soong-Chan Rah is a good place to start). Get out of the mentality that politics will fix things for us.

    “Does moderate American Christianity collectively have a responsibility to change what it does, or change what and how it communicates?”

    - Since I’m not sure what “moderate American Christianity” is, I don’t know. It’s like asking the local Assemblies of God attendee to criticize Benny Hinn before I can start trusting them. I don’t want to spend my life as a Christian having to go around saying “Yeah, but I’m not one of THOSE Christians.” There will always be “THOSE Christians,” be they American Patriotism First types, prosperity gospel types, liberal mainliner types, cynical passive-aggressive types, and just your basic sinner types like me. I don’t need to point away from others, I need to point to Jesus.

    I guess if we had a responsibility, it would be like everyone else in their country: Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God. If you think that automatically makes you a Democrat or a Republican (or NDP, or BQ, or Rhino), you may have missed the point.

  23. If so, what can more moderate American Christians do to rectify this?

    Nothing, really, other than simply acting like Jesus commands us to. I think it’s a generational issue that will disappear or at least be mitigated when the Christianity = American Patriotism generation dies out. I’m seeing very hopeful signs among younger pastors (e.g. Greg Boyd) and even some older ones (e.g. Wade Burleson). Many in the older generation that grew up with the Cold War have had a hard time acknowledging that that war is over. We won, by the way. :) The only weapon they know is Godly Americans to defeat Godless Communists. When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    • cermak_rd says:

      Demographically, I think Christianity will also speak with a smaller voice as it shrinks as a percentage of the US population.

    • Good point and I have to agree — mostly. A lot of it is generational and will die out as members of the WWII and older baby boom generation fade from the scene, but not all of it will go away because some of the younger generation are following. It will become less dominant.

      For me, one sure sign will be when the label “liberal” stops being used as the opposite of “believer.” I encounter that a lot.

  24. Wow. Great posting. The patriotism was very apparent as churches rolled out their patriotic services for July 4th, just a few weeks ago.

    One thing that stands out is that there was no mention of “abortion” in the article. Here in Kansas, most Christian churches seem completely obsessed with abortion and vote GOP accordingly. Right now the two leading Republican candidates for the House seat are arguing over who is more “pro-life”, with the conversation becoming more and more extreme to the point of one candidate being against birth control. It is interesting that they are obsessed with abortion since, until Dr. Tiller died recently, Wichita was the late term abortion capital of America. The rhetoric equating America to Biblical Israel continues to be constant and frequent, only now it has turned to “God is judging America because of Obama”. This is, unbelievably, mainstream.

    • “…..until Dr. Tiller died recently….”

      That was a nice way to say it. Sounds like he just fell over dead, and not because someone shot him with a handgun in his church.

  25. Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    As much as the stereotyping from the initials-only-folk made me grimace, I can’t say that it’s a completely inaccurate stereotyping. As much as I love my church, I certainly see this sort of thing popping up from time to time. Our Fourth of July service was pretty rough because of this sort of thing, but the parishioners seemed to love it, for example. Since I am in Texas, it’s not unexpected.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      I really do like that our “Prayers for the People” section of the liturgy includes a prayer for the President by name asking God’s guidance and blessings on him and even refers to him as “Your [i.e. God's] servant, Barak Obama.” That’s definitely within the American Anglican tradition and I sometimes wonder if some of the parishioners wish it wasn’t there. In a similar vein I used to really enjoy when my grandmother’s church would pray similarly for George W. Bush even though most everyone there (including my grandmother) absolutely loathed him.

  26. I am against APC (easier to abbreviate), but it has nothing to do with the conversation here. I grew up Lutheran, a fairly conservative protestant denomination. The church that I attended for about 14 years was never OVERLY patriotic, save around the 4th of july or memorial day. Through that, I truly appreciate the country I have been raised in.

    That said, the “deification” of my home country really bothers me. I currently reside in France, but the day I left was the 4th of July. In my pastor’s sermon (at the nondenominational church i now attend) that sunday, in addition to there being in excess of 50 american flags surrounding the stage, the sermon circulated around the greatness of our country, and the music was highly patriotic. While the music began over time to be more “normal”, the sermon made no mention of my savior, his love, or his sacrifice, which i consider essential to any message given. I think one of the problems in associating Christianity with a certain country is that we lose sight of where our true citizenship lies; not on earth, but in heaven. I think so much of mainstream american cultural Christianity has lost sight of what it is to be a holy nation, a people belonging to God and not to a flag with 13 stripes and 50 stars.

    • Jonathan Blake says:

      I completely agree with you about a mix up of allegiances to our true home and way of life. The thing that alarms me is that the American way (of life, politics, etc.) is most often not the Kingdom way.

  27. When I first started going to church, I saw a lot more of the Evangelical=Republican form of Evangelicalism. I see much less of it now. There may be a few reasons for that. I do think there has been a trend over the last 10 years for Evangelicals to stop making that connection. When I first started going to church, there would be people at church passing out pamphlets on how to vote (e.g. Conservative and Republican), now I have many friends who would identify themselves as Democrats, liberals, or moderates. I think there are also a lot of younger Evangelicals who didn’t feel that their faith meant they had to belong to the Republican party like their parents did.

    I also used to go to a church located in a wealthy part of town that probably attracted a lot more Republicans. It also attracted a lot of military (air force) folks. I now go to a smaller church with a lot of younger people. Politics aren’t really discussed much, but I get the sense that most are not very political. You don’t see a lot of Bush or McCain bumper stickers (nor Obama stickers).

  28. Jonathan Blake says:

    “Michael Bell: Enough with the sarcasm already! So I take it that you think that Americans believe that if they could just export their politics and religion that everything would be right in the world?

    A.S.: Absolutely.”

    It’s funny that 2 nights ago I watched “The Green Zone” with some guys I’ve just gotten to know. To say the least I’ll mention that they think GWB was a great Christian president and Glenn Beck is a genius. So by the end of the movie they were saying that freedom and democracy will never work over there simply because they don’t have Jesus. We shortly discussed how democracy isn’t found in the Bible and it’s really more of a Western Enlightenment thing than being a Christian thing.

    Most of the time the strong far right political-being a Christian in America link is much more subtle in my own experience but often enough it shows up this prevalent in people’s thinking and actions. This kind of thinking blows my mind but I choose to put politics far behind the Gospel and Christian brotherhood.

  29. I’m a classical evangelical and fairly conservative politically (no formal party affiliation but Republican/libertarian-leaning). But I don’t think the USA has any exalted status in God’s eyes. And, frankly, the conflation of Christianity with patriotism or political ideology scares me. At best it’s misguided and at worst, blasphemous.

    My advice to my Canadian brothers and sisters who feel an undue influence from the flavor of ‘culture-war Christianity’ often (fairly or not) associated with Americans is to adopt a Berean approach. Does it derive from and comport with Scripture? Does it exhibit the fruits of the Spirit? If not, then it really is snark-worthy (have fun, A.S.!).

  30. While I agree with many of the comments on American Christianity, I think that much of the problem can be traced to American society at large. Much of the militancy is a reaction to what is happening in American society, but much of what others find offensive or silly American Christians have in common with Americans in general – most of us tend to be a patriotic, self-focused bunch who believe that if the rest of the world were more like us we’d all be better off. American Christianity is largely a product of (or at least heavily influenced by) its environment (despite the protestations that we’re against ‘worldliness’).

    American society in general (at least recent American society) is full of goofiness. We’re a celebrity-obsessed (why do we even know who Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton are?) bunch of consumers who think we’re the ‘chosen nation’ (whether we think of that in religious terms or not). We think we’re smarter, richer, and more deserving of our toys than most other nations. Heck, we saved the world from Hitler!

    But, having spent a little time visiting Europe and talking with people from other countries, I still think that overall, America still has much going for it. When I think about where else I’d rather live, there aren’t many other places I’d choose to live (though visiting is great). Most of us Americans are decent, honest people who really do care about others (at least when it’s convenient). People still want to come here to study and live (often risking life, limb, and arrest to do so).

    But it certainly is true that most American Christians have a hard time separating their faith from their politics and the American way of life. It is probably the biggest blind spot we have. But we’re not the only ones who wrestle with that problem. As Richard Niebuhr wrote years ago, the ‘Christ and culture’ question is the perennial issue for all Christians (perhaps even some Canadians).

    • It is absolutely true for Canadians as well. And for other countries where I have lived.

      • I think that it is difficult to separate political ideas from Christianity no matter where you are, but I think it is much less difficult for Canadians than it is for Americans. Maybe its not actually easier, its just that they actually are better at doing it.

        In other words, I have noticed that in Canadian churches, people are more inclined to agree to disagree about politics.

        • brandon -

          i think one of the reasons why canadians might be better at it is in part due to an understanding of the difference between agreement and acceptance. i can disagree with someone and yet still accept them; this is kind of what jesus’ whole indiscriminate enemy love was all about. when jesus says to love our enemies, he does not go on to say that they will no longer be our enemies…. jesus does not say that by loving our enemies we will gain them as allies. no. we love and serve our enemies as our enemies.

          it comes as no surprise to me that the dynamic of group think is so prevalent in evangelicalism in the u.s.; in other words, that so many (not all) evangelicals will only accept you if you agree with them. i seem to remember some one having to say something about this type of thing:

          43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborh and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

  31. dumb ox says:

    I would be interested in hearing more about how Canadians live out their faith under what has been stereotyped by American conservatives as a draconian liberal regime.

    I think of the Steve Bell song, “Lament for a Nation”:

    “I woke up late this morning
    Tell you what I found
    A patriot asleep at the wheel
    When I hear our nation’s anthem
    Of Canada I’m proud
    Where have our night watchmen been
    There’s a catch to history
    When progress has no choice
    But to leave behind whatever we’ve sown
    And I saw it on the TV
    Our fearless leader’s voice
    Calling to end what we’ve known”

    I don’t know the details behind the song, but I assume that there is some inspiration from George Grant’s book by the same title, depicting the fall of the conservative party to liberals during the sixties, which lead to a weakening of national sovereignty. Again, don’t have a lot of details, but here’s an interesting quote from the wikipedia entry for George Grant:

    “This was [Grant's] lament; he felt there was an emerging Americanization of Canadians and Canadian culture due to the inability of Canadian to live their lives outside of the hegemony of American liberal capitalism – and the technology that emanates from that system. He saw a trend occurring in Canada from one of nationalism to continentalism.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lament_for_a_Nation

    Americans really need to learn more about their Canadian brothers and sisters. Along with Steve Bell, Jacob Moon is an amazing musician.

    • Damaris says:

      Stan Rogers’s “Mary Ellen Carter” may be the most inspiring song ever written.

    • This is an aside, but I am a huge fan of both Steve Bell (no relation) and Jacob Moon.

      My Christmas gifts always include a few gifts (both giving and receiving) from the artists at Signpost Music.

      There are some really incredible albums on here that have been recognized in both Christian and non-Christian circles.

      • dumb ox says:

        Didn’t mean to get off topic. The main point is that Canda has a conservative-liberal struggle, but it looks very different. What Grant called “American liberal capitalism” sounds like the globalization defended so zealously by neo-conservatives. It’s hard to find an American religious conservative who is concerned about the threats of globalization or the growing power of multi-national corporations on the sanctity of human life, private property rights, labor protections, environmental protections, or national sovereignty and security. While republicans pay lip-service to the pro-life agenda, they are mowing down life through support of these other agendas. The effects on human life are much more obvious in the southern hemisphere, but the effects in the north are growing. I see news stories showing how strip mines approved under Bush and Cheney are displacing entire Appalachian towns and communities which have existed for hundreds of years – like the native Americans displaced before them. The BP spill is another example, where regulations have become more and more relaxed and less and less enforced over the past decades – under the watchful eye of those saintly Republicans who are such defenders of the culture of life. Makes me puke.

      • dumb ox says:

        Ok, still off-topic, but Fergus Marsh, who appears on Signpost, absolutely rocks! He played bass and Chapman stick on Bruce Cockburn’s albums in the 80′s and also on some of Steve Bell’s recordings.

  32. I’m from South Carolina (arguably one of the most conservative states) but I now live in Saskatchewan (arguably one of the most conservative provinces).

    After living in Manitoba and now Saskatchewan for 2 and a half years, I’ve noticed that there is a huge difference between Canadian and American Christians.

    It expands to much more than just politics, but to all sorts of cultural issues.

    For example, we had a pastor’s retreat for the Saskatchewan/Manitoba portion of our denomination. The theme of the week was “Sabbath” and focused on how ministers need to be sure to take sabbath weekly and to take regular family vacations and what not to recuperate spiritually, socially, and emotionally. It was good stuff.

    But we had a pastor at a church in a small border town in Manitoba. He and his wife were Americans from just across the border and he was a bivocational pastor who commuted across the border to Church every Sunday.

    We were discussing how much vacation time we all had. Typically, Canadians are given more vacation time than Americans, and even the bivocational Canadian pastors had adequate vacation time. The American pastor and his wife just couldn’t understand why in the world anyone would need that vacation time. He proudly proclaimed that he and his wife both work 60 hour weeks and haven’t had a vacation since they were married (they had been married at least 20 years).

    I say this to point out that the border represents a big difference in politics and religion and culture. And Americans are GREAT at stapling cultural ideas to Christianity. For this pastor, the American work ethic is an integral part of Christianity. The Canadians just couldn’t understand it… being an American myself, I certainly understood it, but I didn’t agree with it.

    • I lived in Saskatchewan for nearly four years. Culturally it is quite different from where I am now. The title of the post says “A Canadian Perspective” because it represents what I experience most in Southern Ontario. There are certainly other canadian perspectives out there.

    • Taking “sabbath weekly and to take regular family vacations and what not to recuperate spiritually, socially, and emotionally.”

      “And Americans are GREAT at stapling cultural ideas to Christianity.”

      Hmmm. Sounds like Americans are not unique in stapling cultural ideas to Christianity!

      • Good point. However, the whole “weekly sabbath” thing isn’t a cultural addition. Perhaps “family vacations” was not an adequate term. I think that there is much scriptural support to stepping away from ministry and work for a time to recuperate. Although “family vacations” are certainly cultural, part of what family vacations involve (resting, spending time with family, etc.) isn’t limited to Canada.

    • Dude. Wut???

      Saskatchewan is politically conservative?? Historically our strongest governments have been socialist (the Thatcher gov’t being the only conservative one in the last 65 yrs that wasn’t a total disaster).

      Man the Saskparty is ruining us even worse than I thought. And I already thought it was pretty bad. Conservative!

      Also where are you in SK? Admittedly, I’m kinda wondering if it’s in the area of Moose Mountain (because that’s where the only people who think Grant Devine would still make a good candidate live).

      • I don’t know much about Canadian political parties, so your references are lost on me. I don’t know where Moose Mountain is either.

        I was talking more about cultural conservatism than political conservatism.

        And there are light years between the conservatism that I am talking about in SK and the conservatism I am talking about in SC.

  33. cermak_rd says:

    “Christmas decorations were welcomed, but there had to be symbols of other other faiths represented as well.”

    What’s wrong with this? This is how I envision religious diversity working the US (or at least my part of it here in Chicago). Want to put up a creche? Then put up a menorah, something Muslim, something Hindu, something Druidic (this one’s not hard–a decked tree will do)… In that way, a sectarian display becomes a part of a greater whole that demonstrates diversity rather than cultural dominion.

    I figure I don’t want a naked public square. But, as a non-Christian, I also don’t want a Christian public square. So why not a crowded public square with everyone represented? This also satisfies my inner Jefferson who whispers if all don’t have rights then none have rights (OK, it took 100 years, a bloody civil war and a dreadful century of Reconstruction & Jim Crow to even approach getting that one right, the point is, it’s a good thought).

    • Constitutionally, in Canada I have the right to display any message that I want to. In reality I am very much constrained. Employers don’t like people who make waves. So instead of having all having rights, we have none having rights.

      By the way, as noted in the original post. I really appreciate my current employer. (Just in case the powers that be are reading this!)

      • cermak_rd says:

        Oh, I see you are not talking about the public square, but the private space of your employer. You still have the right to display any message you want, but you don’t have the right to control the response of your employer, other than the fact that your employer can’t fire you just for displaying your message. I guess I would not see this, then, as a matter of rights.

        I guess I can see your employers point of view though. He doesn’t want to annoy anyone, whether customer, investor, or employee with any kind of religious message.

  34. Even though the comments adressing this are way up there, and even though it is (I think) slightly off topic, I want to comment on something that I find puzzling.

    I live in a country with near universal, very affordable health care, and I appreciate this fact, so I am not opposed to this concept.

    In the ObamaCare

    • (continued, not very adept in commenting from my iPhone)

      In the ObamaCare debate, the President could have had the support of a lot of folks, including the Catholic Bishops Conference, if he had made one or two relatively minor concessions on the matter of abortion: some way for employers to opt out of abortion coverage, and conscience protection for healthcare workers. But no, there was no compromise, and as a result the country is deeply divided.

      Somehow I din’t believe that Obama was really motivated in all this by compassion for those without healthcare.

      • Wolf Paul,

        I agree with you about our President and abortion. Just look how he voted in Illinois over the “Born alive” issue.

  35. The Grim says:

    Spirituality is one thing. Christianity is another. Any organized religion who, inherently, survives and thrives by the ‘spreading of their word’ can create a mindset of superiority over other faiths. Obviously, one feels this belief superior, or they wouldn’t practice it. Couple this with the manifest destiny lingerings of the traditional American philosophy and you have a dangerous concoction.

    It’s difficult to view “the Christian” and “the American” in isolation in this context — as the history of the U.S is very rooted in Christianity. And when viewed together, it’s difficult to ignore the very checkered and casualty-ridden (continuing) history of the two working together. Thus, it’s not difficult to see how many of the preconceived notions and stereotypes are held by U.S neighbours and by the international community.

    • cermak_rd says:

      But non-Christians have a long, long tradition here in the US. My father’s people, Bavarian Jews, were given a lift to the New World by a bunch of Quakers so they could escape persecution. The Transcendental movement and other new agey things were going on long before the Age of Aquarius ever sprung up. Jefferson was almost certainly a Deist and Tom Paine was almost certainly a non-believer.

      More recently, I’ve seen an impromptu voting coalition forming of the disparate non-Christians here in the US. Whether Sikh, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, or just plain nothing–there’s a 3 in 4 case that this person voted for Barack Obama and probably for a non-GOP member in the Congressional election in their district as well. Now granted, this has probably been more in reaction to the overt Christianization of the GOP in recent years, and I don’t know if it will continue, but with the growing cadre of non-Christians entering the voting populace, it’s certainly interesting.

      • In Canada there has been a shift in immigrant voting towards the Conservative because of “family values”. Older generations of immigrants came from Europe and were solidly “Liberal” in their political leanings.

        • cermak_rd says:

          I doubt family values is even considered much in these votes. Like I said, I suspect it’s a direct reaction to the overt Christianization of the GOP. After all this coalition of everyone else certainly has theological issues with each other, but we can recognize a common enemy, too, and also discern from whom the threat is the greater.

      • Those Quakers probably considered themselves to be Christians, albeit of a different kind.

        • cermak_rd says:

          yes, they most certainly did. They put themselves at risk in saving strangers (this was in the 1600′s!) long, long before there was any consideration of a UN charter on human rights. For that matter, Quakers led on issues of abolition, women’s rights and have consistently been anti-war.

  36. “Right now, however, I believe that the Canadian response to Patriotic American Christianity is one of the reasons why Canadian expressions of Christianity has become withdrawn and quiet. We end up having to spend a lot of time and energy to show that “We are not like that.”

    There are at least 5 stereotypes in this quote. I live in Europe. Life here is categorized by nationality (parents, own, spouse), language, faith or lack thereof, tribe, city, longevity in city, school, career, marital status … I could go on. It is tiresome.

    And speaking of that, it certainly is liberating to love a Palestinian, Jewish carpenter’s (step) son, despite the fact the fact that I am an American fiscally conservative, socially liberal (who doesn’t believe in abortion) female attorney wife mother Catholic non-denominational Christian. Scandalous.

  37. OUCH !,

    Michael, thank you for this conversation. I like seeing how others see us, even if it hurts. Our loud mouths do cause outsiders to think that we are all like that. (and it’s just not the evangelical branch of Christianity that is looked at via stereotypes. Try “Catholic priest=pedophile)

    I’ve known Christians who are just like that and recognize that they aren’t going to change their views.

    With some of the social issues, like health care, I just wish that we could have some calm reasonable discussions about what the goals are, and what we are willing to pay for them.

  38. The crime here is that the world views American Christianity just as your Canadian friends do. The true American church is so much larger than this. The true American church is NOT on television or represented by the evangelical movement. American Christians are liberal and conservative, evangelical and not, but a generally in agreement that prosperity is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Your post and the comments that followed should be a shot across the bow to all gospel living Christians that we have a long way to go towards evangelizing our own church away from legalism and fraud to the gospel of grace and hope for mankind. Our noisey minority appears to have the stage. Is this what we want? I pray we make a frontal assault soon.

    • My question in other’s minds is, are they truly the minority? How does a minority gain such power, such a strong voice, such financial resources? Without knowing they have strong financial backers, the rest of the world sees them speaking loudest and figures that means that they have the most support. After all, how does one afford the great trappings of wealth, the broadcast networks, etc. without a majority support?

      The answer that the true majority, the “silent” one (to steal a term from Nixon) is busy actually following Jesus instead of promoting American exceptionalism, a move that does not send dollars to anyone with a loud voice on any side, seems to be lost.

  39. I recently moved to Collin County, Texas, an affluent Republican county. Trying to find a church that does not preach politics (Republican) from the pulpit is almost impossible. I was an active Republican until the entry of George Bush into national politics, but have voted Democratic since. Sitting through political proselyting from the pulpit and friends’ political conversations, makes me very uncomfortable but if I express a viewpoint, I am considered a sinner and someone to be avoided. Because I am a Christian and a person with a strong interest in the future of this country, this makes me feel disenfranchised in both respects. It isn’t just the pulpit, the asides and jokes during Sunday School classes, small groups, etc. make the assumption that everyone is on the same page politically, leaving those who disagree feeling like an outsider and unwelcome.

    During the last election, After much consideration and with some discomfort, I finally asked my Christian friends who were forwarding me a steady stream of vile information and ominous warnings about Obama to delete me from their distribution list on such emails. Consequently, some friends went away and others distanced themselves from me (particularly those who were most vocal about their Christianity). Naturally, I never forwarded any political emails because of the expected backlash. I began asking the Lord why since I felt so strongly about my faith being nonpolitical, was I the odd man out with other Christians? When I found the Internetmonk, it was the answer to my prayer. I realized that I wasn’t the only Christian wandering in the wilderness all alone because I cannot be a Republican again. I am 71 years old and for most of my life, I never knew or cared about the political affiliation of my friends and fellow Christians. I just knew that they were good people and would vote their conscience. Why can’t it still be that way. It is very difficult to be a Christian Democrat in most of Texas.

    • You should work at a church where the lay people make sure to include the staff on all their right-wing emails. I had to tell one person to please not include me any longer, and another guy I sent to snopes so much that he finally stopped.

      Some of the emails were out-and-out lies and I find it distressing that church membership is a network for falsehood and deception. It makes me wonder if I am really serving God when my salary is paid by people like that.

    • Jonathan Blake says:

      I feel your pain just moving from Mobile, AL to a town in the Midwest for college. One improvement I could see immediately was Obama bumper stickers (in Mobile having an Obama bumper sticker will get you ostracized if not more) but all the christians I meet tend to be the same as back home- having a faith that is so politicized and divisive. The Gospel isn’t their way of life as much as an American civil religious form of Christianity. I continue to put politics at a far second behind the Gospel and overlook their political opinions. I just hope that when they find out mine they will do the same because I like them fine as people.

    • I have the opposite problem. I am a conservative Christian in the most liberal college in the state (People’s Republic of Boulder, anyone?). While Christians spreading lies is obviously wrong, it is nothing compared to the evil bile and lies belched by democrats at Bush, McCain, Palin, and those like them.

  40. I have read the entries in this debate with interest. The gist of most of the comments have either been issue based (health care) or church/politics based. As Christians, we really should look to God’s Word as our model as to how we should respond. Jesus was really aloof of the political system of his day and was highly critical of the organized religious system. He states that His Kingdom is not of this world. The current political system is a product of the kingdom of this world and it mixes with the teachings of Jesus about as well as oil mixes with water. As our evangelical churches get more political, they will morph into the kingdom of this world more than they already have. I am not a fan of the policies of the current administration, but I do agree with the President when he says that we are no longer a Christian nation. I agree with that statement because I do not see many from either party who are really walking out the gospel. In fact the concept of a “Christian Nation” is quite scary. Would it be a christian version of an Islamic state where we would impose our beliefs on the public? I would rather see a “nation of Christians” who show their faith by their lifestyles no matter what political party is in power and who strive to emulate Jesus in the way they relate to God and their neighbors. I hope that this makes sense. This is a great discussion. Mahalo.

    • I love that idea of a “nation of Christians” and will be stealing and using that in the future.

      Thanks!

  41. We Americans have always been united in the pursuit of being divided over just about everything. It’s just part of who we are. Whether it’s state’s rights or slavery or prohibition or segregation or abortion or satanic messages in rock music or socialized health care — we’ve always been very successful in finding issues over which to disagree and polarize. And, from the very beginning, religion and religious groups have been right in the thick of it, taking sides, and sometimes dividing themselves up on opposing sides.
    You can say that mixing religion and politics is wrong or evil — but a lot of good has come from that mix. If it weren’t for the persistent efforts of a lot of very religious abolitionists, slavery would have continued much longer than it did as an accepted and legal institution. On the other hand, that mix has produced a fair share of mistakes and outright silliness — prohibition being a good example. It really just depends on whether or not a political cause or position really lines up with the central truths of the gospel — or if the gospel is being hijacked or twisted to better fit with a political agenda. But making that distinction isn’t always easy, nor is it always possible. Sometimes you can find elements of gospel truth on both sides of an issue. And often different people with different ways of thinking can see divine truth where others see lies of the devil.
    With all that said, I don’t think a complete divorce between American religion and American politics is going to come about any time soon. The two are just too intimately entangled in the minds and hearts of most Americans. It’s just part of our identity and heritage.
    Unfortunately, in this insane assylum of free speech, it’s usually the craziest patients who rave the loudest — but as long as the most extreme wackos continue to vehemently disagree and undermine each other, then the rest of us can take some comfort in the fact that neither side is likely to take complete control of the place. It’s when the raving stops, both politics and religion line up on the same side, and all dissenting voices are silenced — that’s when I’ll start to worry.
    I guess what I’m saying is that there are some genuine Christlike elements in both conservatism and liberalism — and both conservatives and liberals say and do a lot of crap that is totally at odds with everything Jesus taught and stood for. Both offer a mixed menu of good and evil, reason and absurdity, justice and injustice — and personally, I would prefer to have the freedom to dine where I please and pick what I eat, rather than having somone else order my meals for me. And, in that sense (be it good or bad), I guess I am very much an American Christian.

  42. I think there are a couple of things going on with how people approach the intersection of faith and politics.

    First, I think individuals naturally envision their own worldview as a coherent, consistent system. Their worldview consists of a wide range of topics, related or not, but they are weaved together with a system of their own reasoning.

    Second–and this is perhaps the more damning part–is that I think people (probably unintentionally and subconsciously) tend to hold politics as a more central part of their worldview system than they do faith. Maybe not the “who is God” part or the “what happens when I die” part and some of the other basics, but the “how do I live my life and relate with other people” part.

    I think people believe that the political discourse and government action are more relevant to our lives than faith is. I doubt that anyone would say that out loud or even think it quietly, because it sounds silly, but I’m not sure how else to explain this phenomenon. When Christian conservatives say something like “the U.S. Constitution was inspired by God” or when Christian liberals say “I am pro-choice because the Democrats’ “safe, legal, and rare” ideal is supposedly more effective in reducing the number of abortions. These are but trite and brief examples on both sides, but I think both are wrong.

    That said, I’m a libertarian, I think it’s the best political option for Christians, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. :D

    • Dog-eat-dog is at odds with my view of Christianity. With libertarianism, we’d have oil spills all over the gulf, no social security, no public schools, filthy air, and a country controlled more by corporations than it already is (assuming that is even possible). Objectivism is at direct odds with the teachings of Jesus.

      Government is a gift from God through which we cooperate to do those things we cannot do by ourselves.

      • After I posted this, I had second thoughts about posting that last sentence, thinking that perhaps someone might be distracted from what the purpose of the post was.

        Unfortunately, that’s what happened.

        I’m afraid, Fish, that you typify exactly what I was arguing against in my post. You took a tongue-in-cheek comment that clearly was not meant to be taken seriously had you read my post, and you argued against Libertarianism because it is not, as you feel, Christian.

        I won’t bother to rebut your allegations against Libertarianism, because that’s not the point. What I do want to rebut is your belief that Christianity speaks to the issues you mentioned. You simply cannot argue from the Bible that Christians should utilize government to bring about ANYTHING, whether from a liberal, conservative, communist, green, libertarian, or independent, etc. etc. point of view.

  43. Mark S I used to be libertarian and while libertarianism may look good on the surface and in theory deep down it has many flaws if not binded by ethics, morals and personal responsibility (good in theory but bad in practice). It leads to hedonism, far too much individualism and confusion (anarchy in some cases). I prefer an occasional combination of moderation (balance) with traditional conservatism with some streaks of independence to add on (no affiliation to any political view which is good for debate). Anyhow thanks for the post =)

    • Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your thoughts. While this too, is off the topic, I want to point out to you (and I’m sure others) that there is a distinction between being libertarian and being libertine. There is also a difference between being a libertarian and being an anarchist.

      Labels are helpful, but they often get confused in debates. Fish also described an anarchistic/libertine world that no libertarian would espouse or desire to happen.

  44. Kelby Carlson says:

    Being a more-or-less paleolibertarian/traditionalist conservative/constitutionalist/egalitarian liberal … well, my view on politics draws on quite a lot of sources, religious and otherwise. Also I am rather cynical about both parties–I have little faith in the American political machine, secularized or Christianized. I can understand very well where the above Canadians are coming from, having encountered just such a type of thing in certain people. (Fortunately I come from a family that is, while religious and conservative, very loving and well-balanced.) I’m a bit of a snarker myself, so the sarcasm coming from some fronts doesn’t irritate me as it does some. Demonization, however, is what does get my hackles in a row–I’m perfectly willing to respect most political positions, even if i disagree with them. Luckily, unlike some other blogs I won’t mention, this place facilitates quite a lot of thought-provoking, civil discussion.

  45. As a man who grew up in B.C., Canada (1st half of life) and now is a pastor in Iowa, USA (lived in the US 2nd half of life) I’ve struggled a whole lot with everything mentioned above. I’ve found that a major difference in the evangelical Christians I’ve run into in both countries rests in these assumptions: Canadian Christians tend to begin by stating Canada is a country (like many others), while US Christians tend to begin by stating the US is a Christian country (like others yet with a special Christian role in the world). This fundamental difference in starting places paints the whole issue for evangelicals. Just an observation.

  46. Hmm, where do I start?

    I’m an immigrant to Canada (SK in particular). I’ve never been to the US, but have been inundated with US religiosity since childhood in the Third World. The this is, out there the opinion of US Christians is much the same as is described in Michael’s post. It is not just a Canadian opinion.

    Now I fully realise that not all American Christianity is like this – but a sizeable part is. For instance, what the heck is the US flag doing up there, next to the altar, in many churches? If you have to have one, maybe the narthex? In our church, there is a photo of the Queen in the vicar’s study, and a list of members who fought and died in WW i & WWIi in the basement. That’s pretty much it.

    And don’t get me started on that vile heretical publication, The Patriot’s Bible!

    But let me put it clealy: I’m very strongly opposed to all this Divine destiny, American exceptionalism thing BECAUSE of my own experience as an Afrikaner. The whole Divine destiny thing led to all kinds of horrors, which led to the current mess, which will, in all probability, lead to the eventual dissapearance of this ethnicity. But that is still trivial compared to the damage all that rhetoric did to the Name of Christ.

    And before anybody starts on a “you anti-American” tirade, I’m not: I have many friends south of the 49th, and some of them have said things much, much worse than anything mentioned above. But I also know them for being patriots (not Nationalists).

    Ps: In my kids’ semi-rural Saskacthewan school, they say the Lord’s prayer and sing O Canada every single morning. We do not have that separation of Church and State thing.

    And Michael is correct – there is a wide difference between southern Ontario (otherwise known as the centre of the universe ;) ) and the West.

  47. Growing up in Montana I always thought Canadians invented conservative evangelical Christianity. Far more conservative than Americans with all the Canadians from Prairie, Briercrest, Millar, etc. Bible colleges coming down to preach and to recruit American students to their super conservative institutions.

    • From a theological standpoint, Prairie, Briercrest, and Millar would certainly represent the heartland of Canadian conservatism. We used to joke about Prairie having pink and blue sidewalks, one for the boys and one for the girls.

  48. The nationalistic nature of American evangelicals frankly concerns me greatly. I see a lot of parallels in history, and none of them are good ones.

    I see a lot of militaristic euphemisms and an ‘anyone who doesn’t think like us is a commie’ mentality. I see a lot of intolerance for beliefs which are different from theirs. And I see them as working to take over our government and turn the United States into a theocracy.

    I don’t believe all evangelicals are like this, but too many are.

    Christ didn’t come from America. And I don’t believe God cares if America exists or not.

  49. Trigger says:

    This just in: Canadian Anglican priest feeds the eucharist to a dog:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-10774706