Ah, politics and religion! The age old discussion topics everyone is warned to stay clear of lest an argument result. The online world is rife with it though and most of it is pretty inane. I’ve gotten much better at not engaging in it myself but confess to reading some other people’s back and forth exchanges.
The last couple days I witnessed a number of online threads that started out as theological discussions but quickly devolved into “social issue” slug-fests draped in an American flag. I realized American Christians are nearly as likely to invoke the Founding Fathers in religious discussions as they would the Patriarchs or the Apostle Paul.
Having lived outside the U.S. for a number of years now I sometimes forget how Christianity and nationalism has created a Gordian knot in the psyche of American believers.; tugging on one end of the proverbial knot results in a tightening of the other end.
Staring at the theological nationalism being played out in the exchanges I witnessed this week I started musing how much more Kingdom and Christ centered my faith has felt as the influence of American nationalism on it has faded.
So with that, I thought of 10 things that have been kinda cool being an American Christian but not living in America. (From a living in Hong Kong perspective)
The Top Ten List
10) There is no annual “War on Christmas”
I really love celebrating Christmas in a place where greeting a stranger with a”Merry Christmas” means a sincere holiday greeting and not a scoring a point for the “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas” team!
9) Typhoons and Earthquakes are attributed to changing barometric pressure and shifting tectonic plates rather than seen as judgement by God for abortion and gay marriage.
Social issues like gay marriage are debated in Hong society but I have not heard a single pastor in Hong Kong attribute a category 10 typhoon as God attempting to bring the Hong Kong people back to himself.
8) No Fox News
As a young boy my parents wouldn’t let me watch certain TV shows because they were not appropriate for Christian growth. Now I am trying to turn the tables a bit and suggest to them (and others) that Fox News is probably not the best entertainment to be watching if we are trying to grow spiritually in Christ. (My challenge to regular viewers is to give it up for six months and see if it doesn’t change (or temper) your view on the world around you. Trust me, like coming off Chemo, stuff will start to grow back!
7) Political Leaders are often despised but are not seen as the anti-Christ
Ok, there has been a lot of criticism of leaders in Hong Kong especially our Chief Executive C.Y. Leung. But the venom never seems to suggest that he is the spawn of Satan preparing society for a “One World Government” (Ironically though both Obama and Leung’s detractors will call them Communists)
6) No focus on the Rapture, Rapture movies, or Kirk Cameron
Growing up in Evangelical America meant the rapture could happen any time and because of it American Christians developed a “we’re outta here” mentality. American Christian film makers continue to crank out fear based movies (often starring Kirk Cameron) to use as evangelistic tools. In contrast, the church overseas seems much more committed to restoring, stewarding, and blessing the world than in leaving it. (And BTW, I like Kirk Cameron even if he says some funny things from time to time)
5) Climate Change is taken seriously and is not shrugged off as “God just hugging us closer”
Again Christians overseas seem to take real world problems much more seriously. They are not encumbered with the political “gordian knot” that somehow makes issues like Climate Change a “liberal” thing. Then the issue becomes something for the church to fight rather than support.
4) No “God given right” to own guns
I’m surprised how often Christians in America associate Second Amendment gun owning arguments with Christianity. As if somehow any violation of the Second Amendment imply a violation of First Amendment freedoms of religion. Living in Hong Kong (where no one owns guns but my wife can walk the streets at night untouched and unharmed) makes me appreciate a Christian faith where Second Amendment rights don’t even figure in.
3) No Sarah Palin
For some things…there are no words
2) Christians, and any other religion, are able to do work in public schools
I love that in Hong Kong access to public schools for assemblies and the like is open to Christianity and any other religion. There is no strict “separation of church and state” because things don’t get weird. Christmas songs about Jesus don’t get banned. It’s really nice to not see Christianity in a “social issues” battle all the time. It means we get to focus on sharing the Good News with people that Jesus loves them!
1) Election Day is just the politicians changing places and not an epic battle between God & Satan for the nation’s future.
The last election stunned me. I tried to bring a little calm to the situation via Facebook but for suggesting we support Obama after he was elected was like suggesting I had just polished the seat for the Anti-Christ. I was blasted! I enjoy growing my Christian faith in a place where the “Kingdom of God” is not identified so closely with the physical nation.