America has a fatal disease and she’s given it to the church. This disease is nationalism, or patriotism. It seems innocuous, almost beautiful, on the Fourth of July, in baseball games, and at military funerals. The uglier side appears in entertainment, politics, and the courtroom.
Many people today want America for “Americans.” Who are they? It seems that legal citizenship isn’t enough. Todd Starnes is a Fox News commentator and a Christian from Mississippi. I don’t like his glorification of the South at the expense of the rest of America. I don’t like his attitude toward this year’s Miss America contest either. Sadly, Starnes isn’t alone. The online commentary I read on USA Today and Buzzfeed says volumes about white Americans and the church today.
Nina Davuluri (New York) became Miss America on Sunday night. She’s the first woman of Indian descent to win. Ms. Davuluri is a second-generation American, is a practicing Hindu, and plans to be a doctor. I didn’t watch the contest. I don’t know why Miss New York won and the others lost. Yet is she a Muslim Arab terrorist, as some people claimed online? No. Those who make such an accusation display their gross ignorance of world geography and culture.
Some people, Todd Starnes included, were disappointed that Theresa Vail (Kansas), a white Christian “gun-toting, deer-hunting, tattooed army sergeant,” didn’t make it to the final round. They claimed that she represents America and affirms its values, more so than Ms. Davuluri. Yet if the attitudes of Todd Starnes and others represent the church in America, then I’m not interested. I wish some Christians would tell me, “We’re not all like that.”
I’m white, female and Christian, but I don’t own a gun, hunt deer, or wear tattoos and I’ve never served in the military. At least I’ve traveled – in the car, on a plane, in books, and in films. I prefer New York to Kansas, even though I prefer Atlanta and Washington, DC to both places. New York City is ethnically and culturally rich. If Todd Starnes doesn’t like such an environment, why does he stay? I think he should visit Harlem and Chinatown!
Except for Native Americans, every person who has ever been born or moved to this country originally came from somewhere else. If we go back far enough, we’re all immigrants! Yet America has a long history of wanting this country for white people only. Many want to make the United States a bigger Europe, with a homogenized culture. As a result, we’ve been killing or moving Native Americans at breakneck speed since the 17th century. From the mid-1600s to the 1830s, we brought black people here against their will and then enslaved them.
America has graciously opened her doors to millions of immigrants since the late 1800s, giving some of them land. At first, poor Europeans and Asians poured in – Chinese, Japanese, Irish, German, Russian, etc. Since the 1950s, we’ve seen more Asians and Europeans, along with Hispanics, Africans, Arabs, and Indians. Yet much of the white Christian population hasn’t wanted these people. “Far and Away” (1992) tells the plight of the Irish in America c. 1900.
What does America look like today?
- Ancestry: German 15.2%, Irish 10.8%, African American 8.8%, English 8.7%, American 7.2%, Mexican 6.5% (2000 census)
- Ethnicity: 72% white, 16.4% Hispanic, 12.6% black, 4.8% Asian, 1% Native American (2010 census)
- Religion: 51% Protestant, 24% Catholic, 16% none, 3.3% other Christian, 3% other religions, 1.7% Jewish (2010 census)
No, Mr. Starnes, Miss Kansas does not represent all of America.
“America for Americans” is fine culturally if we make citizenship the only requirement. Once we add things like ethnicity, birth nationality, or religion we’re in trouble! America is a cultural melting pot. She has been for well over 100 years. What’s wrong with that?
More than 2 billion Christians live in the world today. Most aren’t white. Nearly 250 million Christians live in America. Only 26% (Protestant) are white. This is the real church, not the all-white church some would have us believe. God loves the world (John 3:16). He made every ethnicity and speaks every human language. Heaven will be filled with “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). When will white American Christians love such people as God does? Sinners need Jesus Christ. I don’t care if they’re white, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, aboriginal, or black. White people aren’t more special to God!
Rahab was a Canaanite (Joshua 2). Yet she trusted in Jehovah, was welcomed by the Jews, and married one (Salmon). God graciously put Rahab in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Ruth was a Moabite (Ruth 1). Yet she also trusted in Jehovah, was welcomed by the Jews, and married one (Boaz). God graciously put Ruth in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
Where are the American Christians, white and otherwise, who will welcome such people today? Where are the Christians who will say they’re on “team Jesus” and forsake all other partisanships (nationality, ethnicity, etc)? When will the church be the church?