Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm proud to be...

Today was one of the lower points of my time as a pastor. To start with, it was snowing like crazy all morning. Attendance is always down the Sunday after Thanksgiving anyway, and it was even worse with the bad weather. But I was actually surprised we had as many as we did.

We also had a southern gospel singing group do the worship service this morning. I don't know how many times they have called and asked to come to our church, and I finally gave in a couple weeks ago. I figured 'how much damage can they do in one Sunday?' I think I underestimated. I won't comment on the group... It's not my kind of music, and the leader wasn't feeling well, so... whatever.

What bothered me the most about the entire morning though, and has me reconsidering some things, is they sang that song, "I'm proud to be an American..." and "God bless the U-S-A..." Um, you know, again, it's not my type of music; and I am not trying to be anti-American or unpatriotic or anything.... but when they sang that song... everyone stood up. I'm serious. The people in the congregation spontaneously STOOD. FREAKING. UP!!! It was one of the most humiliating and depressing moments I have had as a pastor (in awhile anyway).

I was sitting there with my eyes closed already so no one would see that I was about to puke (okay, so I HATE that song - which doesn't mean I hate America; I hate the song). Then, I don't even remember why I opened my eyes, but I noticed people starting to stand. And I began to feel sick to my stomach. And what made it all the worse was... *I* eventually stood up too. The whole time I stood I was praying and asking God to forgive us. I felt so bad. Like such a coward. I had caved. And the only reason was because I didn't want to "start something." ....I should have. I am glad there were a few people who did not stand. I feel bad still that I did.

Please don't misunderstand... this has nothing to do with patriotism, and it's not that I don't like living where I do, or that I don't appreciate certain things about our country. It's not about that. But this stuff has ABSOLUTELY NO PLACE in a church worship service. Why did we not stand on any songs that lifted up God? What does being American have to do with our faith? It just.... I don't know... it almost makes me sick to think about it still. To think that this is what my church is about. And I'm supposed to be the spiritual guide here. I don't know... I'm just not sure how to proceed. I don't know yet what it will mean. Ugh.

For the record, I am proud to be a Christian. I love God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I owe my life to Him, and I want to live to serve God and his purposes. I think it's about time I quit pussy-footin' around and started standing up for truth, justice, and the way of Christ.

Lord, help me.

13 comments:

Jim said...

Dan:

I understand exactly where you're coming from. It must've been rough. The echoes of "manifest destiny" still ring loud and clear through much of America.

Anyway, I don't have anything to say except I hear you and know what you are saying.

grace said...

Dan,
I understand how you feel, especially realizing that these people might consider your views heretical and unpatriotic, when that isn't where you are coming from.

On the other hand, most of them have probably not been exposed to the ideas that contributed to your current understanding of this issue.

How important is it that everyone be "on the same page" on this issue? Is it possible to have diversity of expression regarding politics and patriotism?

I've been in a church that attempted to teach against nationalism. Even though they were right, it created a lot of unnecessary animosity. Perhaps emphasizing allegiance to the kingdom is sufficient.

Anyway, it's really none of my business, and I should probably erase my comment before you erase your post. ;)

It's something that I think about because I often find myself in similar situations. Usually I'm a chameleon, but people like me.

MR said...

Whatever you end up doing, the chainsaw gig is my side of the street.

Joan B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Joan:

Your shouldn't have removed your post, 'cause this is my reply to it! :o)

As a Lutheran I can honestly say the only time someone would ever spontaneously stand during a service would be if they happened to notice the building had caught fire. A pity, really.

I have a blog post bubbling about this that may never happen around how I wish it were different (but not so much that I want to become a Pentecostal :o). For example, there are times I have tears in my eyes at church, and not just during something obvious, like Christmas Eve candlelight service, and have to blink them away quickly 'cause no one else there shows any emotion whatsoever.

Fran Leeman said...

Dan... I think your experience Sunday cuts to the heart of our need for a better kind of Christianity in our culture. Have you watched the "White Man" video I posted at http://www.grassrootschurches.com? God loves everyone, and not us more than others because we are American. Don't feel bad about "caving"-- I'd have been thinking "I'm the pastor... keep the peace..." I don't know your church, so I guess I have no opinion on whether you ought to address it or how or with whom. But at the very least, let it stir something healthy IN you.

Randy McRoberts said...

I am with you 100%, both on southern gospel and on patriotic songs in church. The latter is one of my biggest pet peeves. I've been barking about it for years, but I'm just seen as a cranky old man.

MR said...

It's probably a good thing you didn't throwdown right then. Obama says those people are clinging to their religion and their guns... they just weren't concealing their religion.

Anonymous said...

I know you don't like Anonymous posts however - a few of us do read -

Perhaps you might want to redirect the people in this direction –

"I pledge allegiance to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the faith for which it stands one Savior, God’s Son eternal with mercy and grace for all."

As we focus on the celebration of Christ’s first Advent we prepare also for His second Advent...

dan h. said...

I appreciate the comments, folks. Really. As usual this probably isn't near as big of a deal as I made it out to be. I think there were just two people that kinda got the ball rolling, and everybody else was probably like me - They just went along with it.

But I guess what frustrates me the most is that I feel like I *have* been tolerant of how other people feel; and it IS something I've been trying to address in subtle ways (and sometimes not so subtle)... For 9+ years now!!!

I think what bothers me a lot too is that we lack a real "core" group of people in the church, and things like this can sometimes get out of hand without that.

Or... Maybe there is a connection to the fact that it was the first Sunday of Advent... We'll see.

Milton Stanley said...

Danno: Yes, it is a big deal, I'm afraid. It's the spontaneous reactions such as you describe that reveal the real gods in our hearts. I've been in at least one church where a patriotic hymn brought the congregation to its feet while everyone stayed on their backsides to sing "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and even "Stand Up for Jesus."

Sorry to fan the flames, but what you're dealing appears on its face to be the idolatry of nationalism. I don't envy your position at all--these idolaters are, after all, the ones paying your salary. In fact, it might be to your advantage to delete my comment. But truth is truth and idolatry is idolatry.

May the Lord, indeed, have mercy on us all.

Milton Stanley said...

On the positive side, the fact that some members did not stand up shows there's still hope. This coming Sunday might be a teachable moment to comment on where our true allegiance ought to lie. You'll have to walk carefully, but as long as you've been in pastoral ministry, I'm quite sure you know the steps. I'll be praying for you and your congregation.

dan h. said...

Milton,
You are correct that it is the idolatry of nationalism. No question about it. After talking with some people, and thinking over the situation, I don't think it is near as widespread as I first believed though. That's why I said it's not as big of a deal as I thought. Not that it's not a big deal, but that it's not rampant (I don't think).

I think for some people it is still very ingrained in their minds, and even though they have made steps to change, there will naturally be lapses from time to time. And for others, it doesn't matter what I say, they are set in their ways and are not going to change because of anything I tell them (at least that's what they say). So, as you say, it necessitates teaching, and patience, and loads of prayer.

No chance I'll delete your first comment either. ;) Thanks for sharin'.