Born in the U.S.A.!

Back in the good ol' days we used to have things like absolute truth and prayer in schools. We also had a Jim Crow south, while women were still more or less voteless sandwich makers and floozies if they wore pants. For many people James Dobson's America was a hellish nightmare.

Every culture, even era within that culture  is in some sense both like and not like the kingdom of God. Jewish culture for example was steeped in community (a kingdom value), but it was also radically torn over how to deal with the Roman occupation, which is why Jesus confronted their political sentiments so often.

It is important to evaluate what part of following Jesus comes naturally within our culture and what doesn't. We are shaped by the world around us, and unless we consciously interact with that world we will comfortably go along with it whether it's a kingdom value or not.

What is not like the kingdom of God in the U.S.A.:

1. Rugged individualism. The kingdom of God, per Philippians 2, is about laying down individual rights, sacrificing autonomy and personal glory for the benefit of others, even if that means to the detriment of ourselves. But here in the U.S.A. we have "don't tread on me" tattooed in our veins, we want others to take care of themselves or die trying (though there are beautiful exceptions). It's the reason we often don't know neighbors we've lived next to for years. We are prone to see people as a liability that threatens our own vitality. On this point Ayn Rand and Adam Smith often inform our thinking more than Jesus does.

2. Pursuit of Comfort, Stability, and a 401k. 2.5 kids, house in the country, white picket fence. You already know I'm talking about the American dream. I'm not going to tell you you're sinful for wanting or having such things, but Jesus often described the kingdom of God as something uncomfortable, life altering, even deadly. At one point Jesus was going on his merry way when a man working in a field said, "I'll follow you wherever you go." Jesus response isn't exactly the sort of thing that Billy Graham would preach as an alter call, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” The kingdom is presented as a bit more rugged than our culture would like it to be.

What is like the kingdom of God in the U.S.A.:

...chirp...chirp....chirp.... seriously I had to stare at my screen for a while but I have a couple.

1. A sense of equality. There is a beautiful notion of American history that people of any background should be able to thrive. America has ben and continues to be a melting pot that even in its more disgusting eras still gives opportunity to voices like Martin Luther King Jr. It has been far from perfect, but the impulse is there. The kingdom of God too is about breaking down cultural barriers, forming a single nation without borders. Point for America for having that impulse.

2. A sense of freedom. While I detest the way we protect our own freedom at any cost, including the freedom welfare of other nationalities, I appreciate that we have the notion that people were not meant to live in chains. Like our sense of equality, there has been and is still a lot of hypocrisy on this one, but the desire is one that lines up with the kingdom of God that seeks to set the captives free.

 

What parts of your culture (national, regional, local) do you see as lining up with or working against the values of the kingdom of God?