At least I’m pretty sure that’s what this painting is saying. Although, to be fair I’m not an art expert. I’m simply a self styled aficionado of the obvious.
This painting was done by a guy named Jon McNaughton. You can check out his website here.
Yes this picture is goofy and amusing, but as someone who takes the Christian faith seriously I find it to be rather disturbing.
First, the implication of this painting is that the Constitution is a sacred document, akin to the Bible itself. At least, that’s the only message I can possibly draw from a painting of Jesus holding the Constitution. So, as a Christian I find this to be more than a bit disturbing, every bit as disturbing as people who worship the Bible. I don’t worship the Bible, and I’m certainly not interested in worshiping the Constitution, a great document though it may be. If you really wanna split hairs on this one, we could label this painting as heresy, in that it seems to a firm a non-canonical text as co-equal to Holy Scripture. Except in this holy writ, African-Americans were only considered 3/5 of a person. Jesus wrote that??
But alas, that takes some thinking and if there’s one thing Tea Partiers and Christian fundamentalists both agree on it’s that there’s nothing harder or more dangerous than thinking. (Sorry, cheap shot I know)
Second, and more importantly, America is not and never has been a Christian nation. We are a nation founded by people, some of whom were Christians, and we continue to be a country populated by a significant Christian population. However, when this idea of American as a Christian nation is invoked, what is really being implied is that at some point in time the United States entered into a covenant relationship with God just like the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament. We didn’t. In fact, we did just the opposite. We declared a separation between church and state. In other words, we rejected any notion of a covenant relationship with God, along with the idea that America is/was/will be again a Christian nation.
What makes this notion so frustrating is that it means we should expect the same judgement to fall us and/or that we have the same calling to “conquer the land” that was given to Israel in the Old Testament. This allows people like Pat Robertson and others to reinterpret events like earthquakes and hurricanes as punishment from God for some perceived sin, exactly as God did in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel. As a result, Christians everywhere, regardless of their thoughts on Pat’s theology, are left looking like crazy people. We might be crazy (grace and forgiveness to your enemies??), but this shouldn’t be what makes us look crazy.
Worse yet, this Christian nation mentality can also become very dangerous. When we see the United States as “God’s chosen people” then (ironically) we begin to very quickly and easily justify violence off all forms, both by private citizens as well as the government. We see ourselves as God’s “holy warriors,” His vessels of wrath and justice ordained by God to hold the bad guy’s accountable. Just like Israel did in the Old Testament we believe God has ordained us to kill the enemy and “conquer the land.” Somehow, we miss the passages in books like Judges that come before and after all the violence: “In those days, there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”
Now, I am not a pacifist, but this is REALLY, REALLY dangerous ground to be walking on. Remember the crusades? They killed lots of people in the name of God with swords and bows and arrows. Guns and bombs do a lot more damage. There may come a time like the holocaust of WWII or genocides in Africa when, I believe, we have a responsibility to act and defend the defenseless. Although, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer showed us, even this should be down with great thought and prayer.
That being said, if we want to believe that we really are a Christian nation, then we should pause and understand what we are claiming. If we want to be like Christ, then we are forced to wrestle with and embody His response to evil and injustice. Jesus didn’t didn’t campaign for any candidate. He didn’t champion a political party or even a particular form of government. Most of all when persecuted and threatened with death He didn’t take up arms to defend himself. Instead, He “was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
If we really want to be a Christian nation, then we need to know what we are getting ourselves into.
Grace and peace,
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