By now, I’m sure you’ve seen coverage or video of First Baptist Dallas’ “Make America Great Again” hymn and all-around freedom fest on Fourth of July Weekend in Washington DC. If you haven’t, and you think you can stomach it, here it is:
I’ll give you a minute to go vomit, if you need to.
The “Make America Great Again” song – and really, the whole MAGA concept – is about as anti-Christian as one can get. The fact that a major church in America can really build an entire brand around MAGA just shows the theological bankruptcy of much of American Christianity. Most Christians, it seems, regard no more than a few verses of the Bible – those having to do with “gnashing of teeth” and Jesus being the only choice and those allegedly about sexual orientation – and discard the rest, especially those places about justice and compassion and mercy and caring for the least, the lost, and the alien.
The Way exemplified by Jesus, as we read it in the Gospels, is anti-empire. Jesus consistently stood against the coercive use of power – economic, political, military – in pursuit of human achievement. Jesus understood that so often power is used by one tribe or group against another, and that as a result, people suffered.
Instead of wielding power and promoting an “us-against-them” ideology, Jesus showed that abundant life comes through love of neighbor, through spreading a big tent over all humanity, and welcoming everyone in, especially those on the margins of society. Jesus stood against empire, showing its moral bankruptcy through his use of the power of love for its own sake.
MAGA and Trump are empire at its worst. Trump’s governing ethos has been the coercion of power in the pursuit of money and influence for a small group of people over and against every one else – against foreigners and immigrants and black people and LGBT people and Muslims and liberals and poor people. Trump cares only about himself, and his most ardent followers care only about themselves. They live in an economy of scarcity, in which the stuff of life is rare and must be hoarded and kept away from the undeserving and the sinners. A Christianity that sides with MAGA is nothing but pure heresy, a disgusting perversion of the words and deeds of Christ.
Jesus’ Way is the Way of Abundance: abundance of love and compassion and mercy and life, for all people. Jesus stood with the least against the powers because he knew abundance was the reality of God’s kingdom, and the only way to show it was to raise of the weak and show that their elevation didn’t mean a reduction of others. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” indeed.
Christianity isn’t about nationalism and America First and conquering others and victory. Christianity doesn’t take sides, and certainly doesn’t identify with America. Christianity is about universal love, and radical hospitality, and weakness conquering all, and about relinquishing power. Christianity is where losers are admired, and winners pitied in their emptiness. Christianity is about always – ALWAYS – critiquing and standing against those wielding power, even when they are “our guy” or are on our team.
The very best of early Christianity understood that Christianity’s equation with and coercion by empire was a tragedy, not a triumph. They realized that critiquing empire meant critiquing even those leaders who were themselves “Christians”, those leaders who had once stood with them. In the modern context, this means radically critiquing even the leaders were help put in place. Because the Way of Jesus never identifies itself with power; it always, stands with those who are powerless.
Making America great again isn’t what is needed. What is needed is “Making the Kingdom come on earth, as in heaven.” And that only comes from each and every one of us operating with an attitude of abundance towards each and every other human being, from putting the needs and well being of others first and above our own, of practicing the radical and overflowing love of God towards others. Only then will things be great.