God's American Will

September 15, 2007

One danger patriotic Christians must work to avoid is making the incorrect conclusion that the God's will is the same as their nation's. Many American Christians make this mistake and assume that God is always on America's side.

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy made this mistake in a recent column. He attacked Jim Wallis for praying for a "swift end to the war in Iraq" so "that the death and suffering in Iraq might come to an end." Tooley complained that Wallis was praying for defeat and made a really odd attack by claiming that the prayer "removes the Almighty from His throne and instead assigns ultimate power to political decision makers." Huh? Wallis was praying to God to change Congress so they are still obviously under God's control in Wallis's prayer. But the really serious problem with Tooley's essay is not that off-the-way misinterpretation, but instead his equating America's interests with God's. He wrote:

In contrast to Wallis' political email campaign to Congress disguised as "prayers," a genuinely prophetic approach would more trustingly ask that God's will be done in Iraq. However relished by the Religious Left, a humiliating defeat for the U.S. in Iraq is not likely to serve any godly purpose for the Iraqi or American people.
He is right that we must ask for God's will, but then he immediately decides that he knows what that is and cannot possibly be. The last sentence takes this problem even further by suggesting that a U.S. defeat could not possibly be godly. But what if that is God's will? I pray that that this mess can be resolved soon and that more innocent lives will not be lost. However, even God's chosen people in the Bible were sometimes defeated by foreign and ungodly nations as part of God's will and plan. Why would it be any different for us?

Abraham Lincoln taught us of this point very well when he explained, "Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right." Joshua was reminded that God is not on anyone's side when he met the angel shortly before marching around Jericho. To assume that godly purposes could not come from an American defeat is to show incredible spiritual arrogance and theological ignorance. I pray that this is not God's will, but we cannot assume it is not.

This reminder has best been explained by Derek Webb in his song "In God We Trust." In it he sings:
In God we trust and the government is on His shoulders
In God we trust through democracy and tyranny alike
In God we trust He uses both good and evil men
In God we trust so we fight for peace and He fights for us
In God we trust even when He fights us for someone else
In God we trust even when He looks like the enemy
It may be hard to admit, but that is good theology.