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Encouragement for America
What claims do we make?
Sermon by Author A, notes by Author B
Encouragement for America
Author A gave sermon July 1, 2012 for Veteran's Day. Author B responds.
On this special Sunday morning as we celebrate the birth of our nation, I want to bring to you a very brief pastoral word of encouragement – encouragement for us gathered here, encouragement for those worshipping with us by television or radio, encouragement for America.
You and I gather this day in a moment of national insecurity, with so much anxiety and so many loud voices being raised, in a nation facing so many challenges. I want to invite you to join with me in remembering the vision of those who built this nation and who, with that vision in their hearts and minds, were able to meet all the challenges of their day, enabling us to have this celebration in ours.
We are not in a situation of national insecurity. There are levels and degrees of paranoia and I suggest that taking this point of view is at least neurotic fear. This issue is best addressed by a professional in mental health.
“Be of good courage, be strong, do not be frightened or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” If you know your Bibles, you know those words are from Joshua 1:9. God gave them to the Hebrews as they were going forth to build in this land a new nation under God in Palestine. What you may not know is that the first colonists here, the Puritans, claimed those words, as they were stepping forth to build in this land a new nation under God. They held fast to those words so that, with all the challenges facing them, they would stand secure in the providence of God. For they believed that as they were faithful to the task of building a nation truly under God, God would be with them even as He had been with the Hebrews. And they knew that where God is, power follows.
God was not in the Book of Joshua because God would not take sides in battle or command or condone violence, especially the killing of women and children. God did not hire one group of people (Hebrews) to kill another (Canaanites). The Hebrews claim a divine right to kill others, but be protected by God. This is a false claim because God does not condone violence.
And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city (Jericho), both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. Joshua 6:21.
And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. Joshua 10:11.
And there was no day like that before it or after it that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. Joshua 10:14.
So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. Joshua 10:40.
And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. Joshua 11:6.
So we can conclude that God was not in the Book of Joshua. God did not have a covenant with Joshua or the Hebrews because killing was involved. The Hebrews were not chosen by God to kill anyone. Joshua is not inspired of God, not sacred, and therefore not scripture.
If the Puritans claimed what Joshua claimed, it was a false claim. Author A is perpetuating a false claim.
Now, this coming week we’re going to read many articles containing false information about the beginning of America. So, let’s just be very clear about how this nation was born. 52 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence were committed, orthodox Christians. The other 3 believed in God and in God’s intervening activity in the affairs of humankind. Then after those 55 signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, do you know one of the first things they did? They formed the American Bible Society. Since this nation was so strapped for cash, they took up a collection from their own pockets to buy 20,000 Bibles to distribute to the colonists. For they were sure that this nation, however high or lofty its ideals, could never begin to accomplish those ideals unless the lives of its citizens were built upon the truth of the God contained in the Scriptures.
I do not mean that this nation has ever been perfect in following god’s commands or in living up to all the Biblical precepts. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and that’s true for all people, not just some. You cannot read the history of this nation without reading chapters that make you hang you head in shame. That’s just the way it is. Over time we have had to learn how to live into the understanding more deeply what it means to be a nation under God, and we’re still on the journey.
I also do not mean that this nation was ever intended to be exclusively or oppressively Christian. We weren’t, and frankly we do a better job of welcoming people of all faith backgrounds into this nation than many other nations do in welcoming Christians.
We should welcome new religious ideas, discuss them, clarify them and absorb them if they resonate with us. That is what this rebuttal is about. I propose several different beliefs for review.
First is reincarnation. Once we accept the idea that we are spirits, it makes more sense to have several lifetimes to work on ourselves rather than just one life. The one life theory does not explain the inequities of birth. Some people are born blind or mentally or physically ill or underdeveloped. Reincarnation explains birth defects. A “Cast” is simply one lifetime in which you progress as much as you can. We choose the body and circumstances of each incarnation to educate ourselves as needed.
The knowledge that one can be born Jewish in one lifetime and Christian in another could have prevented the Holocaust. Similarly, if Israelis knew they might be born Palestinian and Sunnis knew they could be re-born Shiite, conflicts based on these cultural differences would diminish.
Second, we should record our dreams for analysis. Accept the explanation which resonates with self. Dreams are statements from our subconscious minds. We need to pay attention to them. Use Jung as a guide.
Third, we should meditate at least a few minutes a day. Meditation is listening to God. Prayer is talking to God. Prayer should be silent to avoid manipulation. No one should be allowed to pray out loud which others are trying to pray.
Fourth, we are energy. Everyone is spirit or energy attached to an animal body. Evolution exists for the physical body because it is subject to physical laws. What is important is to know we are the spirit and not the physical body.
All of the above suggestions are in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.
"Kill all the Canaanites?" You just said, "Thou shalt not kill."
Depict God like Jesus, not as a War God.
But what I do mean is that, in the words of Dr. Sydney Ahlstrom, one of the leading modern historians of America, you misunderstand the birthing of this nation if you do not understand that by 1776, 75% of all the residents of the colonies had a dream for this nation shaped by that original Puritan vision of a nation that would be God-honoring and God-pleasing; providing justice for all and expecting righteousness from all. And because it would be a blessing to God it would be blessed by God. I defy you to look at this nation’s history and not see that expectation working out as, pursuing that vision, our ancestors found a courage and a clarity and a unity and a blessing from God that back in 1776 no one could have dreamed possible. Were they perfect? As we have already said, of course not. But they seriously sought with all they could to build a nation under god that could show all other nations what human society could be if it was truly accountable to the God of the Scriptures.
The God of the Scriptures should be depicted like Jesus, not as depicted in the Book of Joshua. It should be noted that the Quakers lived in peace with the Indians, whereas the Puritans did not. The Puritans did not practice toleration very well. As stated earlier, Joshua is not scriptural because it depicts God as violent.
I lift this dynamic before you, because I believe that that original vision for too many modern Americans has been lost. We have fixed the eyes of our hearts on lower things and, in so many ways, that loss is at the root of our problems.
This is correct. We have fixed our minds on lower things. We should raise our awareness or ideal of God and deny the false claims of the past (Old Testament) and pass into a new era where God is depicted as peaceful (New Testament). Follow a higher ideal. To be Christian one must deny the Old Testament depiction of God as jealous, vengeful or wrathful.
Many of the you in our church do their best to keep me current on what’s important in the culture today. Part of that is suggesting movies Karin and I should see. One of those movies is the Avengers. It’s a great movie, filled with comic book heroes from my day, Captain America and the Hulk and others. In one scene, the Hulk is battling Loki, the Norse god of mischief and malevolence. Some of the characters tell the Hulk to be careful, after all, he’s going up against a god! The battle begins, and the Hulk goes forward and smashes Loki. He throws Loki up one wall and then against another. He leaves Loki battered and broken and stunned and lying flat on the floor. Then, as he steps out of the room, the Hulk says simply, “Puny god.”
This story can be used to illustrate that the God of the Old Testament (Loki) is a puny god because he commands and condones violence. The God of the New Testament (The Hulk) would never have participated in a fight in the first place. We should use media to educate children to avoid fighting. We are to set a good example and walk away from a fight. We are not super heroes nor presidents nor kings. We do not represent others, so we do not fight for others. We represent ourselves only and will be held accountable for our own actions. Do not allow someone (even a president) to talk you into fighting for them. Over identification with people in power (superheroes, presidents or kings) raises a question of megalomania.
You have the following choices.
Fight for someone else and their glory or fortune. (not recommended)
Walk away from a fight and seek alternatives (move if needed).
Turn the other cheek (actively show the other person you are not his enemy).
Sisters and brothers, as tenderly as I can, I want to say to you today: I believe that if those old Puritans and patriots were here in our midst, they would say the problem with modern America is that too many of us have started worshipping puny gods! It’s time and past time for us to fix the eyes of our hearts once again upon the God of the prophets and the apostles, the God of the Puritans and the patriots, the God who has called us to build a nation so filled with justice and compassion and righteousness and hope that it shall be, in the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, like a city set upon a hill, a model to all the rest of the world of what human beings can be with lives truly surrendered to the guidance and goodness of their Heavenly Father!
In this moment of national insecurity, we need to remember the meaning of Joshua 1:9. “Be of good courage; be not afraid,” the Lord said, “for wherever you go I am with you.” In other words, as we are faithful to Him, He is with us and where god is, power follows. Therefore, in this day of anxiety with our fixation upon so many challenges, I believe we need to remember and proclaim, because it’s true, that in the power of god the faithfulness of His people, the greatest days of the United States of America are still ahead!
Again, we are not in a situation of national insecurity therefore we should not be afraid. Seek help from a mental health care professional. Work to change or remove leaders who are unstable mentally.
Joshua 1:9 is taken out of context to promote war or fighting. When we place it back in context we find that God does not and never has promoted war or fighting.
For all of you who have the courage to ask not what’s in it for me, but what is pleasing to God, God bless you. God is with you. Do not be weary in your well doing. For all of you who have the courage to ask not what’s the easiest way, but what can help this community, this state and this nation be its own best self, giving honor to god, God bless you. The future will be driven by you.
This rebuttal is being presented with the highest ideals and I hope it is pleasing to God and will be of benefit to this community.
For all of you who were not born in America, but who’ve had the courage to come here, God bless you. God is with you. We need you, for as you give your best, you will make this great nation even greater.
For all of you who’ve had the courage to stand on a wall or sent loved ones to stand on that wall to defend this nation, God bless you. God is with you. Without you, nothing else would be possible in this land. In fact, in just a moment as the choir sings, as your hear the theme of your area of service play, we ask that you stand so we can honor you. And for all of us, may we claim the courage of those who have gone before us to live in our day, even as they did in theirs, with faithfulness: building lives, communities and a nation that is a blessing to God. And as we do, may god bless America.
By “stand on a wall” it means to go to war with the foreknowledge that you may kill another human being. Think back to Vietnam, Korea, WWI, the Civil War and the Revolutionary War and ask yourself whether the war was really necessary. What was really accomplished by killing millions of people? Could the goals have been reached differently? Remember, Canada and India obtained their independence peacefully. The Underground Railroad moved slaves to freedom. America entered WWI to collect banking debts, not based on a high ideal.
What we need to teach in this age is that violence should be avoided and the techniques to avoid it. Anger management courses exist and should be taught from an early age.
God will bless those who follow the peaceful teachings of Jesus. God does not take sides in war. Land does not become holy because someone kills for it. People may be more or less holy, but not land. There is no holy land.