In America today, we are confronted with a plethora of “gospels,” often in disagreement with one another, sometimes overlapping one another, but all in competition with, and contradiction to the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All promise a “salvation” of sorts. Two strike me as prominent.
One is the “Gospel of Acceptance.” We recently heard and are hearing it proclaimed by many in politics and the news media in the fracas over the building of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero (see previous post). In reaction to the fear and bigotry of some, others were and are preaching a sappy gospel of tolerance that goes way beyond our first amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of religion. It is as though our Constitution declares that all religions are created equal. It seem to be implied by those who hold to this gospel that anyone who holds to the exclusivity of their faith (whether Christian, Muslim or whatever, but especially Christian) is a bigot.
This is a false gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ IS exclusive. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). To love my neighbor does not mean I am to accept his views of God. To love my neighbor means I am to accept him as a person and to seek what is best for him. This would include doing my best to point him to faith in Christ.
There is another “gospel” that seems to have penetrated the thinking of many Americans, including many evangelical Christians. I’ll call it the “Gospel of America.” What is sad to me is that while most evangelicals can see through the previously mentioned “gospel,” many swallow this one whole without even questioning its truth claims. They in no way find it incompatible with the gospel of Christ.
Though there are many variations, the message goes something like this: America was once a Christian Nation, founded by godly Christian men (and women). Our Constitution is an inspired document based on the Bible. But America has been (or is being) hijacked by evil men! Our Constitution has been reinterpreted by evil men! We, the people of God, must take back our nation and its Constitution and restore America to its former place of honor and glory, though we’re not always clearly told what the method of achieving that goal might be. Sometimes it is political activism. Sometimes it is presented as restoring morality or “family values.”
It even includes at times, evangelism. In the Gospel of America as it is held by some evangelicals, salvation is a national thing. If we get enough people “saved,” then we can save our country. Evangelism and the personal salvation of individuals is seen as simply a means to the achievement of this greater end.
This mythology of a past golden age from which we have fallen is a counterfeit of the biblical account of a perfect creation marred by the fall of man. The myth of restoration is a counterfeit of the restoration achieved through the work of Christ to be ultimately consummated through His return to reign in a New Heaven and Earth.
In fact, the “gospel” is usually more concerned with the bad news than the good news. There seems to be a preoccupation with what is wrong with America, or with those persons it opposes. It is fed by fear.
This is nothing new, however. It has been with us for a very long time. I can remember hearing warnings of the dangers of American’s fall for most of my Christian life. The “evil men” who have taken over or are taking over our nation, have been variously identified; in the fifties we were warmed of communists and modernists (liberal preachers); in the sixties it was hippies, integrationists, left-leaning judges. Today various other groups are pointed out, usually those with whom the preacher disagrees politically or religiously.
The Gospel of Acceptance is too broad. It seeks to be all-inclusive and attempts to eliminate the need for Christ’s sacrifice. The Gospel of America is, in one sense, too narrow. It excludes those of different political thinking.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 that “ … God … gave us the ministry of reconciliation, how that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. So then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God was exhorting through us, ‘We urge you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.’”