Lynchburg Revival

April 5, 2018

Lynchburg Revival and America

Some liberal Protestants and Evangelicals are convening the “Lynchburg Revival” for April 6-7 to protest Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr and other pro-Trump Evangelicals. They are especially targeting what’s become known as “Christian nationalism” that reputedly deifies the nation.

One revival organizer, Jonathan Martin, describes it this way:

We are not coming to condemn Falwell, Jr., but to counter the doctrine of “America First,” with the Christian message — that we cannot put allegiance to a nation-state ahead of our allegiance to the kingdom of God as taught by Christ, in which the last are first.

Obviously all orthodox Christians reject putting nation, or anything else, ahead of God. Almost certainly many who are described as “Christian nationalists” would disagree with their portrayal as idolatrous. More interesting is the question of whether the Lynchburg revivalists believe that any regard for nation is appropriate for Christians.

The answer for at least Martin seems to be firmly no.

Martin is a self-described “writer, speaker, and dreamer” serving at Sanctuary Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with degrees from The Pentecostal Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School, and is the “product of the ‘Christ-haunted landscape’ of the American South, sweaty revivals, and hip-hop.”

In an editorial Martin chides the “problematic nature of the far-right Frankenstein’s monster that Falwell, Jr., has helped create out of Christianity: nationalism and civil religion.” He adds that America is in “need of nothing less than an exorcism from the principality of white supremacy and the distortion of Christian nationalism, proclaiming instead the radical witness of the kingdom of God.” For Martin and many others, nationalism equals racism.

In a video, Martin further explains that “nationalism and Christianity have competing claims,” “nationalism requires you to pledge allegiance to particular nation state,” when in contrast the “Kingdom of God transcends earthly borders.” “Nationalism promotes self-interest above that of our neighbor” plus “wars, violence, conquest, domination.” But the “Kingdom of Christ is submission and love, putting neighbor above selves.” These kingdoms intrinsically conflict, and “one is going to be subservient to the other,” as the nation’s claims are “so absolute” that Christians have “sublimated what they believed about Christ” to nationalism’s broader claims.

Often Christian critics of nationalism will contrast it with patriotism, which is more laudable and acceptable. But Martin specifically derides patriotism too.

“I don’t think patriotism is a Christian virtue,” Martin says in the video. He reluctantly grants that there are “innocent forms of patriotism:” “I don’t think it’s horrible to own a flag. I don’t think it’s terrible to celebrate 4thof July necessarily. But those things have no place in church.” And they “pull Christians towards idolatry.”

“Maybe it’s not the end of the world if the way you think about your country is the way you cheer about college football team,” Martin allows. But he warns of consequences if “patriotism means we show a kind of preference or deference to people who are more like us. Or justifies war. Or prioritizes somebody else’s children over our own. [Presumably he misspoke here and meant the opposite: your own children can’t be prioritized over others’ children.]

The Kingdom of God “does away” with borders, Martin says, and the Gospel is a “broad narrative that transcends the story of nations.” He warns: “America as chosen people or new Israel has been used to justify endless abuse. Native Americans slaughtered. Such reprehensible history.”

For Martin and other Lynchburg revivalists, America and nation states are evil. Special regard for them is chauvinistic and idolatrous. But why then express any concern about America if it is inconsequential and irredeemable? Again, according to Martin:

America is in need of nothing less than an exorcism from the principality of white supremacy and the distortion of Christian nationalism, proclaiming instead the radical witness of the kingdom of God. That is what the Lynchburg Revival is all about.

If America is intrinsically evil, then how can it be exorcized from these sins? Or why bother? Embedded in Martin’s assumption and in the outlook of Lynchburg Revival, even if unrealized, is a concern about the nation. They, no less than so-called “Christian nationalists,” want a nation conforming to God’s purposes, as they conceive them. And well they should.

America is our community where God has placed us. Of course we pray and work for it to be better. It’s silly to pretend or claim otherwise. Nations are comprised of people, capable of good and evil. God of course desires that nations, and people, do good. And simplistically deriding as wicked the very idea of nation as human community contravenes His desire to redeem all creation.

Elevating any persons or things above God is idolatry, but special love and service towards persons and communities is not idolatrous if rendered in ultimate service to Him. Let’s pray the Lynchburg Revival fully realizes the reality of its project and effectively seeks His purposes for an America that is just and good.


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10 Responses to Lynchburg Revival and America

  1. Daniel says:

    I can’t imagine anyone to the right of Barack Obama would attend this event. They claim to love God, but they really seem to just hate the United States of America. Once the USA is no more, those in the extreme left who are organizing this event will suddenly change their minds, the ruse will be over, then it will be back to their God-less selves. Of course, only that after racist America is destroyed…that’s the real goal to these folks, make no mistake.

  2. Gary Holdeman says:

    We need exorcised from the Jonathan Martins!

  3. I guess nations should be illegal.

  4. Jim says:

    Dr. Falwell on the one hand, Dr. Michael Lyndsay, President of Gordon College on the other hand. Dr. Lyndsay dared sign a petition 3 years ago to ask for a religious exemption from ENDA law passed in 2013. https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/815

    The left-wing political firestorm for Gordon following this remains today.
    There is NO PLEASING these so-called “progressives on the left.” Those who wish to excoriate Christians who have a love of country will be the same to side with those who see religious liberty exemptions as anti-Christian and discriminatory. And all the while they do so under the mask of being a disciple of Christ. In fact, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

  5. John Bottimore says:

    It seems that the Lynchburg Revival supporters are conflating Biblical teaching to individual Christians with national policies, a somewhat common mistake. For example, the gospel teaching to be last in service/deference to others has nothing to do with what is appropriate for a national policy, which in most cases should be made in its self interest.

  6. Karole Fedrick says:

    Martin and his leftist comrades will eventually get what they want, but they are not going to like the global order as much as they think they will. “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left,” Eccl. 10:2.

  7. David says:

    “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20-21 I think you distort Martin (i.e. that he equates nationalism with racism) and minimize his valid points. I would hope that those to the right of Obama would engage in dialogue with these folks that we might encourage each other to love God and neighbor rightly, and take the gospel to the nations.

  8. John Soderberg says:

    In the wilderness, Jesus chose to not put himself first. He chose not to serve his ego, his success, his safety. He chose a way that led to the cross…and ultimately Easter. Too many Christians chose the way of the tempter–to put the tribe, the political party, the ideology ahead of love for the neighbor, service to the common good, care for creation, compassion for the sojourner. It’s not, “Who’s left and who’s right.” It’s, “Who wants to follow Jesus?”

  9. Pudentiana says:

    Communities need structure and boundaries or there is chaos. From my reading of Mr. Martin, I believe he prefers to have others bow the knee to his ideology and his own form of idolatry. I prefer to live in a sane society.

  10. Penny says:

    “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Jesus did not ask anyone to tear apart the Roman Empire. He paid his taxes with a coin taken from the mouth of a fish. He showed that you can be a citizen and also belong to God. One does not negate the other.

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