The Bible Can't Fix America

Only Jesus can.

America is broken. The situation between African-Americans and law enforcement continues to escalate as more and more stories develop against the backdrop of not only systemic racism, but systemic government inaction as well.

A fed-up crowd protesting the needless police shooting of Keith Scott grew violent last week resulting in the loss of another soul and nearly two dozen injuries. Many were quick to criticize the violent response, but it's hard to blame them when even consenting, non-threatening black men like Charles Kinsey are still shot for no reason. Violence without justice begets violence.

But there are those who claim they have the solution. Men like Congressman David Brat say that the problems came when America took the Bible out of schools:
When you don't tell people what is ethically good and bad, if you cannot even define what a morally good life is anymore and you block the Bible and you block the Judeo-Christian tradition and you block the Baptist church, which is fundamental in the African-American community, from being the voice of power and the only hope you give is a broken federal system of government.
It's true that the Bible has lost its hold on society. For centuries, Christians enjoyed a privileged place in America as their culture occupied everything from currency to court rooms. Today, Bibles and prayers are frowned upon in public schools. Ten commandments monuments are being removed from government buildings, and politicians are being sworn in on the Qur'an.

Many Christians lament the current landscape and, like Congressman Brat, would attribute the apparent increase in police shootings to moral failures within the black community due to a secularized education. They certainly wouldn't take into account the increase of cell phone or Facebook Live videos discrediting falsified police reports (further proof that our phones really are the only effective weapons against a corrupt government, not guns)

Part of me agrees. America does need the power of Christ to overcome its many flaws. We need Jesus if we're ever going to give up our petty prejudices as well as forgive the prejudices of others. But there's a significant difference between Jesus fixing America and the Bible fixing America.

When people say they want the Bible back in schools, they literally mean putting a book in a building. There's nothing magical about it; it's just bound pieces of inked paper. But there's a common belief that exposure to the Word of God infects a person like a holy virus. Prayers, crosses, and those monuments of Charlton Heston too are all expected to sanctify society like reverse hexes.

In fairness, Christians will say that God's power is not in things but in the revelation they convey. The irony is that they measure the effectiveness of this revelation by the quantity of those things. Without realizing it, they reduced the Christian religion to its trappings, and limited the power of God to spells and amulets.

You don't need to carry a Bible or pray out loud to be a Christian. You don't need to bring tracts to work, wear a cross to school, or be reminded to trust God every time you pay for groceries. All of those things can be banned by the government without affecting your faith.

In describing the person whose life demonstrates the power of God, the apostle Paul used words like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Most Christians are familiar with these fruits of the Spirit, but few recall Paul's words immediately after: "against such things there is no law."

The fruit of the Spirit are the true manifestations of Christianity, not Bibles in schools or public prayers. Those Christians with a persecution complex won't like to hear it, but we were never called to establish a religious culture in America. Rather, we were given weapons immune to humanity's laws so that our testimony of God's love might be blameless.

Christianity is not about Bibles, crosses, or Judeo-Christian values. Christianity is love: loving God by loving others. Jesus himself said that all divine revelation boils down to love. It is this unassailable simplicity that allows our faith to transcend time and tradition. And it is this same simplicity that is too often lost amid the pursuit of certainty and human affirmation.

America needs Christians. Now more than ever, our country needs people who can see past the urge for orthodoxy and state support. We need a simple faith in God to do extraordinary things through love. For the bitterness and racism in this nation to ever be healed, we need to let go of our culture warring ways and act like Christians.

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