Preaching Truth, Justice and the American Way
Cultural assumptions affect what listeners sit for and what preachers must stand for.
October 1, 1986
I had acted innocently enough. Summer was approaching, and I was in need of fresh sermon ideas. So I prepared a bulletin insert asking for suggested texts or topics.
The first one in sizzled like a fuse on a Fourth of July firecracker: "Why don't you ever preach on patriotism? You need to preach on what our flag stands for!"
I felt torn: I didn't want to reject Fred's request out of hand or offend his national pride (he had served his country honorably in World War II), but I do not believe that truth, justice, and "the American way" are triune. I've always considered myself a loyal citizen, and I'm grateful for the liberties I enjoy, yet for me, national loyalties must bow before the Lordship of Christ. How could I possibly preach a biblical message on the American flag-especially the kind of message Fred would expect?
The next time I visited Fred, I said I would be on vacation the weekend of July 4 (true enough, but also a cop-out). I also explained I would be more comfortable preaching what the New Testament teaches concerning the duties of believers toward their nation, and I promised Fred I would do just that. He understood my position even though his expectation for a patriotic celebration was not met.
The encounter with Fred ended happily enough, with both our relationship and my sense of integrity intact. But his request got me thinking about the larger question of the influence of cultural values upon the Christian pulpit. I began to wonder about more subtle and often undetected influences of "the American way" on those of us who are called to preach The Way.
Reading Charles Larson's book, Persuasion: Reflection and Responsibility, I realized I wrestle with some cultural myths that are as American as baseball, hot dogs, ...