Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement
Mark Van Steenwyk leads his Mennonite Worker Community in Minneapolis.
July 5th, 2013
05:40 PM ET

Mourn on the Fourth of July: Inside the Christian anti-patriot movement

By David R. Wheeler, special to CNN

(CNN) - Like many congregations, The Mennonite Worker Community of Minneapolis held a worship service and picnic this Fourth of July - but instead of extolling the virtues of America, they called attention to its faults.

The annual service is “a sort of anti-patriotic holiday,” says Mark Van Steenwyk, whose community focuses on simplicity, prayer and peacemaking. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is out. Reflecting on the contradictions between the gospel and the American Dream are in.

“We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives," reads a prayer the Mennonite community recites each year, "but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.”

Anti-patriots like Van Steenwyk say their movement, which has grown more vocal in recent years, is simply an honest way to read – and live out – Jesus' teachings on nonviolence. But it's hard to look at groups like The Mennonite Community and not see an implicit criticism of God-and-country cheerleading by mainstream Christians and ripples of centuries-old church-state tensions.

Some anti-patriots come from pacifist Anabaptist traditions, such as the Mennonite Church. Others come from evangelical backgrounds but have rejected their counterparts' often unreserved patriotism and embraced liberal-leaning communities like Red Letter Christians and JesusRadicals.com.

They may differ on theological details, but they hold at least one belief in common: You cannot serve both God and country.

A Suspicion of the State

Anabaptists such as Mennonites and the Amish were persecuted by state churches in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and their descendants bear a lasting suspicion of human authorities.

Many an Amish and Mennonite home keeps a copy of "The Martyr's Mirror," a book thick with testimonies of Anabaptists burned at the stake of orthodoxy. The book's subtitle refers to the martys as "defenseless Christians," a nod to Anabaptists' belief that when Jesus called on Christians to turn the other cheek, he was quite serious.

For that reason, Anabaptists historically do not participate in warfare — or celebrate military victories.

American Anabaptists have been fined or jailed for their pacifist beliefs during wartime. Four Hutterites died from harsh treatment while imprisoned as conscientious objectors during World War I, Bach says. Anabaptists didn’t receive official permission to perform alternative service until World War II.

READ MORE: Bolivia’s isolated Mennonite community

“Some members of Anabaptist groups today are more acculturated and celebrate patriotic holidays just like the rest of the nation,” says Jeff Bach, director of Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. “None of the Anabaptist groups are anti-American. They are typically grateful for the religious freedom permitted in the United States.”

Still, in 2011, Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana, banned the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events because, according to the college’s president, the lyrics were too violent.

Serving `the King' 

It may be difficult for some Americans to understand why their countrymen would disassociate themselves from patriotism. What’s the harm in celebrating Independence Day, anyway?

But nonpatriotic Christians believe the burden of proof should fall on the other side: Why should peace-loving believers celebrate a bloody revolution? And American history after 1776 isn’t exactly pacifistic either, Van Steenwyk says.

“It is easy to judge Islam for the actions of a relative few militants. Yet when millions of Americans — a vast majority of them claiming the Christian faith — were complicit with slavery, indigenous genocide, and continued economic exploitation, we suddenly see them as separate from our faith,” says Van Steenwyk.

Jesus called his followers to Christian service and humility, which are the opposite of nationalistic rituals performed on the Fourth of July, says David Swartz, author of “Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism.”

“A heightened devotion to the nation can cause a lot of confusion abroad when people see claims of a Christian America alongside a long American history of slavery, economic inequality and overheated Hollywood sexuality and violence,” says Swartz.

Kurt Willems, who runs the progressive Christian blog Pangea, has also joined the rising nonpatriotic chorus. The Anabaptist from Seattle writes an annual post explaining why he no longer celebrates Independence Day.

“Each year I receive comments about how I should leave this country if I ‘hate’ it so much,” he says. “I love Americans, but I’m not willing to compromise my values as a servant of my only King, the nonviolent revolutionary — Jesus.”

Making Toby Keith Proud

Many Christians trace the latest wave of evangelical interest in pacifism to author and activist Shane Claiborne, who worked with Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, ministered to Iraqis during the war in Iraq and now leads a Philadelphia community called The Simple Way.

“My philosophy on patriotic things would be: A love for the people of our country is not a bad thing, but why should love stop at the border?” says Claiborne.

There have been some nonpatriotic gatherings in major cities, such as the Los Angeles Catholic Worker’s “Mourn on the Fourth of July” peace march in 2008.

Still the nonpatriot movement remains small, and finding local communities can be challenging, Van Steenwyk says.

“Everyone knows that other folks think like them, but it isn’t like there are a lot of congregations that self-identify as being nonpatriotic.”

That’s especially true for evangelicals, who lead the country in patriotic fervor.

More than 80% of white evangelicals believe that God has granted the United States a "special role" in history, according to a survey released June 27 by the Public Religion Research Institute.

In a stat that would make Toby Keith proud, more than two-thirds of white evangelicals say they are "very proud" to be an American, outstripping every other religious group polled.

So it's not surprising that some conservative Christians find the nonpatriotic alliance of progressive evangelicals and Anabaptists troubling — even dangerous.

“All Christians everywhere are called to love and serve their nations,” says Mark Tooley, a president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy and a United Methodist.

READ MORE: Celebrating the Fourth of July

“The stance of some evangelical elites influenced by neo-Anabaptist beliefs is often one of ingratitude, and whining, while ignoring the teaching of the universal Church, which has always recognized the God-ordained vocation of the state, and the Christian’s calling to serve as responsible citizens,” he says.

Tooley also disagrees with the nonpatriotic Christians on about military force, which he says is required to maintain order worldwide. Nonpatriot Christians are naïve not to consider the ill effects should the United States abdicate military power, he says

“What would the alternatives be if the USA didn’t exist or withdrew from the world stage? Almost certainly a more dangerous, more anarchic, more repressive, less prosperous world with less opportunity for the poor to escape poverty,” Tooley argues.

No Middle Ground? 

Some patriotic pastors argue for a middle way: honoring America without succumbing to chauvinism or ignoring the country's wrongs.

“Do I agree with every major policy of our government? No way,” says Kyle Vanover, pastor of Cyrus Chapel United Methodist Church in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. “But I’m proud to be an American, and I believe God has truly blessed this land.”

Van Steenwyk, however, says there is no middle ground.

Jesus’ identification with the poor, love of enemies, and refusal to take power are incompatible with the “entire political and economic system” of the United States, he says.

“Let’s face it — the Sermon on the Mount makes for lousy foreign or public policy. We can’t have it both ways.”

David R. Wheeler is a journalism professor and freelance writer living in Lexington, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter at: @David_R_Wheeler

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Amish • Belief • Christianity • Church • Church and state • Faith • Foreign policy • Mennonite • Military • Politics

soundoff (1,599 Responses)
  1. Rainer Braendlein

    The meaning of 666

    In order to understand the issue, we must first get to know the difference between the Roman Empire (27 B. C. to 476 a. D.) and the Holy Roman Empire (800 a. D. to 1806 a. D.). Although the names of the two Empires sound very similar, they are two totally different things. The Roman Empire knew no mixture of state and Church. Merely, beginning with emperor Constantine, the Church got gradually protected by the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire declined in 476 a. D.. Papacy was established 607 a. D.. In the course of time the power of the popes increased and thus 800 a. D. the Frankish king Charles the Great was crowned emperor by the pope. By this coronation the Roman Empire resurrected and was now called Holy Roman Empire. The Center of the Holy Roman Empire was not Italy, but Germany. Hence, the Roman Empire or Holy Roman Empire is the Beast (including it’s head, the Wicked or Arch-Blasphemer) of Revelation, Chapter 17.

    Why do we call the Middle Ages dark age sometimes?

    What made life so unpleasant during the dark age?

    There are two reasons: The impact of the pope and the impact of the Muslims (the Muslim Arabs (Saracens) and the Muslim Turks).

    Here, I will focus on the influence of wicked papacy:

    After Gregory the Great (the last good pope, lifetime 540-604 a. D.) the wicked papacy was established by the criminal emperor Phocas (emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, reign 602-610 a. D.). Phocas made the Roman See the highest on earth, which was a crime, because God refuses a visible head of the whole Church. Jesus Christ shall be the head of the whole Church.

    After wicked (papacy is wicked, because God doesn’t want any See to be the highest one on earth) papacy was established, the papal office corrupted more and more in the course of time. After a while the popes not only presumed to be the bishops of all bishops, but they even claimed to be higher than the emperor or any king. This development peaked in the papal docu-ment Dictatus Papae (by Pope Gregory VII, lifetime 1020-1085), which declared that the pope was higher than the emperor. According to the demands of the docu-ment Dictatus Papae, Gregory VII indeed deposed emperor Henry IV (emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) at a Lenten synod on February 14, 1076 a. D..

    From 1076 onward the Roman-German emperors (emperors of the Holy Roman Empire) were subordinated to the pope.

    Now hang on to your hat: For 666 years the Pope was the Super-Emperor of the whole world up to 1742 a. D., when the Holy Roman Empire (center: Germany) got an secular emperor again (Emperor Karl VII, who got crowned emperor on February 12, 1742 a. D.) One of the darkest periods of history lasted 666 years. Seemingly this number 666 is identic to the Number of the Beast 666, which is mentioned in the Revelation.

    Free Churches should stop to mind about the meaning of 666.

    From 1076 to 1742 a beast ruled the world. 666 years long the world was tortured by a beast.

    God prevent us from a further papal rule. It is yet enough that he rules his club of predators (child abuse).

    Censored News Network, please don't censore this comment.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • richunix


      Not sure I follow you, but The Book of Revelation is referred as a Gnostic Gospel (hidden meaning), prior to the 4th century the Christian community used the Gospel of Peter, but by the late 4th Century the early church felt that that Gospel of Peter was to cryptic to understand and also believe it was not written by the Apostle Peter. However they believe the Book of Revelation written by an author named “John” hence it must be the Apostle.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        Our greatest error is that we expect many events which are predicted in the Revelation to come but they have yet taken place:

        Great parts of the World were destroyed by the so-called Arians (the followers of the heresiarch Arius) in the 4th century. Whom of us knows of this story? Nearly nobody. Yet, for the people of the 4th century it was very real, and it was predicted in the Revelation. After that came Muhammad, the false prophet, and the popery. Both are predicted in the Revelation. After Muhammad and the popery comes the Wicked. And then Judgement Day.

        July 8, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • richunix


      You have no idea what I’m talking about, well do you? Your preaching religious rhetoric as a common street corner preacher, not understanding what you are saying, but just to say something on the hope someone will listen.

      July 8, 2013 at 9:05 am |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        No, I have a pretty profound knowledge of ecclesiastical history. Simply compare the Revelation with the history of the world, and you will realize that many even most things of the Revelation have yet taken place. We live very late in time. Yet, possibly, God will give us a further period of time to repent until Judgement Day. Yet, when Catholicism and Islam decline completely, the Wicked will emerge and Judgement Day is at hand.

        July 8, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • Reality

      "Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[30] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he "considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams." [31]

      Braendlein's Martin Luther once "found it an offensive piece of work" and John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[32]

      July 8, 2013 at 9:40 am |
      • Rainer Braendlein

        It doesn't matter what somebody ever said about the Revelation. Just read this phantastic book, and compare its predictions with the real history (this is what Luther did according to my knowledge), and you will be astonished how many things have yet taken place: we live very late in history.

        By the way, examine my calculation of 666, and you will notice that it is true. The pope was indeed the highest ruler of the world for 666 years in contrast to Jesus Christ who was rejected, and had to suffer up to the death on the cross. Oh popes, how will you be condemned at Judgement Day, you presumpteous enemies of God.

        July 8, 2013 at 9:55 am |
    • Reality

      Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

      Current problems:
      Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,

      July 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  2. William Demuth

    So often the answer to the question is correct, even when the logic used to get to it is wrong.

    America is my home, and I believe it to be the greatest beacon of hope the world has ever seen.

    Alas, I also see many who might want to smother the flames of freedom, and alas more often than not it is for religious reasons.

    We need to keep our eye on the ball people! Economics is the harbinger of our destinies, not religion.

    Let each and every one of us have a fair shot, and let us live as we see fit.

    It really isn't as complex as the special interests want to make it seem.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:23 am |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Good morning Sire William,

      Our nation was born out of uncivil ramifications. Our nationalism is based upon a class of aristocrats who in 1776 did make a stand against the excessive taxations from the English sovereignty who were bleeding our then young nations' pockets bone dry. It's really sad that England's finest would do their colonies in such a way.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • William Demuth

      Ah, we have learned the infliction of subservience well from our former European fatherly figures.

      We have come full circle and gone from exploited to exploiter.

      Perhaps our success shall bring us to the same ends as the British, and force upon us the damnation of inconsequentiality.

      It is indeed fitting that the last great super power might end its reign under the shaming veil of Omiimpotence, a mere shell of a once great power.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Circles are never to be broken, only reconfigured into lopsidedness. Today's aristocrats no more believe in God and they all stand together in their austere hungers for wanton bloated lifestyles of the richly comforted never ever considering the likelihood of their children picking up their fathers' brokenness ways. So sad, so sad.

      July 8, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  3. Andrew

    As a Mennonite there seems to be gross misunderstanding about anabaptists that we use pacifism as an excuse to avoid service. Many Mennonites and anabaptist organizations actively seek conflict zones to work on conflict resolution and relief aid. Many denominations emphasize certain scripture to emphasize and we chose to strive to be more like Jesus. While it is tempting to be drawn to be more like this world. Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Just because war and violence are acceptable in this world does not mean God calls us to use them in his name. This has failed many times (crusades) and I believe is not what Jesus would have done. God had the option to send us a King in the mold of David or Solomon, yet he gave us a King who transformed the world through his love.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Saraswati

      I don't believe most Mennonites choose their religion to avoid service. Most are born into the faith and genuinely believe in its principles. Unfortunately, I believe you are wrong. Very few people, sociopaths aside,like war. But without the belief (delusion?) that good will win out by pacifist means I think there is little evidence to support that idea. The reality is that evil (or the lesser good) often wins, and we frequently have had to sacrifice to keep things from gettIng much, much worse. Can you honestly say that if you took god out of the equation you'd think pacifist means were enough eithEr now or throughout history?

      I don't think pacifists are trying to get away with anything or to pick the easy way out, but as a matter of reality that is what they get, and no, it isn't fair to those left to do the work.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Andrew

      You seem to be saying that it is ok to use violence to overcome evil. I would say that is the wrong argument altogether. I know this isn't everyone's belief, but I don't think Jesus would want us to kill in his name. I believe that Jesus' example truely implemented is more powerful than any military action. He had the option to overcome evil with violence, but chose to lay down his life instead. I believe that compromising your beliefs to overcome evil can end up subverting your message. Our kingdom is not on this earth, so I do not believe that we need to kill others in Jesus' name to perserve a nation that man has created. Yes, we are fortunate to have freedom of religion in this country, but as our own anabaptist origins show, our faith is not contigent upon that freedom and can exists despite the persecution of state run religion.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Saraswati

      Andrew, if a man was about to shoot me dead (you know this having watched him shoot 10 people before me) and you are 100 ft away next to a gun, would you kill him or let me die? You know what this set up is getting at, so if you come up with cute tricks I will simply tighten the story. Would you kill a murderer to save my life, your mother's life, your child's life?

      July 8, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Pacifism is itself a Christian trait. But even the scriptures tell us that when the advocate for Christ comes bearing down upon the nations, swords will be drawn and used. It seems that nary every generation from Christ onward and even until now-times has had its fair of warring fractions. I deplore war and would rather seek peaceful means and ways to circumvent such tragedies before other future generations pay dearly for any and all nation's fathered war faring ways gets our children in a bucket of scalding hot water!

      July 8, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  4. Tkp353

    We live in a nation of tolerance and freedom. The biggest question of all is what price is freedom? I have lived long enough to see the decline of morals to the point of blaspheme. Couple this with the worlds state where the only thing a bully understands is a bigger, stronger bully. No matter what any of us believe, hold dear, or what to stand up for or against, it is only a matter of time before enough is enough. Only God can decide.

    Any nation that will humble itself before God, and repent of their sins, can be healed. He said it. I believe it. I don't see it happening.

    America is too "me, me me"to ever acknowledge the highest power of all enough to go back to the 50's when everyone looked at the Sabbath as indeed a Holy Day.

    God, please bless America. Forgive us. Let YOUR Will be done.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  5. Lionly Lamb

    My German ancestry and my being born in Pa. Dutch Country alongside the Amish folk and Seven Day Adventists (who by the way don't eat meat) gave me in my youth years an uncanny sense of bewilderment. I saw many an Amish horse and buggy all dressed in black, the buggies and the people were all clad in blackness. I was in awe at such a time in my earlier years, Bewildered still yet I am as to such Amish folk and Seven Day Adventists living in peace among the small towns' outskirts in the low rolling hillsides of Berks County Pa. I never did run into any Mennonites, well at least to the best of my remembrances.

    As for mourning over our nation's independence day, I can see why the Mennonites and even the Amish folk shy away from wanting to celebrate. To these folks, they seem to be following Christ's teachings and in their religious devotion, they stand firmly buttressed to peaceful undertakings ever to shy away from celebrating war and death when there is far too much of it going on nowadays.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  6. richunix


    You will find it valuable reading as he almost changed the course of early Christian history and doctrine. In a nut shell, he a was a 2nd century Christian teacher from Asia minor who believe that the God of the Jews was a (just) but a vindicate God and was not the same as the God of the Christian. He attempted to rewrite early Christian doctrine by removing the Jewish scriptures (Books) from the canon and went on to prove his point. This was at odds with early Christian leaders like Ignatius, Hippolytus, Irenaeus and Tertullian (proto-christian) which wanted their followers to believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Jewish God. The Marcionites(based in Asia Minor) maintain this belief and was discussed by the First Counsel of Nicea (this issue was not fully resolved until the Second Counsel of Trent) and the those who followed Marcion (Marcionites) were referred to as “Heretic” and Marcion was excommunicated.

    July 8, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  7. Dan Clayton

    I am tired of people like this author, who have an opinion and see the only way to air it is to tear down others. That is moronic. Why not invest your time in finding good where good can be found and promoting it...

    July 8, 2013 at 7:52 am |
    • Saraswati

      What do you believe the author is trying to tear down? Hawks? Pacifists? Mennonites? Christians?

      July 8, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  8. Reality

    Last time I checked, the Mennonite Jesus was crucified because of his violence at the Jewish Temple. ( Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27 and Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8) and near the start in the Gospel of John (at John 2:13–16).

    July 8, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Clay Christopher Harris

      Turning over the moneychangers' tables at the Temple of Jerusallem was actually his duty since Jesus was an ordained rabbi. That doesnt count as "violence" since he attacked objects that symbolized the corruption of the Church, not the people themselves. That I recognize as the first act of Christian civil disobedience.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Lionly Lamb

      Hello Clay Christopher Harris and Reality,

      Today's televangelists seem to me to be the money grubbers in that they sell their goods of dvds and whatnots all for the "mighty" dollar in which they live high on the hog. The uneducated and lessor intellectually oriented Christian masses are truly being fleeced and taken to the proverbial cleaners all for money changing hands all for trinkets and tokens with no real value to be considered.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  9. Rev. Rick

    This is a slippery slope. We (or at least most) Americans fight tooth and nail to thwart radical Islam's philosophy of a inst.ituting an Islamic state form of government – here or anywhere else. We must separate Church and State! Yet, most American evangelicals declare that the U.S. is a Christian nation and insist that we use and follow the (Christian) Bible in making laws and in electing government representatives. Oh the irony.

    July 8, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • devin

      As a conservative Christian I'm thankful for the freedoms I enjoy living in what I would consider the greatest nation on the planet. To that end, I am patriotic and will always support my country. As for this notion that we were or are primarily a Christian nation, I find it irrelevant. If there is one thing that history has shown, it's the reality that empires come and go, except for one.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Reality, Do you mean China? While something that identifies as China has existed a long time, there have been several "regime changes" that really just took over the window dressing for an illusion of continuity. I can't think of another empire that's lasted a significant period.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • devin


      I'll go out on a limb and assume that reply was directed my way. I was not referring to an empire established by mortals, but I'm guessing you already knew that.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Saraswati

      @devin, actually I did not. Thank you for the clarification. I have frequently seen the word "kingdom" in that context, but not "empire", which has slightly different implications. It does raise an interesting question of whether kingdom or empire is the better analogy or description.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • devin


      Sorry about that. This blog, as most, are rife with sarcasm and cynical innuendo (mine included) and I thought that was your intent.

      Yes, I also usually refer to it as kingdom, but I thought empire had a nice ring to it, kind of in a Star Trekian way.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Devin, I would think of an empire as a more loosely aligned group of semi-independent states, beliefs, planets (to go star trek). I guess in the religious context I'd think it implied a much less unified belief system and also,potentially, less contentment with the more external ruler.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Marc

      It's quicksand. 1 John 5:19 says, "...the whole world lies in {the power of} the evil one." (New American Standard Version (1995)) John 18:36 also says, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." Now put it together with, James 4:4 says, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." The only way to prove-it is to use the God's Word, everything else is just YOUR own philosophy- it does not count because of the imperfectness of our logic. An so wars continue- humankind hating each other. This is why when judgement day comes, it will be "like a thief in the night"- catch everyone unexpected.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • devin


      To be honest, I really didn't spend a whole lot of time on the etymology or precise usage of the word, my point was directed elsewhere. Sorry for the confusion.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • devin


      Just a friendly suggestion: You may want to try and use a translation that is a little more relevant, if not more accurate, than the KJV. We left Old England a long time ago.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ devin said, "I find it irrelevant. If there is one thing that history has shown, it's the reality that empires come and go, except for one."

      Actually, the 'empire' or 'kingdom' you speak of has yet to appear. The Bible promises one, Jesus said there is one, but still nothing (yet). While the Bible contains much good in terms of guidance for moral behavior, so far the Bible has proven unreliable when interpreted literally in terms of a kingdom to come. If we (humanity) can't learn to stand on our own in terms of exhibiting compassion and love for our fellow man, I fear the kingdom predicted in the Bible is simply false hope, bolstered by myth and wishful thinking of a kingdom that will never be unless humanity builds it based on brotherly love and mutual respect. As long as we view it as "my God's kingdom is bigger or better than your God's kingdom" all hope is already lost.

      July 8, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • devin


      Actually, Jesus continually said that " the kingdom of God is among you". If you do even a relatively brief study on what the kingdom of God is you will find it has a past, present and future reality. In other words, His kingdom is eternal.

      July 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ devin – Actually, in Luke, Jesus said the kingdom of God is "within you", not among you. So my comment stands. It was you who made the reference to the only "empire" that is everlasting. It is up to us as individual humans to realize that the kingdom being referred to has nothing to do with earthly or heavenly kingdoms nor "empires". The divine is to be discovered within each of us through compassion and love for others.

      July 8, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Interesting distinction between "within" and "among". One would probably have to reference the Hebrew or Aramaic to get the proper context. For myself, I certainly agree that the kingdom is "within". However, I congregate with others who also possess that inner kingdom and when we are in communion, then I would say the kingdom is "among".

      July 8, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Bill, it's more likely the Greek interpretation that might shed some light, rather than Hebrew, since most New Testament scripture was written in Greek. Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic, but then again the Gospel writers (we have no idea who they really were) were attempting to write down Jesus' "conversations" and dialogues decades after he was crucified. The written Gospels as we have then today were originally and most likely oral traditions passed down from Christian to Christian, using embellishments and poetic license. Early Christianity was not a coherent group as is evidenced from many of the "Gospels" that didn't make the cut when it came time to canonize scripture. To victors go the spoils, so those gospels that were not deemed "orthodox" were either destroyed or at minimum suppressed. We will never know what Jesus actually said, nor what he actually taught since the versions we have today have been filtered for political and ideological reasons, and not all of those reasons were "holy".

      July 8, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      There's nothing factually wrong with what you've posted, I'll grant, to the degree it goes. But beyond the Biblical iterations on what Jesus said, or might have said, we have the traditions of the Church and the experiences of the faithful. Without a doubt, these teach us that while conversion, contrition and reconciliation are personal, that Eucharist and community are experienced throughout the body of Christ, drawing us to Him in unity.

      July 8, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Bill – I take it from the words you use (conversion, Eucharist, body of Christ, etc.) you are Catholic? Forgive me if I have mislabeled. However, you are quite right in that much of what we hold sacred is based on "tradition" rather than factual evidence. I am a former Catholic, but I left the church many years ago. Today I am a non-denominational minister. While I maintain my belief in God, I no longer believe the Bible to be without error. At the same time I don't believe we should throw the baby Jesus out with the baptismal water. Sacred tradition and holy rites have their place, but faith has to be tempered with reason and not blind obedience.

      July 8, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @ Bill – you also wrote, "...while conversion, contrition and reconciliation are personal, that Eucharist and community are experienced throughout the body of Christ, drawing us to Him in unity."

      I would also simply add that Christians are anything but unified. God is personal to each of us and Christians may agree on a few high-level tenants, but Christian unity is a distant dream, as is evidenced by the very article we are discussing.

      July 8, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yes, I am a Catholic Rick, just as you still are if you were Baptized Catholic. Forgive me if my vocabulary is, by necessity, laden with Catholic references. They are the only concepts I know which suffice to carry the thought forward. While you and others have certainly established your own denominations, even to the extent of non-denominations, we pray for the restoration of all Christiandom. Please allow me to invite you back to the mass.

      July 8, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Rev. Rick

      @Bill – there is no need to apologize for using the language of your faith. And thanks for the invitation to rejoin the Universal Church. However, there is much you don't know. I was born and raised as an evangelical Christian (Southern Baptist). I converted to Catholicism later and life. Later I struggled with a bout of atheism, then finally returned to God via another route. I believe my convoluted spiritual journey has led me to where I am for a reason and I must honor that reason. My convictions have not been without sacrifice since there are 3 other evangelical ministers in my family. From their perspective I am way outside of their fold, in addition to being outside yours. 🙂 I am quite happy and at peace where I am.

      July 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I understand. It sounds as if we may have shared some of the same twists and turns though ended up with differing conclusions. I respect your path because I recognize the genuineness in your seeking. I just find that the more I study and plumb the depths of theology, practice and history, the more relevant the Catholic faith becomes. God Bless.

      July 8, 2013 at 11:32 am |
  10. babooph

    I enjoyed seeing the "Christians" put the future God omney before them,all they had to do was give up the 10 commandments for their politics...

    July 8, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  11. Jean

    God bless them one and all.

    July 8, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • richunix

      Which God? The Roman/Greek Zeus/Pluto/Hera/Mars ...maybe the Christian deities ; Baal, Yahweh and his wife Aswher or El? (These name are in YOUR Bible, best you read it again)

      July 8, 2013 at 7:30 am |
  12. John Vance

    The argument of whether America is "an experiment in republican government" or "a divinely destined city on a hill" is an old one and there is no end in sight.

    July 8, 2013 at 7:08 am |
  13. Seth

    CNN posting an article that brings "Christianity" into question on some level? I'm shocked!!!

    July 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      This is a single group of Christians, and if you read the comments you'll see that there are people here, both Christian and non-theist, who appear to support them. I think you're letting your own opinions color you impressions of CNN's motivations.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:25 am |
  14. raul isodo

    I'm sure if you look hard enough, you'll find a group of atheists with an unpatriotic message. The link on the main page sais "Christianity's anti-patriot message". This is NOT "Christianity's message". It's a group of people from one sect. But I guess it wouldn't be newsworthy if it wasn't overhyped.

    It isn't that Christianity is un-patriotic. It's that patriotism has become more difficult to define.

    July 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      I think that's a matter of how you read it. If I read "Islam's mystical message" I would as.sume that I was going to get a story about Sufism, not Islam in general. A reader who is aware and educated enough to know that many forms of Christianity promote patriotism (most high school graduates in the US) you would be expecyed to read this ti.tle the same way unless they were actively out looking for an argument.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  15. richunix

    Truth Prevails:

    From your post : “Your imaginary friend is a vindictive one and does not deserve respect.” Reminds of the studies I conducted about the Marcionites (Marcion 2nd century teacher and theologian)

    July 8, 2013 at 7:07 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Miss the reply button???

      July 8, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • richunix

      Sorry, yes I did.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Sorry, I do not know much if anything about the Marcionites. I will research that.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:35 am |
  16. kb

    The funny thing is the forefathers that created the initial ideals of this Country would have embraced these people for being truely American, freedom of religion. My issue is that many men and women died so these people can have that right and they don't seem to either realize this or ignore it for their own beliefs.

    If you don't like how the revolution was fought and freedom from England was won, then you should leave. There are many factors of the history of our country after 1776 that were not right, but if that revolution was not fought and won then we would all be hailing a king all right, and speaking with a british accent....

    July 8, 2013 at 6:06 am |
    • GOD

      Many people have died for nothing in useless wars drummed up by a government controlled by the few and the wealthy of this country. This "love it or leave it" mentality harkens back to the Viet Nam war where the young men of our country were conscripted to fight in just another useless war. If anyone truly loved their country, they would look for ways to stop killing our children and those of other nations. And yet our nation has been "at war" almost constantly in my life time. When will it end?

      July 8, 2013 at 7:51 am |
    • Saraswati

      We'd be hailing a queen and speaking with about as much accepnt as the Canadians, who didn't fight the rebellion.

      July 8, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  17. Atheists are more Moral

    Christianity/Islam/Buddhism/ anything that bases it's beliefs and premises on things other than reality, in general, does more bad for the world than good. It rationalizes away reality, down plays it (this is one of the strongest selling points to suicide bombers: this constant reminder you have a 'greater' reward coming which never ever has been proven, nor will). That being said, it's very nice to see some stand up to Big War and mindlessly swallowing propaganda, even if the premises are false, the result helps.

    July 8, 2013 at 5:34 am |
    • God defined what is good

      A tiger is atheist, and it will chew your head off. It doesn't care what anyone's morals are. A monkey will pull your face off, it has no morals either, and it's an atheist. Slugs are atheists too... so is an orange.

      Atheism is a huge step backwards.

      July 8, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
      ...Stephen F Roberts

      godchecker.com will give you some idea as to why accepting your god becomes difficult.

      As for your lies about Atheists, you don't portray your belief as being anything good when you are so judgmental of those who find no reason to accept it due to the sheer lack of evidence to support it. Atheists have been shown to be more moral based on the simple fact that they don't use a 2000 year old outdated book (proven to be full of inaccuracies) to justify hate and bigotry. We base our morals off of what is seen to be good and we don't need an imaginary friend or it's apparent book to guide us. Christians make up 75% of the prisoner population...now there is immorality. Christians believe in a book that says it is okay to rape; beat children; oppress women; and murder...once again immoral. Your imaginary friend is a vindictive one and does not deserve respect.

      July 8, 2013 at 6:51 am |
    • Saraswati

      @God defined, You might want to look at modern primate research a little more closely...they do indeed have ethics. We see the beginnings of ethical systems in several other animals. These systems are symply more complex in
      humans to go along with out more complex brains and social systems.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • Bill

      @God defined
      First, how do you know that the tiger is atheist? Have you asked? Second, if God created everything, he also created the tiger and the tiger should believe in its own creator! Yet it will bite your head off! Regarding moral, Steven Weinberg once said: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

      July 8, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  18. Andrew

    "Yet when millions of Americans — a vast majority of them claiming the Christian faith — were complicit with slavery,"
    I would say these guys were more "complicit" than most. I'm going to make a wild guess they weren't among the 364K Union soldiers killed, or the 250K killed by the Nazis for that matter.

    July 8, 2013 at 5:18 am |
    • Saraswati

      Even at the peak, only about 1/3 of souther homes had slaves and most people did not live in these states. Those without slaves, in the south or elsewhere, had little power to change things based either on economics or the structure of the political system. The Mennonites, in partucular, have alonghistory of opposing slavery.

      July 8, 2013 at 7:22 am |
  19. Slav

    When are you buffoons going to stop your cheap shots at Christianity?

    July 8, 2013 at 3:56 am |
    • Sue

      What do you expect from a news group started by the Christian hater, Ted Turner.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:01 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      When christians stop using their belief to try to tell others how to live there will be reason to stop speaking out against it, until then intolerance of intolerance is how it will be. Maybe FOX news would be better suited to you if you can't handle reality and wish to continue the persecution complex.

      July 8, 2013 at 4:26 am |
    • Dubhly

      ah since one group of christians believe differently then you its a cheap shot, rather then cnn trying to show there are more then just the main stream two faced christian. Hmmm I actually thought they gave good info and let it be known there are some good christians out there that actually follow the generally peaceful teachings ( no jesus was not completely pacifistic, but on the who he was non-violent)

      July 8, 2013 at 5:53 am |
    • Bob


      So much anti-religious hate online these days.

      You act tough now. Will you be so sure when the end is near? Will you say you don't believe? Or is your mind so small that you have to fall in with the pack wherever they run? Will you still sneer when death is near or will you say He is the one?

      July 8, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • AtheistSteve


      Tossing out Pascal's Wager isn't going to win you over any converts. Non-believers consider your religious beliefs silly, time-wasting and pointless. Like astrology or tarot card readings. It's not hate...it's mockery. Ridiculous claims merit ridicule.

      July 8, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Bob: Until there is reason to fear your version of belief, I see no reason to live in fear of what happens. The reality is that in the end no-one can honestly say they know. You believe you know but you base that off of one book that has been shown numerous times over to be full of inaccuracies. Only 10% of christians actually read or have read the buybull, in fact reading that book is the fastest way to disbelief-you should try it, you might be surprised at how horribly hateful it is.

      July 8, 2013 at 6:28 am |
    • Steve


      Odd to see someone using lyrics from Black Sabbath's "After Forever" on an article about Christianity, At the time they wrote that song they were seen as Satanists. (When they were really just interested in the occult.)

      July 8, 2013 at 7:21 am |
  20. Craig

    There is nothing inherently "anti-patriotic" about these positions, nor should they be described as such. If more people stopped believing in violence as a solution to every problem maybe we actually could make the world a better place. MLK and Ghandi both believed in non-violence, and they were repaid with violence. In the long run, however, they accomplished much and deserve credit for the efforts. Had they been "different" they could easily have started wars and killed millions.

    The assumption that to be a patriot must mean killing and standing up for war is a poor position at best. Naive? Perhaps, but consider what good could be done if more people were willing to start talking about solutions without resorting to violence. Now many more people would be alive if we didn't think the solution to disagreements was always a gun?

    July 8, 2013 at 2:40 am |
    • crabman1

      thats why you have the problems there are today no one wants to talk but they want to be heard--no compromise and its been that way as far back as history can go

      July 8, 2013 at 8:19 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.