A distinguished Pennsylvanian African-American Baptist pastor believes that American Christianity needs to break from American patriotism.
The Rev. J. Wendell Mapson, Jr., senior pastor of Monumental Baptist Church of Philadelphia, gave a lecture earlier this week sponsored by The Baptist Pastors and Ministers Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity (BMPC) on the state of the church following the Barack Obama administration.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Mapson explained that a key theme of his lecture was that "Christianity in America has been wedded to American patriotism and the biblical understanding of the faith has been compromised."
"Christianity has been separated from being Christ-like, meaning that the concern for the 'least of these' the lost and the left-out, the very people Jesus came to save," said Mapson.
"Many who claim the Christian faith are more patriotic than Christ-like. For them, personal salvation is more important than social justice."
Mapson also told CP that at the event "feedback appeared positive and the response was encouraging," adding that it "is the cross of Christ that remains at the center of our Christian witness, not the flag."
The lecture Mapson gave was the first of an annual lectureship named for the Rev. James S. Hall, pastor of Triumph Baptist Church and a former president of BPMC.
In addition to the lecture by Mapson, the one-day program concluded with a sermon by the Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood from Brooklyn, New York.
"When Youngblood arrived at Brooklyn's St. Paul Community Baptist Church in 1974, it had a dwindling congregation, an empty collection plate and a community vision that reached no further than its chapel doors," reported the Philadelphia Tribune.
"The surrounding neighborhood had been dismissed by city politicians as a violent wasteland. Within 10 years, Youngblood and his ministry had transformed both the church and the community around it into a thriving oasis."
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, had expressed similar concerns about the mixing of American patriotism and Christian piety.
In a YouTube video from last May, Moore explained that America was not a Christian nation in a sense that it was founded specifically to be "a group of people covenanted under Christianity."
"I think the confusion often comes in when people assign to the United States a providential place in history that the Bible never assigns it," said Moore.
"The idea that we're living in a Christian nation in that sense is really a form of theological liberalism. It assumes that a person or a nation can be a Christian apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, apart from new birth. That is contrary to the Gospel."