Here are some notes and thoughts from “The Not So United States of America,” a message preached by Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church on February 26, 2017. This message wasn’t broadcast online
The Not So United States of America
This message wasn’t broadcast online, and Andy began his message with the reason. He said he first and foremost considers himself a local church pastor. And while he has many opportunities to speak to the media, he would never want to say something in public he hasn’t first said to his local church.
His opening point was that what’s best for people is what’s best. We may disagree on what that is, but we should all agree with the first part. He continued by pointing out that human beings have an inherent, not an ascribed value. And as a “Christianized” nation, we believe nobody should be mistreated or discriminated against.
This is not something represented in nature, or even in human nature, it’s something we learn.
Every government takes a position on the origin of rights.
- If a government believes rights come from the government, it will look like a dictatorship.
- If a government believes rights come from a particular religion, people from other religions will be oppressed.
- Our founding fathers were brilliant and taught that rights were endowed by the Creator God.
The church is the steward of this massive principle – the idea that people are endowed with dignity. That was not the belief through most of the history and all throughout the Roman empire. Pity and mercy were once seen as character defects. This changed with Jesus.
He then talked about how people who had given money to North Point over the years have helped various refugee causes already. “You’ve already put your money where your mouth is,” he said.
The next section of the talk was filled with stats, figures, and observations. It was fascinating and well researched. Very few people can communicate with such clarity.
There’s a big difference between a refugee and an immigrant. Most people in the US lump them together.
Refugees are fleeing their home country out of fear of persecution. They don’t want to live in a neighboring country, and they don’t want to end up in another country. They want to go HOME. Less than 1% of refugees are resettled in a third tier country.
Over the last 37 years, the United States has resettled 3 million refugees. Each year, the government sets a cap of people they will accept under this status. It’s rarely, if ever, met. In 2016, most refugees resettled in the United States came from the Congo.
Andy then talked about Syria and showed a chart of the number of Syrian refugees resettled in America. While people are concerned with the numbers, back in 2013, just 36 refugees from this country were settled here. “You’re five years late to the protest,” Andy joked.
Do refugees pose a security threat? That’s the next question Andy tried to answer. And in typical fashion, he clearly said, “No and possibly.”
No: Coming to this country under refugee status is like winning the lottery. Nobody would make it their plan if they intended to do harm. It takes 1 1/2 to 3 years and there is a strict vetting process.
Possibly: 40 refugees have been arrested for terror-related activities. None were identified during the immigration process and all were radicalized after they got here. That’s why any real answer has to include a “possibly.” But the possibly part isn’t on them, it’s on us.
Andy pointed out another common observation. “We’re a nation of immigrants,” most people have heard. While this is technically true, it’s incomplete. People come to America as immigrants and retain their unique culture but at their core, they come because they WANT to be Americans. They embrace American ideals while retaining their cultural distinctiveness.
We are not first and foremost a nation of freedom. We are first and foremost a nation of law. Compassion and religion informs our legal system, but it cannot undermine it.
He said we should not tolerate anything that doesn’t assimilate into a framework of human dignity. He went on to talk about that while we have freedom in our country, we can’t do whatever we want and use religion as an excuse.
For example, we’re no longer allowed to practice the kind of Christianity that owns slaves (common at one point in history). We would not be allowed to practice Old Testament Judaism if we wanted to. In this way, America reigns in religious practices in order to protect dignity and justice for all.
The constitution says you can believe anything you want but it does not give you permission to behave however you want.
As Christ-followers, have no to low tolerance for anything that undermined dignity. That’s endowed by your Creator. The government cannot impart dignity, but it should seek to protect it.
Here are a few of my thoughts after hearing this, taking notes, and thinking on it.
- I absolutely love that Andy addressed the current political culture with a message. This was not a sermon, but a pastoral message to a church on the core of an issue. The big principle that dignity is given by God and not government is really huge.
- I found myself wondering why the church doesn’t create more opportunities (perhaps outside of Sunday morning) for this kind of training. Personally, I would attend, take notes and benefit. People far from God are not stupid, and I think lots of people would welcome this type of information.
- Andy’s message was well-researched and delivered with grace and substance. He didn’t take sides at all. My guess is it required a lot of homework and
conversations. Please, please, please don’t try and do the same thing in your church without putting in the legwork.