I have long been a student of culture. I believe it is part of the discipline necessary to write songs that are truthful. If the work of a songwriter is to look at the world and describe it, then one must assuredly become a master of the art of observation. And, so it is with how I have come to see the current point in history related to Christians, politics and the stewardship of the muscles we have, specifically designed for acting out generosity toward others.

Because the majority of reporting around the overall giving to charities and causes has been trending in extremely positive ways, you may not have recognized the gloomy trend showing that conservative Christians are, en masse, turning away from supporting foreign assistance programs that serve the poor, the hungry, the thirsty and the sick living outside of the United States. Many conservative Christians have taken the position that we have a fundamental duty to take care of “our own,” before we go spending resources on people that are “not our own.” I get at least a few comments like, “What about Flint, Mich.?” or “We have problems here in the U.S. you know,” on social media every time I post about helping Africa end the water crisis. It seems as though we have lost a thirst for thinking beyond the human construct of national borders. And, for the moment, the answer to poverty, disease and crisis in the developing world is a resounding, “too bad, you are not our own.”

The establishment of criteria for falling in the “not our own” category, especially for Christians who are taught to operate out of a motivation more transcendently Kingdom than nation focused, requires a significant amount of self imposed blindfolding. And that blindfolding is happening at an alarming rate. So, I thought I would take a moment to explore this.

If we are going to adopt an “America First” approach to serving others, must we first believe that some people are worth more than others? And must we also believe that, conversely to what Jesus spoke about human beings, our value hinges upon things external in nature? More specifically, does the America First movement foundationally rely on a belief that the place where a person holds citizenship is what gives a person his or her value?

There are many different threads to a blindfold that would allow Christians to embrace a nationalistic perspective over a transcendent Kingdom perspective. It isn’t difficult to follow those threads back to the knot where they began weaving themselves together. Perhaps we can take a look at some of the motivations and see if there is something left of a greater moral imagination to cut through the red, white and blue fabric of this blindfold. We do, after all, confess to serving a God who walks through walls. Can our God dismantle the obstacle of a border wall?

We’ll continue this discussion in next month’s column.

Dan Haseltine

This article originally appeared at https://www.ccmmagazine.com/opinion/dischord-music-meets-discourse-2-america-first-part-1/