Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive
"America is a Christian nation."
"All men are created equal."
"We are the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Except when we're not.
These commonly held ideas break down in the light of hard realities, the study of Scripture, and faithful Christian witness. The president is not the Messiah, the Constitution is not the Bible, and the United States is not a city on a hill or the hope for the world. The proclaimed hope of America rings most hollow for Native peoples, people of color, the rural poor, and other communities pressed to the margins.
Jonathan Walton exposes the cultural myths and misconceptions about America's identity. Focusing on its manipulation of Scripture and the person of Jesus, he redirects us to the true promises found in the gospel. Walton identifies how American ideology and way of life has become a false religion, and shows that orienting our lives around American nationalism is idolatry. Our cultural notions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at odds with the call to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
Ultimately, our place in America is distinct from our place in the family of Jesus. Discover how the kingdom of God offers true freedom and justice for all.
"In this prophetically pugilistic book, Jonathan Walton has put into words so much of what troubles me about American Christianity. Like the best and most dangerous of interlocutors, Walton says things I'm not sure I agree with, breaks taboos I've been reluctant to break, and makes me think deeply enough to get uncomfortable. I recommend the discomfort of this book to every American seeking to take Jesus seriously today."
"In a society in which Christianity and American culture have become intertwined in deeply unbiblical ways, this book is a breath of fresh air. It not only offers a challenging cultural critique but it also offers a constructive vision for how the kingdom of God might look in the American context. I strongly recommend this insightful and timely book."
"I grew up in a Chinese American church that espoused biblical inerrancy, but still I was indoctrinated by white American folk religion and its syncretistic beliefs. Jonathan Walton, like a prophet in the wilderness, speaks God's truth to power and unmasks the idolatrous ways of American Christianity. May we listen, repent, and follow anew Jesus' radical call to pick up our crosses and follow him."
"What I love and respect about Jonathan is that he is not content to name the lies. Any journalist or pundit could do that. Any self-appointed 'prophet' does that. Jonathan does more. He points past the lies to Jesus—he who is the Truth and the source of truths that can set us all free."
"There's no denying that God is upsetting the American expression of Christianity in our time. Jonathan is masterful at jarring us and leading us all the same. It seems that the greatest obstacle to our nation experiencing the kind of peace we've longed for is continuing to believe that everything is okay. We need to cry—deeply and sincerely in order to begin to find the healing and freedom this nation needs. We need sharp and prophetic voices that are prepared to smash us to pieces for our own good. We need to be brought out of the deception of our own darkness and into the marvelous light of God's truth. I'd encourage anyone serious about their spiritual journey to take heed to Jonathan's words."
"Wounds don't heal if they are infected. In Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive, Jonathan Walton uncovers the idolatrous assumptions and infected lies that get in the way of America and Americans pursuing real change, healing, and shalom. Whatever your ethnic background, this smart, honest, and challenging work will make you examine your own heart and help you sort out the difference between the life-giving gospel of Scripture and the presuppositions of the American dream. If knowing the truth can set us free, there's freedom from idolatry and blindness that's offered in these pages."
"One part history, one part wake-up call, and all parts pastoral, Walton takes us on a transformative journey. Walton applies God's scriptural truth to the artifacts, sayings, and concepts that have formed the American imagination. With helpful historical context, he shows us how we got to where we are—and reveals the lies that we accidentally believe. With a unique combination of prophetic and pastoral, Walton gives practical and helpful tools to extract these lies and replace them with Jesus' truths and promises."
"Jonathan has a way with words. Better yet, he has a way with truth—understanding God's multifaceted truth and the truth of our history as a nation. Backed with these truths, a wide swath of compelling experiences, and a thorough belief in grace, Twelve Lies That Hold America Captive builds a compelling case about our dangerous idolatry that cannot be ignored. Whether you lean politically left or right, be prepared to be called out and brought to the transformative call of Jesus."
"Jonathan Walton has a great gift of speaking the truth in love. In an age when striking this balance is rarely held, he offers us a way forward that doesn't dismiss difficult truths about the United States of America, nor does he simply diagnose the problem without offering us a way forward. To bear witness to Jesus and his kingdom requires us to live in truth without sentimentalizing love. We cannot witness to the kingdom of God and be held captive to lies. Jonathan offers a compelling vision of what we can become, but only if we choose to see and reject the lies we've held."
Foreword by Greg Jao
Introduction: The Lies That Bind
Lie 1: We Are a Christian Nation
Lie 2: We All Are Immigrants
Lie 3: We Are a Melting Pot
Lie 4: All Men Are Created Equal
Lie 5: We Are a Great Democracy
Lie 6: The American Dream Is Alive and Well
Lie 7: We Are the Most Prosperous Nation in the World
Lie 8: We Are the Most Generous People in the World
Lie 9: America Is the Land of the Free
Lie 10: America Is the Home of the Brave
Lie 11: America Is the Greatest Country on Earth
Lie 12: We Are One Nation
Conclusion: Leaving Our Nets to Follow Jesus
Appendix 1: “Where I’m From” Poem Exercise
Appendix 2: Ethnic Identity Interview
Appendix 3: Lament, Confess, Repent, Reconcile