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The Myth of a Christian Nation

2007 May 31
by Mike

Thanks so much for the spirited “audience participation” yesterday. I was coaching last night and haven’t yet had a chance to get all the way through the comments. But something good has to happen as we listen to each other.

I’d like to recommend as a follow-up to the discussion Greg Boyd’s The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church.

Here are a few words where he explains his position:

“My thesis . . . is this: I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. To a frightful degree, I think, evangelicals fuse the kingdom of God with a preferred version of the kingdom of the world (whether it’s our national interests, a particular form of government, a particular political program, or so on). Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus — who, incidentally, never allowed himself to get pulled into the political disputes of his day — I believe many of us American evangelicals have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues.

“For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, ‘taking America back for God,’ voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

“I will argue that this perspective is misguided, that fusing together the kingdom of God with this or any other version of the kingdom of the world is idolatrous and that this fusion is having serious negative consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.

“I do not argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. While people whose faith has been politicized may well interpret me along such lines, I assure you that this is not what I’m saying. The issue is far more fundamental than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I hope to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God.”

I’d still like to also recommend Balmer’s book.

106 Responses leave one →
  1. June 10, 2007

    Well Nancy, I suppose we are afraid of different people (if afraid is the correct word). I never considered Jerry Falwell a big threat. I tend more to believe the aggressive secularists are more cause for concern than those “Christians” to whom you refer. If faced with the choice, who would you have preferred raise your kids: Jerry Falwell or Rosie O’Donnell? Call me crazy, but I would have picked Jerry.

    Regarding your use of the beatitude here; far be it from me to disagree with Jesus. I’m not sure why you believe using the words of Jesus is not fair, but you can take that up with Him.

    Yes, those who are persecuted are blessed according to Jesus. Are you saying that because this is true, we should actively bring persecution about in the form of government persecution or that we should simply be apathetic about it? I do not believe that is any more true than the idea that we should actively seek and bring about situations to cause mourning because Jesus said those who mourn will be comforted.

    Regarding persecution, I do not know that it will come to the extent I fear, but take a look at the culture around you. I suppose part of whether that comes about will depend upon how Christians react. There is a slowly increasing hostility towards Christianity. You can see it in the sitcoms, movies, public debate, and academia. No, in the words of Jesus, we should not fear. I’m not entirely sure that means we should also be apathetic and seem to get a little miffed at those who are not apathetic. I suppose that is the crux of the debate between those who argue we should be salt and light in the culture and those who believe we should focus on matters of the kingdom and be totally separate from the world.

  2. edgar permalink
    June 10, 2007

    Jim Shelton said: “If faced with the choice, who would you have preferred raise your kids: Jerry Falwell or Rosie O’Donnell?”

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. D.W. permalink
    June 11, 2007

    Jim – You’re right that there is certainly a growing hostility towards Christianity and a dangerous trend towards marginalizing Christians, but I tend to believe that this hostility is in direct backlash to the ignorant, intolerant and hateful attitudes of people just like Jerry Falwell. Non-Christians have a perception of Christians that is unfortunately skewed by high-profile Christian leaders who have inserted themselves into a political realm. It’s no surprise that many people in America grow angry when they witness a growing and vocal group of very political Christians who hold beliefs that claim that 9-11 was the fault of gays, abortionists and feminists and that AIDS is God’s punishment for a society that tolerates homosexuality. To many Americans, Christians seem like yet another hate-group. I don’t really blame them for being hostile towards us when the most visible example of Christianity that they have is the intolerant voice of Christianity that shows up in the political realm. And to answer your question, I’d have to go with Rosy. At least the child would learn to love other people rather than condemn them.

  4. June 17, 2007

    At the same time, because of the fact that in America WE are the kings, Ceasers and Pharohs. God said that leaders will be held at a higher standard. Therefore, we are the leaders. While I don’t believe we should legislate Christianity from a leadership position in government, at the same time, we should not give a platform or power to things that are OUTRIGHT wrong such as abortion, homosexuality and descrimination against Christians (or anyone).

    Christian Americans are in a position of leadership because of the way our government is set up. Therefore, we are responsible for the decisions made by leadership if we voted for them. So a vote for a Democrat for example is a vote for what they stand for (abortion, higher taxes, the homosexual marriage and agenda, etc.). My point is simply that just because we are not to try to make the government actively promote Christianity, that doesn’t mean we lose our own morals and support things that are simply evil.

  5. June 26, 2007

    How has the phrase “we are a christian Nation” affected America’s relations with people in two areas of the world?
    Please let me know.

  6. Dean permalink
    September 10, 2008

    I am a quarter through this book and delighted by many aspects of it. I am not a ‘christian,’ have no interest in being a christian, and not interested in very many things I see ‘christians’ do. This reaction is largely due to the hijacking of religion I perceive the Political Right has accomplished.

    I am infinitely more interested in what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I see “pro-life” as loving babies and old people, and not those who are killed by bombs we drop on them. All of the innocent lives lost and the only innocent lives ‘christians’ seem to care about are unborn babies and old people. You develop a Pro-Life platform that includes all life as sacred and YOU CAN SIGN ME UP!

    Just one aspect of Politicized Religion that has turned me far from any interest in participating in the Religion that has been COMPLETELY Politicized.

    Any thoughts? Feel free to email me at LDEANW@aol.com

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