Friday, January 04, 2008

The Myth of a Christian Nation, Part 2

Today, we will be looking at the rest of the intro of The Myth of a Christian Nation, and sharing Boyd's introductory thoughts.

As we begin to look at what Greg calls the foundational myth, I'm not sure that I can summarize it any better or shorter than Greg does. Here is what he says:

From the start, we have tended to believe that God's will was manifested in the conquest and founding of our country--and that it is still manifested in our actions around the globe. Throughout our history, most Americans have assumed our nation's causes and wars were righteous and just, and that "God is on our side." In our minds--as so often in our sanctuaries--the cross and the American flag stand side by side. Our allegiance to God tends to go hand in hand with our allegiance to country. Consequently, many Christians who take their faith seriously see themselves as the religious guardians of a Christian homeland. America, they believe, is a holy city "set on a hill," and the church's job is to keep it shining.
pg 12

And also:

The myth of America as a Christian nation, with the church as its guardian, has been, and continues to be, damaging both to the church and to the advancement of God's kingdom. Among other things, this nationalistic myth blinds us to the way in which our most basic and cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples. Instead of living out the radically counter cultural mandate of the kingdom of God, this myth has inclined us to Christianize many pagan aspects of our culture. Instead of providing the culture with a radically alternative way of life, we largely present it with a religious version of what it already is. The myth clouds our vision of God's distinctly beautiful kingdom and thereby undermines our motivation to live as set-apart (holy) disciples of this kingdom.
pg 13

Another result of this myth of America as a Christian nation, is that it has led many to associate Christ with America. The result, then, is that many people hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus "only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, andtigay news, or Republican news. And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it." (pp 13-14)

He then briefly shares his primary contrast that he will continually use throughout the book: that is that the kingdom that Jesus came to establish, that Jesus said is "not of this world", is diametrically opposed to the kingdom of the world (i.e. the governments of the world). It operates differently. While all versions of the kingdom of the world seek to gain power and then exercise "power over" others, the kingdom of God advances only by exercising "power under" others. It is self-sacrificial, loving, humble, and serving. Boyd would argue that everything the church is about hangs on preserving this "radical uniqueness" that the kingdom Jesus came to establish in contrast to the kingdoms of the world.

This last paragraph was important, because it is here that he introduces us to some of his terms that he will be using throughout the book. I'm offering his basic argument before I get into the meat to give you time to mull it over before he starts to defend it. Does he have a point?

Lastly, Greg offers three preliminary words before we get into the main argument.

1. First, he says, his thesis applies as much to the political left as the political right, though he admits that since the dominant political position of Evangelicals is right wing/conservative, his focus tends to be there, and it warrants more attention.

2. Second, to keep these two kingdoms radically distinct does not mean that a person is to keep their faith and moral convictions from affecting their involvement in the political process (this has been perhaps one of the most common misconceptions of the book). What does need to be kept separate, however, is the core faith and values, on the one hand, and the particular way in which these values politically express themselves on the other. "[K]ingdom people who share the same core faith and values can and often do disagree about how their faith and values should inform their involvement in the kingdom of the world." (pg 15)

3. Lastly, the purpose of the book is not to resolve all of the ambiguities between the two kingdoms, but to paint a clear picture of the kingdom that Jesus modeled.

We will dive into chapter one, the beginning of the core argument next time.

As we prepare, what questions are coming to your mind? What issues do you hope Greg addresses before it is all done?

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