Monday, January 21, 2008

The Myth of a Christian Nation, Part 5

Okay, let's review:

The kingdom of the World (1) uses "power over" to accomplish its plans, (2)can change behavior, but not motives, (3) is always tit-for-tat, "us" vs "them", and (4) always has at least some influence from Satan.

The Kingdom of God (1) uses "power under" and never "power over" to accomplish its plans, (2) is concerned with changing the heart and motives, rather than just the behavior, and (3) always looks like Jesus on Calvary.

In chapter 3, Boyd takes another step toward separating these two kingdoms.

When the kingdom is manifested, it's rather obvious. It doesn't look like a church building. It doesn't necessarily look like a group of religious people professing certain things--including professing that they are Christian. It doesn't necessarily look like a gathering of people advocating the right political or ethical causes. It doesn't look like a group who are--or who at least believe themselves to be--morally superior to others, telling them how they should live. It doesn't look like a group using swords, however righteous they believe their sword-wielding to be. It rather looks like people individually and collectively mimicking God. It looks like Calvary. It looks Christian, whether it identifies itself as such or not. When people are "coming under" others to love and serve them, without regard to how much or how little those others deserve it, and without regard for their own interests and reputation, the kingdom of God has come.
pg 52

Furthermore, no kingdom of the world (i.e government, regime, ruling power etc.) can ever be the kingdom of God. They are diametrically opposed. However good the kingdom of the world may be, it cannot protect its self interests while loving its enemies, turning the other cheek and blessing those who persecute it. "By definition, therefore, you can no more have a Christian worldly government than you can have a Christian petunia or aardvark. A nation may have noble ideals and be committed to just principles, but its not for this reason Christian" (pg 54). And also, "The kingdom of God is not an ideal version of the kingdom of the world; it's not something that any version of the kingdom of the world can aspire toward or be measured against. The kingdom of God is a completely distinct, alternative way of doing life" (pg 55). ( We will look more into the notion of America as being a Christian nation, and particularly at the founders in the future).

Following from this, Boyd reasons that those who participate in the kingdom of God should always have a healthy suspicion toward every version of the kingdom of the world, lest we place undue trust in any political ideology or program. The worldly kingdoms do not ultimately hold the answers to the world's problems. In fact, Boyd would say that the fundamental problem in the world is "that fallen people trust "power over" rather than "power under," coercion rather than love."

To give a few examples, Boyd pulls from the political hotbed that was first century Palestine. Jesus' contemporaries were always trying to get him to weigh in on the political matters of his day, but Jesus always sidesteped the questions and took the issue deeper, to a kingdom of God reality rather than a kingdom of the world reality (examples Boyd talks about are the "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" passage in Matthew 22 and the man who wanted Jesus to oversee the dividing of inheritance in Luke 12). In addition, perhaps the most noteworthy political issue that went on in the company of Jesus was the fact that Jesus chose as disciples a tax collector and a zealot, and ultra-conservative and an ultra-liberal, so much so that we don't have categories today that properly illustrate that difference. Yet, Jesus chooses them to run in the same group, to be a part of the same posse, to be co-leaders in the movement he was starting, and we never read a word in the gospels of political discussions between these two or, more notably, of Jesus taking a side. Perhaps this suggests that holding a particular political view does not go hand in hand with following Jesus. Yet, in some Christian circles today, that is essentially what as happened. As Boyd says, "[I]n some circles, whether conservative or liberal, taking particular public stands on social, ethical, and political issues, and siding with particular political or social ideologies, is the litmus test of one's orthodoxy" (pp63-4).

The results are tragic. As Boyd says, "Perhaps this explains why many evangelicals spend more time fighting against certain sinners in the political arena than they do sacrificing for those sinners."

Chapter 4 for next time.

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