In chapters 4 and 5 of his new book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, Boyd looks at the history of Christianity’s involvement in politics and responds that when the church gets too involved in power politics, it damages both the church and politics. He not only points to Constantine’s Holy Roman Empire and the Crusades, but every time in history when the church saw itself as “The Church Militant and Triumphant.” The Reformers were just as guilty of this, martyring what they called “heretics” through a warped sense of fulfilling God’s call of the Kingdom.
America, in its founding, was often seen as the New Israel, a “promised land” for European Christians. But this thinking allowed them to conquer native Americans through bloodshed in the “name of Christ.” This history of oppression of peoples continued when Christians reasoned that the enslavement of Africans was a means of establishing this new land for Jesus.
“This tragic history has to be considered one of Satan’s greatest victories, and the demonic ironies abound. In the name of the one who taught us not to lord it over others but rather serve them (Matt. 20:25-28), the church often lorded it over others with a vengeance as ruthless as any version of the kingdom of the world ever has. In the name of the one who taught us to turn the other cheek, the church often cut off people’s heads. In the name of the one who taught us to love our enemies, the church often burned its enemies alive. In the name of the one who taught us to bless those who persecute us, the church often became a ruthless persecutor. In the name of the one who taught us to take up the cross, the church often took up the sword and nailed others to the cross. Hence, in the name of winning the world for Jesus Christ, the church often became the main obstacle to believing in Jesus Christ."
So it is also true for those who say they want to “take America back for God.” There is a myth in evangelical circles that this nation was once a nation founded for Christ by those who followed Christ for the purpose of being a beacon of light of Christian righteousness.
To this, Boyd asks some disconcerting questions:
“Were these God-glorifying years before, during, or after Europeans ‘discovered’ Ameica and carried out the doctrine of ‘manifest destiny’—the belief that God (or, for some, nature) had destined white Christians to conquer the native inhabitants and steal their land? Were the God-glorifying years the ones in which the whites massacred these natives by the millions, broke just about every covenant they ever made with them, and then forced survivors onto isolated reservations? Was the golden age before, during, or after white Christians loaded five to six million Africans on cargo ships to bring them to their newfound country, enslaving the three million or so who actually survived the brutal trip? Was it during the two centuries when Americans acquired remarkable wealth by the sweat and blood of their slaves? Was this the time when we were truly ‘one nation under God,’ the blessed time that so many evangelicals seem to want to take our nation back to?"
Whether or not you agree with Boyd’s view of the Kingdom of God, we must affirm his contention that the Great Commission is never fulfilled through political means. When church leaders forget this and proclaim that they want to take America back for God, they are severely misled by the Devil.
Posts in this series:
Chapters 4 & 5
Reflection: Boyd and Colossians 1
Chapters 6 - 8
technorati: politics, social action, emerging church