As regular readers of VanguardChurch know, one of my pet peeves is the evangelical perpetuation of the myth that USAmerica is a Christian nation. I’ve cited the best evangelicals historians, Mark Noll, Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, who have unequivocally stated that historically speaking, this nation was not founded by Christians nor was it founded as a Christian nation (see The Myth We've Been Told About the Faith of Our Founding Fathers, in which I offer some very insightful excerpts from their book, The Search for Christian America). I’ve applauded the recent book by Newsweek’s Jon Meachum (American Gospel) that also squarely looks at the historical beginnings of our country and in which Meachum says that the best way for healing in our current cultural battles lies “in recovering the true sense and spirit of the Founding era and its leaders” (see The Supposed Faith of our Founding Fathers and Tolerance in the Age of Ann Coulter).
Now Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in suburban St. Paul, Minn. has written a provocative book on the subject, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church (Zondervan, 2006). Greg Boyd is already seen as a maverick by many evangelical Christians for his advocacy of “Open Theism.” Now he is ruffling feathers by saying,
"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…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…Fusing together the kingdom of God with…the kingdom of the world is idolatrous…This fusion is having serious consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom." (p. 11)
When he originally preached on this subject at his church in April and May of 2004, about 1,000 people left his church (you can download podcasts of the series here). This is certainly an issue we evangelicals had better be discussing if it is causing this much division in our fellowship.
In my review and critique of Boyd’s book, I will be interested in his definition of “the kingdom of God” and how our being in this kingdom relates to our political involvement in any way.
Here’s how Boyd broaches the subject in the introduction:
“Two Contrasting Kingdoms
The kingdom Jesus came to establish is ‘not from this world’ (John 18:36), for it operates differently than the governments of the world do. While all the versions of the kingdom of the world acquire and exercise power over others, the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advances only by exercising power under others. It expands by manifesting the power of self-sacrificial, Calvary-like love.” (p. 14)
- Is Boyd going to super-spiritualize and Platonize the Kingdom of God so that it does not have enough impact on our physical existence?
- Is he going to advocate a separation of "Christian vocation" (in church-related functions) from "secular vocation" (in things like the government)?
- Is he going to so demonize human government that he will see no goodness in it at all, and thus imply that Christians cannot be involved in the political process?
We will see.
Posts in this series:
Chapters 4 & 5
Reflection: Boyd and Colossians 1
Chapters 6 - 8
technorati: politics, social action, emerging church