“Christian Nation” an oxymoron?

Matt Richie’s got a great post about a book entitled “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd.

Here’s Matt’s analysis of one portion of the book which really got me thinking about follower’s of Jesus, and our relationship towards our nation’s government:

At the end of the chapter, Boyd contrasts the two kingdoms. This was very helpful to me. Here are the points he makes:

  1. Trust: The kingdom of the world trusts in the sword, but the kingdom of God trusts in the power of the cross.
  2. Aims: The kingdom of the world seeks to control behavior, while the kingdom of God seeks to transform lives from the inside out.
  3. Scope: The kingdom of the world is “tribal” (i.e, each group seeks out and defends its own interest), while the kingdom of God is “universal.” (I’m sure its an accident that he used this word, but his use of the world suggests something very important to me – even if we aren’t all universalists from an ultimate-salvation standpoint, we should all be universalists in practice – that is, we should assume that God is seeking to redeem all people and love them as such).
  4. Responses: The kingdom of the world functions under the law of retribution – if you hurt me than I’ll get you back. But the kingdom of God seeks to turn the other cheek when it is wronged.
  5. Battles: The kingdom of the world sees its enemy as any group that isn’t part of my tribe/nation/political party. The kingdom of God, however, prays for its enemies, while fighting a spiritual battle against the forces that keep this world enslaved to sin.

I am SO INTERESTED in this line of thought, concerning the differences between God’s Kingdom and the “kingdoms” that people have created.

But what I have yet to see/hear is this: how is it possible to actually live like this?

What does it look like for me (us) to live in America yet to live in this way?

Can we actually expect that our government/military should NOT retaliate if we are attacked?

If they do decide to retaliate, how do we actively show our disagreement with that action?

And at that point, does breaking a law become OK, if we’re doing it to stand against our government’s retaliation?

What about our Judicial/Prison system? If it’s not truly redeeming/reforming people who have messed up, but instead is merely “payback” for what they’ve done, then should we as Christians be fighting for the whole system to be reformed?

I just don’t know, but I REALLY want to figure this out…

Thoughts?

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4 thoughts on ““Christian Nation” an oxymoron?

  1. The answer is simple. Move to Baltimore, plant a church with a short fat guy that lives there, and it will all work out.

    These are good questions… the judicial/prison one especially… how do you work to reform a political entity, while not becoming entrenched in the politics of it all? This is what I wrestle with when I think about the school system down here. I think the true reform comes through living in community, and letting it rub off on people… everything else is like a band-aid on cancer.

    While I read what you say, I can not help but be drawn to Israel’s use of military force… and the fact that God condoned that… I also wonder about what it means to submit to your earthly authority in relation to this. Maybe it is my Air Force Academy brainwashing, but I still believe that military force can be used for good… (I still believe that what we are doing in Iraq is for the greater good)… but, like I said, that could be my USAFA brainwashing…

    I think the how gets fleshed out by throwing yourself into the mix with others that feel the same way, and doing life together while inviting others to join you…

    My problem becomes finding those people in the area in which I live… I know people that feel this way, they just don’t feel a passion for baltimore.

  2. i think it can get a little fuzzy trying to live in two “kingdoms,” both God’s kingdom and America’s “kingdom”. one thing is for sure, they are not one and the same. we do not live in a theocracy. one question i have is how far should we take our christian convictions and expect our secular government to represent them?

    for example, i believe homosexual behavior is wrong, and damaging to the community. but should i expect the govt. to criminalize the behavior? should i expect the govt. to ban gay marriage? living in a democracy, i’m going to vote what i believe, but ultimately my greater concern is for God’s kingdom, which is done on a more personal community level. as a member of God’s kingdom, it’s really my job to build relationships and try to effect the culture around me. the govt. can’t be expected to do that work for me.

    take the prisons, for instance. what sort of “redeeming” do we really expect to occur, apart from Christ? maybe the system should be reformed a bit, but i think christians should primarily be interested in visiting those in prisons, building relationships, not playing politics.

    at the same time, i’d LOVE to be able to vote for an intelligent, seasoned Christian in the coming presidential elections…

  3. i think scott’s response is pretty much in line with boyd’s teaching (i go to his church and thus hear him regularly). as for elections, boyd would probably say vote your conscience, follow what you believe the Bible says, but don’t label your viewpoint/choice the Christian viewpoint/choice.

  4. Great thoughts everyone! Thanks for weighing in…

    scott-
    “one question i have is how far should we take our christian convictions and expect our secular government to represent them?”

    That’s a GREAT question… I think we probably shouldn’t expect much at all, but does that then mean that we shouldn’t try at all to affect our government? I don’t know…

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