God, government and “the sword” – pt. 3

Here’s some more thought-provoking tidbits from Matt’s “book report” on “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd

After speaking briefly about some of the terrible things in America’s past (treatment of Native Americans, Slavery, Segregation, etc.), and about reconciling those with the commonly held view that America was created on the basis of Christian principles, he had this to say:

The problem is not just whether America is a “Christian nation,” Boyd says, but whether – since all nations depend on force to maintain power – any nation can ever be considered “Christian.” Nevertheless, he says, when we clearly and consistently separate the kingdom of God from all versions of the kingdom of the world, we can affirm the good things from American history without undertaking the impossible task of defending its entire history as “Christian.” (I find this last point to be particularly well taken.)

I thought that last line was particularly important, and I found myself re-reading it multiple times… It’s actually very FREEING to think like this, since then it allows us to accept that bad things have happened in the past, but that they are NOT things that should be ANY reflection on God, Jesus or the Bible… If America is not, and never has been, a “Christian Nation” then we longer have to feel the need to defend America’s reputation for fear that it will cause people to think less of God or Christians in general.

This last little piece I thought was particularly relevant to the discussions we’ve been having in the comments section of the first 2 posts concerning this topic (1 and 2)…

Boyd winds up the chapter by pointing out that there is a sense in which we should “take America back for God,” as well as Europe, Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, etc. The question is how should we do this? If you think the way of submission and service is impractical, or even morally irresponsible, you need to reflect on the cross itself. When Jesus was on the cross, it looked as if he were losing – as it may appear when Christians choose this path – but God raised Jesus up on the third day. Our task is to trust that such power is still at work in us.

Do we sometimes think like this?  I know that I do…  Sometimes it seems like “submission and service” is the wrong thing to do.  Sometimes it seems like force and power is the only way that something can get done, and the only way that justice can be served, etc….

But is that feeling really stemming from my lack of faith “that such power is still at work in us”?  I don’t know… it certainly could be.

When Jesus died, at the hands of the powerful establishment of His time (Rome and the Jewish leaders), I’m sure that to everyone, INCLUDING HIS FOLLOWERS, He appeared to have lost.  But we know that, in reality, what He did changed all the rules, changed EVERYTHING.  He demonstrated that God doesn’t play by the rules that make sense to mankind, He plays by a different set of rules: that our sacrifice and service to others is the only thing that can actually bring lasting change…  that the only way forward is to break the cycle of violence, to break the myth of “redemptive violence”…

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3 thoughts on “God, government and “the sword” – pt. 3

  1. there was also slavery, sexual immorality, and immaturity in the 1st century Corinthian church. does that mean we shouldn’t call them a “Christian” church? since when does the adjective “Christian” mean 100% faithfully representing Christ?

    certainly we should be discern critically which of the things in our nation’s history nation were honoring to God and which were not. but the more i read about the founding of this country, and what the founders believed, the more i am convinced that this country and government was founded on Christian and Biblical principles and ideas, to create a uniquely free nation. even such core ideas as freedom of speech and freedom of religion are Christian principles.

    i am not really sure that the phrase “christian nation” makes much sense, since the US was never a theocracy, however the US was uniquely founded on Christian principles, more so than any other country in history.

  2. Hmmm. Not sure I really agree with this one. Although I havent read the book report so maybe I am off. God chose Isreal to be his nation and wanted it to be a demonstration of his goodness and power to the rest of the world. The way they lived, the choices they made, caused this demonstration to stumble and God (Old Test) sent them into many trials to bring them to repentance. Should we, as Christian people, expect any different?

    I am not saying that we need to go around defending our history. What is there to defend? We were obviously sinful and still are. Can this be explained away? If anything, we should have an attitude of repentance about the whole thing. Sobering thought – I would guess that the “crimes” of our current times and the exportation of Western media and sinfullness to the rest of the world are much worse than anything that has come before. Maybe we should start thinking about how to ‘explain’ what is going on currently?

  3. Heather made some points I was going to make. When you look at the Bible, it is really, really hard to find a person that really represents God well. Oh, that’s right, there is only one and His name was Jesus.

    I like to think that America with all its imperfect people has done at least a few things right along the way. I think given the power we have had, especially during the 20th century, we have tried, and I do mean tried, to be reasonable in our approach to victory. We have not wiped out every man woman or child in Japan or Germany. We may have prisons full of drug users that should be in work release programs and drug programs instead, but we don’t have rooms full of people being tortured because of their political or religious views.

    The problem with America goes back to the problem with its people. As we Americans distance ourselves from the One True God and from the knowledge of our accountability to him, when leaders continue to do what is politically expedient instead of what is morally right, when we continue to care about our own desires before meeting the really needs of those around us, we will continue to be anything but a Christian Nation.

    The moral decline in America, which so many people are extraordinarily concerned about is a symptom of the spiritual problem we have, and not the problem. As such, we are spending to much time trying to legislate morality instead of encouraging people to a life transforming relationship with Jesus.

    Not sure that this post makes much sense, but as a patriotic American, it is how I am feeling.

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