The Tools of God

A recent New York Times article tells the story of the Woodland Hills Church in Minnesota and its pastor, Gregory A. Boyd. After intense pressure from conservative Republicans in his congregation to endorse right wing issues from the pulpit, Boyd chose a path that he felt was more faithful to the message of Jesus:

“Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation”and stop glorifying American military campaigns.”

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached.”When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

This resulted in the loss of 1,000 people from his congregation.

Before this article was sent my way, I had already planned on writing a little about the unrealistic and undesirable idea of a politically Christian nation. This story adds some helpful context and some reasons why Christianity cannot be claimed by the political right or left.

My own little study lately has been history. The latest in the line of history books on my coffee table was To Rule the Waves, How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World. The British nation was not only Christianin the 1600 and 1700’s, it was militantly so, with Catholics and Protestants taking turns killing or persecuting one another depending on who was in power. Similar religious violence was the norm for Spain, Germany, and other European nations that were filled with Christians in the 1500-1700’s.

So we must first get the notion out of our heads that filling the halls of government with supposed Christians will really help our nation or any other nation at our mercy. While we need Christian politicians just as we need Christians in any other reputable profession, government infiltration with Christians should not be anyone’s agenda. Our agenda is bringing Christ to the hearts of people and infecting our government through people, not power.

Other important point I’ve picked up from my latest book is that every nation with Christians in it, and every other prosperous nation with any kind of deity or religion thinks of itself as elect, a chosen people before God. These powerhouse nations think of themselves as the tools of God to accomplish his purposes and consequently they must be righteous and good. The Bristish considered their navy as the tool of God to bring peace, British order, and Christianity to the world. They considered themselves to be chosen and blessed in the same way that Americans think of themselves today.

Unfortunately only one nation was officially chosen by God: Israel. What happened to Israel by the way . . . 400 years of enslavement, endless military campaigns, a few good years with autonomous rule and peace, a lot more war, and exile. Israel was used throughout the stories of the Old Testament was God’s instrument and tool, but God is fully capable of smashing his tool when it turns away from him and fails to live in righteousness.

What should Christians hope for and work towards? The coming of God and his peace. It is a peace that no nation can bring, no matter how powerful or blessed.

2 thoughts on “The Tools of God

  1. Andy Smith

    I read the same article and while I agree with some of your views about Christians not acting like Christians in government and the dangers of being too much in the "City of Man" as Augustine would say I reach a different conclusion about this pastor.
    I am sure he did what he believed was best for his church and that most people would agree that God did not write the Republican Party platform. Having said that I think that events since the 60s have made it hard on Christians who are politically moderate or liberal to feel as home in the Democratic Party as they did in the days of FDR and JFK. The Democratic Party has to a great degree lost both of its socially conservative wings: urban Catholics and rural Evangelicals. That has left it in the hands of secular elites (like those who educated this pastor at his two Ivy League schools). The agenda that the secular "New Left" has pushed since the 60s: radical seperation of church and state, the sexual revolution, abortion, homosexual marraige, using the First Amendment as an excuse for coarsening the culture has driven many Christians who take the Bible seriously into the only party that seemed to reflect their values: the GOP.
    There are many other reasons for this religious exodus from the Democrats but I think the "social issues" are the most important. I believe you can be liberal on economic and defense and foreign policy issues and find a great deal of Biblical support. But just as this pastor fears that Republican Christians are too much "of the world" in supporting a "right wing agenda" many on the religious left seem to be blind to the secular principles that animate the leaders and interest groups of the Democratic Party.
    One problem with our two party system is that when there is a great divide in society (slavery, rich v. poor, urban v. rural, secular v. religious) the parties eventually take opposite positions. Before the 60s there was a moderate/conservative moral consensus in this country which both parties shared. They tended to divide on economic and foreign policy issues. Since that turbulent decade there has been a realignment based on social/religious values. You can see this in voting patterns, poor rural counties voting Republican while the Philadelphia suburbs vote for Clinton, Gore and Kerry.
    I sympathize with people who are liberal politically but Christian believers. They have a hard choice to make on election day. Voting either way seems to betray some of their beliefs, I face the same problem from the other side, having to hold my nose and vote for a moderate Republican because the Democrat is even worse (from my perspective) on social issues. On some economic issues I side with the Dems but I have never faced an electoral choice that allowed me to express that view.
    I would hope this pastor comes to understand the reason why many Christians have become so avid for the GOP: they believe it is the only party that shares their values. If those on the religious left want fellow Christians to feel at home as Democrats they need to put some religion back into the political left.

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