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.