The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church

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9780310267317: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church

The church was established to serve the world with Christ-like love, not to rule the world. It is called to look like a corporate Jesus, dying on the cross for those who crucified him, not a religious version of Caesar. It is called to manifest the kingdom of the cross in contrast to the kingdom of the sword. Whenever the church has succeeded in gaining what most American evangelicals are now trying to get – political power – it has been disastrous both for the church and the culture. Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross. The present activity of the religious right is destroying the heart and soul of the evangelical church and destroying its unique witness to the world. The church is to have a political voice, but we are to have it the way Jesus had it: by manifesting an alternative to the political, “power over,” way of doing life. We are to transform the world by being willing to suffer for others – exercising “power under,” not by getting our way in society – exercising “power over.”

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About the Author:

Gregory A. Boyd (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is a pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Previously a professor of theology at Bethel University, several of his many books include Letters from a Skeptic, Repenting of Religion, Myth of a Christian Nation, God at War, and Satan and the Problem of Evil.

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The Myth of a Christian Nation Copyright ¬© 2005 by Gregory A. Boyd Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Boyd, Gregory A. The myth of a Christian nation : how the quest for political power is destroying the church / Gregory A. Boyd. ‚ 1st ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN-13: 978-0-310-26730-0 ISBN-10: 0-310-26730-7 1. Evangelicalism ‚ United States. 2. Christianity and politics ‚ United States. 3. Conservatism ‚ Religious aspects ‚ Christianity. 4. Kingdom of God. I. Title. BR1642.U5B69 2006 322'.10973 ‚ dc22 2005030108 All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The website addresses recommended throughout this book are offered as a resource to you. These websites are not intended in any way to be or imply an endorsement on the part of Zondervan, nor do we vouch for their content for the life of this book. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means ‚ electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other ‚ except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Interior design by Beth Shagene Printed in the United States of America 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 ‚ Ę 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 C h a p t e r 1 The Kingdom of the Sword My kingdom is not from this world. John 18:36 The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Luke 22:25 ‚ 26 For the church to be a community that does not need war in order to give itself purpose and virtue puts the church at odds with nations. . . . The battle is one we fight with the gospel weapons of witness and love, not violence and coercion. Hauerwas and Will imon1 Shortly after Jesus‚ arrest, Pilate asked him, ‚ Are you the King of the Jews?‚ (John 18:33). To be a king, one must have a kingdom ‚ a king‚ s domain ‚ and Pilate wanted to know if Jesus thought the Jews were his domain. It was a straightforward question, requiring a simple yes or no. But Jesus, typically, did not give the expected response. Rather, he told Pilate that his kingdom ‚ is not from this world‚ (John 18:36). Pilate assumed Jesus‚ kingdom could be understood on the same terms as every other earthly kingdom ‚ along geographical, ethnic, nationalistic, and ideological lines. But he was mistaken. Jesus‚ kingdom is radically unlike any kingdom, government, or political ideology in the world. To appreciate Jesus‚ radically unique kingdom, we need to know about the worldly kingdoms it stands in contrast to. 18 / The Myth of a Christian Nation The ‚ Power Over‚ Kingdom Wherever a person or group exercises power over others ‚ or tries to ‚ there is a version of the kingdom of the world. While it comes in many forms, the kingdom of the world is in essence a ‚ power over‚ kingdom. In some versions ‚ such as America ‚ subjects have a say in who their rulers will be, while in others they have none. In some versions, subjects may influence how their rulers exercise power over them ‚ for example, what laws they will live by ‚ while in others they do not. There have been democratic, socialist, communist, fascist, and totalitarian versions of the kingdom of the world, but they all share this distinctive characteristic: they exercise ‚ power over‚ people. I refer to the power that the kingdom of the world wields as ‚ the power of the sword.‚ I‚ m not referring to a literal sword necessarily ‚ though that has often been true ‚ but rather, to the ability of those in power to inflict pain on those who threaten or defy their authority. The power of the sword is the ability to coerce behavior by threats and to make good on those threats when necessary: if a law is broken, you will be punished. Of course, the laws of the different versions of the kingdom of the world vary greatly, but the raised sword behind the laws gives them their power, and that keeps every version of the kingdom of the world intact. Though all versions of the kingdom of the world try to influence how their subjects think and feel, their power resides in their ability to control behavior. As effective as a raised sword is in producing conformity, it cannot bring about an internal change. A kingdom can stipulate that murder will be punished, for example, but it can‚ t change a person‚ s desire to murder. It may be that the only reason a person refrains from killing is because he or she doesn‚ t want to be imprisoned or executed. Their motives may be entirely self-serving. The kingdom of the world doesn‚ t really care, so long as the person conforms to the law. Laws, enforced by the sword, control behavior but cannot change hearts. The Kingdom of the Sword / 19 God and the Kingdom of the World The ‚ power over‚ that all versions of the kingdom of the world exercise is not altogether bad. Were the world not fallen, the threat of the sword would be unnecessary. The sword is part of our common curse, yet God uses it to keep law and order in the world. For this reason, followers of Jesus are to be obedient, as far as possible, to whatever government they find in power over them. The apostle Paul puts it this way: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted [tetagmenai] by God. . . . Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God‚ s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom. 13:1, 3 ‚ 4) The government ‚ does not bear the sword in vain,‚ therefore, for it is a divine means of keeping fallen people from wreaking havoc on each other. God‚ s intent is to use any given ‚ power over‚ government as his ‚ servant for . . . good.‚ This doesn‚ t mean that worldly governments are created by God or that governments always use their God-given authority as God intended ‚ as though Hitler and Stalin were carrying out God‚ s will! Paul rather says that God institutes, directs, or stations (tetagmenai) governments. John Howard Yoder‚ s comment is insightful: God is not said to create or . . . ordain the powers that be, but only to order them, to put them in order, sovereignly to tell them where they belong, what is their place. It is not as if there was a time when there was no government and then God made government through a new creative intervention; 20 / The Myth of a Christian Nation there has been hierarchy and authority and power since human society existed. Its exercise has involved domination, disrespect for human dignity, and real or potential violence ever since sin has existed. Nor is it that by ordering this realm God specifically, morally approves of what a government does. The sergeant does not produce the soldiers he drills; the librarian does not create nor approve of the book she or he catalogs and shelves.

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Book Description ZONDERVAN, United States, 2007. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The church was established to serve the world with Christ-like love, not to rule the world. It is called to look like a corporate Jesus, dying on the cross for those who crucified him, not a religious version of Caesar. It is called to manifest the kingdom of the cross in contrast to the kingdom of the sword. Whenever the church has succeeded in gaining what most American evangelicals are now trying to get - political power - it has been disastrous both for the church and the culture. Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross. The present activity of the religious right is destroying the heart and soul of the evangelical church and destroying its unique witness to the world. The church is to have a political voice, but we are to have it the way Jesus had it: by manifesting an alternative to the political, power over, way of doing life. We are to transform the world by being willing to suffer for others - exercising power under, not by getting our way in society - exercising power over. Bookseller Inventory # HCU9780310267317

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Book Description Softcover. Book Condition: New. The church was established to serve the world with Christ-like love, not to rule the world. It is called to look like a corporate Jesus, dying on the cross for those who crucified him, not a religious version of Caesar. It is called to manifest the kingdom of the cross in contrast to the kingdom of the sword. Whenever the church has succeeded in gaining what most American evangelicals are now trying to get Ė political power Ė it has been disastrous both for the church and the culture. Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross. The present activity of the religious right is destroying the heart and soul of the evangelical church and destroying its unique witness to the world. The church is to have a political voice, but we are to have it the way Jesus had it: by manifesting an alternative to the political, "power over," way of doing life. We are to transform the world by being willing to suffer for others Ė exercising "power under," not by getting our way in society Ė exercising "power over.". Bookseller Inventory # 5594250

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