So I just finished reading The Myth of a Christian Nation by Gregory Boyd, and absolutely loved it. It was a lot like Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President, (probably because both authors draw heavily from Yoder’s classic, The Politics of Jesus), and it served as such a refreshing reminder of the importance of keeping the kingdom of God holy, set-apart, and distinct from the kingdoms of this world. I think it should be required reading for all Christian college students.
Central to Boyd’s thesis is the contrast between the “power-over” approach of worldly kingdoms and the “power-under” (servant-like) approach of Jesus Christ and his followers. It’s a contrast between the power of the sword and the power of Calvary-like love, a contrast between laws that force change and actions that inspire change, a contrast between a civil religion that is little more than a Christianized version of American culture and a radically different way of living.
Writes Boyd, “this is not a simple contrast between good and evil, for, as we’ve seen, God gives the governments of the kingdoms of the world power to carry out the service of keeping law and order in a fallen world…The contrast is rather between two fundamentally different ways of doing life, two fundamentally different mindsets and belief systems, two fundamentally different loyalties.”
Boyd does a great job of debunking common assumptions about America being a “Christian” nation, having a “Christian” history, and holding “Christian values.” And of course he makes the case that no political party or candidate could ever embody the radical teachings of Jesus. He even criticizes former President Bush’s rhetoric about “ridding the world of evildoers” by force…a message that is completely contrary to the way of Jesus.
At the time that Boyd first presented these ideas (during the 2004 presidential election), there was a significant backlash from conservative evangelicals. Twenty percent of Boyd’s congregation left his church.
But I’m starting to think that things are changing…particularly among young evangelicals.
For example, Zondervan lists Jesus for President as one of its best-selling books (just below The Purpose Driven Life and the Boundaries series.) That’s a good sign. Also, polls seem to indicate that young evangelicals are slowly but surely moving away from the Republican Party and are more often listing themselves as either “independent” or “unaffiliated.” Anecdotally, I know of many young adults who have expressed disenchantment with the politicization of Christianity and who recognize the importance of maintaining a separation between church and state.
I think the tide is turning. I think our loyalties are shifting.
It really inspires me to think that maybe my generation will be the one to sever the marriage between evangelicalism and politics, end the culture wars, and redirect our efforts toward feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, advocating for the helpless, pursuing racial reconciliation, supporting single moms, rejecting the seductive pull of power and violence, and earning a repuation as peacemakers.
It’s a bit strange to be this optimistic while living in a small Southern town, where religious nationalism goes unquestioned in nearly every church on Sunday morning. But I have a feeling that if my generation can learn to make this one, vital distinction—the distinction between the power-hungry kingdoms of the world and the humble, grassroots kingdom of God—we will finally get a taste of what it really means to live counter-culturally in all the right ways.
What do you think? Are young evangelicals rejecting the “myth of a Christian nation”? Are we going to do a better job than our parents at keeping our faith unpolluted by politics and power?
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