Sunday, August 26, 2007

Evangelical Meditates on Nationalistic Blasphemy

By Morning's Minion, at VoxNova

Greg Boyd is a pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Something that happened in 1992 changed his life. Visiting a July fourth "worship service" in one of the huge evangelical megachurches, he saw something that shocked and appalled him to the core. He watched a video featuring a high ranking member of the military talk about how God is on America's side, and how that was evident during the (first) Gulf war. The video ended with three crosses on a hill with an American flag in the background. Patriotic music played. All of a sudden, four fighter jets thundered over the crosses, and split apart. The crowd loved it. Greg Boyd did not. In his words:

"How could the cross and the sword have been so thoroughly fused without anyone seeming to notice? How could Jesus' self-sacrificial death be linked with flying killing machines? How could the kingdom of God be reduced to this sort of violent, nationalistic tribalism?...

The evangelical church in America has, to a large extent, become intoxicated with the Constantinian, nationalistic, violent mindset of imperialistic Christendom. ... Among other things this nationalistic myth blinds us to the way in which our most basic and cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples. Instead of living out the radically countercultural mandate of the kingdom of God, this myth has inclined us to Christianize many pagan aspects of our culture. Instead of providing the culture with a radically alternative way of life, we largely present it with a religious version of what it already is. The myth clouds our vision of God's distinctively beautiful kingdom and undermines our motivation to live as set-apart (holy) disciples of this kingdom.

The myth harms the church's primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, antigay news, or Republican news. And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it."

Reading the writings of some prominent American Catholics over the past few years, staking out nationalist positions on war that diverged markedly from what the Church was teaching, makes me wonder if this is not just an evangelical issue.

It reminds me of Adolf von Harnack, the leading German Protestant theologian of his day, who also thought that God was on the side of the Kaiser in 1914...

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