The Church and the ‘Battle for America’

Friends,

This past week I posted the following essay at CRN.info. I have been thinking hard on this subject of how the church ‘fits’ into America, the church’s role in politics, etc. I’m not through thinking about this because there is more to it than this simple post. A great help on this subject has been Jacques Ellul’s chapter ‘Political Perversion’ in The Subversion of Christianity. His insights are simply profound, and, I think, on the mark. A great conversation has taken place at CRN in the comments section of the OP. I won’t copy all the comments (except a couple of my own that clarified positions I am taking in the OP), but this post is at least the catalyst for an interesting question.

__________________________

Friends,

I’m supposed to be on hiatus this week as I begin moving into our new house and all, but something at SOL caught my eye this morning and I don’t want to let it pass without a comment or two.

Before I object to something in the post, I want to state upfront that I agree with this statement, “You cannot be a Christian and support the killing of un-born babies.” I am opposed to abortion on demand and the wholesale slaughter of children (even as I am opposed to the wholesale ‘putting away’ of the elderly in nursing homes or white vans owned by Jack Kevorkian). Murder, what the Bible calls enmity in Genesis 3:15 and elsewhere, is a terribly heinous sin and is perpetuated as the seed of the serpent goes about the business of trying to annihilate the seed of the woman. I am not, please note, not disagreeing with this particular point of the OP.

Having said that, I also came across this sentence (this quote is from Dave Daubenmire’s article that the author of Slice excerpted) that sort of bugged me. I’m not posting this because I agree or disagree (although I am leaning towards disagreement) at this point, but rather to stimulate some wholesome thinking and hopefully learn something. Daubemire wrote (admittedly, there is no other context aside from what the author of Slice excerpted, but I think I am not misunderstanding what he is saying):

No wonder we are losing the battle for this nation.

Now here’s my question: Is the battle we are fighting really for ‘this nation’? Is that really the war we are engaged in right now? I have to say, with all due respect, because in this instance I am perfectly willing to learn–that is, I’m not entirely certain of my position–that this doesn’t seem to be true. (I could ask if anyone thinks RW should have been tougher on the abortion issue, but that’s another post.) You see, I think here I agree again with Ellul who wrote this: “The church lets itself be seduced, invaded, dominated by the ease with which it can now spread the Gospel by force (another force than that of God) and use its influence to make the state, too, Christian. It is great acquiescence to the temptation Jesus himself resisted, for when Satan offered to give him all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus refuses, but the church accepts, not realizing from whom it is receiving the kingdoms.” (The Subversion of Christianity, 124)

My point here is that if we are in a ‘battle for this nation’ are we not settling? I mean, is a merely Christian America the goal here? Is that why I wake up and pray every day? Is that why I preach? Is that why I sing? Is it God’s ambition that every business, every corporation, every entity in America, be Christianized? I know, I know: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done…” Yes. But if our vision doesn’t extend beyond the borders of America, are we not selling short the prayer? God’s vision is universal, cosmic, not merely local or national. When we pray, “your Kingdom Come,” does that mean, ‘Your Kingdom come in America?’ as in ’smite all the heretical enemies of America so the truly elect can get on with the business of Eden in America? Is that what Jesus had in mind?

With all due respect to Mr Daubemire, I am not fighting a battle for this nation any more than I am fighting a battle for the community where I live. Mostly I’m fighting a battle within myself (Romans 7) and often I’m losing–more often than I am winning. So my question to you is this: Are we, Christians (or for you good Reformed folks, the Elect), fighting a battle for America? Is that our particular calling at this particular moment in the history of the universe?  Ever? (On a side note, I might ask if RW is really the reason we are ‘losing the battle for America, but again, that’s another post as I don’t happen to think that what goes on at Saddleback is necessarily indicative of what goes on in most churches in America.) And do we really think that abortion is the issue in this battle? It goes back to Genesis 3:15 and the enmity. America is fond of killing in general; we invent ways of doing it; we glamorize it in films and Law and Order reruns; we are obsessed with killing. We have all sorts of reasons for murdering, but they are all murder. Abortion is a symptom and a consequence of the greater problem we have in the world, not a specifically American franchise.

What do you think? Does Ephesians 6 here play any role in this? Is there a battle for the soul of America that Christians are engaged in? (This sounds very political, and I am tres skeptical of the church being involved in politics at any level.) I’ll be interested in reading your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS-please don’t read this and assume that I am either a) pro-abortion or b) anti-America. I am neither.

PPS-shame on Daubemire for laying all this at the feet of RW! Even if we are ‘losing the battle for America,’ it is hardly just to pile that at the feet of one person, especially RW. Fact is, all of us are guilty at some level. All of us bear the shame and responsibility for the sin of this nation.

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From the comments section.

Someone wrote that Christianity should affect politics even if only residually. I wrote in response:

Christianity cannot affect politics and the laws of the land because the land is not a Christian place and because eventually the land will want to affect the Christianity (see ‘faith-based initiatives’). Rather, I think we should have nothing to do with the land [I explain this below in another response]. We live here. Besides, whose ‘Christianity’ are we going to allow to affect those laws? Shall it be the Christianity of Rod Parsley or Jim Wallis or Jerry Falwell or Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen or Doug Pagitt or Brian McClaren or Jerry Hillyer or Rick Frueh or Ken Silva or Richard Abanes or Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort? And how shall it (Christianity) affect it?

You see the problem? Even in a merely residual way is problematic. I would argue that Christianity (at least one strand of it) has residually (in fact profoundly!) affected our policies towards the Middle East and Israel. I think those policies are horrifying and have yielded horrifying consequences because they are, in effect, based on very, very, very bad pre-millenial, rapture theology. Our blind allegiance to Israel to the detriment of others living there is beyond absurd. And I’m telling you it is based on bad theology. This is exactly what I am talking about in the OP. We (the Redeemed, the Elect) are not building a kingdom of America nor are we fighting a battle for America. And while I don’t think laws should exist to punish Christians or subjugate them (or minorities or others), neither do I think laws should exist which protect us as a special class of people (nor do I think laws should exist to protect any ’special’ class of people, such as women, Muslims, homosexuals, minorities, whites, etc.) Laws ought to be for basic human dignity and freedom–human, I say, because our (the Redeemed, the Elect) freedom is found only, truly in Christ and exists quite apart from the laws that govern the land.

Another person thinks that Christianity has too much of a role in politics. I agreed and wrote:

Frankly, I think politicians spend entirely too much time, money, and energy courting the Christian vote. We would be outraged, as Christians, if they spent as much money courting the atheist vote, or the Muslim vote, or the homosexual vote. It’s almost as if these politicians are running for the high office of the church and not of the land. I wish they would concentrate on running for president and stop with all this fake ‘we care about our Christian values’ crap. Every last one of them is fake beyond imagination. They don’t care about Christ or the church. They care about getting elected.

Finally, concerning whether or not Christians ought to vote, I wrote:

I was thinking about this very thing after I posted my initial response. I mean, if what I have said is true, then perhaps Christians should not vote. But after reading your reply, I thought about it this way: We do not vote because we are Christians specifically or necessarily. We vote because a) it is a civic duty (and Christians are to obey the law except in cases where it places God in a less godlike position) b) we are Americans and can (because people have secured that right for us) and c) we are humans (and we still have to live here like it or not).

We should vote, and I suspect that some people are vocationally called to political positions (i.e. Daniel, Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah; Nehemiah; and Esther and Joseph among others). But my point is this: Even the positions they take and policies they affirm must be beneficial to humanity generally and not to Christians specifically. Does that make sense my position? (We might argue that Nehemiah used his position to move Artaxerxes, but methinks a strong argument can be made that his was a unique position and his petition a unique petition.)

My point in this last quote is rather simple. I do believe that God protects, what some call, ‘the seed of the woman’. But what I mean by that is this: He will not leave himself without a witness, and, furthermore, the enemy will never successfully destroy God’s people. However, on the other hand, the Scripture also says that God sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. This means, I think, that God has arranged this earth and its ways so that rain benefits all humans and not a select group of humans specifically.

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to comment on any point.

jerry

Republished courtesy of CRN.info and Analysis

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