Sunday, December 6, 2009

Are we a Christian Nation?

For quite some time now I have wondered what all the hating is about in the political discourse.

Why was George Bush hated so much when he was in office. Yeah, he had some folksy ways of expressing himself and he could not pronounce the word nuclear correctly. And for this he was ridiculed even though he is undeniably a very intelligent man. To this day those who hate him say he lied about weapons of mass destruction to get us into a war. The problem is that many other world leaders including President Clinton and foreign heads of state also were convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and that Iraq had already used some of them on their own people. Those who hated Mr. Bush kept right on hating. Facts were not influential in the discourse.

President Obama is equally hated. There are those who are actively rooting for his failure and our subsequent failure as a nation because they hate what he stands for. It's as if new ideas only have merit if the right person comes up with the idea. When the wrong guy comes up with an idea it is dismissed immediately as dangerous for our country. Who knows if a national health care system will ultimately help the less priviledged in the long run. What I do know is that the present system is helping fewer and fewer people and costing more and more. So why not let a guy who talks a lot about hope and finding a better way have a shot at it? He can't do any worse than the last three or four guys. Oh, I forgot, he's gonna destroy our country - he's a liberal.

I think it is obvious that two major power blocks are vying for control of our country. And I think you would be hard pressed to proove that either one is "Christian".
This blog "Stuffweshouldtalkabout" has been running for a month now and I have a clearer focus on why I started it and what it is for.

1. This is a forum for truth seekers to exchange ideas in the interest of learning from each other the truth about how our world works.

2. How we hold discussions, how we sort through ideas to find the truth - these are as important as our conclusions. For instance, do we know the difference between what we know to be fact and what we have an opinion on? Do we have the honesty in our personal convictions to allow Scripture to say what it says without importing our ideas about what we want it to say? Are we aware of how history has shaped our understanding of Christian theology and even our approach to what truth is?

3. And ultimately this blog exists to ask the question: Are we interested in following Jesus or just talking about following Jesus?

You see, I believe the world is built on power strutures that invite us to join them. Are you conservative or liberal? Are you a capitalist or a communist? Are you heterosexual or homosexual? Are you Christian or Muslim? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you American or anti-American?

Jesus explicitly presents to us a different kingdom, a different set of values, a different power structure. In fact, you might just want to think of him as mister opposite. He constantly refused to join the conversation at a point given him by the power brokers of his day. Instead, choosing to introduce a distinctly unique and often radical other-worldly option.

Do we embrace or destroy sexual behavior we don't agree with? Jesus does neither. He protects the women caught in adultery. He loves her.

Do we ignore and avoid those who mistreat us or do we use our strength to exert some form of violence to stop those who are mistreating us? Jesus does neither. He asks the one who does injury to him if he would like to do it again, mocking the antagonists bad behavior and not allowing it to dictate to him his options for a response.

So I ask you, do the power structures mentioned above (conservative, liberal, captitalist, communist. . .) look like Jesus? If not, why are we so eager to join our support to their causes? Why do we settle for the choices that people who are not in love with Jesus give us? Can you name for me one power structure that existed in Jesus' day that he did not oppose? I see Jesus as a radical subordinate revolutionary. That is, he submitted to the authorities in the world he lived; at the same time offering a better way characterized by love, forgiveness, inclusion, service and sacrifice.

I don't think we are a Christian nation, but I think we could become a nation of Christians.

Just some stuff we should talk about.


  1. My thoughts on Christianity, government and hope
    I don't like to be categorized(put in a box). The reason being I find that the categories rarely help define what I really mean. We found working overseas challenging us in defining ourselves. We would get asked ?'s about who we were or what we represented. We would usually opt for defining ours with other words then people expected. ex. “We are followers of Jesus” instead of “Christian”. Because some of the words used to describe us were too loaded with other meanings. This goes for political parties too.
    My thoughts on the hatred that seems to result on politics is that people feel frustrated. There hope for the future is being crushed. More and more in America it seems that we are placing our hope in a leader.... Instead of a country governed by the constitution, with three branches of government balancing itself out. It seems that we are being pushed to look for one leader to lead us. When I was in Belarus(1995) we went around asking people ?'s about life(survey) as way of getting to know people. This just a few years after they were freed. One question was “what was their hope for the future?”. I was surprised about how many people said if they just had a good leader(non corrupt) and good government. Its part of the answer but not the foundation.
    It seemed so clear that wasn't the total answer then to me and its not here now either.
    Causes for frustration about government-
    Loss of freedom
    Times are changing fast. Laws are being made due to peoples to a lack of self governance. Without internal governance we get external governance. It is frustrating to lose our freedoms.
    Yet I find it interesting that Christians living under some of the most oppressive regimes can live free
    Unfulfilled Expectations
    Today in politics we see lots of promises and lack of fulfillment or not counting the cost of the promises. “I will give what you want if you vote for me”.
    Christian nation? -depends what you mean
    Some say we started as one or those who set it up established it as one. Many of the colonies had interesting forms of Christian governance. And the current form we have came from some of that and basis of the Bible and John Locke's works based on the same.
    Some mean the majority of population proclaims to be Christian as opposed to other religions.
    Some mean we act as one.
    But there have been many things done in God's name in this country that haven't represented
    Him. Including the westward expansion based on “Manifest destiny”
    So in conclusion on government. I think that we will not change for the good by external governance(laws), it will only be by internal governance(Holy Spirit) that we will see real change(revival).

  2. I know you(Dan)will give me a hard time for this, but I have been hesitating to comment on previous entries because I guess I didnt know if I would sound intelligent enough or theological enough, but that is silly, I just really dislike it when people start throwing around big words and bigger concepts that they dont know what they even mean, just to sound intelligent. ( You are not doing this, I just dont like dealing with people who do) All that to say that I thought you were right on on your assessment of Jesus being of another kingdom, not an earthly kingdom, therefore not dictated by earthly goverments (laws and heirarchy) I love it when Pilate asks Jesus, "Dont you know that I have the power to crucify you and the power to realease you?" Jesus answered "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given from above" He didnt respond to the normal ways that man uses to govern authority (guilt, shame, fear, manipulation, physical threats) As far as our nation being "Christian", I was told growing up that christian meant "little christ" or Christ-like, so in relation to our goverment or really any goverment on earth, I would say no, we are not a "Christian" nation, Jesus in more like our country's mascot if you will. The scarier thing than this though, is that we have imported this governing style into the Church and set up a heirarchy, that uses the same fear, guilt, manipulation that any system ruled by men is forced to use. Jesus did not lord his authority over us, he showed his total authority by washing his disciples feet and surrendering his life to the High Priests and Pilate. Jesus isnt our President and I sure as heck dont want him to be our Mascot, He is not our boss, and even though he is our King, his goverment is nothing like ours, because He rules as the Servant of all and he calls us sons and daughters, which is family.

  3. This is the reason I started this blog; to have this conversation. "Catton" says, "We are not a Christian nation. Jesus is more like our country's mascot. The scarier thing is that we have imported this governing style into the Church and set up a heirarchy that uses the same fear, guilt and manipulation that any system ruled by men is forced to use."

    "He (Jesus) is not our boss, and even though he is our king, his government is nothing like ours, because he rules as the Servant of all."

    This is it! This is the itch we need to scratch. Something snuck in when the door was open and we didn't even notice.

    When Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world," he was not talking about geography, he was talking about a quality. His kingdom orignates in a value system that is nothing like the value systems of this world. His kingdom is not bound by the choices we as humans think we are limited to.

    Jesus challenged every power structure that was operating in his day (government, religion, military, financial, male superiority, nationalism, sexual discrimination). You name it - Jesus had an opinion on it. He was constantly changing the rules of the conversation. He continually imposed a different value system (one of grace, humility, forgiveness, and service) into the established power structures. In fact, his language leads me to believe that his life was an invitation to come out from under the human power structures and into a new heavenly kingdom.

    So here is the million dollar question: If we import human power structures into the Church can we claim to be part of His Kingdom?

    If we use guilt, fear, manipulation, etc. to maneuver people into the Church what does this have to do with Jesus? Lately, I can't get these ten commandment billboards out of my mind (in the Flathead Valley local churches have banded together and made a real push to display the ten commandments all over the valley - I'm sure there are close to fifty billboards now). What does the Jewish law have to do with the Kindom of Heaven?

    Please, if you read this far, respond with your own thoughts. I believe that this conversation is crucial to our success as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we look like Jesus?

  4. Hmmm . . . This is muddy terrain. I can hear Yoda's cryptic warning: "The dark side clouds EVERYTHING!" I think we fall into distraction wondering why things are the way they are and forget to simply live another model. If we, as individuals, deliberately and faithfully follow Jesus, this world will begin to look more like His kingdom. Otherwise, we become so absorbed in pointing fingers at each other - which is really hard to do while carrying a cross, by the way - that we forget the unique responsibility of our individual calling. We must learn to TRUST in God and the work of His holy spirit. Somehow, we can praise Him for all the amazing redemptive work He has accomplished in our own lives and still fail to trust Him to do the same in the lives of our spouses, bosses, pastors and presidents. This is nothing less than a failure of faith.

    We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, which trumps any and all earthly power structures. I think we need to be VERY cautious with regard to our impulse to align ourselves with any political party or leader. "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves," (Romans 14:22).

    I don't think it is possible to be a Christian Nation. I think the values of nationalism are directly opposed to the values of the Kingdom of Heaven. His kingdom is altogether other-worldly, and I don't think patriotism fits. Although Paul talks about the need to respect and submit to earthly authorities (see Romans 13:1-6, Hebrews 13:17, Titus 3:1), and though Joseph, Daniel, David and Jesus all modelled such submission, after His resurrection, Jesus said: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," (Mathew 28:18). As part of His "great commission," Jesus continues: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations," (Mt 28:19). I think He is calling us by a higher authority, prioritizing the advance of His kingdom over any earhtly agenda.

    Scary as this might seem, I think we are called to put all our eggs in one basket: Jesus.

  5. Really, like what Kyle had to say. I am very excited about the expression of a people who have purposefuly begun to shed the attachments we have had to kingdoms and powers that do not align themselves with Jesus. The community of Jesus followers that I have been a part of these last ten years has been nothing short of inspiring for my wife and I.
    Here's to hoping the next ten years finds us continuing to live a lifestyle that displays the ridiculously generous and lavish love of our King.

  6. Excellent discussion! Coming in a little late but here goes....I like what Kyle said about our focus not being on the power structures as much as our focus being on following Christ. This is excellent b/c so much of the Church is filled with battling against the power structures rather than proclaiming God's good kingdom. The Church should not be overly reactive in its calling. Being reactionary is a mistake b/c the message of Jesus is then lost on just policing the world, telling all the power structures what is wrong/right with their actions. Caton hit it on the head with the "Jesus as Mascot" idea. That is a scary and sad truth I am afraid. The little I have watched of South Park on those types of contemporary ideas has shown me that this type of Jesus as the crusader and the Church as idiots has shown me that the world doesn't think the number one Christian cause is love. That stinks!

    I also totally agree about nationalistic values not fitting with the Kingdom of Heaven. Nationalism is patriotism gone murderous! All nationalistic movements have been inspired by hate, xenophobia, racism, etc. I think it is impossible to be Christian and nationalistic. However, nationalism and patriotism are not the same things. Patriotism is not inherently bad were as nationalism is. I'd define patriotism as a love for one's country and a willingness to defend these things. Love for the people, the cultural expressions like arts and music, and the ideals that brought things like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do think it is possible to love and defend the people, cultures and ideals of a country and serve Jesus.

    Christians can become shipwrecked in their faith however if their loyalty is to country first. Obviously Christians allegiance is not to this world but to Christ and his Kingdom.

    Dan, I think there are bits of Jesus in every power structure you just mentioned because each these power structures have truths embedded in the ideas that comprise that power structure. Truth - Capitalism offers freedom for creativity, business and prosperity. The Kingdom of Heaven offers freedom for creativity, business and prosperity. Truth - Communism celebrates equity and attempts to help the poor. The Kingdom of Heaven celebrates equity and attempts to help the poor. Etc, etc...

    This is why I think a liberal arts education is valuable. I heard capitalist/communist/socialist/democratic ideas expressed, each one having truths, not that I agree with these power structures though. Each power structures also has opposing values that are not reconcilable to the each other or the Kingdom.

    Again the problem with these power systems is one of allegiance. Are we committed to Jesus first are making a buck? Are we willing to snuff out life in order to keep oil coming in at an affordable price? I wish I had some North Dakota land right now, they say it has the potential of being the Saudi Arabia! :)

  7. I really liked Adam's distinction between truth found in different power structures and allegiance to said power structures. It always seems that we humans don't know how to handle truth. As soon as we get a little bit, we create our "turf" and begin to throw stones at those who do not see or understand our truth.
    I think Adam's idea points to our FIRST need to share truth from a position of grace and inclusion as opposed to judgment and separation.