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9.09.2008

The Myth of a Christian Nation

Dr. Gregory Boyd, a man that is both well-loved and critically disliked, based this book off a 6 week sermon series he delivered at Woodland Hills Church entitled “Cross and the Sword.” Despite his well intentions, 1,000 people left that congregation because of the controversial messages.

So, knowing this about the situation, I was very curious as to what made people leave—I was very interested in getting into meat of the book. Our good friend JR. gave us the book a year or so ago, convinced that we would find it very interesting and thought-provoking.

I began the book last summer, but after a few chapters put it down, not quite ready for it. I had realized that my heart wasn’t quite healed enough from a couple years earlier when Jake and I discussed and voiced the sentiment that this book holds. The wounds were still too raw. But, a week before we left for Nairobi, I decided it was time. And indeed, it was.

The reason for writing this book is that Boyd believes that “a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry.” So, as a pastor he felt called to be a prophet to the congregation he was entrusted with, and to share his convictions with the American evangelical Church. Now, idolatry is a big thing to be accused of…and I don’t think he gives this accusation without much thought and prayer.

Throughout the book Boyd emphasizes several big ideas.

The first is that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World are very different, with no real overlaps. The Kingdom of the World uses “power over”, and the Kingdom of God uses “power under,” demonstrated through Jesus Christ’s life.

Another thing he emphasizes over and over is that America was never a “Christian” nation. He really encourages the reader to research the origins of this country, using many different sources (not just your junior high history text book). Boyd shows how many of the times when we think of as the “golden years” were really filled with sin, oppression, and other things that does not look remotely to the Kingdom of God.

A phrase that Boyd uses over and over is that we are called to bleed. He talks about how we are afraid to live the Kingdom of God because it’s too costly. We’re afraid to bleed for people- to live in a way that actually “hurts” us… but we don’t realize that that is the way of the Kingdom coming. One example he gives is that, generally, the Church would rather vote against abortion than actually taking a young girl into your home who has been kicked out of her house for getting pregnant, and helping pay for the costs of having the baby, as well as spending time helping to raise the baby as well (which is a true story). Or, the Church would rather lobby for legislation that increased affordable housing in a city or an increase in some kind of aid to the poor than use their money to build affordable housing in their city… and then using their time and skills to build the houses as well. He encourages the reader to not be afraid to live the Kingdom in such a way that it affects them… their standard of living, their schedules, their families, their lives.

A final thing I really appreciated was that Boyd calls us to some distinctly Kingdom of God activities—one of them being prayer. He really challenges us to spend more time in prayer for things and people. Especially being here in Africa, I’m learning some about God’s people call to pray—and how it should be a daily part of all of our relationships—with our friends, family, neighbors, and churches. People really believe here that God’s people pray. It’s what Christian’s do.

One thing that I think was lacking in this book- Boyd made it seem that if we acted according to the Kingdom of God, that non-Christ followers would fall in love the Kingdom of God way of life and hence with Christ himself. But, I know from Scripture that some people hated Jesus or loved Jesus but had real issues with some of the things he said—they were too hard or different than what their natural inclination was. So, even if you take the things of this book to heart, and examine yourself for evidence of various degrees of idolatry, and then act differently, you may still be met with opposition—and not just from other Christians who don’t agree, but some non Christ followers as well

In a way it’s a shame that Gregory Boyd had to be the one to write this book. Because many conservative evangelicals don’t agree with him on some of the other aspects of his theology, they dismiss this. But, I would hope that we all would be willing to believe that not everyone’s theology is entirely perfect or entirely incorrect. We’re all on this journey together, and by keeping our hearts and minds open to what God is speaking through various people, we’d become better Kingdom of God citizens.

1 comments:

JR. said...

I'm glad you finally read this book :)

I agree with your analysis. Stanley Hauerwas went on Al Mohler's radio show around 4th of July and used the word "idolatry" in reference to 4th of July Sundays in American Churche. He was dismissed from the show.

Btw... I'm back into reading blogs, and I've got all your blogs on my reader. So BLOG AWAY!!!