Thursday, July 30, 2009

your kingdom come

I am never comfortable when I see Christians ardently devoted to America, or to any government of this world in which they are in allegiance to. Of course I have to remember I was raised Anabaptist, and in recent years have returned largely to those roots.

While C.S. Lewis defends a kind of nationalism to be embraced by Christians, I'm more on board with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who seemed to resound against such a nationalism, at least the kind he saw Christians accept and even embrace in Germany during the Nazi rule. Bonhoeffer's critique was based on Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount. Bonhoeffer's understanding of the application of those words was in large part the basis for his critique.

It's not just about Christian pacifism, or nonresistance. It's -more to the point- to what and to whom we belong. God is our King. And we in Jesus are part of the kingdom of God made known and spelled out in the good news/gospel of Jesus.

So it's an identity issue. And then the question comes just how much, or to what extent we can be identified with our various nations, as the new Israel scattered throughout the earth. That is not an easy question, and both individual Christians, as well as churches will vary on their answers, or practice, even within the peace churches.

I for one think Christians can participate in any area of government, unless, obviously, such participation is in violation of God's will. So this makes it hard for me to envision a Christian being Commander in Chief of the United States military, or president. Of course Christians will not agree exactly on where to draw the lines on this.

This view is not a popular one in the world, or among Christians, and I rather doubt it will ever be. It's not without its problems and perplexities. But neither is the alternative.

Any thoughts any would like to share here?


Crowm said...

Mornin' Ted!

The Christian Church (Stone-Campbell Movement) has always placed importance on patriotism. Many even have a special "service" around July 4. The Christian flag is joined by the American flag in many sanctuaries. I once had a professor who frustratingly described a place setting that said, "There's only two people who have died for you...Jesus Christ and the American G.I."

In recent years, it's bothered me a bit. I'm patriotic, proud of my country and heritage, and even served in the U.S. military (Doh!). I still believe this is the greatest country in the world. However, I believe Christ laid down his life for ALL - not just Americans.

A few months ago, several in my church community had this conversation. And anyone who wanted to remove the American flag from the sanctuary (I can think of 2 brave souls) was perceived as unpatriotic etc.

In my opinion, too many equate Christianity with Americanism. From time to time, I find myself guilty as well. In my opinion, some of our views point to a lack of an evangelistic worldview. My prayer is that one day we'll define "kingdom" the way Jesus had in mind.

Great post. I apologize for the length of this response.

Ted M. Gossard said...


Thanks for all your input. No need to apologize at all!

Yes, good Christians and true followers of Christ can be poles apart on this one, to be sure- as we know.

And yes, America is a great nation. Os Guinness' "The Case for Civility" is a must read for all Americans, and no less than a paradigm impacting book for me, which renewed and perhaps gave me a new appreciation for America, in spite of all I say and believe here.

But yes, idolatry creeps in for all of us in so many ways, subtle and not so subtle.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted -

Reminds me of lines from a song called Politicians by Switchfoot

"I pledge allegiance to a country without borders, without politicians
Watching for my sky to get torn apart."

Our first and primary allegiance to King of kings who never fails us. Our country and government may be fallible but Christ is not

Ted M. Gossard said...


Good words.

Yes, I find such allegiance strange though in limited ways I think we Christians can participate in it. Certainly tough issues none of us can think we have figured out for certain, I think.

Lanny said...

I do not know which writings of Bonhoeffer you are refering to but have you read the book "Ethics" by Bonhoeffer?

Ted M. Gossard said...


Entitled "The Cost of Discipleship." As to "Ethics", I've looked at the book. I want to get my own copy or at least read it through.

Another I like which shows the overall man and the humanity of Bonhoeffer clearly, along with challenging thinking and faith is "Letters and Papers in Prison." That would be a great summer read, though good anytime of the year, of course.