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Take America (& the World) Back for God?
Recently Missio Alliance has hosted a series of posts entitled “Christianity and Violence.” Since Greg has written quite a lot on this topic from the point of view of pacifism, we thought it timely to weigh in on this topic. The following excerpt is quoted from his chapter, “Taking America Back for God” found in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation:
“[A]s citizens of the kingdom of God, we are called to win back America for Jesus Christ—as well as Europe, Iraq, Sudan, Rwanda, and the rest of the world. But everything hangs upon how we believe we are to do this. What power do we trust?
If we think for a moment that we are fulfilling the commission to take the world back for God by acquiring the ability to control behavior through the power of the sword, we are deceived. If we suppose that America, Europe, or any nation is closer to the kingdom of God because certain Christian ideals dominate the political landscape, it is evidence that we have bought into the temptation to trust the sword rather than the cross. If we think we can tweak any version of the kingdom of the world to make it into the kingdom of God, we thereby reveal that our thinking has been co-opted by the kingdom of the world. Again, the only way the world can be won for Jesus Christ is by people being transformed from the inside out through the power of Christ’s love expressed through the Calvary-quality service of his followers.
The question that wins the world is not, how can we get our ‘morally superior’ way enforced in the world? The question that wins the world, and the question that must define the individual and collective life of kingdom-of-God citizens is, how do we take up the cross for the world? How do we best communicate to others their unsurpassable worth before God? How do we serve and wash the feet of the oppressed and despised?
We conquer not by the power of the sword but ‘by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of [our] testimony.’ We conquer by not clinging ‘to life even in the face of death’ (Rev 12:11); we conquer by refusing to place our trust in the violent ‘power over’ kingdom of the world, while instead making it our sole task, moment by moment, to manifest the unique righteousness of the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33). God in principle won the world through the Lamb’s loving sacrifice, and he’s in the process of manifesting this victory throughout the world through us as we replicate the Lamb’s loving sacrifice in our lives. This is the kingdom of God; this is how the kingdom of God advances. And this is how the kingdom of the world will ultimately become the kingdom of the Lamb (Rev 11:15).
If your response is that this ‘power under’ approach is impractical, if not morally irresponsible, perhaps this too reveals that you have been conformed to the pattern of the world (Rom. 12:2) and have allowed yourself to trust ‘power over’ rather than ‘power under.’ Perhaps it reveals that you have placed more faith in worldly ‘common sense’ than in the resurrection. Perhaps it reveals that worldly effectiveness has replaced kingdom faithfulness as your primary concern” (103-105).
What About the Harsh Words of Paul? A Response to Paul Copan (#4)
This post is my fourth response to a talk given by Paul Copan at the Evangelical Theological Society in November in which he raised a number of objections to Crucifixion of the Warrior God. A major part of Copan’s critique centered on my claim that the love of God that is revealed on the cross,…
If you really want to defend the poor from Caesar, shouldn’t we use the political means that exist? It’s easy to make your argument when you are in a position of privilege.
Question: I’ve been reading your blogs for a while. I’ve read multiple texts written by you and it’s difficult to listen much longer as someone in poverty. It’s easy to make your argument when you are in a position of privilege. The Church doesn’t have the power and resources to help the poor everywhere. Christians…
Paul’s Blinding of Elymas: A Response to Paul Copan (#5)
In the first four posts in this “Response to Copan” series, I attempted to refute Copan’s claim that my non-violent understanding of love, as advocated in Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG) and Cross Vision (CV), conflicts with Paul’s quotation of violent Psalms, the praising of the faith of warriors in Hebrews 11:30-32, the longing…
Blessed are the Peacemakers
We recently watched a show on Frontline (PBS) called The Interrupters. This two hour long documentary follows several “Interrupters” as they attempt to peacefully resolve conflict in their oftentimes violent neighborhoods in Chicago. The group of Interrupters is a mix of the young and the not-so-young, women and men, single and married. They represent multiple…
Was the Early Church Pacifistic? A Response to Paul Copan (#11)
In Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG) I argue that Jesus and Paul instruct Christians to love and bless their enemies and to unconditionally refrain from violence (e.g. Matt 5:39-45; Rom 12:14-21). Moreover, I argue that this was the prevailing attitude of Christians prior to the fourth century when the Church aligned itself with the…
Love and Violence
What does it mean to confess that “God is love” and that we are called to “live in love” (Eph. 5:2)? One of the more common ways of understanding God’s love has its roots in the teachings of Augustine. He adamantly affirmed that the revelation that “God is love” lies at heart of the Gospel…