If you have ever had interaction with American Evangelicalism, you have surely heard that America is a Christian nation. This myth seems to pervade hundreds upon thousands of churches across the country. Thus, when Greg Boyd set out to debunk this myth in his book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, I was quite pleased. Boyd is a pastor at a mega-church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and preached much of the content of the book as a sermon series. As a result, over 20% of the members of his church left.
For Boyd, the political power that the church is seeking in America is actually harming the kingdom of God. Instead, it continues to support the infrastructure of civil religion. Boyd suggests that the way of Jesus and the way of America are at odds – the way of Jesus is the way of the cross (sacrificial love) and the way of kingdom of the world is the sword (authoritative power). Our way is to be a reflection of the way of Christ. Too often, we have substituted this for an easier and possibly more accessible option – a Christianized version of the kingdoms of the world. But we as Christians are called out, not be to of the world, but to be a blessing for the world, as representatives of the heavenly calling we have received. The kingdoms of the world survive through power, through the wielding of the sword. On the other hand, the kingdom of God emanates from self-sacrificing, Calvary-like love. We must not confuse the two. Boyd writes:
To the extent that we pick up the sword, we put down the cross. When our goal as kingdom people becomes centered on effectively running a better (let alone Christian) version of the kingdom of the world, we compromise our calling to be faithful to the kingdom of God.
This is part of Boyd’s argument. The second lies in the common mantra of ‘taking America back for God’. To me, this is similar to saying the church needs to return to the model found in the book of Acts. But as we can see from the works of Luke and Paul, the early churches had plenty of problems themselves – they were not anymore untainted by original sin than we are today. Boyd looks at American history and struggles to find a time when America was truly a Christian nation. We were founded because we forced Native Americans from their land, which often including killing them (that doesn’t sound like much of a reflection of Christ). After that, we fought the British for our independence, participated in the slave trade, and fell to the lies of ‘Manifest Destiny’, and the responsibility of acting as moral police. Boyd is flabbergasted that Christians could see these things and still call America a Christian nation when it seemed to be anything but that.
This is THE book to read if you think America is a Christian nation. Even if you disagree with Boyd, hear him out; he has much to offer us as Christians. A wonderful reminder of what our real responsibility is and where our real allegiances should lie.