Have you heard? Kirk Cameron is starring in the upcoming documentary “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure” which opens in select theaters March 27th.
I truly like Kirk Cameron, even though I disagree with many of his positions. I recognize that the Lord is able to use all of us, despite our sappy Left Behind performances and our support of some really terrible theology. But really, I do like Kirk Cameron.
As a teacher, I know the great responsibility I have to teach the truth. I know that I have got it wrong before. I know that somewhere I’m getting it wrong now. And odds are that I will get it wrong in the future. I think that describes us all. Regardless, we must do our best to pursue truth and walk in it as best we understand it. I believe that Kirk is doing that.
It’s clear to me that Kirk loves the Lord and is passionate about others coming to faith in Christ. I don’t doubt that at all. I rejoice in his testimony. I don’t have to agree with his evangelism style or his decision to play Buck Williams in a movie that propagates an idea foreign to the NT. The Lord has used him to build the kingdom.
For that I’m thankful. He’s a brother in Christ.
Having said that, I’m convinced that he sincerely believes what he is promoting in his upcoming pseudo-documentary. I suspect that it is one more revisionist plug from Christian fundamentalists during an election year.
I hope I’m wrong, but by the looks of things, it’s more of the same.
I wish Kirk would come and sit in on my Christian History class. I would love to introduce him to the historical context of the 17th and 18th century British movements leading up to the early colonial period, and subsequent American Revolution. I would like to present my case that the founding fathers were not seeking to establish a Christian nation. This is most clearly evidenced by an absence of any reference to Jesus in the founding documents, and the Treaty of Tripoli, which sets forth that the U.S. was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.
Were some of the early leaders Christian? Well, sure. They were white weren’t they? There wasn’t much else those days for white Westerners. It can hardly be denied that some of them were simply nominal Christians—carrying on their religion like a family tradition. Thanks to Constantine in the 4th century, Europe had considered itself “Christian” for about 1400 hundred years—even during the Crusades, Inquisitions, and the drowning of Anabaptists. [Insert sarcasm now] So yeah, they were “Christian” alright… every single one of them.
Deism was the new way to be fashionable as a Westerner during the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. Deism holds a belief in a “Creator” or “nature’s God” who rarely intervenes in human affairs, though he might show up to bless nationalistic endeavors. Deism was a growing religious philosophy that believed that miracles would violate nature (hence, “supernatural”). Therefore, deists believed that miracles are not possible. They also rejected divine revelation. Deists believed that the Bible should merely be used to further lawful societies and to encourage some level of morality within the culture.
I’m not going to discuss each founding father here, but I should mention a few key fathers. George Washington was a freemason and a deist. He wouldn’t take communion with his wife. We have no correspondence of him mentioning Jesus or faith in Christ. John Adams spoke harshly at times about Christianity and religion in general in his private correspondence. He was a Christian Unitarian that believed the church service was good for everyone because it promoted morals and values among the masses.
Yes, there’s ample evidence that John Jay was an evangelical Christian. He actually tried to keep Catholics from holding office. And Patrick Henry was indeed vocal about his Christian faith as the leader of independence in Virginia. Nevertheless, we should not be so quick to conclude what we hope or wish to be true because of a few that were more vocal about their faith. Politicians do this all the time today. Do you still believe that Bill Clinton is a Southern Baptist?
Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were deists. Franklin admits it in his writings, when he wasn’t drunk or inventing something. Jefferson went so far to deny the divinity of Christ. He even created his own compilation of Jesus’ life from the gospels, which he entitled, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” He removed all evidence of the “supernatural” for a presentation of Jesus as a good moral teacher who is only to be admired, not worshipped. Rationalism at its finest!
Let’s be clear about this. The founding fathers sought to establish a nation free from big government, burdensome taxes, and state-sponsored religion. Religious nation? I’ll grant that much. Christian nation? Huh, what’s that? The major shapers of America concluded that it’s not even possible.
What about the pilgrims you say? Oh, you mean the glorified stories of the Puritan fundamentalists? Well, you see, they wanted to enforce OT laws and create model theocratic cities. They are the ones who first hijacked the “city on a hill” language that Jesus used to describe the church. Instead, they used it to describe their new theocratic societies in America (e.g. Massachusetts Bay Colony led by William Bradford).
The Puritans claimed that America was the new Israel, the Indians were the savage Canaanites, and that God had given them the command to kill in his name. Many politicians throughout the years have used this sort of religious rhetoric to pander to fundamentalist evangelicals who still embrace the Christian nation myth. It’s also great for demonizing your enemies and gaining support for the expansion of empire when “God is on our side!”
Except for the fundamentalist Puritans, the rest of the colonialists acknowledged that the “Christian” state had been a total disaster in Europe. Roger Williams, who began the first Baptist church on American soil, rejected the theocratic view of the Calvinistic pilgrims, detested the idea of a Christian nation, and argued for religious liberty and separation of church and state–an idea that the Anabaptists had been ruthlessly persecuted for a century earlier. It finally caught on!
What you have here are Christian revisionists trying to build a case for an American Christian heritage based off of a glorified retelling of the pilgrim landing and the Puritan idea, singling out a few lone patriots who said some things about Jesus, the vague deistic references to God in founding documents, and the celebration of biblical virtues that even the atheists in that day advocated.
A person has to ignore the larger social, economic, political, and religious climate of early North American colonialism to advance the Christian nation myth.
So, if you want to “go back to the beginning” and find a nation embracing biblical morals and values, you will find some of that for sure. But if your eyes are wide open, you’re also going to find war, lies, greed, genocide, slavery, witch trials, and manifest destiny.
If you’re honest, you will, much like Pliny the Roman historian, seek to dig up the glorious past of Rome in order to inspire the citizens of the day to embrace moral reform, only to discover that the history of empire is a bloody shame. There is no glorious past.
Where are the likes of Roger Williams today? Where are those Baptists? It’s hard to find them in 2012. For many Baptists today, and plenty other evangelical groups, will likely support the monumental myth that is promoted in this film. Kirk’s new movie will be more fodder for the Christian fundamentalists among us who refuse to listen to the real historians telling them it just ain’t so, and to Jesus’ words that still read “my kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36).
D.D. Flowers, 2012.
“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen; “Was America Founded As a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction” by John Fea; “Founding Faith: How Our Founding Fathers Forged a Radical New Approach to Religious Liberty” by Steven Waldman; “Revolution Within the Revolution: The First Amendment in Historical Context 1612-1789” by William Estep; “A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present” by Howard Zinn; “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Politics is Destroying the Church” by Gregory Boyd; “Resident Aliens” by Stanley Hauerwas
March 24th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
Could not had said it better……….so true!
March 24th, 2012 at 12:46 pm
Hey David, Enjoyed the blog and as you know, I’m pretty much in agreement with you down the line.
At the risk of appearing nit-picky, because I know it’s a small part of what you said, something that leapt out to me was your reference to the Treaty of Tripoli as evidence of the US not being intended by the founders to be an expressly “Christian Nation.”
I may be wrong, as always, and if so, I’m happy to be corrected but my impression on exploring that claim from the past is that the phrase that says the US is in no way a Christian Nation is not a strong basis to promote that claim for reasons:that include the following:
1. The quote is from a copy of the Treaty prepared in Arabic and then translated to English by a single translator and writer. This was not the actual form of the document that was passed by the Senate and likely wasn’t even seen by many, if any, of them.
2. The concern that drove that element in that draft was commercial rather than solely theological. The Treaty of Tripoli was designed to establish commerce as part of a plan to cooperate in ridding the area of Piracy which was racking ruin upon American Trade and Shipping through the region. As Muslims, they were forbidden from doing business with “infidels.” The language described above was intended to address that concern by noting that there was no state church established and on that basis the officials engaging could demonstrate that they were not violating that stricture before their fellow Muslims.
It’s been a while since I looked at this closely and to be honest, when I did I was coming at things from the point of view that you’re refuting (in the immortal words of Monty Python, however, I’m getting better.)
Even with my change in view in that direction, I still think citing the Treaty of Tripoli as proof of the assertion is misplaced. There’s plenty of good evidence to support it elsewhere.
Again sorry for nit picking. If I’m just remembering some misplaced arguments from my old camp and missing something or factually incorrect I’ll be corrected gladly.
March 24th, 2012 at 1:02 pm
Thanks, Bart. I recognize that the concerns were economic. And I do know there is much more evidence, even better evidence for my thesis, but I still view this is as a heavy blow to the Christian nation myth. I appreciate your input. I kept the post short for its readability. What sort of things would you point out in support of my claim?
March 24th, 2012 at 6:31 pm
David, probably the best evidence is just to stop allowing people to interpret history for us through secondary sources and just read some of the accessible primary sources. One of the most eye opening things I ever read was a complete volume of correspondance between Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams later in life. Nobody could read that and not come to appreciate the issues of the day and their views of Christian faith (the good, the bad and the ugly.) Instead there’s a huge market in today’s religious morass that will continue to cater to what people want to hear as long as certain sectors of American fundamentalism and evangelicalism raise their myths as more reliable than the actual history.
March 24th, 2012 at 1:06 pm
This is a very good post, David! I agree that too many Christians have taken way too many liberties with the history and intents of America’s founding fathers. I’d like to see someone write an article/book explaining the very important differences between our so called Christian nation, and the very pointed and intentional Christian/Hebraic principles which are core elements in the laws we have (and used to have) as a society. To me, rightly dividing the truth here (the differences between Christian principles in government and Christian peoples making up a nation) seems to be something we don’t hear a lot about.
The “church’s” confusion with this issue might just be part of their confusion between the reality of living a life in Christ, and living a life of “Christian” rules and regulations (law vs. grace, flesh vs. spirit, etc.).
Anyway, I am a big believer that if people won’t order their lives under the Lordship of Christ in a truly spiritual way, life is certainly a lot nicer for everyone if at least all of the carnal people (present company excluded) live their lives by some code of conduct that takes ones neighbor into consideration, etc. I am under no delusion that this is a Christian nation, or was intended to be. I do believe, however, the evidence is clearly shown in the writings of many founding fathers that they intended this nation to be Christian in principles…not in religion. Am I wrong?
The Hebrews, of course, had the Moral Law, the Ceremonial Law, and the Civil Law. Real Christians operate by what Paul calls the Law of Faith…in Christ. But I think it is obvious that many Christians and non-Christians live their lives every day by principles that are godly, totally apart from faith.
March 24th, 2012 at 1:19 pm
Hey Paul, I do agree that most of the founding fathers saw OT laws and NT virtues as advantageous to society. They may have even used “Christian principles” in articulating the belief that the best society is a moral one. So, I think you’re right. But I strongly disagree with the way that some Christians are crying out for social and moral reform–using the Christian nation myth to do it. I like what you pointed out about law and grace. Thanks for reading!
March 24th, 2012 at 1:17 pm
Even today, many different religions, Christian denominations, are trying to impose their religious beliefs, on the American people. To fix this? I find it is helpful to be very clear and detailed, about the events of the 16th-18th century. The events that lead our Founders ,to be eager to set up a firm “wall of separation between church and state.”
What are those events? Specifically? First, it began in part when Martin Luther began to break away from the Catholic Church, around 1515 AD. So that by 1536 or so, the King of England was attempting to break England away from the Church officially. As he attempted to found an English or “Anglican,” protestant church, as the official church of England. But for this attempt to break away from Catholicism as the official religion of the land, and to establish his own Protestant religion in its place, in England? He was soon attacked.
And so a series of in part, Protestant vs. Catholic wars began. When Spain sailed against England with the Spanish Armada, in 1588, it was in part with the aim, in Catholic Spain, of ending religious freedom /Protestantism in England. By 1588, wars were being caused increasingly, in part, by the attempt to “establish” this or that religion, as the official religion of the nation. These problems partially motivated one war after another, in Europe especially. Including especially say, the bloody “Thirty Years War,” 1618-48. While of course, colonial America too experienced similar conflicts.
These conflicts, stemmed from countless attempts at the “establish”ment of a single religion, as the official religion of this or that region or country. And as those attempts persisted, war after war was the result. These conflicts continued even arguably, into the 20th century; as North and Southern Ireland broke apart, over whether Ireland should be Protestant (as the North decided) and allied to the Church of England; or Catholic, in the south. Terrorist bombings, motivated by this split, persisted … until just a few years ago.
While to this very day? The Roman Catholic Church is attempting to impose one or two of its doctrines – the prohibition of contraception (and abortion) – on America, as the law of the land. Thus imposing one of its doctrines, on those Protestant churches that do not share this belief.
Many Protestant churches allow contraception, and even abortion. And if laws or doctrines and procedures are passed against those things? Then part of their Protestant religion, will have been denied. Even if a Protestant woman goes to a publically-funded Catholic hospital, expecting contraceptive services, and is turned down? Then her tax money will have been used to support a (mostly) Catholic religion that now … denies her one of her religiously-supported rights.
March 24th, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Yes, many Christians (in my opinion) are trying to convert the nation to a specific brand of Christianity that happens to be more heavy on culture than gospel truth. If only they would use examples like the former Soviet Union, Socialist Europe, etc. and talk about principles which are good and/or bad for society, they might have a better chance of hanging on to the liberties which enable them to enjoy the cultural environment of their liking.
It seems that liberals excel at using stories and parables to emotionally endear the masses to their cause. Christians are not so sneaky…they just decree that their culture is the only right way and wonder why people don’t sign up in droves for the Kool-Aid. Jesus used parables to shed light on bad philosophies. It’s time we learn to do the same…not to convert folks to a culture, but to at least get them to use some common sense.
I have never bought into the idea of “bringing the nation back to God.” In my opinion, the church must be the light of the world…not the hall monitor of the world. Not that every moth will flock to the flame, but at least there would be a flame to flock to if the church would cast off this covering it is hiding under.
March 24th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
Good stuff, Paul. I agree!
March 24th, 2012 at 1:57 pm
Thanks for giving me this insite David. Unbelievable that we also came to flee big government and bigger taxes, looks like my ancestors have come full circle. I have ancestors that were soon after the Mayflower.
How interesting these points are and how misled I was about our “Christian” nation. We are so blessed we have Christ, our identity is not in what type of nation we are anyway! Blessings to you, love reading your posts on Facebook!
Sister in Christ
March 24th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
It’s my pleasure, BobbyJo. Thanks for reading!
March 24th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
Spoken so well, and so concisely. Now off to read up on the treaty of Tripoli.
March 24th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
Just to bolster my view a little, below are a few quotes by founding fathers and other American leaders. They did seem to understand the differences between Christian principles and Christian statehood. Most of them, Christian or not, were good philosophers and knew common sense when they saw it.
I have been researching this topic recently, by the way, and found these quotes to help promote my sister-in-law’s new album called God Shed His Grace – Songs of Truth and Freedom. The album is not about America as a Christian nation, but an encouragement for Christian patriots to stand up for godly principles. Lots of people misunderstand this. That’s why it would be great if someone would write a thoughtful article on the importance of godly principles in contrast to Christian statehood. The Kingdom, as you remind us, is within. But external Christian principles are important for earthly unspiritual folks…for the good of us all. He rains on the just and unjust alike, eh!
“In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” – John Adams
“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.” – George Washington
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”- James Madison
““We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.” – Franklin Roosevelt
“The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life.” – Herbert Hoover
March 24th, 2012 at 7:15 pm
Hey Paul, I’m not comfortable with going beyond the recognition that the founding fathers admired Christian principles onto Christian nationalism through patriotic songs that inevitably confuse the two kingdoms. I have seen it time and again. When we do this the uniqueness of the gospel and the kingdom of Christ is lost and nationalism takes over.
As I indicated in my post, and you prove with the quotes above, I admit that some of these guys believed in biblical virtues, but there is a clear confusion among many of them. John Adams links the birth of Jesus with the birth of the US? I can’t go there. That’s why I think it’s important to remember the history and socio-relgious movements of Europe prior to their time. It doesn’t surprise me that they are all using Christianity in different ways because of the great stirring in Europe due to humanism, the reformation, and the enlightenment. On one hand, I can respect how some of them legitimately believe in biblical virtues. But I also know that some of them simply knew the power of speaking of God’s blessing on a new nation. The new nation was a great experiment by nationalistic Christians, nominal Christians, misguided Christians, agnostics, and enlightened deists.
March 24th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
Very well said, David. Thanks.
March 24th, 2012 at 9:08 pm
Agreed, most Christians are deeply confused on this issue. To confuse the Kingdom of God (which transcends every nation) with a nation that has adopted some Christian principles is just beyond my understanding. I mean, how can anybody not see the difference? It is pretty black and white, at least to me.
That said, I’m not sure I understand how patriotic songs aid in the confusion between the two kingdoms. It seems to me that people take things how they want to take things for the most part. People take scriptures all the time to mean things they do not mean at all…and I doubt God could have communicated more effectively. Yes, teachers have a big responsibility to make sure, as best they can, that they are not leading lambs astray. But there is an enormous responsibility on the individual for what he or she believes. To me, patriotic songs are sung in gratitude to God for what freedoms we have in America. Not because we are His chosen nation or any of that. And not because our freedoms are American. They are from Him. And this is just where Christians are so hypocritical , if you ask me: they want to have the freedom to deny the freedom of others in areas that are none of their business. Of course, abortion is murder, and homosexuality is very bad for society. I don’t think our country should grant freedoms that take away the freedom of the unborn or the society as a whole, etc. However, even God lets people choose the wrong thing. But since this isn’t a Christian nation, we won’t pattern America after a freedom so extreme as that.
What I believe John Adams meant by the birthday of the nation being linked with the birthday of the Savior is that the philosophy of freedom was made viable by Him, and that is the foundational principle of America. There need not be any confusion on the matter at all. It doesn’t seem hard to swallow at all if you understand how much John Adams loved philosophy…especially the philosophy of Jesus.
Also, we can agree, I believe, that all truth is God’s truth. Every great deception is very near the truth–is replete with sound maxims and right judgments. The world borrows and steals godly principles continuously. Proof enough of that is seen in humanism and the enlightenment, etc. Some of the best theology I’ve heard recently comes from the Christian Science cult. They have profound nuggets which are all too tempting because they leave out the hard stuff, like “you’re a sinner and in need of God’s mercy.”
The problem with scraps and snippets of truth is that they are grafted in to the chaotic mind of fallen man. Truth is only native to the perfect cosmos of God’s spiritual Kingdom. But just as I can draw a very bad picture of a very real tree, our nation has scribbled down a blurry visage of a few Christian principles in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and other civil laws. This no more makes America a Christian nation than it makes my poorly done drawing a tree. What’s more, any songs about my picture should only confuse the already confused as to whether or not it is really a tree. In the same manner, songs about the tree should not confuse me as to which is the picture and which is not.
March 24th, 2012 at 9:43 pm
Hey Paul, from my perspective I have no way of reconciling the praise of a nation with my faith in Christ–especially when it requires that we mythologize that country’s past, and because it involves glorifying a worldly kingdom. You can see this at work when you attend any 4th of July service at a local church (regardless of what a person intends or believes they are doing). I simply can’t imagine the early church doing this sort of thing, ever. There is just no reason for it. It doesn’t make us believers better citizens or do anything for the gospel. The best way to be faithful to Christ as citizens of heaven is to give our praise to the Lord who reigns on earth through his church, the holy nation to which we now belong. As I reflect on past feelings produced within me by the praise of America, I’m certain it’s not healthy. So, I must keep my distance from this sort of thing. My praise of Christ and celebration of the church produces all I need to be thankful, and faithful to love God and neighbor.
March 24th, 2012 at 9:44 pm
I appreciate your post and I am very sympathetic to your perspective. I believe Jesus’ words when He said “My kingdom is not of this world” and I think Augustine’s City of God is a masterful treatise that all Christians should consider. I have a degree in American History from the Univ. of MD and taught high school history for years before becoming a pastor. I, too, have been skeptical of the claims of America as a “Christian nation” because I think the church is the only true Christian nation, a kingdom of priests chosen and called from among all the peoples of the earth.
However, one eye-opening book I read a few years ago that really made me re-think some aspects of American history is The Christian Life & Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States by Benjamin F. Morris, originally written and published during the Civil War. I was very,, very skeptical when I first received this book, but truly this massive tome documents impressively with ample primary source material that the founding of our country was indeed marked by a strong Christian character and influence in the civil institutions and laws. The Congressional proclamations alone are astounding!
So, I’ve come to conclude that the truth is a middle position between two extremes, but actually probably not far from Kirk Cameron’s. America was founded as a nation that was both intentionally secular and tolerant of religious diversity while also seeking to abide by Biblical principles of morality and even seeking to promote and advance the Christian faith, though not coercion or through state-sponsored churches. A truly established Christendom, like Europe had at the time, was and is a mistake and the founders knew that. Yet a society that is hostile to Biblical wisdom, such as we have today, is a foolish society bent on self-destruction.
Oh, and I do have to say that your suggested reading list has some downright nauseatingly bad selections in it. “Lies My Teacher Told Me” is shoddy scholarship. Howard Zinn? His history book is slanted propaganda. Greg Boyd? He’s not even a Christian theist but worships a false god, the god of Open Theism. I’m far from a fan of the American Vision crowd (FAR from it!), but I think your reading list reflects an over-reaction to the other side of the spectrum.
March 24th, 2012 at 9:53 pm
I mostly agree with the first portion of your comment. Did you read my post carefully? I don’t deny their concern for biblical principles and virtues. I didn’t intend on taking an extreme position. I actually intended to rattle the cages of some of my more conservative readers. As for the last bit of your response, I couldn’t disagree more. It’s a good thing that your accusations about Boyd were at the end, because I wouldn’t have taken anything you said seriously after that. I have defended Boyd’s ideas here: https://daviddflowers.com/2010/12/10/an-open-theism-theodicy/
March 24th, 2012 at 10:30 pm
Some Christians stupidly idolize America, and some simply love their country and have a healthy esteem for it apart from mythological ideals of the past. Writing a love letter to my wife on Valentine’s Day could be seen as a pagan, idolatrous action…to me it is just another excuse to express my love to her. Some Christians won’t eat meat offered to idols. Others don’t let it bother them that some meat is offered to idols…even by Christians. They just thank God for the meat and go on with life.
One of my friends told me she can’t enter a church for the same reason an alcoholic shouldn’t enter a bar. I know another guy who should never get near a buffet or a pizza parlor. Excess comes in many forms. I’m not making light of it…truly. Only you know what is right for you, and anything that violates one’s conscience is sin. Therefore, I will not try to convince you otherwise. I respect your position. 🙂 I feel the same way about so many other things.
March 24th, 2012 at 11:30 pm
Longtime reader first time commenter. (Reading is my thing, not writing)
I think its an important distinction that you are making here. While the men who formed the government of our nation were influenced and even admired some aspects of Christianity, they were certainly not trying to build a theocratic nation by any means. Does this mean that Christians shouldn’t stand and fight for certain things in the political arena? Of course not. However, this knee-jerk nostalgia to go back to this mythical Christian era at the found of the US has to stop. In truth, it gets our focus on the wrong thing; we end up trying to change politics instead of changing the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He called us to the latter, the former is an optional activity that should be undertaken with only the greatest of care.
As for the film, I haven’t seen it so I’ll reserve judgment. Thank you for your thoughtful post.
March 25th, 2012 at 12:48 am
Thanks, Brannen. I appreciate you being a faithful reader of the blog.
March 25th, 2012 at 12:32 am
Great post David. I wish we had more Christians today like Roger Williams, who understood the dangers of governments imposing religion upon the governed.
Our Lord does not impose His rule on people. He allows them to choose Him or to reject him. Wise governments do not impose religion or a certain religious belief on their people. They create laws that promote the free practice of all religions, as long as those practices do not endanger or violate the freedoms and rights of other citizens.
Jesus did not run after the rich young ruler when he walked away. Jesus gave him the freedom to walk away. This reminds me also of Paul’s words to the Athenians as recorded by Dr. Luke in Acts 17. Note especially the word “perhaps” in this passage.
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
March 25th, 2012 at 1:12 am
As always… thanks, Bill.
March 25th, 2012 at 7:10 am
Because I value God much more than America, I see now that my biggest and most fundamental disagreement with you is in the area of the nature of God. I highly recommend No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John Frame.
March 25th, 2012 at 5:28 pm
No big quarrel from me David, but I do have a question. How is it you are using the term “Fundamentalist”? You seem to treat it as a pejorative, but are you intending to use this with any connection to the historical Fundamentalist movement of the early 1900’s? If the latter, can you share with me where in the primary source writing that indicates the Fundamentalists were concerned with the concept of promoting a “Christian Nation” concept?
March 25th, 2012 at 5:34 pm
I am treating it as a pejorative term. I don’t think that the large majority of folks think of the “fundamentals” movement of the early 20th cent (a reaction to post-enlightenment theological liberalism) in these discussions. I am using “fundamentalists” here in the same way most everyone else is using it today, i.e. outside of a systematic/historical theology class. Thanks for reading, bro. I hope you’re doing well.
March 25th, 2012 at 5:30 pm
I should also note that I have not seen the movie and so my agreement is primarily about the historical stuff in the post and not its connection to Cameron’s theology or the movie.
March 25th, 2012 at 5:36 pm
Thanks, Joe. I haven’t seen it either. I’m primarily dealing with the current info on it and the trailer. I suspect it will be more of the same, which will go beyond an early embrace of biblical virtues onto the Christian nation myth.
March 25th, 2012 at 6:08 pm
I see. I am not a fan of how the term is used in populist rhetoric, but you are right that is how most people use it. Oh well 🙂
Doing well bro, thanks for asking. Hope you are doing well too brother.
March 26th, 2012 at 10:08 am
Excellent points, Brother Flowers..
I often see these documentaries and wonder how in the world it could be the case that people assume the foundation was BIBLICAL and yet so much was anti-Bible. Blantantly.
While America did not have a Christian Founding in the sense of creating a theocracy, its Founding was deeply shaped by Christian moral truths. More important, it created a regime that was hospitable to Christians, but also to practitioners of other religions. Mark David Hall, Ph.D. said it best in his article entitled Did America Have a Christian Founding?
It seems that with there being a “Christian” nation dynamic, what can be confused in terms is “Christian principles.” There are many things scripture notes that are good/beneficial, whether one believes in Christ or not—and building a society upon it will bring success. In example, when adultery is allowed to occur without consequence, there will always be problems…just as gravity will ALWAYS be gravity/impact you. Even societies not believing in God have done that and noted how it does make a difference, confirming what the Bible already said
It seems to be the same case with the “Christian Nation” dynamic. Moreover, just because Christian principles were present in the nation’s founding doesn’t mean that it was ever set to be LIKE Christ. When looking at history, it’s not hard to find many examples of things done in the name of Christ that were for Him–be it the mistreatment/genocide of Native Americans by American colonists, the support of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade/kidnapping and abuse of blacks, the corrupt religion of FreeMasonry supported by many of the founders of the U.S nation and other things besides that.
One can say they were all “Christians” due to the language they used, yet it’s also by our fruit/actions that one sees the heart of Christ lived out…and many have noted that throughout history. In example, Fredrick Douglass—an Ex-Slave/Abolitionist–noted often how it was reading the Bible that made him realize the importance of being educated….and when he saw the “Christianity” supported by his owners/their church that said he was meant to be their slave and had no right to question, the Christianity he read about in scripture was radically different ( as discussed here and here and here ). He, alongside many other abolitionists (including ones such as John Wesley of the Methodist Church) noted how there seemed to be 2 Christianities based in U.S History—and both utilized principles from the Bible that benefited them, though only one was Biblical…and had the strength to stand.
One can go/investigate the work of Douglass under the name of A Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slavefor more…asDouglass felt that American Christianity practiced in the South is/was not authentic Christianity…and he went even further to say that in fact, it is another religion altogether. In his words (as discussed here and here):
Other ethnic groups that’ve suffered in the name of God also have echoed Douglass’s sentiments…..and thus, many of the laws within the Constitution HAD to be ammended/changed due to how they weren’t just. Same thing that happened with slavery also occurred with the women’s sufferage movement–and later the Civil Rights era with ending Jim Crow as well as giving minorities the right to vote since the founding of the nation NEVER considered them. As much as there was discussion of Christian morality shaping the U.S, there were truly many UN-Christian things done which harmed us…and the Church often noted it.
In many ways, it’s no different than what happened in the books of I-II Kings and II Chronicles where the history of Judah is shown….with righteousness/unrighteousness growing up together in the nation–and the residual effects of righteousness keeping the nation alive logner than it would have made it without that present. 2 Chronicles 34 is a striking example of this, as Josiah was eight years old when he became king and was very righteous–yet in the eighteenth year of his reign (26yrs old), there was still ALOT of mess in the nation…and apart from the Book of the Law, he was never even aware of it being a problem. In many ways, that’s the way the U.S is shaped. Many prayed and due to their prayers rather than the righteousness of the nation as a whole, the Lord sparred things—and sometimes, even with prayer, the Lord made clear some things were too far gone. With the U.S today, the same dynamics have been occurring I think….and thankfully, the Lord is not limited to the U.S being “blessed” since He works in all nations/cultures. There was actually an article by one of my good brothers in Christ (Lionel Woods) that you may be blessed by (as seen here and here /here).
March 26th, 2012 at 10:13 am
You bring out some excellent points, Gabriel. Thanks!
March 26th, 2012 at 10:10 am
I do wonder alot of times if the revisionists history comes more a racial aspect, as others often saying “Times were good and the American Revolution was God-Ordained” will often say it was wrong for slaves to have revolted when it came to the desire for freedom based on what the scriptures said about injustice….and people often ignore what happened to Native Americans today who look at those reinventing history as lying about what “God did”…
March 26th, 2012 at 11:27 am
Something else I forgot to add earlier is that I always find it HIGHLY DECEPTIVE for documentaries to focus solely on aspects of the Founding Fathers/documents that seem to show a “Christian” bent…and yet nothing is ever discussed of the many things in which there were monuments that had themes of a clearly pagan orgin. Whenever others get mad at the President for saying that the U.S is not truly a “Christian” nation anymore, there seems to be a rallying cry amongst many Religious Right Evangelicals to make documentaries to remind others of how things were…..but they’ll leave out the evidence showing rather plainly things where people never were “Christian” with many things done that you’d expect in Greek Temples. When I was in D.C for a vacation, I went to to tour..and in the Smithsonian Museum of American History wasa statue of George Washington IN D.C that had him in the form of a Greek GOD, modeled after Zeus…and I was freaked out wondering “Why is this even HERE???!!”…and then as I started to research more.
Many other things besides that ALL over the capital where one could see plainly evidences of how our nation never really was Christian or believing in the Lord Jesus. The symbols alone at Capitol Hill are enough to make anyone who’s REALLY willing to think consider some things…and why many things have been so mixed together. Despite those who would rewrite history, the United States of America is “not in any sense founded on the Christian religion”: a statement approved by George Washington himself. It has actually been the case that many of the building blocks of early American government rest on solid Pagan foundations–and it’s not even hidden.
Some of what is out there gets interesting when considering the ways that others complain about the U.S needing to get back to its “Christian Roots” because of their ideology/belief that the U.S was never meant to make room for other groups to practice their views as well. You’ve probably seen this when it comes to others saying that we cannot allow Muslims into the U.S and honor their beliefs since it takes away from our heritage–but when I saw the symbolism present in D.C and noted what the Founding Fathers themselves said on the subject of plurality, I wonder how hypocritical many act.
For more, one can go here / here or here to Mystical Sites – U.S. Capitol | The Vigilant Citizen. Moreover, for some excellent documentation resources, one may wish to consider the following:
—“Prison Planet: Free Masonry” ( )
George Washington Massonic Memorial…
Our “Pagan” President and our Pagan Democracy
Pagan Monuments of Washington, D.C. – YouTube
America — A Pagan Nation? :: Fundamentally Reformed
The United States: A Country founded on Paganism
Secrets of the Founding Fathers part 1 (History Channel)
—“David Barton discuss the Founding Fathers and Masonry.” ( )
“The Idolatry of Patriotism » Blog » Greg Boyd …”( )
“Painted Idolatry: “One Nation Under God » Blog » Greg Boyd …” ( )
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”: An Analysis of Hypocrisy and Opposing Representations of Christianity”
March 26th, 2012 at 11:36 am
On the Statue of George Washington that many have often been perturbed by, one can go here to the resource entitled George Washington, A Statue of the 1830′s
I think many of the points you brought up, Brother Flowers, about the “Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure” documentary are things many need to keep in mind. If others wish to discuss the ways that certain founding Fathers had Christian beliefs, that’s not a problem. The motive for doing so, however, is something that I think we need to be careful of…for if it’s to show how the U.S needs to be inspired to ensure that the nation goes in a Christian direction, I have to pause and say that only HALF of the story is in view—-for the very foundation of the nation seems to be one where there was ALWAYS tension….Christian views/leanings in connection with Non-Christian views/leanings, as opposed to one side having dominance over the other. My fear for those watching the film is that alot of propoganda may arise in regards to others who are wanting a certain political party to arise in dominance..
However, the film may have benefit in causing others to consider the ways that many of the roots in the U.S do have Christian leanings –contrary to many in the Secular world who wish to say that Christian perspectives have no room in the political realm or in the laws made as people try to marginalize Christian rights on certain things. I think many may end up being of the mindset that what occurred in the U.S is similar to what happened in the Roman Empire when Christianity was made the State Religion–and alot of good happened as well as bad since it was no longer a matter of being a Christian because of one’s relationship with Christ as much as it was about being one due to the political benefits that came with it…and using the “name of Christ” for whatever game one wished to play.
March 26th, 2012 at 11:44 am
Wishing that all of us could text-message the Founders of the Nation to see what they said directly off the books/in person rather than through the letters they stated..often akin to reading emails/text-messages after the fact 🙂
March 26th, 2012 at 6:12 pm
I’m really excited to see that the comments here are a discussion and not preaching OR bashing 🙂
I’ve thought quite a lot about this topic, even considered writing a book about it, from a different perspective.
I did an undergraduate paper on a group called the Levellers from 1600s England. It changed my life – really! I discovered a lot of their core documents and some of these were verbatim to the Bill of Rights. It’s interesting to know what they stood for – and against. They were against Oliver Cromwell’s “Christian Nation” or “Protectorate” of England. They were also convinced that the only way to have a true Christian society that saved the souls of its citizens, was to allow Catholics to be Catholic and Atheists to be atheist, and not make personal piety politically (or legally) required. Only in that environment would Christianity produce saving faith instead of simply its trappings. They also supported women’s suffrage and lay preaching.
I highly recommend the Selected Works of the Levellers by Andrew Sharpe http://www.constitution.org/lev/levellers.htm.
Dave, have you read about them? – Sara
March 26th, 2012 at 8:37 pm
Hey Sara, I have heard of the group. I’m going to look more into them. Thanks for the link. Sounds interesting!
March 28th, 2012 at 10:31 am
I guess what confuses me personally is trying to identify where exactly any Christians really disagree in this area. David said he posted this in an attempt to get his conservative friends to re-think the whole “America is a Christian nation” idea. I think that perhaps has merit, but I also think we need to avoid a straw-man argument against our “Christian nation”-minded brethren. I don’t know that any of them really want a government-established church like England nor would they want government-enforced piety. Rather, I think they are arguing for a Christian-influenced society, one that upholds traditional/Biblical standards of morality but not state-enforced piety. I’m sure a few hard-core theonomists might want to push things that far, but not even FRC or AFA have tried to argue that the government ought to compel people to believe in Christ or honor God in their private lives.
March 28th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
Jason, I have not presented a straw-man argument. As a “reformed” conservative, you ought to know good and well what I’m challenging here. There are plenty of Christians who would certainly prefer that the country operate on “Judeo-Christian” laws , while at the same time they would reject “theocracy” because they know in their bones that it isn’t a good thing (except for the fundamentalists among us trying to resurrect the Puritan idea). But you can’t have a society entirely built upon “biblical law” and standards of morality (legislating sin and enforcing Christian principles) without having a theocracy. Nevertheless, they go on promoting the Christian nation myth (theocracy) either believing it’s the truth, or thinking that it will at least help out with moral reform if they remind everyone of the “Great Awakening” revival in the colonial period, or how some of the founding fathers were religious.
So, they are entirely confused about their American history (early religious intolerance, war, genocide, slavery, witch trials, etc.) and how the Gospel ought to engage society in general–apart from using power-over people to do it. Even if the name of Christ was mentioned in the founding documents (which it’s not), it wouldn’t make for a Christian nation. The Lord himself opposed it. His teachings don’t allow for it. And we have about 1500 years of “Christian nation” history to testify to this destructive idea. We should steer clear of anything that sounds remotely close to this detestable mockery of the upside-down kingdom of Christ.
Christians have been confused about this since Constantine married faith and politics. Do I want the country that I live in to honor God with their law? Of course I do. But America is a worldly kingdom. Moral reform will not come by revisionist history or by rallying the militant church to belligerently remind this secular age of a previous period of moral awareness. The world is looking for the present church to live what they say they believe in their own lives and church communities. That ought to be recognized as the hope of any nation–the lifeblood of the church being faithful to the hope she confesses–salt of the earth, light to the world, city on a hill. The only holy nation on earth (1 Pet 2:9).
Going back isn’t the answer. Here’s why: (1) it wasn’t as glorious as the Christian revisionists would have us believe; (2) it will only further embarrass the church in exposing her sins, and turn more away from Christ; (3) it will distract us from looking to a fresh new understanding of the Gospel in context, and creative engagement with the world that is consistent with the life and work of Christ.
Finally, if these folks are really concerned to have a “Christian-influenced” society, they should consider the things I’ve just mentioned. And stop propagating lies, concocting half-truths and using misguided theology to do it. Instead, they should take a long hard look in the mirror of Christ’s teachings. Our prayer should be for the Lord to purify the church of all intolerance, idolatry, greed, hate, factions, divorce, hypocrisy, violence, and heresy hunting. Then after having been resurrected from this great fall, the world might see that renewal and begin moving in the direction of the example set forth by the faithful Bride of Christ. That seems to be the NT vision of influencing the culture.
March 28th, 2012 at 4:14 pm
Hey David, I think Jason made some very lucid points. Laws do not remain static. They will not be neutral. You will always have wise laws which have their roots in godly principles, or you will have ungodly laws which have their roots in humanism, etc. Every Christian friend of mine who thinks himself/herself to be a patriot sees how vital it is, as you say, to be the church…the light in this dark world. There is a monster out there trying to take freedoms away. Freedom is a Christian/Hebraic principle.
I agree with you for the most part, but when you say “we should steer clear of anything that sounds remotely close to this detestable mockery,” well, that is an extremely gray area. I once had a dog who freaked out whenever he saw my jump rope. He had been beaten and whipped severely before I adopted him, and anything that looked remotely like a whip sent him into a terrified frenzy. I did learn not to jump rope in front of him. Most of us just can’t imagine that our support of Christian principles and values in the government is anything like a “detestable mockery.” I think the important thing here is for each person to allow the Lord to search his/her own heart and see if they are idolizing America or not…or if their patriotic involvement is not actually healthy exercise, but the brutal lashing of the Kingdom of God.
March 28th, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Hey Paul, I agree with the first portion of your comment. Judging from the second part of your comment, I’m not sure if I was completely understood, or maybe we just disagree. 🙂 And that’s fine too. I just mean that Christians should move off of the “Christian nation” myth and focus on those things I mentioned earlier—the pressing issues of our time. I would like to see the church discover a new language to express their concerns. But for now, I don’t think it’s gonna matter all that much anyway. Many evangelical (and Catholic) leaders have tarnished the reputation of the church, and distorted the gospel message. And since the church can’t get her own stuff together, the increasingly hostile society will respond negatively to any attempts to legislate sin and cry out on behalf of the Christian nation myth. That’s all I was saying. Thanks, Paul.
March 29th, 2012 at 9:28 am
Hey David. I guess I misunderstood you. (Not that we have to agree.) When you said this above: “But you can’t have a society entirely built upon “biblical law” and standards of morality (legislating sin and enforcing Christian principles) without having a theocracy.”
I guess I was thinking you meant Christian principles in government equals theocracy. I should have paid more attention to the word “entirely.” However, the laws against murder, stealing, etc. do have Hebraic/Christian roots…and that is a sort of legislation of sin and enforcement of Christian principles. I don’t think such Christian principles make us a theocracy. Again, the Hebrews knew the difference between the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws of their nation. Laws in society that are resultant from Christianity are merely one way the wisdom of God penetrates the culture, in my opinion. His influence is not limited to the spiritual realm. Jesus became a physical man…entered our earthy realm to proclaim His spiritual Kingdom. But God created mankind to be whole-spirit, soul and body. Therefore, His principles are helpful to the natural (carnal) man. His rain falls on the just and unjust. I don’t mean to split hairs here, it just seems like separating the meat from the bones here is important.
My post on Schools of Law might shed further light: http://christcenterededucation.blogspot.com/2009/09/schools-of-law.html
March 29th, 2012 at 9:41 am
That’s cool, Paul. I would also recognize that laws against murder, stealing, etc. are not rooted only in Hebraic/Christian laws and principles. I understand what you’re saying. I will check out your link. Thanks, bro!
March 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am
When James said “All good things come from above…” he was, in my view, holding up the notion that all truth is God’s truth, and the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Nature itself shows His attributes, but nature is not God. So while other cultures had laws against murder, adultery, etc., those ideals, however marred, were originally from the Father of Lights–even though those cultures were royally messed up…as is our own culture lots of ways. Nature is not God…and neither is morality in government equal to theocracy. I think the real issue with theocratic governments today happens mostly in the local “church” setting where the pastor thinks himself to be the vicar of Christ. Now I have seen way too much of that!
March 29th, 2012 at 10:28 am
Can we also say that laws against abortion and defining marriage as between one man and one woman are also not uniquely rooted in Hebraic/Christian principles? Every culture in the history of the world has seem marriage as a male-female union until just a few years ago. Heterosexual marriage in still the law in the vast majority of Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and secular states in the world. It is probably misguided to quote the Bible as a political argument in favor of these positions, but one could (and should) hold the position that support of the life of unborn children and traditional marriage (opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage) is the most loving position to take toward our neighbors if we understand that abortion hurts women and destroys families and that same-sex marriage also undermines cultural stability and the welfare of our neighbor.
I mean, these two issues are the key issues where terms like “theocracy” start getting tossed around recklessly. If you say “Don’t murder” and “don’t steal” and “don’t lie in court”, no one cries “theocracy”
I am 100% in agreement (well, 95%, anyway) about the whole “Christian nation” rhetoric and the dangers of cultural Christianity. I just think we cannot abandon the full call to love our neighbors, which includes advocating for just laws that will be best for our culture- NOT in the name of “reclaiming America for Christ”, though.
March 28th, 2012 at 4:27 pm
P.S. Christian principles do not make this nation a theocracy any more than eating a bowl of curry makes me a Hindu.
March 29th, 2012 at 5:46 am
I really think you guys need to step away from the idea of “myths” if you’re talking about current political discourse (Or what passes for discussion these days, *Rolls eyes). “Christian nation” themes are cited in rhetoric by political candidates. The issue of applying Christian principles is populist legislation. Do we mold society around Christian principles by mobilizing all the Christians to vote for legislation that enshrines “Biblical principles” or ideas whose defense rests primarily on theology? As long as we beat the numbers fair and square? Is that right? Is that fair to all our citizens? Do we care that it is fair? Why or why not? The Doctrine of Innocent Blood does come into play here. And anyone who is both conservative and “prophetic” knows what that is – it’s discussed in grassroots politics.
It’s my suggestion as a political science graduate (And this is not fleshed out in an article – yet) that American Christians’ understanding of their spiritual mandate of citizenship (particularly as it relates to voting) is a uniquely AMERICAN point of theology. It’s part of OUR culture; it’s not necessarily how Christians around the world interpret their Christian duty of political participation.
America is a set of ideals. We are the only country whose culture is cemented by principles and ideas people stand for rather than a national collective consciousness that comes with ethnicity and long history in geographical territory.
So for us, being a citizen HAS to connect with our ideals, because Christianity has its own set. America is inherently bound up in a moral identity by its founding. So Christians who campaign for Supreme Court appointments/rulings for example, feel challenged to support or change the ideals expressed in law as a duty because it connects to them personally; they associate it as part of their religious witness.
As a result, failure to participate politically in doing this, is a failure to be a Christian witness. Therein lies the moral obligation.
Christians in every other country have a different conception of what their Spiritual responsibilities are in acting as citizens. And it’s not just Christians in dictatorships or other oppressive regimes. I mean democracies. As I’m traveling in Europe, I find that alot of other Christians seem baffled by our “Culture War” in the United States.
This worries me. I mean, what if our preaching, challenging people to take up the banner for our nation to stop abortion, end gay marriage, pick-the-next-thing, is really more American than Biblical? Maybe it’s not the “Line in the sand” that we testify about to other believers?
March 29th, 2012 at 8:43 am
Sara, I agree with what you’ve written. I have stated those sentiments elsewhere. Cultural Christianity can be the greatest enemy to the real thing. It’s not an easy task to maneuver culture. And there are times where the answers are more clear than we would like to believe. The NT churches had a hard time with it. It’s forever a part of the challenges we face when we decide to follow Jesus.
March 29th, 2012 at 9:40 am
Sara, I couldn’t agree more! Thank you, David, for putting your thoughts out there. This is a great discussion. I love how iron sharpens iron.
It does seem that cultural Christianity is a very big problem. It is not that all culture is wrong (though a lot of it plainly is). It is just that too many Christians don’t know the difference between the clean and the unclean, the holy and the profane…the cultural and the spirit.
March 29th, 2012 at 4:40 pm
The only thing I love more than sharing the same idea/view with someone is sharing the same spirit. 🙂 It’s like food that hits your soul AND illuminates your mind at the same time.
Thanks for the fellowship guys 🙂
March 29th, 2012 at 5:00 pm
Whenever the subject of a Christian Nation comes into view, part of me is reminded of the examples of others in government such as Joseph–a man whom the Lord used greatly to impact the nation of Egypt/save numerous from death via famine….including the Hebrews (Genesis 38-50). The man was in high positions of influence, with the loss of his father being something that the Egyptians (Pharoah included) mourned over greatly ( Genesis 50 ). Joseph exercised great power on behalf of the people of the Lord, yet there’s never any mention of him ever seeking to ensure that the nation of Egypt follow all of the Laws of God that his people knew of. The land allowed for the people of the Lord to have freedom to express themselves in worship of the Lord–but it was not as if their focus was upon trying to ensure that everyone from the top down follow the Lord.
The same goes for others that seem to be in the same position, such as Daniel and Esther and others. With Paul, although he was not a politican, there is mention of how he worked with others in position of government—ones such as Erastus who was the director of public works ( Romans 16:22-24 )…a person who has been verified in history. But it doesn’t seem to be the case that Paul’s goal was to take a view of the Kingom as being about trying to establish nations that’d follow the Lord since the Gospel was meant to transcend time/space.
Most of the battles that seem to go down with the Culture Wars in our time appear to be focused on the Church feeling as if it is their duty to shape society toward a certain bent—be it those on the Religious Right, those on Christian Left or others in differing camps as well. And the narrative of the U.S having “Christian Principles” is something that’s utilized in order to have others inspired to try to go about changing things due to their duty. Although as another said best earlier, this seems to be an American mindset since the ways that the U.S was shaped was connected with the name of Christ—and thus, to truly be “Christian”, the need appears for many to be able to exercise dominance in the nation.
I can understand the strong inclination toward thinking that the mission of Christ’s Church, and our own personal mission, should be that of transforming the world/society into one that is more just and more loving, more akin to a utopian world. But I also feel we mustn’t allow ourselves to be deceived into feeling that bad things happen in the world due to a failure of Christianity. That is like saying that Jesus Christ was crucified because He failed to publicly communicate His truth effectively.
To give more information/clarity, it has been rather interesting to see the ways that others have chosen to get involved in the struggles they see around them since they are the Hands/Feet of the Lord in this world..and knowing where the boundaries are for not getting too caught up in this world make a difference.
If a church is within an area, should it necessarily be responsible for whether or not a society improves? And in the instances when improvement does occur, does that necessarily mean that all places where the Church is should follow suit?
Something one of my brothers in Christ noted to me once:
According to 1 Peter 1:16-18, 1 Peter 2:10-12 / and Hebrews 11:12-14 , we’re meant to be as Sojourners/Soldiers traveling through rather than setting up camp in a world they weren’t meant to belong to…and anything that occurs along the way to benefit society at large is a blessing–but it can never be fully replicated by the world.
Perhaps a good way of seeing it is like previews. When a society does well because of the Gospel of Christ infiltrating it (i.e. schools are built, wells dug, reforms, etc), it is not something to be taken to mean that Utopia is allowed to come fully to Earth. Rather, it is a mere demonstration of what was meant to be—and what will be FULLY once Christ comes back. What we do in the ways we change our world is akin to “Previews” like they do in the movies with upcoming films. You see glimpses of what’s to come, before actually sitting through the entire setting later.
And with believers, I’m thankful others are allowed to see what is or isn’t right based on the work of Christ—and how it is meant to change. How others outside of Christ respond to that is on them…but many times, it does seem the Lord allows His people to change things to a point while still giving the world the freedom to either be benefited by that—or turn against it. And as often happens because of the nature of man, righteousness can be hated at certain points and cause upheavel/destruction.
That is what seems to be the case in Revelation when seeing the ways the the believers/church were mistreated, as the text doesn’t seem to discuss anything of previous times the world wasn’t benefited by those who were believers changing things. What occurred is that at some point, unbelievers chose en masse to resist the work of the Lord in His people/the benefits coming from it—-and chose to rise up. At that point, when it’s so severe that there’s the threat of all believers being wiped out globally, Christ will return to shut it down—and the Film dubbed “Eternity” will begin.
As you follow the Gospel through the Middle East, Europe, Russia, the US into S. America, Asia and China and many other places – you can watch throughout history how nations were transformed… and then de-evolved if they gave up His gospel. The Middle East was a beacon of invention and sound gov’t prior to the rise of Islam/suppressing Christianity…and it was only when Christianity was outlawed that many of them reverted advancement wise.
Russia experinced something similar under communism when many (in the name of communism) were trying to shut down all things related to the Gospel/Church while saying they wished to look out for their fellow man.
The Scientific Revolution is another, as most of the great minds behind it (i.e. Newton, for example) were Christians/believers in God who looked for Divine Laws in nature since they believed in a Divine Law Maker/a Messiah who held it all together. But once the Enlightenment begun, man began to try recognizing the works of God without God (i.e. Methodological Naturalism )and trusted in themselves…with ALOT of advancements being used wrongly.
When Christianity gets a foot hold and begins to build schools, dig wells, finance orphanges, love the individual enough that individuals change their values. They begin to desire His ways…then nations change…and there is kingdom now….not by our standards. Christ has never forced Himself on an individual or a nation…. it must be by the Holy Spirit’s leading and conviction that nations lay down their carnal weapons.
It has historically been believers who’ve often transformed the course of history–and many of them doing so because of their belief in their actions/the quality thereof being of importance when responding to the work of Christ.
Because of the love Christ has shown us, we who’ve been transformed by it are to go out/get to work.
Traveling through doesn’t mean, IMHO, that one can’t leave a trail behind to follow that leaves life.
Psalm 84:5 always comes to mind:
There are others alongside the many other scriptures on being salt/light and being ready for every kind of good deed so that believers may win the respect of outsiders and live out what it means to be a Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-39).
March 29th, 2012 at 5:17 pm
Do you feel that perhaps trying to establish LAws reflecting the scriptures is always a beneficial thing for believers? For me, looking on the issue of trying to have Biblical laws established within the nation in the Name of Christ often seems very reminiscent of what has happened in other times when people took the Empires that they lived in/tried to make them “Christianized.” Some of it, is similar to what occurred when Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire and other empires had similar dynamics, with it being the case that others were not trying to take away the right of others to practice/believe/declare their religious views as they wish….but more so about letting others do as they do so long as belief in God/Jesus was dominant while the believers had freedom to do as they wished. Others, IMHO, often seem to be of the mindset that allowing for diversity in religious practices is allowing “sin” to rule—and thus, putting the name of Christ in danger, be it with those wanting to have abortion as an option or homosexual allowances and a host of other things.
By default, anyone practicing a religion other than one devoted to Christ “pushes” their view, be it in passive ways or aggressive, since their choosing not to follow Christ places them in the category of saying that he’s somehow wrong/not worth following….but, IMHO, there’s a way to go about it thankfully when it comes to living alongside others worshipping other gods just as we live alongside people in our neighborhoods down the street—all of whom have differing beliefs, interesting perspectives and stories to tell of how they see the world. Hearing of it should not always be a threat to believers…
In other instances, people weren’t concerned with having the dominant platform for Christ. One can see this when examining Christianity in the east. In most places, unlike in Europe, it established itself as a minority faith alongside more dominant religions. Many believers who were eventually exiled from the Eastern side of the Roman Empire (later Constantinople ) had differing experiences that parallel this…for when many of the councils were set up to determine what was “Orthodox” Christianity, those deemed to be herectics were kicked out. Others such as Nestorious were exiled to a monastery in the desert of his enemies. Consequently, the Syriac church has been called Nestorian to this day. The Christian historical scholar known as Philip Jenkins gave a more in-depth review on the issue of Christianity within the world of those who were within the “unorthodox” camps and showed how they spread the Gospel…..seeking instead to live alongside people of differing beliefs systems rather than try to make them second-class/not allowed to promote what they believe. Whereas in the West power was sought via the State/government, those who were Eastern Christians amongst the Monguls didn’t try to do such. ..they were able to go about their mission of the Gospel, even reaching as far as Japan CENTURIES before anything of Catholicism/Protestanism happened there and preseting the Gospel while greatly contributing to the development of Japanese society (as discussed here, here, here, here, and here). I was very thankful for how Jenkins noted that whereas the conversion of Europe always had the inertia and legacy of the conversion of the Roman Empire behind it, Nestorian and Jacobite Christianity never quite managed to convert a powerful political elite and reap the evangelical rewards of doing so, though Nestorianism came close with the Mongols.
To see the ways that other believers went about trying to transform the nations is noteworthy. There was a book I read recently on the subject that really had me processing, entitled The Barbarian Conversion: from Paganism to Christianity. For more, one can click here or here. Fletcher’s history covers the years from the 200’s AD, beginning with the earliest European missionary, Gregory Thaumaturgis, until 1386, when Lithuania was brought into the fold–just 1100 years to convert all of Europe from Iberia to Greenland, Iceland and the British Isles to Scandinavia and the Baltics from their tribalism, provincialism, and paganism to Christianity, kingdoms, Latin, Roman law, and a sense that the entire region was a whole. It was truly brilliant to consider the ways in which Paganism tended to fade away as Christianity took more influence in converting the kings of the nations and making Christianity more wide-spread legally….while the pagan views either adapted by taking the names of their gods/changing them to fit “Christian” ones or choosing to lay low until a time they could spring back forth again….subverting things subtely under the radar before anyone would notice and see how there was transformation from the inside out.
Recalling this, IMHO, is necessary whenever it comes to seeing the ways that Christianity is often at the center stage for many who want it to be in dominance. For often, the Culture Wars end up becoming a matter of discussing WHICH form of Christianity will be mandatory–and although it can lead to others despising anything Christian since it seems political, it can also be problematic since trying to make laws based on the BIBLE itself inevitably leads to a scenario where others only see one form of Christianity that’s dominant…and possibly having all other forms pushed out. This is something which has happened before in our nation’s history when it came to differing groups trying to push their version of Christianity upon another legally. And inevitably, one version of Christianity would become HIJACKED by those not for Christ so that they could get things they wanted done by using Christ as a type of figurhead…
March 29th, 2012 at 8:46 pm
Hey Gabriel, I would prefer living in a country that remains neutral toward religion. I’m content with a worldly kingdom that gives equal rights to all people, race, creed, etc. While I don’t think there is always a clear boundary between our faith and how it engages with politics, I unashamedly and very confidently lean away from direct involvement with the state. I believe a NT (Christian) case can be more securely built upon the idea of speaking truth to power, but not joining ranks with power to further secular civility. Christ reveals a better way than that of the OT examples of men working within the political powers. I know that this may seem like irresponsible disengagement from the world (the Anabaptists were accused of this), but I believe that assumption is made for lack of creative thought and engagement with the world that is more consistent with the methods of Christ. We should not seek to “Christianize” or baptize the state in the Christian faith, but instead serve as a light for humanity to see the wisdom in the power-under service of the Christian church among one another and the world. As I understand the NT, the church ought to make the world (state) envious of the sort of community life experienced in the church, who is not ruled by kings, congress, and worldly law. The church is governed by a higher law of the Spirit. This life reflects the world to come—when heaven and earth become one and the same in the triumphant return of King Jesus. I understand the gospel to be a proclamation that the kingdom of God is arriving even now (which always looks like Jesus), and it isn’t arriving, and will not advance, through the avenues of the state. As Jesus said, “my kingdom is not of this world.” The call of Christ requires that we leave the temporal methods of the kingdoms of the world (trusting in the power-over rule of threats and consequences), in order to enter in to the kingdom of God by joining with the community of the church which casts the vision of a new world where men are governed by the law of the Spirit.
March 30th, 2012 at 12:00 am
I really respect you, David. You’re a good thinker and have said so much that really blesses me. I completely agree that the church must be the church as God intended and not dilute itself with the notions of dominion theology and misguided patriotism, etc. That’s the only hope for the world! But your philosophy in this arena sounds a little on the Utopian side of things, unless I am misunderstanding your stance altogether.
Neutral ground? Now there’s a myth! If we believe the Bible we are all (including the world) incapable of being neutral (Matt. 12:30). Life and Death are the only options in the universe. The idealistic concept of neutrality assumes that worldly men and women are purely unbiased. But history is littered with tyrant after tyrant who is all too willing to be a law unto themselves. Many (perhaps most) of these tyrants have falsely used the name of Christ to warrant their actions. Satan is far too subtle to masquerade with horns and a pitch fork…he comes as an angel of light…using stupid men as puppets in his play. Because people cannot be neutral, governments cannot be neutral. Governments are merely extensions of people…and unseen kingdoms (Prov. 21:1; 2 Cor. 4:4, etc). “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Fallen man needs the schoolmaster–the law–to act as a guardian because demoniacs disguised as kings are ever seeking to quench their inhuman thirst for power.
I would highly recommend a book by our friend, Eric Metaxas, about William Wilberforce called Amazing Grace. Wilberforce had much involvement with the British state and had the audacity to bring Christian principles to bear upon the morality therein. Slavery was abolished in England in large part because great politicians and great theologians showed the Bible to say that slavery was never sanctioned by God, but rather was a catalyst to His judgment on those nations which practiced it. Wilberforce is just one example in history of a politically involved Christian who helped push back the tyranny a little. He let his light shine on the stage of government.
You said, “I’m content with a worldly kingdom that gives equal rights to all people, race, creed, etc.” If you mean by this “worldly kingdom” one that is based on the Christian principles of freedom, it might exist to some small degree as long as people like Wilberforce remain politically engaged. He was a prime example of someone being the church and also changing the destiny of a people so they could experience, one day, a freedom taken from them by tyrants. He understood it had to be both/and. If you mean by this worldly kingdom one that is devoid of Christian principles, you’ll never find one ounce of liberty (much less neutrality) in any earthly state. The world, being in bondage to the whims of Satan, cannot muster the power of freedom.
March 30th, 2012 at 8:59 am
Hey Paul, thank you for your kind words. I do think quite a bit. Some would say too much. While I always leave room for error due to my own short-sightedness and immaturity in this journey, I can confidently say that I have given this subject the most prayer and reflection of all.
I think you misunderstood me about a country being “neutral” toward religion. I only meant to affirm the original thinking of the founding fathers with the embrace of separation of church and state and religious liberty. I think it’s a pretty good thing. You don’t need to be Christian to recognize that. That’s all I meant.
I am very familiar with William Wilberforce. I have the book and show my Christian History students the film, “Amazing Grace.” I think what Wilberforce did is praiseworthy, but I don’t think it’s uniquely or distinctively Christian what he did. It certainly can’t be denied that his faith in many ways fueled his efforts to eradicate slavery. Our faith, if we are people of faith, ought to be fueling all of our passions, including our sense of justice. I also believe that Bonhoeffer was driven by his understanding of faith. I’m a big fan of Bonhoeffer. I’m actually writing a paper on him in the coming weeks. However, I believe Bonhoeffer compromised his faith, reasoning his way out of the clear commands of Christ that he had previously proclaimed, in order to take up the sword and power-over to advance justice. I respect Bonhoeffer for his struggle in a dark time, and that even as he joined the plot to assassinate Hitler, he recognized it was sin, saying that he simply did not know what else to do.
I know that Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer are different situations and actions. I mention them because they are both often used as examples of “biblical” resistance against tyrannical powers of injustice. Metaxas has written on both of these guys. Wilberforce is an example of someone working from within the system. Bonhoeffer was working the system because he joined Nazi military intelligence to oppose them, ultimately to join the inside plot to kill Hitler. BTW: All attempts not only failed, but Hitler emerged each time believing all the more that God had blessed the Nazi regime. I think the cross lost when Bonhoeffer turned away from the clear teachings of Jesus (Matt 5:38-48).
Is it possible for worldly kingdoms to embrace principles of freedom and religious liberty apart from Christian faith? I believe so. As I was pointing out in “Monumental Myth,” the major shapers of the founding documents gathered these ideas from their study of history, and their own experiences of an oppressive Christian nation sate. Even the “endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights” is a deistic remark. So, while I do not see the ideas of freedom and religious liberty coming from states that are staunch atheists and intentionally opposed to religious liberty, they can come from any nation that recognizes some form of theism. This is what I am mainly arguing in my blog post. The founding fathers were products of the enlightenment. Most of them would have attributed these principles to reason and common sense, and yes, using the Bible to support their ideas—being that many had left England to find a freedom to practice the “Christian” religion as they saw fit, not as the king or parliament tells them.
As I stated in my last comment, I know that this may seem like irresponsible disengagement from the world, but I believe that assumption is made for lack of creative thought and engagement with the world in a way that is more consistent with the methods of Christ. We should not seek to “Christianize” or baptize the state in the Christian faith (or imagine that the state can’t get along without Christian politicians), but instead serve as a light for humanity to see the wisdom in the power-under service of the Christian church among one another and the world. As I understand the NT, the church ought to make the world (state) envious of the sort of community life experienced in the church, who is not ruled by kings, congress, and worldly law. The church is governed by a higher law of the Spirit.
I recommend reading “Myth of a Christian Nation” by Gregory Boyd, and “Mere Discipleship” by Lee Camp.
March 30th, 2012 at 10:21 am
This is definitely something everyone must grapple with. In my view, the American Revolution is not a sacred cow. As you know, most of the people who were involved in the revolution were not Christians. I tend to think the spiritual laws of the New Testament are fitted specifically to the church…so they can, as you agree, be a light to the world. There are Biblical principles (found in both the Old and New Testaments) which work nicely in the carnal realm of fallen mankind. They deal with behavior modification, etc., and are very subjective to the desires of individuals. But at least they can be enforced through the legal system of earthly government.
Why would deists follow the guidelines in Romans 13? Since America was not founded by the church, but by a conglomeration of people (some Christian, some not), it probably would not have occurred to the bulk of them that some of their principles should come from Romans 13. The church is privy to an eternal perspective, the world lives for what it can get in the here and now. So of course the American Revolution was a violation of Romans 13. But since when has the world not violated the laws of God? Furthermore, since all good things come from God, the good laws they chose to enact might be the ideals of deism, but they were first of all the principles of the only God. Plagiarism doesn’t make the work original to the the one who stole it.
To further this point, please allow me to quote from my blog:
“A bit of truth taken from Truth Himself is like taking a branch off a tree. It has not ceased to be true, per se. It has, however, ceased to be living. Of course, most of philosophy is built around disjointed truth—having lies built into it like tares sown into a field of wheat.”
“One can collect an armload of “branches”…a bunch of truths…and organize them into what one might call his creed, code of ethics, or even his doctrines. The detachment from life does not make the branch cease to be a real branch. One’s creed may have come from Christ, but if he is not abiding in Christ—alive and nourished by the Vine—his religion is no more useful in eternal terms than any other philosophy.”
“If one severs an arm from the body, it does not cease to be an arm; it merely ceases to be alive. When truth is independent of God, it does not cease to be true. It ceases to live.” – http://christcenterededucation.blogspot.com/2010/03/scraps.html
Because the reality at hand is that this is not a Christian nation, it is all the more important to recognize and stand up for laws that are Christian/Hebraic in principle. Even though they are ideals stolen from God’s perfectly intact cosmos they at least bring some level of order to the chaos of earth, however small. The world will never operate according to complete spiritual laws…but they can operate according to sane laws that have whatever place they can find in the realm of flesh and blood. What is born of the Spirit is spirit…of flesh is flesh. Understanding the fact that the “law is not made for the righteous, but for sinners.” The law of Moses was brought in because of sin. And the sinful world does need to see the light which only the church can shed, but they also need to behave. There probably isn’t one people group on earth who doesn’t operate on some level by the laws God made for sinners. You can call them Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Deist or what have you. They are rain from Him who rains on unjust peoples.
Thanks for the book suggestions!
March 30th, 2012 at 10:33 am
Paul, I wasn’t thinking of the deists and their disobedience to Romans 13, but to those “Christians” who were among them (as I know that many genuine believers, misguided as they were, supported the rebellion and war), and still those today who glorify the founding of the US and believe in the Christian nation myth (or some idea of a founding on Christian principles) as they continue supporting war—believing they are fighting for freedom. As you know, early American writings are filled with the language that God had brought about the nation by his divine blessing and providence. And I hear this “we’re so blessed because we honored God” language from the church today. I was just wanting to know where you stand. Thanks!
March 30th, 2012 at 10:54 am
It certainly is a complicated mess! Unless I’m mistaken most of the early Christians were slaves in the Roman Empire. Paul does indicate that they should seek their freedom, if possible, in 1 Cor. 7:21. The way to go about this, however, would certainly not have been the way it was gone about in the American Revolution.
March 30th, 2012 at 11:46 am
Hey Paul, it is indeed a complicated mess!
I wouldn’t say that “most” Christians were slaves, but some were. Right, they should seek their freedom in a manner that is consistent with the teachings of Jesus. A slave in that time could be given their freedom, which was unlikely. Usually they had to buy their freedom. If their master became a Christian, he might let them go. It depended on the type of slave they were. Regardless, Christians were called to remain in their situation and be faithful to Christ.
Of course, the issue in the American Revolution was mainly burdensome taxes. Religious liberty was secondary, maybe even tertiary. Slavery wasn’t confronted until the civil war. Nevertheless, I think that war was mainly about the sovereignty of the federal government over the right of the states (especially for economic purposes), than it ever was about slavery. The states began to lose their rights about that time, and the federal government began moving in a direction away from the original intention of the “United States” of America.
Did you know the Southern Baptist Convention was first formed because Christians were using the passages about slavery as a biblical defense for the practice? They believed in slavery and separated from the Baptists in the North. Yuck! It seems they were doing the typical American Christian thing… using the Bible as a defense for their freedom to do whatever they want. While I acknowledge that slavery is evil, I believe the states had the right to determine their law, according to the constitution. The federal government has been taking those rights away for a long time.
March 30th, 2012 at 12:50 pm
I think I was confusing the whole of the early church with the Galatians. They were mostly slaves, if I remember right.
Anyway, I did not know that about the Southern Baptist Convention. I have a baptist friend who once gave me a book to read about why his particular sect in the Baptist denomination is the only group that will be the actual Bride of Christ. It was some of the most nauseating nonsense I had heard in a while. The guy who wrote the book back in the 1800s was obviously borrowing a lot of what he said from the writings of Abraham Lincoln. In my opinion, the root of this and all other things like it goes all the way back to the identity crises Adam passed on to his race when he chose not to eat of God’s life, which would have made him God’s son. Being created in God’s image, he needed the final ingredient…God’s spiritual DNA…to be a complete, thus secure, being. People tend to identify with this or that because they are in the throes of the identity crisis we all inherited from Adam. I believe that is the scriptural diagnoses of the problem, and the scriptural answer is for folks, as you say, to find their identity in Christ as the true church.
This has been an interesting conversation. I appreciate learning more about where you’re coming from! Sometimes I take things too literally and tend to split hairs…but I can’t help it.
March 30th, 2012 at 12:55 pm
No problem, Paul. Enjoyed it.
March 29th, 2012 at 5:28 pm
I know that many, especially those who are against what they deem as Institutional Christianity, vehemently hate Constantine. If aware of a man known as Alan Hirsh, who is one of the leading teachers within the Missional movement and who has worked with many Simple Church leaders, he has a view that the traditional/institutional forms of the Church that were birthed in Christendom by State Religion are things which are to be moved from. Alan Hirsch relies on the restorationist meta-narrative that the New Testament church was pure in all things but at one point in history, identified by him as the conversion of Constantine/that era, everything went wrong, and has continued wrong.. That meta-narrative is something I cannot go with fully, even though I do feel there were many things in early Christendom that were not necessarily the ultimate in what the Lord desired ( here , here , here or here in his book entitled “The Forgotten Ways” . But on the same token, it seems that much of the Culture Wars that go on in the U.S are focused mainly upon the Constantine model—and there were many benefits that happened because of it.
As one believers noted to me when it came to the ways others may blast Constantine…:
Seemed legitimate to me…and on good review on the subject:
The Flying Inn: Defending Constantine
Ancient Christian Defense: Defending Constantine!
Ancient Christian Defense: Constantine & Jeroboam?
Book Review: Defending Constantine – Orthodox-Reformed Bridge
On Forbearance, Tolerance, and Concord—the Constantinian Model
Perhaps the same kind of dynamics may need to be considered whenever it comes to discussion of how much believers should be involved in seeing the nation shaped/changed for Christ. For what it seems to come down to for many is that having a legacy of the U.S that is Christian means that there’re more benefits for Christians to do things like spreading the Gospel and being able to do good works—even though there’s the flip side of how there’s danger that having more power given to believers means that others will try to use the name of Christ wrongly…and eventually make the kingdom of Christ into a kingdom of man where there can be no seperation of goals.
March 29th, 2012 at 5:40 pm
Mad props to Brother Paul and Sarah on all you’ve mentioned, as I’ve really been blessed seeing the things you have noted on how the Culture wars have shaped the ways we view Christianity…and how we understand it from an American perspective.
It does seem, IMHO, that there needs to be more focus on how the legacy of governments is that there need to be Christians IN nations rather than seeking to have a Christian nation/looking for a legacy that shows one—for the only real “Christian” nation that’ll ever develop is one ruled by Christ when he returns. Everything else is simply trying to have a form of Christ without really having true discipleship—and in the event that nations end up having majority leaders that are believers, that’s not to say that others will not come afterward/seek to demolish everything that was done by those leaders in the name of Christ….making the Christian Nation ideal impossible to have for all time ( Ecclesiastes 4:15-16 ). One of the reasons why many believers have been wary about trying to have nations become ones under Christ, even though they’re also not against working with government to make just laws that all can live under. If we want a nation that is Christian so that we don’t have to deal with living beside idols/pagans, then we’re not really being “Christian” since being believers was about simply having the Gospel in whatever time and season we’re at…..and the Lord is sovereign over all nations.
March 29th, 2012 at 7:43 pm
I don’t usually follow comment threads, but I’ve been following this one. Love the civility!
Gabriel, I like your perspective.
March 30th, 2012 at 9:10 am
Hey Paul, would you acknowledge that the American Revolution was itself a violation of Romans 13:1-8? I’m just curious. 🙂
March 30th, 2012 at 11:36 am
Interesting to see the ways that the entire conversation seems to be going, especially as it concerns things like Hitler/Bonheffer and the ways others feel that he should have never been taken out while others feel that he needed to be addressed, just as men felt that the tyranny of the British was against what the scriptures said and required action in the American Revolution just as slaves felt that they had the right to take action when they were abused.
Was recently blessed in being able to watch a video through one of the ministries I work with. The video was by a man known as Ray Comfort, a Jewish evangelist who has done much within the Kingdom of God to impact others for the Lord. The name of the video he did is entitled “180”—specifically on the subject of abortion and how others are to respond to it.
“180” Movie – YouTube
Although there are things I disagreed with the man on, I greatly appreciated many of the points he chose to bring up in regards to how believers should respond when it comes to what’s essentially genocide (with abortion)–and I appreciated his bringing up the example of Hitler and how many allowed Hitler to come to power/had no issue with his actions…..and yet, for people saying they’re against what he did, they would not have a problem with aborting babies.
One of the main points that stood out to me was when Comfort began asking questions such as “Would you assassinate Hitler if you had the chance?”…and if others said “Yes”, he followed up by asking others if they’d be willing to assasinate the mother of Hitler when she was pregnant with him. Although he was using that as a spring-board to the larger issue of killing babies in the womb, it was interesting to consider the question by itself since many said “Yes” to the killing Hitler’s mother
The seemingly insignificant decisions you make day by day can affect generations after you….and on the subject of abortion, the reason the 180 video seemed to tie in is because many have wrestled over just how far they’d be willing to go to say prevent future attrocities from occurring. In the event of Hitler, what should have been done in order to prevent someone like Hitler from doing as he did?
There were many who were condemned for plotting against Hitler when he began to come to power, especially in regards to others feeling as if violence was not allowed to occur amongst believers based on what Christ commanded with loving one’s enemies. Shane Claiborne spoke on theology and war once and share on how he felt Bonhoeffer was not right to do as he did.
As Claiborne says:
According to Claiborne, when Bonhoeffer tried to assassinate Hitler “the cross lost”. Claiborne later denounced Hitler’s genocide of Jews as “really really terrible theology” and a “skewed theology” …..but it seemed odd to many for one not to say it was bad theology to allow someone to come to power like Hitler and have his way. And I do wrestle on the subject.
At what point is it either permissible to take a life…or to spare one for the Glory of the Lord?
There are literally others within the Jewish world that feel that trying to come against Hitler was the equivalent of attacking one appointed by the Lord…and in example, one can consider the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s comparison of Hitler with “God’s servant” Nebuchadnezzer ( 2 Kings 24:1-3, 2 Kings 25, Ezra 5:11-13, Jeremiah 21:6-8 , Jeremiah 25:8-10 , Jeremiah 27:7-9 , Jeremiah 29 , Jeremiah 43:9-11, Ezekiel 29:18-20 Daniel 1-4 ) . As Haretz noted:
Was surprised (to say the least) that others within Judaism felt that way on a man like Hitler….but there were others from that era who felt the same. Others feel that Hitler was in the position he was like Nebuchadnezzar and that others should respond like Daniel did by simply intercedding for the king/nation and living one’s life in peace—much like the early believers did when it came to them saying prayers should be offered for leaders, including those who were cruel (I Peter 2, Titus 3, I Timothy 2:1-7, etc). Others felt that Hitler was given power by God’s command—and that his actions were necessary for the creation of the Israeli state. Others felt that people should be apolitical and simply keep to themselves rather than try to stir anything up.
And then you have other that were willing to take the man out like Deitrick Bonheffer–much like the Zealots felt in regards to holiness being expressed even in the willingness to take life.
I wonder where others should stand today….and if it came down to taking life, if it’d be right to consider doing so.
On the subject of Bonhoeffer, I think people like Brother Deitrick Bonheffer stand out, seeing their progression of thought. And for others who may be unaware, I’d highly suggest reading the Biography of Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. Very eye-opening to see how even most of the Reformed churches of Germany were duped into electing, supporting and endorsing Adolf Hitler, to their own discredit and demise. Only a handful of Reformed deviants called “the Confessing Church” (of which Bonhoeffer was a part) stood against Hitler and his anti-semitism.
Initially, Detrick Bonheffer noted that true revival may end up coming from believers choosing to live on the margins. In a letter to his brother Karl-Friedrich, Detrick once gave a calling for a counter-cultural movement against the Third Reich which was becoming increasingly more influential within the German Church. As Bonhoeffer said:
Bonhoeffer wrote this letter during the compilation of his book, ‘The Cost of Discipleship’…. On reflection of this book, Eberhard Bethge stated, “Bonhoeffer was calling for a church that needed to take a stand, no longer being fought with words, but with ‘Renewal and a transformed lifestyle were necessary.’
—“What did Bonhoeffer See?” ( )
—“Bonhoeffer on Truth and Politics” ( )
It is interesting to see what Bonhoeffer said about Hitler, for as mentioned earlier, he was actually apart of the groups who planned to assasinate Hitler at one point–and was later executed for it, even though Bonhoeffer was one who felt that believers should be outside of the system. The biography done by Eric Metaxas is interesting since Eric presents arguments in his biography of Bonhoeffer that seem to present him as being against the concept of voting for bad leaders and resisting being duped…..and yet he was also opposing military service in Nazi Germany not on grounds of Christian pacifism, but on grounds that it did not meet the criteria of just war.
Additionally, Metaxas presents a strong allegation based on a comment attributed to Bonhoeffer in late September 1941 after he returned to Germany from Switzerland while serving the Abwehr. “At the Dohnanyis’ house that September, Bonhoeffer famously said that, if necessary, he would be willing to kill Hitler. It would not come to that, but Bonhoeffer had to be clear that he was not assisting in the fulfillment of a deed he was unwilling to do.” [Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; (Thomas Nelson, 2010), p.388 “Operation 7”]
—“Dietrich Bonhoeffer: reality and resistance” (
—“Jesus Creed » Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Sneak Preview” ( )
—“Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to plot against Hitler’s life? -Desiring God” (
—“SOF: Ethics and the Will of God, The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ” ( )
The ultimate ethical question for Bonhoeffer became how far does the Christian disciple go in his or her opposition to evil? If Metaxas is correct, Bonhoeffer recognizes circumstances in which violent resistance, even assassination, can be justified. This does not prove that Bonhoeffer admits just war patriotism as a key element in his understanding of Christian discipleship, but it does prove that he is not a pacifist …..and with the entire dynamic of submitting to government, one must wonder what that may say about believers today.
March 30th, 2012 at 11:57 am
On Bonheffer, if I may share…
I think it can be said that in the case of Rev. Bonhoeffer, we see a man whose focus was on a greater good for Gods people and not himself. Rev. Bonhoeffer was willing to die to save Jews, to save as many as he could. How does that mesh with the words of Yeshua in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
In the times Bonhoeffer lived in, things were VERY extreme all around…and thus, there was a need to process what would be the greatest response to take that’d match the times in level of intensity.
And yet, even if one wishes to take out something causing damage, the reality is that context/settings may need to be considered. In the case with Hitler, someone alerted me to the very powerful point of how everyone focuses on him…and yet NO one considers the ways that he was but one many among many. We blame Hitler for the horrors committed in Germany after he came to power, and in the occupied nations after his army conquered them. But we need to remember that Adolph Hitler only succeeded in the mass murder of millions because he had followers who were more than willing to do the ‘dirty work’. The slaughter of those people was approved by Hitler, but he himself never participated in the actual commission of that slaughter. Instead, there were thousands of fellow germans, as well as hundreds of willing collaborators in the conquered territories, who committed those atrocities for him.
During the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Israel numerous film footage, as well as photographs, were presented as evidence in his trial. This film wasn’t shot by those who intended to use it as evidence against the people committing the crimes. Instead, it was shot by other german soldiers or civilians who intended to use it later in order to show how they had succeeded in the ethnic cleansing of Europe. It was only when it became clear that Germany would lose the war that those films and photos started being seen as proof of the atrocities which had been committed.
Adolph Hitler took advantage of a situation that was already well under way when he was born. Antisemitism was rife in Germany, as was the belief in the natural superiority of the aryan race. Martin Luther was antisemitic. Pogroms had been conducted on numerous occasions against the Jews living in Germany. During the 19th century a congregant in a german church could expect to hear a sermon that was virulently antisemitic whenever he atttended a church service. Blind hatred had taken on the disguise of sanctity long before the 20th century dawned.
Was Hitler the impetus that led the people of Germany to replace rhetoric with firing squads and gas chambers? Yes, he was. But can we say that another person would not have done the same thing if Hitler himself had been killed earlier? No, we cannot. The hatred was too widespread, with too many people seeing the Jews as worthy only of death. Had Hitler not been there to fill the role of leadership, there would have been another to take his place. The perversion of sanctity had simply gotten to the point where the people were waiting for anyone at all to give them the order to kill.
Again, anti-semitism was something that pervaded MUCH of culture of Germany in many ways LONG before Hitler arrived…even though there were others who actively resisted against it. With Hitler himself, he was but a figurehead in many ways of the the desires of the general populace in many areas—and if the crowd was already distrustful of Jews, it’s not a suprise to see how Hitler was able to get so much action backing him with combatting them. People say “Hitler was a MURDERER”—yet the scriptures also discuss how having reckless anger/hatred for someone is also murder…and failure to love your brother is the ROOT of murder as well ( 1 John 3:14-16/ 1 John 3 , Matthew 5:20-22 / Matthew 5 , Matthew 15:18-20, Romans 13:8-10 ). What many may not consider is how many of the things Hitler did were simply physical/institutional expressions of what a culture was already supporting in regards to their neglect of their Jewish brothers/sisters.
Sadly, many of the Churches in Germany also did their part in ensuring that much of how the Jews were seen was shown in a negative sense. Sadly, many of the churches in Germany did great error in aiding the Nazi regime and viewing the Jews wrongly…and the consequences are still here today. The Messianic Jewish brothers at Rosh Pina Project did a great job of addressing the ways that the CHurch should have responded…seen here:
Hitler, the Church and Messianic Jews | – The Rosh Pina Project
Indeed, in many ways, Hitler would have simply been replaced by someone else had he been taken out long before he had the opportunity to do anything. And not realizing that can cause a world of actions to occur that may miss the root cause of things. Some of it seems similar to what occurred with 9/11 and how many were either demanding the bombing of the countries that terrorists came from—or demanding that all the terrorists be eliminated. For as another said, “You can kill the man who killed..but you cannot kill the spirit which drove him to killing.” If a spirit of hatred was already existing and that spirit was birthed out of a certain mindset that was never addressed, one can only go so far in trying to selectively deal with people……
It’s one of the reasons why I could never understand why others in government do things such as assassinations to begin with since those things in/of themselves will never cure problems. In many ways, it ensures at times that problems will either continue on or get worse. Was in the bookstore recently a book under the name of Assassination: a history of political murder–and a bit shocked seeing the ways others sought to use it as a means of control…yet if Yeshua said those who live by the sword will die by the sword, I wonder how much security those people engaging in such have once its done. Often, people discuss the subject of assassination as if it’s a “cool” thing–and yet no one discusses people can find it hard to sleep at night when doing that…..nor do others talk about how it doesn’t necessarily address evils of the heart.
Again, Hitler was but one man..and this all goes back to the issue of trying to do things LEGALLY to shut down evil—for if the hearts/laws of men are not changed, then it doesn’t really matter how much one trys to impose anything “Christian” since it will always be resisted. There was something I once came across in an article on the subject of how often Hitler gets blamed as the central reason behind the Holocaust…and yet no one considers how he was but symbolic of something greater. Although I didn’t agree with all points noted by the author I came across, I definately agreed with him when it came to taking responsibility. In his words (for brief excerpt):
March 30th, 2012 at 12:01 pm
Judging by some of the comments shared thus far, it does seem that the stance you advocate seems akin to a stance of non-involvement politically with the world—not saying that your actions have no political ramifications since the early church seemed to have the same mindset when it came to rescuing babies/children in the Roman Empire and doing things that greatly challenged the Power Structure of the Romans:
Their involvement in addressing things that the empire was doing wrong wasn’t passive….just as it is with others today that see children being aborted and yet, rather than focusing on laws to make Abortion illegal, they’re seeking adoption of those children (as well as children/teens in foster care )–and if they get involved, it’d only be to make adoption more effective. The same with human trafficking, poverty and a host of other things. I know that Greg Boyd has spoken on the same issues before when it comes to noting how being a pacifist does not mean that one is disengaged from taking political stances/speaking up where there’s error.
But on the same token, the stance you seem to hold with non-involvement is one where you seem hesistant to get involved politically by legislation and force (even as it concerns laws made to suppress certain things others may want) because you think it is counter to Christ.
If I’m off on my analysis, my apologies. But if on point, then it seems that what you are for is similar to something that occurred within the early Christian community…specifically as it concerns how many communities within Eastern Monastic circles seemed to see the same thing when it came to the ways that they radically disconnected themselves from the rest of the world. Last year, I was blessed to get ahold of a book on that very issue, entitled In the Heart of the Desert, Revised: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis. Had my eye on it for awhile at the bookstore and was glad to get ahold of it weeks ago. There’s an online version of it one can investigate here…but it has been very intriguing seeing their lifestyles–and the implications their actions.
To them, it seemed that the only way to address many of the things they saw to be injustices would be to stop being apart of a broken system and to instead try to live outside of the system. For me, it seemed similar to what many of the Essenes did when they saw much corruption happening in Jerusalem amongst the differing camps of Judaism (i.e. Pharisees, Zealots, Herodians, Sadducees, etc), many feeling as if they needed to cut themselves out entirely from the mess since they had tried to address it…and yet found themselves slowly made into a minority before being pushed out entirely prior to the arrival of Christ. And with the Desert Fathers, it seemed that they had the same experiences of choosing to become sectarian from the corruption in the empire. Although others came out into the wilderness to meet them and be amazed at their lifesyles, others seemed to be perplexed at how their desire to address corruption by living seperate seemed to encourage change in others….and yet, it still fostered a great deal of disconnection from addressing the issues of injustice that other groups were battling.
March 30th, 2012 at 12:30 pm
To Paul and David,
As a Black Hispanic, I’m not one to take the stance that all things with slavery were in/of themselves bad. Nonetheless, I do think there needs to be serious consideration and wrestling with the subject when it comes to seeing things like the American Revolution With Slavery, I’m not so certain that going against the system in terms of bearing arms would have been against the scriptures..
Personally, when reading the text of scripture, I don’t think the scriptures really hold to the stance that bearing arms/self defense at any point are forbidden–and I can understand how others within the early church were not necessarily of the stance that violent resistance was always forbidden at any point. And the same as it concerns going against the laws of the Land.
Many will go to Christ/say he was against it, even though I think saying so is radically divorced from the culture/context the Messiah lived in. He was a Jew who loved Jewish culture and celebrated Hannakauh (the Feast of Dedication) according to John 10:21-23 .
Chanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, in which the Jews since 164 B.C.E. have celebrated the victory of the Makkabim over Antiochus IV, King of Syria is mentioned in John 10:21-23 .. the earliest mention of the holiday in all literature and the only mention of it in the Bible, since Tanakh was completed before that date (the book of Daniel contains prophecy about the event celebrated). The apocryphal books, I, II, III and IV Maccabees, present historical and other perspectives on what happened.
For me, something coming to my mind is the issue of how anyone studying what happened within the story of I & II Macabbeswill quickly realize how much of a nationalistic mindset the Jews had…similar to what occurred with others who were militant nationalists. From the era of I & II Macabbes is where we understand that the groups of Pharisees and Zealots (the sister group) arose….and with this in mind, I must wonder what the backdrop was like for Jesus when the Holiday was going on.
There was a more in-depth discussion on the issue elsewhere, as seen here….and Brother Lionel Woods shared some excellent thoughts before on the matter, as it concerns the ways that blacks have always tended to go toward more of a milataristic side of things when it comes to resisting abuse/violence on their communities–often as they had no choice, as seen in his article entitled Does “Biblical” Manhood Put Undue Pressure On Families? | a view
For the Zealots celebrating the Holiday in honor of how one of their own fought back, would Jesus have posibbly been considering how the Zealots were righteous in their desire to use lethal force to hold back the enemies of God? For as many Jewish scholars have said that the teachings of Christ were in support of pacificsm & against the concept of “Just War Theory” because of the emphasis on love for one’s neighbor rather than physical force, its interesting to consider how it’d be with Christ celebrating a holiday that in many ways condones the use of force to have one’s way.
The contrast between The Zealots and Christ seems similar to what occurred with Martin Luther King & Malcom X—as they had convergence on many things and yet they were very different…and with the dynamic of Christ possiby supporting the Zealots, Perhaps it is best to say that in many ways, Christ was a Hybrid. As another said best on the issue:
Concerning more information on the Zealots, One of the ministries I frequent has more information on the issue that may help —as one can go online/look up a ministry known as Follow The Rabbi: Zealots . For it is from there that one can see how the Zealots were apart of the movement known as Hasidim (called “The Pious Ones”)—of which the Pharisees were a SISTER branch of TOO—when it came to total resisting of Outsiders. And in many respects, the Zealots were very PRIESTLY/Devout as the Pharisee.
In light of what the heros of Channakuh did, one would think that others would be inspired to fight back…yet they’ve chosen peace/simply remembering those who’ve lost their lives. Something to think on, as it concerns slavery, since not all Jewish believers were ever for the mindset that simply going with the system was something the Lord was for at any point…
And with slavery itself, it does seem that there are many things which are not truly considered when it comes to forms of resistance…just as others feel that the American Revolution may’ve been justified.
Obviously, it seems to be different when discussing whether a slave could revolt against his master by killing them/the master’s family if he saw abuse and rape/genocide occurring in the name of the Bible—for they’d see the SAME Bible and note where the Lord condemned those who were kidnappers/selling others into bondage and feel the Lord desired his people to have freedom. But things take on a differing dynamic when it comes to others that didn’t violently resist and yet broke the rules.
Was the Underground Railroad against scripture when it came to smuggling slaves out of bondage into other territories where they could find freedom? And for that matter, would it be the same today with movements designed to help others find freedom out of slavery? Be it in smuggling others out or taking from others who take—as it concerns people stealing from human traffickers in order to survive? How far do we go with this?
Some of the dynamics are interesting since people may say that what happened in previous times with resistance was bad—and yet they lived celebrating the benefits thereof. I often wonder this whenever it comes to events like the Civil Rights era and how many say that believers should not have been marching in protest and simply accepted things as they were…yet they never complain about segegration not being present since they’d prefer to have the benefits that came on the backs of others who chose to resist/do something when they saw what the Bible says on it.
Perhaps it’s different for those who are Liberation Theologians and feel the Gospel should impact the ways that we interact with the world physically/spiritually Just as others, such as Martin Luther King/others felt that the Gospel could never allow others to simply sit back/do nothing if they truly claimed to want to be like Good Samaritans…..
With the slavery debate..
Many who went to the texts of scripture to support slaves remaining as slaves even after the American Revolution did so under the impression that it was because it honored the Lord for slaves to have good attitudes. Julie Clawson, author of the book “Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices”, had some excellent thoughts to share concerning how what Paul was doing was essentially subverting the system of slavery itself by asking for slaves/masters to interact with one another in certain ways so as to change things from the inside out ( As said here ).
Others feel that what the authors of scripture noted with slavery/resistance was meant to be for all time—-and others are for the thought that some things noted by the authors were central to the culture they lived in. I do agree with others who note that the authors of scripture were human…and perhaps what they advocated was more of a matter of writing based on what they knew.
One of my dear brothers in the Lord, who’s a Black scholar named Brian Foulks, sent me an rather interesting article as it concerns the ways in which perhaps the authors of the Epistles wrote on slavery based on what was familar to them rather than what was meant for all time. As said best in their source entitled “Why did the Apostle Paul REGULATE slavery instead of abolish it…:
March 30th, 2012 at 12:40 pm
Thank you for bringing up the books you did by Eric Metaxas, as it concerns William Wilberforce and his involvement with the British state in bringing Christian principles to bear upon the morality therein. Indeed, slavery was abolished in England in large part because great politicians and great theologians showed the Bible to say that slavery was never sanctioned by God, but rather was a catalyst to His judgment on those nations which practiced it. And in a culture that claimed overall to be “Christian”, his words did carry weight..
There’s a part of me that gets a bit…skeptical…whenever others may bring up his example/that of others with slavery to show that it was primarily due to believers rising up/speaking Biblical truth that society changed–and Christians, in that train of logic, should be the ones leading the way in changing society. This often seems to come up, as it concerns things like abortion or homosexuality and seeking to ban it.
There were people in the slave days who were abolitionists/fighting fully against it…..while there were others who felt that it made no sense to end slavery immediately if there was nothing the slaves could go to—with many going right back into slavery/selling themselves out for jobs as sharecroppers or going back to their masters since the Economic systems were not controlled in their favor……and so for some people, ending slavery was not the most primary concern. And there were others who felt that slavery should at best be restricted.
And there are those saying that abolishment of slavery itself really wasn’t about advocacy so much as it lay in social developments—much as others have argued earlier that agrigarian societies produce differing ways of thinking on family than industrial ones. I’m reminded of the work of Eric Williams in his book entitled “Capitalism & slavery“….an amazing read discussing how “slavery was not born of racism: rather racism was the consequence of slavery.” Williams outlined the shifts from enslavement of the local Indian populations, to the use of white convict or indentured labour to black slavery. In Williams’ words, the origin of black slavery lay with economic, not racial motives…believing that “It had to do not with the colour of the labourer, but the cheapness of the labour.”
According to Williams, Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide. Binding an economic view of history with strong moral argument, Williams’s study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution was to many a refutation of traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He demonstrated in rather convincing ways that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. And many other scholars have adopted the same mentality. For more on Williams’ work, one can go here or here.
All of that is to say that many factors collided into the ending of slavery as we know it…..with various aspects/perspectives of law brought. Some feel laws will make the difference…and others feel the CHURCH/GRASS-Roots organizations will do the job…and others feel both, with prayer, is what will do the trick…yet some feel that ALOT of things get spiritualized beyond their scope of infuence…in light of how many things that may occur in a society can be radically divorced from the actions of the Church. The last factor is something that I always have to consider. For how is it the case that so much focus is on trying to get others to think that it’s the CHURCH responsible for where society goes rather than seeing how the world will often do its own thing regardless of the righteous actions of others?
March 30th, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Yes, good thoughts! I would only mention that the difference between slavery and capitalism is that capitalism does, at least, seek to work by some sort of contractual agreement between employers and employees. No system is going to be perfect, and capitalism certainly leaves a lot of room for greedy folks to take advantage of people. Proverbs says that God hates imbalanced scales. Does that mean God supports socialism or communism in society? I hardly think so. But this is a whole other can of worms which is somewhat off-topic for this discussion.
March 30th, 2012 at 12:50 pm
The Civil War dynamic is interesting, seeing what others like President Abraham Lincoln and many others noted when it came to the reasons intervention occurred. For although state rights was an issue in regards to the economy of the South (agriculture, based on the backs of slaves who were used to work the cash crop of cotton when tobacco overworked the soil and the slaves were a convienet way of working things)……there was the very present reality of many slaves that began to either resist or flee their masters (Underground Railroad) and feel that they didn’t have to go with the system simply because an economy depended on it—-and in a country where the Constitution said a slave counted as 3/5ths of a person, there was something that needed to change.
In many ways, it was benefifical for the U.S government to go away from how things were—regardless of how much others often seem to idolize the Constitution in it’s original form/say that some things in the States should have been left alone. But that’s just me..
March 30th, 2012 at 1:03 pm
Hey Gabriel, I appreciate your input. You have written a ton of stuff!
First, I’ll just clarify what I meant about state rights. I only intended to say that the constitution is set up to respect the rights of the sates. I think all states should have abolished slavery, but my point was to say that it was still a state rights issue. The federal government has been increasingly overriding the rights of the states since the civil war. I think ole Lincoln and the North were more upset about the economic production of the South than about the injustice of slavery, though I’m not denying that some had real convictions that it was an evil practice.
Finally, I leave room for engagement with the world in so far that it doesn’t contradict the Gospel and teachings of Christ. I personally don’t see Jesus resorting to violence in any context. He is the fulfillment of God’s good purposes for the world. All other people, events, and festivals should be understood in light of the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
March 30th, 2012 at 5:11 pm
My apologies, sir, for writing so much. I wish there was the option of going back/taking things out, as I didn’t originally plan on having that much..but it seems once it’s out, you cannot go back/edit comments. Frustrating, to say the least–but again, I apologize to you/any others if anything noted was way too much.
On what you mentioned with State Rights, I can definately see where you’re coming from with that specific subject as it concerns the states needing to be the ones who took action first rather than the government. With Lincoln/the North, many people often are unaware of how the man really wasn’t concerned with blacks being equal to whites–as he was very racist on a host of levels, even though he was against slavery…and I would dare say that he wanted the civil war to end due to a mixture of his desire for the abusive practice of slavery to end as well as checking the agricultural power of the SOuth that was based on slavery (and in great competition with the North). Sort of a “Two for One” deal.
Lincoln on race and slavery – Page xv by Henry Louis Gates
Henry Louis Gates | Looking for Lincoln | PBS
Abraham Lincoln as a man of ideasby By Allen C. Guelzo
Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist? – US Government Info – About.com
Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream by Lerone Bennett Jr.
Bennett makes a convincing case that Lincoln would rather have sent black slaves back to Africa instead of integrating them into post-Civil War society
On Oct. 13, 1858, during his famed debates with Judge Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln spoke to what he considered to be basic black and white racial differences “which, in my [Lincoln’s] judgment, will probably forever forbid their [blacks] living together on the footing of perfect equality.”In the same speech, Lincoln states, “I agree with Judge Douglas that he [a black] is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color — perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man.” In this statement, despite his reference to differences in “intellectual and moral endowments,” Lincoln shows his belief that both black and white were entitled to equal rights and protection under the Constitution. (Source: The Founder’s Library – Lincoln-Douglas Debates)…
Although I agree that Lincoln was in no way always for the view that blacks were meant to be equal, I do think that , Lincoln’s views on race and equality were progressive–him being human just as many other presidents were and changing as time went on. I like what historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. says when stating that Abraham Lincoln was always against slavery, but he wasn’t a fan of black people.
March 30th, 2012 at 5:13 pm
I can more than see where you’re coming from, although I may disagree as it concerns the subject of violence in/of itself and seeing it as coutner to God’s good purposes when seeing Jesus from the context He developed in. But I thank you nonetheless for mentioning what you did 🙂 As long as the Gospel is clearly represented, that’s all one is to be concerned with….
March 30th, 2012 at 5:24 pm
On what you noted on capitalism/slavery, I’d argue that there can be contractual agreements between employers and employees even with socialism—and what’s known as communalism, as it concerns what many blacks were used to seeing in Africa. There are differing levels of of socialism, just as there are differing levels of capitalism—and people within both systems have utilized aspects of both, IMHO, at one point or another (sometimes, not even realizing it). No system is perfect…..as both sides can be abused. With slavery and kidnapping being apart of the nation’s history (really black market/”get rich or die trying at all costs”
ideology) , as well as the consumption of land/power in the name of a “fair deal/trade” (as it concerns the ways American Indians were often treated in the deals they were given), there’s no way around the reality of how much one’s financial views are apart of the vision one has of America’s “Christian legacy.”
I think what often happens is that many look back assuming America was “Christian” and often connect the kind of economic policies that the U.S/its founders were for (especially as it concerns state’s rights)–and are often trying to find ways to go back to that. This seems, IMHO, to come up often when it comes to discussing the role of government and whether or not the government should have expanded to either abolish slavery, regulate it (according to the rights of the states)/place boundaries on it….or have it where all groups would truly have access to the free market rather the system be set up to favor one side. Fredrick Douglass had ALOT of issues whenever the market systems behind slavery were not addressed in condeming the practice since condemining slavery apart from addressing the system it developed in—-in the name of Christ—could only go so far…..and we see this today whenever others assume that the government should not have interfered with the system of slavery. For others saying the Christian heritage of the U.S was meant to be “Capitalist/Free Market”, without big government, I think one has to be honest in saying that there are certain things that’ll always be allowed which others may not like…..and things which others never benefited from as Christians.
Blessings, Bruh 🙂
March 30th, 2012 at 6:14 pm
Lol, we’ve all written very well enunciated essays 🙂
I don’t know much about Bonnehoeffer (This you can see because I can’t spell his name). Personally, when your country is overtaken/invaded, war makes a monster out of everyone. That’s my opinion currently, anyway. So I get how some Christian sects could be conscientious objectors and others feel they have a Christian duty to fight. But it should make us dread war.
I will clarify one point Dave made, however. American slavery was deliberately made a racially justified institution starting in the 1670s. That’s when Bacon’s Rebellion happened. Before that, slaves were majority African but were also Amerindian and white. The original servant class that were treated badly (beaten) and did the work of slaves in the fields of the plantation colonies like Virginia, were white indentured servants. There were also free Africans who were recognized as full members of the early colonies (Not in New York, though because the place was owned by the Dutch West India Company). They owned property and successfully sued in court (Ironically, over a stolen slave). There are even documented interracial marriages between at least one black man and a white woman (Allowed and officially recorded).
Bacon’s rebellion changed all of that. The underclass rioted in the feudal system of plantation landowners (AKA “Lords”). The largest uprising was the indentured/servant/slave class. Tyranny of the masses terrified the large property holders and wealthy. After it was put down, we start seeing race laws on the books. Divide and conquer – if you’re poor white trash, at least you’re better than a slave….
Don’t take my word for this (Ever). The information is available – somewhere…. 🙂
This REALLY get’s to me because the evil of racial slavery was really an economic evil. That seems to say to me that we’re NOT innocent. We ARE guilty and responsible for morality of our economic design (system).
And if that’s true, then slavery in the time of the Greek and Roman empires was a practice just as guilty of evil. It’s not about degrees of cruelty or deliberate efforts of dehumanization. You can’t separate it from the guilt of the economic system or power system. It’s spawned off of it for the purpose of protecting an even more systemic injustice.
March 31st, 2012 at 7:56 am
Again, good thoughts! I agree that there can be varying levels of all kinds of systems. I used to think socialism worked (sort of) in Europe, but in light of recent events I don’t think so anymore. Getting back to Christian principles in government…the NT church began by having all things in common. But a little later in the journey Paul had to write that “he who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat.” My wife and I have seen way too many of the effects of communism/communalism in our travels to ever go for that! It’s just a bad idea. People should be free to give. Also, it is a known fact that, in general, Americans are the most generous people on earth. One reasons the Europeans are not is because of the high taxes which support their socialistic habits. Why should I give to help the poor when I pay the government to do that? It is bad for society…and bad for the soul. People need to give in personal ways. Freely!
March 31st, 2012 at 8:06 am
I like what you’re saying. I do think, however, that any system on this earth will be ridden with guilt. At least some systems make some effort at contractual agreements. This is another of God’s principles, I think…a sort of covenant in the work place where both parties agree upon something reasonable. That is up to individuals making free choices, however. Presently, in my industry, the government is making it impossible for me to make the contracts/agreements that I would like to make with employees…which, by the way, would be much better for the employees. The government is often like the know-it-all who actually has no idea what it is doing. Free people and free markets are a lot more capable of working things out than people who hunger for power. What is sad to me is that most of the people who should run for office are too busy doing real work in the real world. So we’re left with a whole lot of jokers. Don’t get me wrong. There are some good politicians…maybe. The real problem is, perhaps, the immorality and stupidity of the mob who votes for these guys. Tell them a story, move their emotions…and bingo!
March 31st, 2012 at 4:46 pm
Where did you live Paul? Living in the Netherlands, I must say they are very generous. It seems to actually make people nicer, to have their healthcare guaranteed and government subsidies available. They do pay higher taxes though. It’s a civic duty feeling.
They’re less anxious, more patient and also more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. What I do find is less fear – fear that means worrying about what they will eat, drink and wear….
I wish I’d grown up here. I wouldn’t be dealing with my New York complex. It’s quite a barrier to a relationship with Jesus sometimes. All you New Yorkers know what I mean. Worry isn’t just normal, it makes good SENSE. Ugh!
March 31st, 2012 at 7:17 pm
I’ve lived in Europe and Central America and spent time in many other countries. I have never been to the Netherlands. The European feeling of “civic duty” is exactly why I used to think socialism worked there. A mixing pot like America has far too many distinct communities and cultures for the “civic duty” vibe to go very far. I sometimes wish we could split America into three parts. Put those of us who believe in a free market on one side, and those who don’t and are undecided on the other side. It’d be like East and West Berlin all over again! After a generation or less, the free market side would have to build a wall…not to keep people in, but to keep the others out. Of course, this is all way too idealistic to work in reality. But I think it would make for an interesting experiment.
April 1st, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Thanks for sharing the thoughts :). I agree that there are times socialism does not seem to work, even though I have friends in Europe who live with it, grew up in it and had no complaints–and they were just as hard working as others in the U.S. Others are free to disagree, of course, but that is my own stance–but one said not from an uninformed perspective. With Paul, as it concerns his principles, what he stated was very much consistent with a Jewish worldview since they were 100% socialist or 100% capitalist. The early church NEVER went against having all things in common, as the Hebraic worldview was one that always encouraged giving generously/looking out for others so that if nothing else, there’d be Equity—not Equality….but ensuring that all others are taken care of.
Deuteronomy 15:7-11 , Leviticus 23:22 and Leviticus 25 are all key texts amongst many others that come to mind when it comes to the way the Lord ordained things to be. For it was never about whether or not someone wanted to give if they lived in Israel. Those able to give were commanded to do so–and leave things for the poor, as the Lord did not have a mindset that all within the camp of poverty were to simply work better until they qualified to recieve help. All who were poor/widows and foreigners in the Land were cared for—-but on the same token, there were other things that were expected of those going through..as their lifestyles were not allowed to be any way they desired and the scriptures often speak of the dangers of greed or laziness. With Paul, that was something he kept in mind when it came to the concept of “he who does not work does not eat”—as a person refusing to do anything and yet demanding others provide without any qualifications or desire to change wasn’t what the Lord had in mind. The system of.
People again have the freedom to disagree–but there have been damaging effects on ALL sides of the coin that can make anyone not really be concerned for going with a system, be it capitalism or communism or communalism. I agree that people should be free to give and that it should be encouraged—but whether or not Americans are the most generous people on Earth or not seems to have no bearing on the fact that many choose to give because they just don’t want to give/take care of others. And even in Europe, people give. People complain about government and say “Why should I give when the government does that?”—but the reality is that if people were already giving, the governement would not stop in. And just because others give doesn’t mean people can hide behind that/find ways of not giving. I’m of the mindset that if giving, people should have the freedom to determine what organizations they wish to give to—and then invest in those, as many organizations are not the best. Nonetheless, they would be required to give….and not skip corners on the matter.
If/when others may say that being forced to give is not benefifical, again, I cannot help but consider Israel in their model—a theocracy, to be clear—but one where giving was not an optiom. And with the government, imperfect as it may be, I must say that there are things were it seemed necessary.
Not all things with socialist policies are things I agree with–as many times, they can in the long run, lead to less economic growth. Still, Christians live in socialist countries, free market economies, communist countries, under dictatorships, and more….and when people say “Socialism always KILLS!!!”, IMHO there’s really no objective proof of that being the case in light of other nations who have it and are fine—-with PLENTY OF CHRISTIANS/BELIEVERS adapting to it and not complaining at all. Indeed, in many other countries of the world, Christians are very left-wing. For Politics is more about national culture….& government and the KINGDOM OF GOD are 2 different things. In all things, we’re to strive for the cause of the gospel, not pull down the government. We’re to do the will of God wherever the Lord has put us.
I think that it’s a good bit of misrepresentation when it comes to saying the larger the government the worse things are…or what I’ve often heard of others in sayingi “socialist” countries are never as good as ones where there’s nothing of it. Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” describes the mechanism that led to the banking crisis on the free market. However, Karl Marx’s Communist manifesto describes what happened when things started to fall apart. When it comes down to history and reality, capitalism will always work to exploit the proletariats in order to extract and control their wealth. And the other side of the coin says that when the masses are tired of being exploited, they will change the market to suit their desires. And if you want to break the cycle (or more realistically slow it down), then a free market must be kept in check with socialistic rules and regulations to prevent the exploiters from causing a new collapse.
When it comes to discussing “socialism” at all, most are not aware (IMHO) that what’s being argued is often nothing more than progressive taxation, government provision of some services, like police, fire departments, education and health care…..rather than outright State ownership or centralized market planning.
Limited socialistic policies are benefical…..and it has never been the case that absolute capitalism without interference by government in some sort of capacity has been beneficial. In example, if capitalism based on competition means “mutual beneficial cooperation”, I must square with what occured in our nation when the Slave Trade was going on and innocent men/women and children were all seperated from one another/abused while companies were competing with one another on who could sell a slave at a better price—all the while those benefiting from the profits claiming how good the “American Dream was” and how capitalism was good for the sake of the nation” (as hey, slaves were needed for the economy of the South and other means).
States did things differently and all cooperated with one another…including on the issue of the Middle Passage/Different Trading Ship Unions and how they all worked together due to the reality that the cash crop of Tobbaco was using up the soil in the SOuth and Cotton became the new cash crop afterward–though it required work and therefore the states got into the buisness. And from there, as there was no protection, things go messy…..from the man at the docks who gets to compete with the man next door at setting the prices for how much it costs for boats to land….to the man transporting the slaves…to the man in charge of AUCTIONING the slaves, to the people who chose to buy/use the slaves in their homes/plantations…to the men paid due to their services for “training the slaves/breaking their wills” through any means necessary…and of course, for those who owned slaves, one can recall the slaves being sent into the market places to buy things for their masters/the plantation and for those not slaves they could rejoice at the benefits of “capitalism” and how “free” things were (as slaves weren’t really considered real people of value who needed to be taken care of).
The laws prevented many from speaking out against slavery since it was a buisness—with it later taking h Government Involvement to make a difference (which thankfully was used to begin the ending of slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln). But at some point, people had to realize that the government not being involved to stop the process was very much damaging. The same with other issues in which people sell things in our nation which have DAMAGED many and all of them claiming capitalism/the right to “make a buck”—whether with the Pornagraphy Industry in the U.S , Human Trafficking, Prostitution, or with Ciggarettes/Drugs or even other things that’d be moreso found within the Black Market and Criminal Activities.
One can quickly think back to 1930’s and the Development of Organized Crime and how profit/competition fueled things from greed to extortion to embezzelment and a host of other means….including making a profit at any cost. The same dynamics with what often occurs whenever they’re “Mom & Pops” stores that’re owned by many in the working poor class and larger corporations come in and run their mega-stores, effectively driving out smaller buisnesses and causing harm on others—.sometimes resulting in revolts and acts of violence…and hence, why there were laws made by government to ensure that monopolies would not occur. And the list goes on. Capitalism relies on absolute freedom, otherwise it becomes regulated.
A “free market” has no restrictions. Once restrictions of any kind are imposed, it is a “regulated market”, not a “free” one. In a truly FREE market, with no restrictions enforced, accumulation of wealth is the name of the game. That means I can accumulate wealth in the cheapest, easiest way possible. If I can sell child porno and make money, it is OK. Or I can sell addictive drugs. If it I want a new Lexus, and it costs $50,000 to buy one, but I find someone who will steal one for me for $5,000, then it makes sense for me to pay someone $5,000 to steal one for me. A lot of “free market” advocates will say that a true “free market” also protects the rights of ownership.
So how does that happen? Through some form of GOVERNMENT. And who defines rights of ownership? Well, whomever it is, they must get the GOVERNMENT that is going to enforce the rights of ownership to agree with them on what the rights of ownership actually are, so that they can enforce those rights.
And how will they enforce these rights? Through whatever means necessary, up to and including physical violence and coercion. Add into the mix that since in a capitalist economy MONEY is the measure of wealth, one can see where the entities with the most money can determine what the government believes “the rights of ownership” actually are. They can then basically use the government to enforce their own version of “the rights of ownership” while violating someone else’s idea of the “right of ownership”.
IMHO, capitalism only works because it exists in a larger framework of socialist government intervention. If I could find a person who is able to steal the milk and sell it to me for 50 cents instead of $3, that’s the cheaper way to go. However, the reason that there are no people stealing milk is because the government intervenes and says, “No, no, there will be no stealing, because we consider that to be a violation of ownership, and we will make this battle not between the would-be thief and the vendor, but the would-be thief and all of society, and we will punish such thieves with societally imposed criminal charges and corporal punishment.”
And the reason that such a government exists is because people all pool their money in the form of taxes and pay it to the government so the government will provide this service for them collectively. So, when people often discuss capitalism, IMHO they often seem to be talking about capitalism blended with socialism, not pure unadulterated capitalism. In pure capitalism, with no influence from socialism, there would be no government involved. So, if I could find a way to steal the milk, it would be cheaper than paying the $3. Or, if someone else could steal the milk and sell it to me for $2 then I’m better off paying that person. So “capitalism” is worthless if it’s not blended with socialism, at least a little bit to have a government that enforces certain aspects of “mutual cooperation”.
There are good concepts in capitalism as there are in other socio-economic systems such as socialism, and most people realize it takes a blend of tools and techniques from each to form an efficient, productive society.
April 1st, 2012 at 3:35 pm
Hey Sarah :),
So true what you noted when it comes to realizing the many ways in which war brings out the worst in others and causes them to see what truly would come out in the worst of times. Especially as it concerns morality and what we see of CHrist, as so much of it can shift—from someone saying “It’s Christlike to avoid any kind of violence done upon enemies of Christ!!” to saying (as many did during the Holocaust) that they’d be failing to love others by refusing to use violent means to protect innocent Jews and other groups fromslaughter…
Ultimately, we should all dread war…..
On what you noted with American slavery, I agree that it was made by design to be inherently racist–although I’d say that the roots of it would go even further than Bacon’s rebellion since there were other times in Global history when others saw that people of darker color/descent were to be seen as inferior. I cannot help but think of times when British Imperialism ruled/reigned in Africa and the mindset was that the white man’s burden was to take care of/educate the savage….and the same goes for what occurred in the Americas, specifically with the Spanish in their system that rated by color. Of the estimated 11 million Africans who survived the notorious “Middle Passage,” only about 450,000 ended up in the United States. The other 10.55 million went to Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and the rest of the Americas. Anywhere plantation owners or farmers needed free labor, there was a market for slaves…and that was something that others in the U.S were aware of when it came to the ways that there were ALWAYS more blacks in slavery than any other group. To have it switch to all black slaves in the U.S was only a matter of time. If slaves were an invaluable part of the U.S. economy, necessary to make the economics of cotton production work in the South, they were equally or more essential to the sugar growers of Cuba. The same goes for the the Dominican Republic, which kept slavery longer, leading to a differently tiered society and contributing to that country’s distrust and, in some cases, disdain for Haiti.
If you ever get the chance, one documentary that I think you’d be blessed by is entitled Black in Latin America | PBS and here.
Interestingly enough, many who were American Indian/Native Americans owned slaves just as others who were whites…although that’s often not discussed. Saw a documentary on that subject when I was blessed to go to the Smithsonian Muesuem in 2009/see an exhibit on the matter called “Afro-American Indian” ( here, here, here, here, here, etc). Although Indians were able to have slaves, it wasn’t the kind of slavery that we associate with the plantations of the South. People could get married and they could eat at the same table. People could get free and they were treated nicely as well…..and as seen from many testimonies, they would much rather have had Native Americans to be their masters than the white slave owners of the South. Historical scholar, William Loren Katz , did an EXCELLENT job discussing the matter in his book “Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage” ( here /here ). Later on, many of the
With Bacon’s Rebellion, the consequences were rather amazing when seeing the ways that others fell for the lie that they were superior than blacks even though both blacks/lower class whites were treated on the same levels. The subject itself has often come up whenever people discuss the origins of the KKK, as it was made up of those who were lower-class whites…told that free blacks (especially share croppers) would take their jobs during the era of the Reconstruction in the South. They were told such by upper-class whites who could care less for any, black or white, in impoverished classes….and set them against one another to keep them distracted from the people on top. Nevermind the fact that there were already interracial relationships between both blacks/whites and that certain blacks had a level of freedom.
What happened was essentially the same thing that other upper class whites/slave owners did when they saw Native Americans and Blacks working together and often succedding—for they went for the “Divide and Conquer” mindset/trained the American Indians to think of blacks as the enemies (here, here, here )….
I agree with you when you note “Don’t take my word for this (ever)”–as one should always check out the information themselves. 🙂 . Truly, the evil of racial slavery was an economic evil—and we are truly responsible for the economic design of how things are, especially as it concerns how much of it was done in the name of Christ…and attempt were made to try keeping the name of Christ present in saying how change needed to occur—and yet no one was willing to address how the system itself was counter to Christ. I think the system of slavery in the time of the Greeks was just as corrupt, although it didn’t seem to be on the same level at all points like it was with slavery in the New World. And there was a differing mindset as it concerns the economics..
April 1st, 2012 at 3:38 pm
To be clear, if interested, I tried to share more in-depth elsewhere on my own views as it concerns the ways that believers can/should interact when it comes to evaluating the market, the Christian Legacy of our nation and seeing how we can work it out. Theoretically, I am a Democrat who also has conservative values….and even have some socialistic tendencies. I’m very much for a mixed economic system rejecting both socialism and laissez-faire capitalism, choosing to combine private enterprise with measures of the state for establishing fair competition—as well as good working conditions, low levels of unemployment, social welfare and a couple of other things. And no, I’m not against the concept of a socialistic market economy 🙂 .When I was in Economics class, I was astounded seeing the many differing economies ..especially what occurred with the Chinese economic reform of the 70’s which has gotten the attention of MANY economists due to the example of what occurred when a nation combined aspects of capitalism/socialism together…..and perhaps we could learn from them for our economy in the West. People may disagree, but it has always been a trip looking at how China had a lot of social /institutional problems left over from the Cultural Revolution & other political movements of the Mao era. One of the people I liked learning of in Economics class was a man known as Deng Xiaoping—as he was in Mao’s leadership during the second generation/ instrumental in introducing a new form of socialist thinking. For he developed something known as “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”—consequently leading to Chinese economic reform and what we know today as the socialist market economy (which is an extension of Market socialism, various economic systems involving the government owning economic institutions/major industries while operating them according to the rules of supply and demand). His work also aided in partially opening China to the global market—though again, I’m by no means an expert on the issue..so of course, research the matter yourself. I’m going largely off of what we learned of in Economics Class…and I wish I still had all of the notes on the issue (lol). Having friends/family from there that see where there’s both good/bad ( here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here ), I take that into account.
It was intriguing seeing the issue of how pragmatic/practical Deng was…as seen in his continual support of the statement of “Seek truth from facts” …and his classic statement of “I don’t care if it’s a white cat or a black cat. It’s a good cat so long as it catches mice.” And I tend to take the same philosophy…
Though I used to think that all things for socialism were somehow bad, I’m glad that I was able to learn of how many ways our country has ALWAYS practiced a form of socialism in one manner or another. For whether we realize it or not, government helps us….from allowing us the freedoms we have to our transportation systems/roads and public goods and services. The fact that one can even call the police to protect you when in danger is an illustration of looking to the government. There are other examples besides that—-but anyone living in this nation is relying upon governement in some kind of way, big or small….
Many times, for others saying there should be NO government or as little as possible, I get very nervous. When I think of things such as laissez-faire economics, smaller government and trickle-down economics I get anxious. In a society of good people who love their neighbors, I would agree it works and it would work well. However, the poor, uneducated and marginalized WILL ALWAYS SUFFER under such economic policies since we do not live in a world where others necessarily want the best for one another.
Governments purpose is to regulate…and trying to hold to the mindset that buisnesses without interferences will lead to good is like thinking of teens sleeping in the same bed and hoping for them not to sleep around. It doesn’t work…and… thus, there’s a need for government regulation to a certain degree when it comes to buisnesses and organizations. We already see the effects of Laizze-Faire capitalism and what happens when buisnesses are allowed to have no boundaries or accountablity, as evidenced in examples such as the Gulf Oil Spill and BP’s foolishness…as well as other groups that were called out.
There are many other buisnesses that have also been caught either cutting corners or getting away literally with murder because there was NO intervention. One could even dump toxic waste in an inner-city community and still make a buck without any worries while parroting how this is America and Free-Market capitalism works. The question is WHO does it work for….and what kinds actually are beneficial for the good of all
Most people wish to quote the Constitution when it comes to their desire to enforce religious values of a Christian nature—yet if it concerns economics, they will be quick to do differently and say government is otherwise. However, the same scriptures the Constitution appealed to when it came to relgious concerns in government also speak of ECONOMIC concerns when it comes to programs in government.
It seems from Scripture that the role of the state is to protect its citizens. First, God has established all authority for our good (see Rom. 13:1-4). This can be accomplished through a number of ways. Second, the government is responsible for enforcing those laws In this way, the government restrains injustice and improper behavior committed by the transgressor and positively commends those who do good (cf. 1 Peter 2:13-14). Romans 13:4 says, “For [the ruler] is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Third, the government is to judge. Proverbs tells us that “By justice a king gives a country stability”; and “If a king judges the poor with fairness, his throne will always be secure” (Prov. 29:4; 29:14). When governors govern well the result is peace among their citizens.
So if the state is to protect its citizens against wrongdoers and unfair judgments, then the answer to our question is “yes”; the state is responsible to help the poor, albeit in a different way than the family or church does. Obviously, a government that protects and justly governs its citizens through laws and courts will be caring for the poor. It may also be necessary for the government to provide food or shelter for its citizens in the event of a national crisis, such as Joseph did for Egypt (see Gen. 41:53-57, 47:13-26). In Scripture, rulers were often called on to help the oppressed and those who cannot speak for themselves (see Dan. 4:26-27; Prov. 30:8-9). In fact, Solomon understands this as his duty as king. In Psalm 72 King Solomon writes,
[INDENT][INDENT][COLOR=”darkred”][FONT=”Century Gothic”]Endow the king with your justice, O God…He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice…He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor…he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.——[/FONT][/COLOR][/INDENT][/INDENT]
And so we see that the government does have a limited obligation to care for the poor
It may be inferred from the 1 Timothy verse cited that the state’s obligation should not supplant that of the family; so the state must act prudently in providing assistance. Since the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, part of our moral responsibility is to work for a just government. However, this does not exhaust the Christian’s moral responsibility to care for the poor.
Buisnesses left to themselves never give people options—and will eventually lead to corruption. The Founding Fathers were very much in favor of others who had economic wisdom….with folks like Adam Smith being used as reference for some of their concepts…yet even Adam Smith, when talking about Capitalism, made this plain when he noted how there was a need for governement to intervene to a point to ensure balance…but not to get too involved where things are thrown off. If desiring some good resorces on the subject of Capitalism and its historical usage in our nation, here are some works to consider: [INDENT][INDENT] 1.) ‘The Hesitant Hand: Taming Self-Interest ...in the History of Economic Ideas” ( )–as it discusses Smith’s views when it comes to self-preservation and the realities of how Smith was not necessarily for government intervention to the extreme while also examing the reality of how government does have a role in coming in lessen the bad results done by self-interested behavior.
2.) “The Politics of Jesus“- By John Howard Yoder. Got it loaned to me from my supervisor at the inner-city ministry I worked with…and very solid, IMHO, when it came to the reality of what life was life for Jesus as a Hebraic individual. It critically studies the traditional view of Christ as an apolitical figure and gives light to many of the political realities surrounding his views. I thought it was a good read, especially on the reality of things like Taxed, Government and other areas. …[/INDENT][/INDENT]
For other resources that are more extensive on the issue, I’d suggest possibly investigating one of the ministries I’ve been involved with for a good bit–known as “[URL=”http://blog.sojo.net/tag/economy-special-focus/“]Sojourners”[/URL] . It’s under the ministry of a man known as Jim Wallis—the author of the books I think I brought to you before like “God’s Politics: When The Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” , “The Soul of Politics”, and “Faith Works”…all of which I’ve studied/had to use for working in the Inner City. From there are some of the other economists/journalists that does economic reporting that I’ve enjoyed learning from, such as Bob Greenstein. Many of the other things they promote I do appreciate–such as addressing issues of Welfare Reform, Social justice for defending the Rights of the Poor/Widows/Orphans and others
April 1st, 2012 at 3:50 pm
Thanks for your thoughts, Gabriel! I am convinced that no system will make everyone happy. Thank God this age is coming to an end, and Christ will rule in His perfect Kingdom. That’s our only hope!
April 1st, 2012 at 3:51 pm
I think it’s necessary to discuss the views of the Founding Fathers whenever it comes to the Christian heritage and seeing what exactly it was that they were in favor of. Adam Smith was often one in view who was referenced—and one referenced often today by other Believers/Christians trying to have an American culture that was the same as it was in earlier days..if believing it was solely for unadulterated capitalism. When it comes to the many discussions on “The Wealth of Nations” and Smith’s views on “The Invisible Hand”, his view was that interference of government in business and economic affairs should be minimal. For I understand that Smith made clear that unrestrained greed is in no way beneficial to a nation–though his principles were taken out of context/used wrongly by others. I realize that he advocated markets with more freedom than were available in mid-18th century, alongside criticizing the regulation/interferences of legislators. To be clear, the statement “invisible hand” refers to nature of how Adam Smith observed the working of the price signal system..whereas Laissez Faire is a description of a policy stance taken by others.
Laizze-Faire politics is not something that was foreign to Smith. Even though he did not invent the term “Laissez Faire”, he was very much familiar with it/supported the concept in “The Wealth of Nations in 1776”..especially when it came to his advocating a free enterprise system established in private ownership and not hindered by governmental bureaucracy. From what we discussed in Economics Class, the principle of the “invisible hand” is what the essence of Laissez Faire is about (i.e. “market economics,” “free enterprise”, “free competition” , etc). And when the term’s used today, it’s the case that his critique of government intervention in the economy is often taken by others to the extreme in saying the MARKET is never to be tampered with by government.
In speaking of government duty Smith said, “erecting and maintaining those public institutions and those public works which may be in the highest degree advantageous to a great society.” & “are of such a nature that the profit could never repay the expense to any individual or small number of individuals.” Adam Smith recognized certain industries do not have nature which a market is the best way of allocating the resources. Thus, he indicated that there are places other than property rights and national protection for a government to be involved.
The reality is that God already said he set government up to ensure that citizens are protected (Romans 13)—and when it comes to corruption, abuse and neglect physically, that is an area where protection is needed and thus why we have laws regulating practices. The heart of man played out bad in the time of Christ NOT because the scriptures were invalid—but PEOPLE chose to do otherwise.
Indeed, without government there is anarchy—but too much government and its oppressive. The people self-governing themselves without any kind of restraint is JUST as damaging as only a select group of people in power determining the shots…or a governement so big it cannot do anything in time. Nonetheless, limited governement with checks and balances did not mean the government held the states accountable when it came to rules/regulations federally that affected ALL of them.
One example of such can be seen in what’s known as Black Wall Street and the riots against Black Owned Buisnesses…….with their property rights NOT enforced as the government promised it would do:
For more info, one can go here:
Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma – Pt. 1 ( )
As a result, blacks justifiably distrusted governement as well as people saying the Free Market will aid others since others in getting jobs/buisnesses built up had NO way of protecting themselves—nor did they have any means of actually getting justice when their materials were taken away for the profit of another.
April 1st, 2012 at 3:55 pm
We often seem to think that the U.S is the only nation that could say of itself “Under God” or “God Bless” (as we often do when saying “God Bless America!!”) since it seems that people equate the success of one economic system to a sign that the Lord was favoring that system alongside all other traits—and thus, there’s a bit of reinvisioning history to say that the U.S country is the one nation that others MUST value in order to say that success is true. If I were to say that I think Communism had many beautiful aspects to it (or that I was for Communism, as many blacks were in U.S history–seen here , here and here/here/here ), there’d be no end to the amount of people saying I either don’t understand economics or that I’m not “patriotic” to the U.S. But in light of how many within the U.S were agreeing to the way of life found in Russia when the U.S system of market/government consistently failed them–and in light of the ways that other countries STILL maintained aspects of the Communist system/did well (China being the most notable with its system of government/State Capitalism under folks like Deng—and still doing good), it gets interesting to see why so many trip. For information from an historical read, one of the best works around was written by an African-American known as Claude McKay.
Concerning what he wrote, in 1922, the famed poet and intellectual of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay, visited Revolutionary Russia and wrote the essay entitled, “Soviet Russia and the Negro.” In the essay, McKay describes very positively the Soviet achievements in the area of fighting racial prejudice, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. As many African American intellectuals of his time—including Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and W. E. B. Du Bois who visited the Soviet Union—McKay saw in the Soviet example a promise of racial integration, internationalism, and non-discrimination. In particular, he writes of good treatmentin Soviet Russia of people of African descent, Jews, and Central Asians. And for others:
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all things were good outside the U.S. What’s mentioned is that there was far more going on in the U.S that was often left unaddressed…
April 1st, 2012 at 4:55 pm
Thanks Paul for sharing your heart and really making me/others remember that it’s truly the Gospel that’ll bring people back into truth
I don’t know about this age we’re in coming to an end anytime soon…but at some point. It is truly our only hope!!!!
Jesus for President… 🙂
April 2nd, 2012 at 2:40 pm
This is all great. I’m officially out of the conversation now 🙂 Got thesis to work on .
April 13th, 2012 at 6:43 pm
I really do think answering the question “Is America a Christian nation,” needs a definition of terms. Otherwise, it simply is not a yes or no answer. Indeed, one could easily point to a supreme court ruling stating America as a Christian nation and another could say, “But most Americans aren’t Christian.” Both would be right. So you are right that not all founding fathers were Christian and I agree that they were greatly influenced by the Enlightenment. However, it simply isn’t accurate to suggest founding documents did not refer to Jesus Christ. No, not the Dec. of Independence, or the Constitution, etc. But certainly when you get around to the states, you often had to be a professing believer of Christ to be governor or an elected official. In fact, many states had a state-sponsored religion (in their constitution!). It is only congress which can make no law establishing a religion. As state constitutions were forged there was a general reverence for and acknowledgement of the “Christian God.” But maybe they were just a bunch of Bill Clintons! Even if they were (which I don’t buy for a minute due to the fact that many of them were pastors!) they based documents on the principles taught in the Holy Scriptures.
No matter what, I think that the role of the believer is to pray for elected officials, submit to them, and teach them their proper biblical role (why else would there even be a Rom. 13). So, far from withdrawing from the political scene, Christians should have significant influence in hopes of having a nation which is accommodating to the Christian religion and the spread of the gospel.
But at the end of the day, “Thy kingdom come…”
April 13th, 2012 at 10:00 pm
Jared, the question was never ‘Is America a Christian nation?’ in this blog post. Folks like Kirk Cameron love to claim that it began as a “Christian nation” despite the founding documents, and the clear confusion by other early fundamentalists about the kingdom of God. I’m well aware of the rights of the states, and that there are plenty of Christians involved in the founding of the nation and states. Yes, even pastors. But my primary concern is what the states supported in the declaration of independence and constitution. So, I freely admitted involvement of Christians, while pointing out the original intentions of a nation that championed separation of church and state. And even if the founders claimed it to be a Christian nation, it wouldn’t be any more Christian than England or Medieval Europe. The Lord has made this much clear.
As for your comment about withdrawing from the political scene and attempting to have a significant influence through politics, I personally need more evidence from the New Testament that this is part of our calling as followers of Christ. Beyond prayer for political leaders and displaying the kingdom (of which America is merely a parody) through the church, the Christian is to maintain the stark contrast between the kingdoms of the world and the kingdom of God. I won’t entirely rule out some indirect involvement, but I’m still looking for evidence from the life of Jesus that running for political office or colluding with empire in some other form of direct political engagement is the Christian thing to do. I don’t argue for a withdrawal from the world altogether, but a Christ-styled, culturally-sensitive engagement—speaking truth to power and proclaiming the good news of King Jesus.
April 14th, 2012 at 10:31 am
Of course when you narrow it down to simply the life of Jesus you can rule many things out. But when you look at the whole counsel of Scripture then you see prophets and apostles addressing the government. I don’t really know the point of Rom. 13 without thinking direct political involvement is expected from believers. Why teach on the role of government? More to say… but gotta go!
April 14th, 2012 at 10:42 am
Yes, indeed. The life of Jesus rules many things out. Addressing the government (speaking truth to power) is one thing, joining the power-over systems of worldly kingdoms is quite another.
I think the point of Romans 13 is viewed in context of the previous chapter (12) bracketed by the final verses of 13. Clearly Christians were in some ways being tested to respond to empire in their suffering in thought and deeds that weren’t consistent with Christ. It may have even been that they were understanding the whole political language of the Gospel (euangellion) to imply rejection and resistance to Rome. Instead, the believer is not to rebel, but to submit to governing authorities (“agents of wrath”) as agents of love. The church is contrasted with the government in 12 & 13.
April 23rd, 2012 at 8:53 am
What you noted makes one wonder, of course, if believers cannot somehow make friends with leaders in government. Personally, as I think voting makes a difference (even though my life doesn’t hang on it), I’m glad whenever believers have relationships with their local officials (i.e. police department, mayor, etc) since it takes community involvement to advocate for others in your side of the kingdom.
Street Ministry tends to bring up alot of issues that people in surburbia often seem to avoid, as it concerns getting the community of Christ involved/networking. And I was so blessed working with other believers involved in utilizing government resources to aid the spreading of the Gospel and being a Good Samaritan as Christ commanded (Luke 10:25-39)–known as “City of Refuge” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaVzY4etvFE&feature=related ), under the leadership of Bruce Deel ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w132AHtKvIE&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL1F0155D38862699D ).
August 21st, 2012 at 9:15 am
I’m commenting on your post, I didn’t have time to read all the other postings, so forgive me if someone else already said this.
I personally think that some elements between you and Barton/Monumental are clearly debatable and both extremes can miss the reality which is somewhat complex.
It is profitable to also distinguish between the pilgrims (1600s) Founding Fathers (1700s), but your claim that “The Puritans claimed that America was the new Israel, the Indians were the savage Canaanites, and that God had given them the command to kill in his name” goes toward one of those extremes and is in my opinion unwarranted. It’s remarkable assertion considering the first Thankgiving, the life of David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards.
Can you give evidence that supports your claim that the Puritans believed God commanded the genocide of the Native Americans? Otherwise, you ought to correct your statement.
Wouldn’t you agree that later political decisions of our young nation were much more detrimental to the Indians than the Puritans? The broken treaties and the Trail of Tears (1830s) are two examples of the United States’ actions which actually harmed the Indians, unlike the conversion of Pocahontas who had the gospel preached to her by the Puritans.
I myself have enjoyed reading Leeland Ryken’s “Worldly Saints: The Puritans as they Really Were.”