Friday, August 12, 2016

The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Gregory A. Boyd: A Book Review Series


                                         
                                                                                                                                                Introduction

The first time I read The Myth of a Christian Nation was around the summer of 2012.  It shook up so much of what I was conditioned to believe as an American Christian.
So much so that I suggested it as the book we study together in our small group.  And since it was an election year, what better timing to stir up stimulating political conversation with a few friends?

I know that may sound scary to most whether you’re a Christian or not.  What is it they say? When in a group of people, don’t discuss politics or religion.  Well, here we were about to do both…at the same time!  It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but our group had weathered other controversial topics in previous studies, managing to get through them with as much love and care for each other as we went in with.

So Greg Boyd’s work actually didn’t start as a book project at all. He decided during the 2004 election year to do a series of sermons at the church he pastors on a subject he felt was of utmost importance in the American church.  Those sermons became the basis for this book.

The main idea that Greg suggests is that a large portion of the evangelical church in the States has become idolatrous in Its wedding together belief in the Kingdom of God thru Jesus Christ with political power and nationalism.  
In the introduction, he warns the reader that they will be challenged with ideas and information that may seem foreign, anti-American, ungodly, and in the opinion of some, downright Satanic.  Yes, you read that right. These were the kinds of responses he received from some in his own congregation.

As a result of teaching this series, twenty percent of the members left. That was one thousand people.   But, most did stay and the topic received positive responses from many who had been feeling the same way (that much of the Evangelical church has slipped into political and nationalistic idolatry) but kept it to themselves to avoid the disapproval of fellow Christians.

Greg shares what he sees is the root of this phenomenon.  It is the sincere belief that we are a Christian nation and it is our duty as believers, to take back America for God. To the nonchristian mind, that may sound a little unnerving, huh?  Take it back from who? How? Take it where and back to what?

The Myth of a Christian Nation attempts to explain much of the “how”. As an evangelical Christian, sharing the faith with others is a given.  But by a growing segment of the Church, it’s assumed this includes a mandate to make our voices heard in the political arena.  So much so that winning the culture wars which includes outlawing abortion and gay marriage, for example, have been at the top of the list of ways to bring America back to its allegedly moral, Christian beginning. 

Yet over time, our country has become much more diverse since its founding.  The power of assumed Christian-ness in the U.S. is giving way to an increasingly pluralistic society. 

The result of Americanized Christianity as Greg points out, (pgs 13-14) is that:
“This myth harms the church’s primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, anti-gay news, or Republican news.  And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it.“

Greg concedes that it’s just as problematic for the Church to attach itself to left-leaning or liberal political parties.  Yet the “Religious Right” is much more vocal and has wielded a greater amount of power over the last few decades.

Next time, we’ll begin with chapter one: The Kingdom of the Sword.  I’ll share key points and also a bit of my own commentary.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  If you choose to read along with me (and I hope you will), I would love to hear your thoughts, positive or negative. Just share them in the comment section below. 



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