Wrapped Up In The Flag

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To the relative neglect of heeding the gospel call by the Host of heaven on his terms, there are all sorts of felt needs to be met on man’s terms. They range from the trivial and petty to the evolved and sophisticated.  One of the dangers for Presbyterians who tend to easily recognize the former in popular expressions of religion is to miss it when it comes to questions of statecraft, holding out that holy writ really does have something directly to say about how we order public life.  Yes, Joel Osteen is a problem.  But how often are other names named or otherwise identified? When do we raise our hands when certain political ideologies, if yet popularized and closer to trivial than sophisticated, stand to bask in the soft glow of heavenly sanction? At least one Presbyterian is appropriately skeptical:

Publication of The American Patriot’s Bible ought to provoke a much needed debate in the United States about the church’s right relationship to civil society. This Bible may become a landmark in that debate, clarifying the issues as never before, forcing people to recognize the degree to which Americanism has penetrated Christianity. An Augustinian perspective may help frame that conversation. In Book XIX of The City of God, the Bishop of Hippo explained in which areas there can be peace and in which there must be conflict between the earthly and the heavenly cities. Christian and non-Christian have a common interest in earthly peace, good order, and the “necessaries of life.” But in matters of worship, Augustine wrote, the Christian was forced to “dissent” from the earthly city. The limits of the common life had been reached. The Christian was forced “to become obnoxious to those who think differently, and to stand the brunt of their anger and hatred and persecutions…” Praising piety and faith in general alongside remnants of the historic Christian faith, The American Patriot’s Bible combines the things of God and the things of Caesar at the very point where they most vigilantly need to be kept apart. When the City of Man sets up Americanism as its faith, the Christian is forced to dissent.

Read the whole review here.

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11 Responses to Wrapped Up In The Flag

  1. sean says:

    it provides further evidence of how theologically ill-equipped one dominant strand of American Christianity has been over the past few hundred years to know how to sojourn in America, how to conceive of the United States as part of the City of Man and of the church as a stranger in a strange land.

    Yep. Ill-equipped and incompetent.

  2. Chris M. says:

    Modern American evangelicalism has its own way of reconciling church and state. It imagines an ideal American founding on Christian principles, blames the nation’s decline on secularists, and mobilizes politically active believers to “reclaim” America as God’s chosen land. It sees no inherent conflict between America and the gospel. Christianity is safe for America’s political and economic order. In fact, a return to the Bible’s wisdom and morality would automatically heal the nation and secure its bright future. No one need choose between allegiance to Christ and allegiance to America.

    A more succinct, cogent and coherent statement of one of evangelicalism’s more major problems has not been made. As a pastor, I battle this thinking nearly daily here in the God & guns state of Pa.

  3. Todd says:

    “The preacher’s business in the pulpit is to make Christians; and not free-soilers, Maine law men, statesmen, historians, or social philosophers. Are Bible principles never to be applied to the correction of the social evils of the day? …only so far as God applies them in the Bible, no farther. A minister does not cease to be a citizen and patriot because he has become a minister, but when he appears in the pulpit, he appears not as a citizen, but as God’s herald. …The importance of the soul’s redemption is transcendent. All social evils, all public and national ends, sink into trifles beside it.”

    (Stuart Robinson)

  4. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    It seems to me that your battle may be closer to genuine spiritual warfare than what one usually encounters assumed in the ranks of theo-gunnies.

  5. Chris M. says:

    Zrim,

    I would agree. The session, the senior pastor & I have engaged in lots of prayer as well as teaching and preaching on this issue. Members have been upset about our not supporting or announcing inter-faith prayer gatherings at anti-abortion rallies, but not getting it that all present were not praying to the One, True God. In some folks, the first ten ammendments mean more than the ten commandments.

  6. Todd says:

    “In some folks, the first ten ammendments mean more than the ten commandments.”

    Well, if we were a Christian nation, the first ten ammendements would be…

    Tom Theonomist

  7. Zrim says:

    A minister does not cease to be a citizen and patriot because he has become a minister, but when he appears in the pulpit, he appears not as a citizen, but as God’s herald…

    It is true, I think, that a minister doesn’t cease to be a citizen and patriot because of his office, and it is surely true that when he steps into the pulpit he is to be an uncompromised herald. But I have often wondered if the burden he has follows him both in and out of the pulpit. After all, isn’t one ordained to special office six days as well as the seventh?

  8. Todd says:

    Zrim,

    I don’t think Robinson’s distinction is between Sunday and rest of the week, but between Pastor as teacher of the Word and Pastor as private citizen. So teaching on Christ’s kingdom only applies to pastoral home visits, answering Bible questions, teaching Bible studies, etc… But I don’t think 2k forbids a pastor in his spare time to promote a certain political viewpoint. Whether that is wise is another story.

  9. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    I don’t think 2K forbids that he may do so either. But I am inclined to think it has serious implications for just how one ordained to special office carries it out. I think there is a burden to hold it close to the chest on you guys that is just different for we regular folk.

    And wouldn’t the answer to a parishoner who asks on Tuesday afternoon over lunch on “How should I vote” be “That’s no more in my jurisdiction than which house to buy” instead of “Here’s my perosnal voting guide,” as in:

    http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2007/7/18/my-personal-voting-guide.html

  10. Todd says:

    Hmm. yes, not thrilled with Kim’s voter guide. I think publishing such a thing crosses the line. Also, when a parishoner asks me such a question, at some level he is asking for my thoughts as a pastor, at least usually, so your answer would be mine. But what if my new neighbor asks me what I think of same-sex marriage from a legal perspective, and he doesn’t know or care that I’m even a pastor? Do I keep those thoughts close to the chest also? Thinking out loud here – good question Zrim.

  11. Zrim says:

    Todd,

    Parishoners and neighbors seem like different things. And answering questions seems very different from telling answers.

    I respect an ordained man being able to have his ideological views, but that seems like only part of the equation, and a small one at that.

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