Monday, July 31, 2006

"Power under others"

I know, I've been very neglectful in posting. Call it the summer blahs. But this article jarred me right out of them.

Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing — and the church’s — to conservative political candidates and causes.

The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”

I don't think I'd agree with Mr. Boyd's theology, but I have to say I have a hell of a lot of respect for him. I, too, have been long disturbed by the neoconservative trend in our country to "Christianize" everything, and it always seems to me to be in ways that are at their heart very un-Christ-like. I don't remember any instances of Jesus trying to legalize his beliefs; on the contrary, he argued against legalism. I don't remember any instances of Jesus putting down sinners; on the contrary, he only put down the religious elite. I don't remember any instances of Jesus trying to dominate others; on the contrary, he always helped them and then very quietly said "go and sin no more." Whether or not they followed that direction was always a choice, never something he tried to enforce through laws.

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek “power over” others — by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have “power under” others — “winning people’s hearts” by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”