Thursday, October 05, 2006

You Gotta Keep 'Em Separated > repost

Concerning the separation of church and state and the "clash of civilizations"

Matthew 4:8-10

8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Begone Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD, YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE’”

Do Not Love the World

1st John 2:15-17

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The Church and the State (or nation-states) are in many ways incompatible. States are part of the world and its value systems and the Church's business is none other than to be the CHURCH...not to run the world....not to assist God in directing human history. The Church and "civilization" (the World) are (or are supposed to be) two mutually exclusive entities. Human(istic) civilization and the Kingdom of God are not synonymous.
On Romans 13 which is popularly taken out of context with Romans 12 and the rest of the Bible is understood by Christians in different ways. As noted in the study helps of my life application study Bible:
"All Christians agree that we are to live at peace with the state as long as the state allows us to live by our religious convictions. For hundreds of years, however, there have been at least three interpretations of how we are to do this:

(1) Some Christians believe that the state is so corrupt that Christians should have as little to do with it as possible. Although they should be good citizens as long as they can do so without compromising their beliefs, they should not work for the government, vote in elections, or serve in the military.

(2) Others believe that God has given the state authority in certain areas and the church authority in others. Christians can be loyal to both and can work for either. They should not, however, confuse the two. In this view, church and state are concerned with two totally different spheres--the spiritual and the physical--and thus complement each other but do not work together.

(3) Still others believe that Christians have a responsibility to make the state better. They can do this politically, by electing Christian or other high-principled leaders. They can also do this morally, by serving as an influence for good in society. In this view, church and state ideally work together for the good of all.

None of these views advocate rebelling against or refusing to obey the government's laws or regulations unless those laws clearly require you to violate the moral standards revealed by God. Wherever we find ourselves, we must be responsible citizens, as well as responsible Christians."

For a clearer understanding of what Romans 13 actually means- read the book of Habbakuk and notice how God "orders" nation-states. It will give you a a clearer than ever view of how God "orders" nations and punishes them...yet the wickedness in the world is not authored by God or from his is from our own freewill, pride and selfishness that brings about the consequences ...God just permits and sometimes punishes.
Habbakuk will help you understand how on the one hand we are to not love the world or anything in it...and at the same time be at peace with the way God is handling human history...and trust him that even if the wicked prosper now...they will not escape justice....all we have to do is TRUST and leave vengeance to him...and stand for Truth and right....fully prepared to pay the cost even unto death... A nation that rises to power does not necessarily have God's approval

It is popular right now to refer to the conflicts in the Middle East as clashes between "Christian Civilization" and "Islamic Civilization" which is simply in error. "Christian Civilization" is rightly labeled as a myth- especially since the death and ressurrection and redemptive work of Christ.
To paraphrase at length Dr. Lee Camp, author of "Mere Discipleship" which I simply insist you must read:
The Constantinian cataract, the viewing of the world through the lens of the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, distorts our vision so that we believe the power brokers, the emperors, and the mighty that use force to control human history. Believing that WE must make "things turn out right", we seek to get hold of such power for the purposes of the "good" and the "right" and even God. In "Christendom", the unscriptural and ill advised blending of church and empire, we try to employ the methods of the rebellious principalities and powers to defeat them at their own game.
However, one thing that all Scriptures make very clear is that: the principalities and powers of this world, the kings and princes and queens and presidents- they do not run the world, though they assume so. It is not nation-states that run the world or determine the real meaning and purpose of history, but God. It is not the power structures of the World or the nation-states that after all do not follow the edicts of Christ- but the faithful people of God who are most important on the stage of history. It is not those with wordly might, but the obedient, despised minority whom God chooses to be a light to the nations. We will not "make a difference in the real world" by trying to beat the powers at their own game; we will not "make a positive contribution to culture" or "exercise responsibility" by playing games on the principalities' terms. Instead we, as Christians, are called to be a people walking in faithful discipleship to the Way of Christ, and thereby to be the salt and light the rebellious world so desperately needs. It is not through the might of nations that you are to be a light- but through being the faithful people of God and living by example.
I believe that this speaks directly to this quote from an article I recently read elsewhere concerning the "clash of civilizations" thesis concerning the conflicts in the Middle East:

"For a religion to serve as the basis of a culture, it must seek to preserve peace but also be willing to use force. All major religions tend toward this mean."

When the Church insists upon adjusting itself to the ways of the World, the “church" itself may end up being the greatest threat to Christian faith- because it ends up offering a substitute for the Gospel. When the "church" presents to the world a second rate counterfeit, rather than the real thing, the original gets discredited. By playing at "religion", rather than walking in adherence to the Way of Christ, the Church becomes its own worst enemy.
In other words, a "cultural Christianity", in which many people ascribe to the "Christian Faith", but few walk in true discipleship, SHOWING the world what God created the world to be- this is APOSTASY. Apostasy then will not come about by everyone openly renouncing Christianity- but by many people assuming the name "Christian" without being doers, and followers of Christ’s teachings- by being admirers of Christ, but not true disciples.

The Church is often referred to as the BODY of Christ- which points us to what the identity of the Church is intended to be. The Church is called to be no less than a community that continues to incarnate (to embody) the will of God. The Church is then, much more than just doing religion or government right. Being the Church means embodying God's intentions for the world as revealed in Christ. Church is not about showing the world how to be "religious"- but SHOWING the World how it is supposed to be a world that reflects the intentions of its Creator. In juxtaposition to the Creator's design, the World schools us in self- preservation, self- maximization and self- realization; the World trains us to live and die, kill and wage war for the "free market economy", "our way of life", "freedom", "democracy" and/or lifestyle. But, imagine the radical implications of a community, a Church, that refuses to bow to such systematic indoctrination in self-preservation and instead internalizes the knowledge that these are things that are of the old order, the stoichea, the powers, works of the flesh that have been defeated with Christs crucifixion and are even now passing away.
The problem then of human conflict is not rooted in religious legalism or law but in the reality of slavery to sin, a lingering submission to the power of evil that is simultaneously personal and social, individual and communal....lust, greed, selfishness and fear of death...all things that true Disciples of Christ are LIBERATED from the bondage of.

The relationship between democracy and Christianity does provide a helpful case study for the moral implications of worship. Christians can on one hand, be grateful for democratic orders. In fact, many of the practices of a democracy are analogous to practices of the Church....for example the right to free speech. Free speech, in a way, respects the practice in which all are allowed to share their insight and perspective. Similarly, the right of the free exercise of religion relates to the freedom entailed in the practice of adult believer baptism. Christians can rightly celebrate the respect shown to individuals in liberal democratic orders, especially over and against the tyranny of despotic regimes.

On the other hand, the Church cannot assume that democracy in the United States or elsewhere is an ultimate value to be preserved at all costs- because there are certain commitments in democratic political orders that stand at great odds with the directives of the Christian faith. For example, in 1990 political commentator George Will gave his approval to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that "freedom of religion" did not permit Native Americans to violate state law against the use of peyote in their religious services. Whether one believes that Native Americans or anyone else ought to use peyote in worship is unimportant here. Will's central thesis- a forthrightly idolatrous claim- is of great concern...i.e. "A central purpose of Americas political arrangements is the subordination of religion to the political order, meaning the primacy of democracy."

Will supports this thesis, which speaks directly to the precepts of the "founding fathers'" like Jefferson, by reciting standard mantras of classical, political liberalism: The Founding Fathers wanted to "Tame and domesticate the religious passions of the sort that convulsed Europe. How might such a goal be accomplished? By refusing to establish religion, of course, an instead establishing a commercial republic- a capitalism. They aimed to submerge people's turbulent energies in self interested pursuit of material comforts." Religion then, according to this interpretation of John Locke, is to be perfectly free as long as it is perfectly private- mere belief- but it must bend to the political will (law) as it regards conduct." Thus the realm in which freedom of religion exists is restricted to thought, to belief, to the mind: "Jefferson held that "operations of the mind' are not subject to legal coercion, but that acts of the body are. Mere belief, Jefferson says, in one god or twenty neither picks one's pockets or breaks one's legs.
Whether Will's interpretation of the "founding fathers," intentions is accurate or not, such an understanding of democracy is idolatrous. Discipleship is not rooted in mere belief- but in the ultimate authority of God and Christ. To claim that Christ is Lord indeed flies in the face of a constitutional theory that makes “religion” both private and subordinate. What this interpretation does afford us is an opportunity to question whether the Church in America has more often interpreted Christianity through the lens of Western political traditions, rather than interpreting those political traditions through the lens of a biblical worldview. Are we indeed to allow our political traditions to privatize and domesticate our "religious passions"?
Has our own pursuit of economic self interest led us to keep our "religion" in its own socially irrelevant sphere?

The gospel is not merely a "belief system", giving mental assent to "sound doctrine" so that one might "go to Heaven". The Gospel calls us to participate in the Kingdom of Heaven, to embody the will of God on Earth, empowered by the Holy spirit to do so. We have been called to participate in the new reign and social order proclaimed and made real by Jesus. This is no "religious passion” that we can domesticate through consumerism.

Simply put, faithfulness to the teaching of the Master is of first importance, everything else is supposed to find its place within the sphere of obedience to the Lord. However, such faithfulness is thought to be naive within the empire. In the empire we are encouraged to give consent to "whatever is necessary" for 'the good guys" to win....whether it be clusterbombs, nuclear weapons, torture, or pre-emptive "uphold the good"...

Another fallacy in this "clash of civilizations" thesis we see now regarding the conflicts in the Middle East, is that those who have "professed" Christianity have been essentially innocent since the days of the crusades...and that most of the blame for the current "clash of civilizations" lies with Islam- see these quotes:
"We have seen the roots of Islamic violence in the life and teachings of Mohammed. We have seen that world events have conspired to place Islam and Christianity in a conflict of civilizations that has stretched from the sixth to the twenty-first century.

What the future holds is unknown. What is known is that Islamic civilization has a strong tendency to violence that stretches back to the days of Mohammed and that has begun to flare up in resurgent terrorist and revolutionary movements.

The conflict with militant Islam may last a long time—centuries, potentially—since even if curing Muslim society of its violent tendencies is possible, it would involve ripping out or otherwise neutralizing a tendency that has dominated Muslim culture since the days of its founder.

This is not an easy task, for Muslims willing to make the change would be portrayed as traitors to their religion, amid renewed calls to practice Islam in its original, pure, and more violent form in order to regain the favor of God. The signs of the times suggest that we are, indeed, in for a "clash of civilizations" that will be neither brief nor bloodless.

But what also is known is that God has a plan for history and that his grace can work miracles. It is yet possible that—through one means or another—God will bring about a more peaceful world in which militant Islam either is not a threat or nowhere near the threat that it is today.

If this is to happen, our cooperation with God’s grace will require prayer, courage, resourcefulness, and a realistic understanding of the threat we are facing. Until then there can be no illusions about Islam and its endless jihad."

Do not be deceived. The Pope's recent words of truth concerning how violence is not pleasing to God apply also to so called "Christian civilization" as well as Islam. Both our scriptures and our history books depict the widespread prevalence of sin, injustice, abuse, and domination which are deeply woven into the social fabric of not only the world at large, but America throughout its entire narrative. Though the twentieth century began with waves of unbounded hope- the trust in "progress” soon gave way to disbelief and despair. Technology has allowed us to build bigger and better weapon systems to kill more people, industrialization allowed us to mass produce those weapons as well as the material trappings of the "market driven economy"; mass media allowed the propaganda- driven mobilization and indoctrination of entire populations to both use and defend that technology and industrialization in service of killing their contravention of the biblical edict to love enemies and never return evil for evil because vengeance belongs to God.

Hitler's anti-Semitic Holocaust remains an indescribable horror of our age. But, Paul reminded his Roman readers that they ought not judge others when they thereby condemn themselves: in response to the injustice of others, and in the name of utilitarianism, United States forces likewise decimated Japanese men, women and children in our firebombing of Tokyo and our nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...We did likewise in Dresden and Hamburg Germany. In our Cold War wake and mindless rush toward mastery and domination we created a world where total destruction by nuclear conflagration is a constant and impending threat right up until this very moment. We napalmed children and innocent adults in Viet Nam to "make the world safe for democracy". We have created a world in which MAD- mutually assured destruction- is no sci-fi acronym but stated government policy in response to any threatened attack or affront to our idol, democracy. We have held policies toward the Middle East for decades that oscillate between neglect and reactionary bombing... we have exploited the poor and pumped wealth and weaponry into the hands of tyrants and the men we now call enemies throughout the Mediterranean basin...including poison gas, bombs of every sort and all other sorts implements of death and destruction...We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God's plan for mankind. In the last decade, according to U.N. estimates, we have contributed to the deaths of at least half a million children in Iraq through sanctions and shock and awe tactics...before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" commenced....and then wax innocent and pious when we recieve blowback in the form of "terrorism". "Terrorism" being noted as what one does with carbombs as opposed to laser guided bombs and televised "shock and awe" glory.

Someone will undoubtedly tag these assertions as "liberal-America- hating -blasphemy and pie- in -the-sky- touchy-feely- lovey-dovey- denial of realities.... an assertion that I will openly challenge. In the light of the sobering reality of ongoing rebellion to God's purposes, Christians cannot naively assume that "niceness" will necessarily entail "niceness" in others. The political "realists" are quite right on that score: pacifism is naive if it assumes that it will bring about easy victory over one's enemies. Christians must realize that walking in the Way of the Cross, may indeed lead to a cross. If you are "nice to people", the possibility exists that one may be killed. The Way of the Cross is indeed a costly way of dealing with injustice, conflict, and rebellion against the ways of God. It is certainly NOT for the weak of heart. To be a disciple that follows in the non- violent- way- of- Christ that harbors no fear of death in the midst of a culture that thrives on fear and worships domination is no easy work... in the Middle East or the West.
BUT, it is not the true Disciples who naively believe they can cure the world of war. Very often, it is the purveyors of warfare and "peace through superior firepower" who exhibit a utopian trust in the power of violence! Thus, World War 1 was called "the war to end all wars", wars are always characterized as good versus evil, and America's most recent campaign has been too often suffused with the rhetoric of "ridding the world of evil," of "getting rid of terror," and other such utopian dreams. This is of course nonsense. War IS terror after all.
SOOO, Disciples of Christ, actual followers, refuse to fight wars not because they naively believe they will thus rid the world of war, instead we do not fight because the Kingdom of God HAS come, in which war is banished, in which it is possible to order our lives according to the justice, peace and assurance of the primacy of God.

1 comment:

Scott Starr said...

Nowadays I consider myself a pacifist or peacemaker with regards to warfare. What that means to me is not a belief that all violence is always wrong no matter what. It does mean that I judge any given situation with a spiritual discernement and/or, to borrow a term from my friend DSM, a THEOLOGY OF NUANCE. It means that I choose violence as a solution last... not first. It means that I do not hate my enemies, but rather love them and consider my ultimate enemy not my fellow man... but the spiritual forces of darkness in the celestial realm as the Bible teaches. It means that I know that the power to give life is far greater than the power to kill and destroy. It means that I think eternally and act spiritually inasmuch as I am able as a weak and pitiful sinner and carnal man. It means that I leave room for God's plan and God's sovereign right to vengeance before my own. It means that I do not fear death... and am thus not controlled by fear in my actions or reactions... inasmuch as I am able. The Bible says that the spiritual man is able to discern of all things. If a man is in right relationship with all things - he will know what to do in any given situation as led by God. Take care with these words...
do not mistake your own desires or instincts for the true prompting of God. Attaining RIGHT relationship cannot be achieved without the surrender of the deadly sin of pride. One cannot defeat the deadly sin of pride without the ability of self analysis, the willingness to re-evaluate oneself's motives and/or positions and the willingness and/or ability to view the self through the eyes of the enemy.