Replacing Rallies with Revivals
Boyd also calls without apology for a renewed Christian commitment to nonviolence, citing the Anabaptist refrains of John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Lee Camp. But Boyd's claims can't be dismissed as mere ranting of a Christian leftist. Rather, one senses that his are the expressions of a pastor's broken heart which, every once in a while, bubbles over into a kind of restrained, low-boil anger.
A Pietist by any Other Name
While there is much to appreciate in Boyd's exposure of the Religious Right's idolatries, the question becomes: Does Boyd swing back to the other extreme? No doubt he imagines that he is charting a third way, but there are at least three factors of his proposal that indicate it is simply pietism resurrected.
1. Boyd employs a number of distinctions that amount to nothing more than old-fashioned dualism. In particular, he paints a stark divide between "the kingdom of the sword" and the "kingdom of the Cross" and between the "kingdom of the world" and the kingdom of God. As he writes: "The contrast is between two fundamentally different ways of life, two fundamentally different mindsets and belief systems, two fundamentally different loyalties."
While the difference between these is importantit's exactly what is forgotten in the God-and-country, Constantinian approachBoyd's framing of an absolute dichotomy lacks insight. In particular, Boyd can't seem to imagine a good earthly kingdom, which indicates an inadequate theology of creation and an under-developed imagination. In the Book of Revelation, doesn't the heavenly city eventually make its way down to earth?
Because of his dichotomy, Boyd must conclude that "no version of the kingdom of the world is closer to the kingdom of God than others." This saddles him with a strange sort of relativism that precludes any ability to judge whether one configuration of society is better than another. Boyd couldn't say, for instance, whether South Africa better reflected the kingdom of heaven during Apartheid or after Apartheid, or whether South Korea's democracy is a more just system than Kim Jong-il's tyranny. But can't we see in-breakings of the coming kingdom here and now, better in some places than others?
2. Boyd's stark dichotomies relegate politics to a realm basically untouched by the gospel. Though he draws heavily from Anabaptists, Boyd seems more Lutheran on this point, sketching a kind of two-kingdom picture that discusses politics with an apathetic "whatever"or, more specifically, "however." In a number of places, Boyd remarks that however we decide to think about legal and ethical issues, what really matters is "our heart and motives."
He unpacks this with a curious exegesis of Jesus' calling of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. Arguing from silence (a common ploy for Boyd) and noting the lack of commentary from Jesus about the men's political leanings, Boyd concludes that "Jesus invited them both to follow him as they were, prior to their transformation." Really? Couldn't he have been calling both of them to an entirely different, but common, politics?
Boyd's relegation of politics to a matter of indifference means that, ultimately, Christ's call to discipleship doesn't touch the public square. His constant refrain is simply to "vote your conscience"which points to the persistent individualism that dominates his account. While Boyd is eloquent about what the church can do to embody a sacrificial, "power-under" love for the world, when it comes to politics, you're on your own.