Nation-state and Christianity are too much at odds to become partners
Is the USA a Christian Nation? Is it? Was it? Was it ever? No, no, no, no. My friend Lee Camp, in Scandalous Witness, outlines why Christians in the USA should not join themselves to the hip with the President or with government at any level. The two are competing lords.
In the USA, whether progressive or conservative today, the Lord is losing to the lord called USA. We have become a politicized church – right and left – and nothing damages the gospel more than politicized Christians.
The church is a church for all nations, for all flags.
Jesus wants to be Lord of all or not Lord at all. When we share his lordship with the nation he ceases being Lord. Read the end of Matthew 7.
Are we a Christian Nation?
America cannot possibly be a Christian nation because no nation-state can be a Christian nation-state. This is not a biased judgment about America. It is a simple matter of understanding what a nation-state is and what Christianity is. These two cannot be conjoined.
The following are some particulars.
(1) Nation-states are bounded geographically by borders. But the Christian church is transnational and is bounded by no arti-ficial geographical boundaries
(2) Nation-states are bounded procedurally by laws regarding citizenship. By and large, nation-states comprise those who are citizens according to arbitrary historical accident. Because I happened to have been born in Alabama, a former region of the Creek Nation but now a state of the United States of America, I am thus a citizen of the latter due to the two contingent facts of my birthplace and the time of my birth. The church, however, comprises those who are “members” following their own voluntary intentional commitment in baptism or confirmation. All are invited, and none are excluded.
(3) Nation-states build walls, literally or procedurally. The church of Christ welcomes all, literally and procedurally.
(4) Nation-states maintain their existence through military might and standing armies, precisely because they are geographically bounded. The church, on the other hand, is an entity that lives by, lives according to, and bears witness to suffering love.The church does not depend on self-preservation. To make such a claim is not mere utopian theological assertion; it is a historical fact. All empires have fallen, and we have no reason to doubt that those in existence will not fall; meanwhile the Christian tradition has survived, for good or ill, through its own times of horrific failure and its times of creative faithfulness, for two millennia.
(5) Nation-states seek their own partisan agenda. This often takes the shape of developing alliances with other relatively like-minded nation-states. But in all cases it means at best a sort of relative cease-fire, or perhaps better, a negotiated form of mutual self-interest, and at worst it means war. But the Christian church’s most fundamental calling -the “ministry of reconciliation”- means it must not ultimately identify itself with any given party, sect, nation-state, or other more narrow cmnity of self-interest
Pastors who wed themselves to the President or to Governors, then, become chaplains to the state. Lee Camp again:
To be clear, the critique here is not of chaplains or chaplaincy as such, nor is the desire here to propagate any sort of moralistic employment of derogatory terms such as whore. With regard to chaplain, the question is whether the church has become what we might call a mere chaplain to the state, merely providing some so-called spiritual comfort to a state that has no interest in taking seriously the political shape of the gospel. Or put differently, anyone who takes up the mantle of chaplain must ask whether one is a minister of the gospel or of the state. Can one, will one, be able o bear witness to the specific counsel of the gospel regarding en-emies, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, and the like, or is one simply expected to pronounce a blessing on whatever the powers that be determine shall be done?