America, Europe, and the kings of Israel

December 5, 2007

culture / theology

Scot McKnight runs one of my favorite blogs. There is a post that looks at a chapter of John Goldingay’s Israel’s Gospel (OT Theology). I haven’t read this book, but after reading this post I want to. Anyway, Scot’s post mentions a sentence that closes this chapter, and gives us a way in which we might understand a bit of our history.

The church in Europe lives in exile; is may not yet have seen the release of Jehoiachin. The church in the United States lives in the time of Josiah, assimilated to the culture that surrounds it. The question is whether it will turn or whether it must follow the church in Europe into exile (695).

Brilliant words. I’ve often taught that, at this time in our history, we can look at the state of the church in Europe, and in doing so we can see where the church in the United States will be in 20-50 years, barring a change for better or worse (yes, it could get worse than it is).

In Europe, the church is generally an irrelevant part of society, but it does not have the advantage of being an unknown, or neutrally viewed part of society. If only because of its recent history (to say nothing of the last thousand years), from its general support of fascism in the 20th century to its horrible mainstream existence in the United States, Christianity in Europe has a difficult position.

In looking at this position, the question is not whether we are moving in that direction, but what should be done about it. This is the root of the war about religion that continues to wage in our country. One side clearly believes that Christian nations are possible, and that we are a Christian nation, and that Christian nations are nations that follow and spread conservative politics all over the world. The other side clearly also believes Christian nations are possible, but that we are not a Christian nation, and that Christian nations are horrible, bigoted places that should be left as memories of the Dark Ages.

A third way believes that neither side is right. Christian nations are not possible, because the power of the Cross stands in subversion of the power of the State, not joined with the State or in a war with the State. This kind of Christianity cannot seek the power of the State, but seeks to serve and love humanity in the way of the Cross.

In Europe, the churches and movements that are accomplishing things for the kingdom of God know this. There isn’t a choice. In the United States, it’s easier not to learn a truth like this, because we don’t have to.