Friday, August 24, 2007

God's Christian Warriors

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Refrain
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

I remember singing that song with gusto back in the day. It's quite stirring, really, but what's the message? What's the mentality? Isn't it that crusading spirit that merges imperialistic pretensions with a gospel cover? Fortunately it's not in our Disciples Hymnal (Chalice Hymnal), but it's still a favorite of a lot of people.
As I think about last night's episode of Christiane Amanpour's God's Warriors, which focused on militant forms of American Christianity, this hymn comes to mind. We hear a lot these days about culture wars, about taking America for Jesus, about defending the faith. One of the sections of last night's show focused on Ron Luce and his organization -- BattleCry.com. This is a semi-militant group focused on teens. The purpose of the group is to disciple teens -- which isn't a bad thing -- but the means smacks of demagoguery. The rallies, as we saw from the clip, seeks to whip up the kids into a frenzy, making them more susceptible to the pitch from Luce. In the case of this rally, it takes place in San Francisco and includes a pretty public face off between the teens on one side and anti-Luce demonstrators on the others.
Other examples of Christian militancy included John Haggee's Christian Zionism, anti-evolutionism -- but that was largely handled in the context of the withdrawal of home schoolers from public school life.
We heard from Ralph Reed about attempts to organize Christians politically -- aligning them with the GOP by and large. As a politically active pastor myself, I saw the conservative side of things in people like Russell Johnson of Ohio and Texas Baptist Rick Scarborough. Scarborough -- as my son said -- is a bit creepy. Johnson on the other hand has a much quieter demeanor, but he's quite successful as a political organizers.
On the other side of the conversation were people like Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals who has taken a strong environmentalist tack and Greg Boyd, a theologically trained pastor, who got into hot water for calling into question the idea that Christians should back the war effort. Boyd is on the opposite side of things from a Scarborough, counseling not withdrawal from politics, but at least from a church perspective staying out of things. Boyd is a NT professor himself, but I would disagree with his statement that Jesus avoided politics -- to some degree at least it was politics that put him on the cross.
Amanpour did a nice job introducing us to this segment of American Christianity. We were reminded that Evangelicalism isn't monolithic, but there is strong conservative political sentiment centered around sexual issues -- abortion, homosexuality, chastity, modesty.
But the issue here really concerns how we live in a pluralistic world -- are we God's Christian warriors demanding our rights and our place of rule? In this I agree with Greg Boyd, that is not in line with Jesus' teachings.

4 comments:

Heather said...

**We hear a lot these days about culture wars, about taking America for Jesus**

Statements like this have always been interesting. I understand what the Religious Right is alluding to, but if God is in fact soverign and omnipotent, isn't America His already? I know that they're referring to morals/lifestyles and such. But the phrasing just seems off.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Heather,

Your right -- this isn't all that new -- but it's gotten more intense. Back in high school we were going to take Klamath Falls for Jesus. Basically it was an evangelism kick -- but it did have political content to it.

But of course in 1976 -- the year I graduated -- I was the lone Gerry Ford supporter among my friends. They were all for the real Christian candidate -- Jimmy Carter. 4 years they all joined the Reagan bandwagon. By seminary I had become a Democrat. What a twist of fate!

Mike L. said...

I liked the show the last 3 nights. It was well balanced. I did like much of what Greg Boyd said, but I too disagreed with his statement that Jesus avoided politics. Jesus was extremely political!!!

The whole series was enlightening. I was happy to see the first episode about Jewish fundamentalism. It covered much of what Jimmy Carter expressed in his recent book and I think it will be "news" for many people. That story has been buried in the sand for too long and it is probably the one that has the most potential to effect postive change if exposed and corrected.

Let's hope they follow up the story with God's Peacemakers and highlight the progressive branch of all 3 religions!

Lao said...

Pastor Bob,

Here is a perspective from overseas - an American living in a Muslim country.

"A newspaper catering to Malaysia's ethnic Indians published a front-page apology Thursday after causing an outrage by printing an image of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette. Malaysia's national news agency Bernama would report that, Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi slammed the picture as hurtful and an insult to Christians, and called on people not to play with religion. Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would further state -- "If the Christians get to know about it, it will create problems". Well, guess what Mr. Badawi, the Christians have already found out about it, and needless to say, many of us are still befuddled. Where is the global outrage, the violent worldwide protests and the calls to behead those who insult Christianity?"

continued...

An American Expat in Southeast Asia