If the Kingdom of God existed as a physical place with borders on this planet or somewhere else in the universe, and you were standing at its gates, would you want to enter? I’ve considered my life, my background and past stances and have been mulling this question. As I grow older and live with our world’s brokenness, my desire to live in God’s kingdom is increasing. But I’ve also had to wonder how many of my fellow american christians really want to cross the border into the Kingdom of God given the attitudes, values and lifestyles practiced in much of american christendom. The following snippets from my recent reading list reiterated the question; do we really want to live in the fullness of the Kingdom of God and if not now…then when?)
The religious right is more convinced of American righteousness in the exercise of its military might than the neoconservatives are, and more invested than Wall Street in lower taxes. […] Neoconservatives who call for confrontation with Iran, a closer relationship with Israel, and pressing the War on Terror are not echoed by religious conservatives—they’re drowned out by them. In economics and military matters, no less than in social issues, conservative evangelicals are more Republican than Republicans (Michael Brendan Dougherty “Crossing the Tea” The American Conservative Magazine).
Many conservative Christians, mostly Protestant but also a number of Catholics, have come to believe and proudly proclaim that the creator of the universe favors free wheeling, deregulated, union busting, minimal taxes especially for wealthy investors, plutocrat-boosting capitalism as the ideal earthly scheme for his human creations. […]Meanwhile many Christians who support the capitalist policies associated with social Darwinism strenuously denounce Darwin’s evolutionary science because it supposedly leads to, well, social Darwinism! […]While the communists drove the reasonable concept of social equality into the ground, Ayn Rand did the same with individual liberty. Because she hated the teeniest expression of […] socialism, and because the concept was in the archaic Bible long before some non-theists decided it was the wave of the future, she promoted an anti-Christian, pro-evolution atheism so extreme that even most atheists including myself reject her claim to have philosophically absolutely disproved the existence of any god. But many influential conservative Christians have embraced her expressly atheistic theory of Objectivism that in her books such as The Virtue of Selfishness, they propose that government must be shrunk to a bare minimum so socially Darwinist that it dances with anarchy. Only then can entrepreneurial greed have the free run that liberty demands. (Gregory Paul “From Jesus’ Socialism to Capitalistic Christianity”)
But the Christian Right parted company with both the Second Great Awakening and the Fundamentalist Movement with one immensely far-reaching decision. If those two earlier movements had limited themselves to persuasion in their respective bids to shape the soul of the nation, the Christian Right combined persuasion with raw political power and sought to force its agenda on the nation by controlling the nation’s political structures. […] With a startling lack of self awareness, the Values Voter Summit began their conference two days after the census report on poverty levels was released. However, poverty is not what concerns these “Values Voters.” According to their website, their values instruct them to: “Protect Marriage • Champion Life • Strengthen the Military • Limit Government • Control Spending • Defend Our Freedoms.” Raushenbush pointed out that Jesus’ values “don’t include strengthening the military.” Nor do they include limiting government, controlling government spending or defending our freedoms. Instead, as Raushenbush correctly notes, there is nothing that dominates Jesus teaching more than justice for the poor, a concern embodied in Jesus’ vision of “the kingdom of God.” (Richard T Hughes indispensable series, “The Christian Right in Context”. Quotes are from parts 3 & 4. Must reads IMO – more in-depth than the previous pieces.)
These selections reveal a mix of values; many of which have little or nothing to do with the priorities of the Kingdom of God. Some of the values described openly mock God’s ideals for humanity I am struck with the sad possibility that many “born-again” american christians may actually miss out on the Kingdom of God because in the present they show no inclination of wanting to live as citizens of such a place. Consider the following questions and ask yourself whether or not this sobering possibility is not the present reality.
Do evangelical americans want to live in a place where retribution and violence doesn’t exist? The gung-ho support of the war on terror (crusades aimed at Muslims), the military, torture and global american hegemony seem to say no.
Do we want to live in a place where life is communal? Do we want to live where all ‘possessions’ are God’s and where everyone’s needs are completely taken care of? Do we want to live in a world where society is no longer stratified with rich and poor? Do evangelicals want to dwell in a world where survival of the economic fittest and where economic competition no longer rules one’s existence? Do we really want to live as communally as the Kingdom of God will be? The continuing american evangelical embrace and sanctification of individualistic, free-market fundamentalism asserts, no. American christian’s fervent support of lower taxes for the wealthy, corporate hand-outs, and a limitless, selfishness-driven free market proclaims No!
Do we want to live in a place where american exceptionalism doesn’t exist? Where Western culture doesn’t dominate? The worship of the american founding and the misrepresenting of it, shouts no!
Do we want to live in a place where individualism doesn’t reign supreme? A place where God and We are more important than me, my and I? An increasingly bold dabbling with libertarianism and the embrace of individualistic, consumerist american cultural ethos in all areas of life including church life says no.
Do we want to live in a place that is profound, deep, quiet, peaceful and reverent? Do we want to revel in a world where aesthetics and style will be as overwhelming, important and perfect as orthodoxy? The american evangelical hunger for media attention/notoriety, the mediocre imitations of pop culture, the penchant for emotionally charged hype, and the obsession with signs, wonders and charismatic personalities glibly says, no!
Do we want to live in a place of mind blowing rationalism, complexity and science? The gravitation towards simplistic emotionalism over intellectualism, distrust of empirical science, and aversion to nuance seem to suggest, no.
Do we want to live in a place where nature is nurtured rather than exploited for personal gain? Some progress in a better direction has occurred in this area, but many continue to eagerly denigrate conservation, sustainability and long-term stewardship in favor of monetary gain and resource exploitation. For many, it is still a definite no.
Do we want to live in an existence where surrender, humility and deference rules? No where in New Testament scripture are followers of Jesus exhorted to lord their faith and convictions over others, especially not unbelievers! Yet, many evangelicals want to do exactly that. The yearning for political power and cultural influence at any cost, says no. The winner-take-all, unconditional surrender attitude taught by right-wing talk radio arrogantly bellows, Noooo way!
It’s abundantly clear to me at least that many claiming christians in this country want nothing to do with the values and attitudes of the kingdom of God. It seems that many would rather live in a universal Anglo-american empire where narcissistic individualism, american excess and waste, an almighty dollar, a state church and killing/torture technology are it’s enforced values. (With some kind of God/Jesus smokescreen mixed in of course).
If you have a seed of faith and have a glimpse of who Jesus is and how He lived, but don’t want to live out His Kingdom life in the here and now: why would you want to live His Way in the afterlife? God saves people to live His Kingdom ways here on earth as a testimony to His grace, life and ultimate ideals. He does not save people so they can say they’re saved, but then live as champions for a worldly, satanic kingdom that glorifies man’s baser impulses of treasure accumulation and brute power.
Wake up american church! Jesus is knocking on your door and is inviting you to enter His kingdom and a more abundant life. That life will and must be radically different from conventional, “common sense” american life. Are you willing to ‘lose’ your american life now in order to gain the dream eternal life that is beginning now?