I’ve got a special treat for you to commemorate Independence Day—a preview of the summer issue of Leadership due out later this month. The issue focuses on the intersection of church ministry and politics (not an irrelevant subject this year). Here is a snippet featuring Charles Colson and Gregory Boyd debating the biblical basis for loving one’s country…
It’s something I’ve wondered for a long time. It’s easy to beat this around in the abstract, but the real core issue here is that American Evangelicals tend to have too high of a view of the state as an instrument of righteousness, one not justified by the New Testament. As I said in my post-Katrina piece Church and State: A Slightly Different View:
Just because the government is ordained of God doesn’t necessarily make it the morally ideal instrument that people make it out to be. We discussed in our posting last week on the judgement of God that events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters can be instruments of God’s authority. In the Old Testament, brutal states such as the Assyrians were termed to be God’s instruments towards the punishment of the Israelites for their sins. Man is a poor student and frequently needs a hard lesson to learn. Modern people profess to be shocked by this, and ascribe this to a Judeo-Christian world view, but in the ancient world the pagans felt even more strongly about this. The Roman historian Tacitus, hardly a fan of Christianity, said that "the gods care little for our well-being, but greatly for our chastisement."
And I don’t think that it is prima facie "unpatriotic" to say this:
Our Founding Fathers didn’t have a very high view of government either. That’s why, after years of taxation without representation, quartering rude British troops in their homes and other indignities, they fashioned a government with a multitude of checks and balances within and the check of federalism and a people endowed with rights by their Creator without.
Unfortunately today we have too many people on both sides whose view of government is just too high. On the left, this is understandable: government coercion is the only way their agenda will be carried out, so they have no choice. On the right, the legacy of World War II, which raised the image of government within the population, is a powerful one, even with people who should know better.