Two of the craziest, and sickest stories I’ve seen in a while wrap out our week here on the blog:
Both of these stories serve to demonstrate what happens when the blending of Christianity and culture go to an extreme. As a missiologist, we call this “syncretism”. Christianity in all cultures has a way of blending with culture over time- some of this can actually be good, a process we call “contextualization”. However, in some cases such an extreme blending occurs that it becomes difficult to call the new belief system “Christian” as it essentially becomes its own, new religion– what we call “syncretism”.
Western missiologists are often able to quickly point this out in other cultures but tend to have a much more difficult time accurately identifying this within our own culture. This week however, we see two prime examples of what it looks like in America when we force Jesus into an arranged marriage with American culture (while these two examples come from the right, they aren’t the only group who does this). These should simply serve as a reminder of the dangerous belief systems that can develop when we lose track of where Jesus ends, and where culture begins.
First, my old friend Tom Delay, who was the former House Majority Leader when I was still involved with right-wing politics. Tom said this week that God was the one who founded America, and that God himself wrote the US Constitution:
What’s scary about this, is that people functionally believe it. Perhaps not many are dumb enough to actually believe that it’s true, but after having it drilled into their heads repeatedly that God is somehow connected with the constitution, people functionally operate as if this document came from God and cannot be questioned. Obviously it’s not– my children are not less of a person because of the color of their skin, God isn’t the one who killed Native Americans in order to set up shop here, God isn’t the one who built our wealth on the backs of slaves… the US constitution did NOT come from God.
Satan, perhaps, but surely not God.
This serves to show the extremes that blending can go– theologies of divine inspiration and inerrancy are no longer left to the Bible, but are now extended to apply to documents particular to our culture. Very dangerous stuff that crosses outside of Christianity and into a new religion.
The second example (via HuffPo) comes from former General Jerry Boykin. While giving a speech on behalf of the hate group called the Family Research Council, he actually told audience members that Christians are supposed to buy assault weapons in order to be like Christ:
“The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he’s coming back as what? A warrior. A mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe … I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies ’cause he’s coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.
And I believe now – I’ve checked this out – I believe that sword he’ll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.
Now I want you to think about this: where did the Second Amendment come from? … From the Founding Fathers, it’s in the Constitution. Well, yeah, I know that. But where did the whole concept come from? It came from Jesus when he said to his disciples ‘now, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’
I know, everybody says that was a metaphor. IT WAS NOT A METAPHOR! He was saying in building my kingdom, you’re going to have to fight at times. You won’t build my kingdom with a sword, but you’re going to have to defend yourself. And that was the beginning of the Second Amendment, that’s where the whole thing came from. I can’t prove that historically and David [Barton] will counsel me when this is over, but I know that’s where it came from. And the sword today is an AR-15, so if you don’t have one, go get one. You’re supposed to have one. It’s biblical.”
You heard it right: Jesus is coming back with an AR-15 in his hands to shoot his enemies, and if you want to be obedient to Christ, you’re supposed to own an AR-15.
This is why Bible scholars, not military commanders, ought be left to do exegetical work– this is the worst interpretation I’ve ever heard of these passages (which I’ve previously addressed here.) Teaching people that Christ-likeness means they are supposed to own an assault weapon is perhaps the most evil teaching I’ve ever heard made in the name of Jesus.
So, herein is the lesson:
As Christians, when our loyalties are divided between Jesus and our nation, Jesus and our culture, eventually the two blend themselves into a new belief system that is not part of the way of Jesus. Often, this happens subtly without us even realizing we’re developing a hybrid religion. As Jesus followers, we must renounce our loyalty to these earthly empires and become willing to enter into the counter-cultural kingdom Jesus began– a kingdom that doesn’t look anything like the empries of this world, including America.