I met Will Willlimon recently.
(His preaching technique was exactly what I was taught in seminary. But that’s another story.)
In my first semester of seminary I read Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, written by Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas.
Their view is that Christians are not citizens of the United States, or Great Britain, or Canada, or the countries where we reside. We are resident aliens because we follow Jesus, whose Kingdom is not of this world.
Christianity began a significant change with the merger of the Jesus followers and the Roman Empire of Constantine.
Flags, uniforms and military flyovers are all symbols of the Empire, not the message of Jesus.
I had been a Christian only a few years before I began seminary. (I officiated the third Christmas Eve service I attended.) I read Resident Aliens in my first semester, and it deeply influenced my thinking and my understanding of the message of Jesus.
The ideas in Resident Aliens inform my theology and often surface in what I write.
I was pleased to shared with Willlimon how much his book meant to me.
He shared a story of a minister who led a book discussion at his church.
“How did it go?” Willimon asked.
“Not good,” was the response.
It can be a challenge to tell Christians their understanding of faith is built on false ideas.
The ideas in Resident Aliens are radical, but so is the message of Jesus. Empire Christians think that the ‘radical’ nature of Jesus means they should protest abortion or be concerned with the so-called ‘sins’ of others. The actual radical message of Jesus is that love is more important than politics, policies, national borders or governments.
Empire Christians support the government when it oppresses.
Jesus followers support the oppressed.
The difference really is that simple.