The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 9: “Lovable Enemies”

The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 9: “Lovable Enemies” November 6, 2023

The Upside-Down Kingdom, Chapter 9: Lovable Enemies

Whenever I read a chapter of any non-fiction book I look for “the paragraph” that most clearly spells out its thesis. And I often look for the one that takes the argument of the chapter to its natural conclusion. Tear away all the factoids and tangents, however important they may be, and find the paragraph that shocks and really makes the chapter come alive and gives me something to think about and wrestle with.

I found such a paragraph in this chapter of The Upside-Down Kingdom. I do not know if the page it is on in my Kindle version of the book is the page where you would find it in a hard copy. But here it is:

“The seductive power of nationalism seeks to wrap God’s blessing around national destinies that have nothing to do with Christian faith. Some Christians still prostitute the gospel by justifying military crusades under the flag of God’s blessing. For example, singing “God Bless America” while marching off to war, turns God into a tribal deity that favors pet nations. This distortion of the gospel imagines that God smiles warmly on the military endeavors of some countries, but not on others. The use of God-talk to justify militarism spans many centuries–from holy crusades to modern versions–with claims that God ‘blesses’ military action. Coins inscribed with ‘In God We Trust’ are a mockery when a nation spends billions of dollars for defense. Americans obviously trust weapons, not God.”

The chapter is about Jesus’s command to love one’s enemies with “agape” love and in the chapter Kraybill, the author, addresses many questions about that and how realistic or unrealistic it is and the “detours” we make around it in order to avoid at least trying to live that kind of life.

But that paragraph above is the “punch in the gut” Kraybill gives Americans about Jesus’s teachings and how we ignore or explain them away. Note that he is addressing this entire book to those of us who like to think that we are Jesus People, disciples of Jesus who really care about his example and teachings. It’s not aimed at unbelievers or false Christians.

That’s why I like this book. Kraybill pulls no punches–like most Christian ethicists do.

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