Friday, February 25, 2005

A Word on Patriotism

Any worldly power, be it Nazi Germany, the British crown or the American empire, cannot ally itself with the Church of Jesus Christ. The reign of God is present in us to cast down every pretension to significance that these temporal powers may have. I can entertain the idea that allegiance to Jesus will not always stand over against every action by every empire, and that the Church may praise and commend some actions of some governments, and of course be thankful for the blessing of peace that God grants through their rule.

But whenever the Church considers allegiance to Jesus and the State to be somehow equivalent, she loses her critical eye for the policies of the State that are destructive of human dignity, and in its unchecked, unchallenged rule, the State will turn on the people of God. It happened in Germany, and it may well happen here.

The Church of Jesus Christ does not have the luxury of patriotism. (Read Wednesday's post for more support on this!)

If one wishes to “support the troops” (which ones?) one ought to pray for them, send care packages, and take particular care to look after the families of those serving abroad. A believer does not have the luxury of throwing big parties about how wonderful it is that so many brave young men and women are working to execute the policies of the State and how the Church ought to bless that state of affairs.

With that said, I’d like to respond to a few specific arguments:

I agree with Alan. While it might be significant to some of you that this was not an “official church service,” that means nothing to me, and I don’t think it would mean much to “the world out there.” This local manifestation of the Body of Christ did something as the Body of Christ (even calling it a “ministry”). That’s the important thing. Also note that even though they may not have “meant anything” by all of that stuff, the fact that they didn’t might make it even more dangerous. It’s about the attitudes, those of offering allegiance and alliance to the State, that make it “not mean anything” to them.

I don’t understand the “distraction” objection. This is about “being the Church.” It’s about being faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and about understanding that no temporal State power can receive the Church’s allegiance – nor an alliance. Discussing such issues can’t be a distraction to anything, because there is nothing I consider more important.

As far as “not letting the heathen” see? (This is my shorthand, not a phrase anybody used) If we believe in the forgiveness of sin, and we believe in who we’re called to be, I have no problem with calls to repentance, and subsequent repentant gestures being public. The sin is obviously very public.

Finally, I was not using hyperbole. A building has not been defiled. The Body of Christ is being defiled. I used the word “rape” for a reason. Because theologically, that’s what is happening. This stuff is dangerous, those folks’ souls are in peril, and I meant every word. I’m certain they have good intentions, but that doesn’t count for a good deal. (“We just kind of fell into bed together, we didn’t mean for anything to happen”).

I am a believer, and I intend this as a clear and unequivocal indictment of this kind of church.

I don’t think their cause is mine, or that of Christ. I would invite them to change their cause…

Comments on this post are closed. Go here if you wish to add something.


Allison said...

Raped theologically because of a rally-type program for the Armed Forces? Holding allegiance to the state and not to Jesus Christ because of this? Losing their critical eye for destructive governmental policies because of this?

I'm not so sure I see this...or, even really how you've seen this.

Joshua Bailes said...

Amen, Kyle. Someone has to say it that way. The reason people do not see the urgency of this event is because we were socialized to see the Church and the US government as the same, and that line continues to blur. It is sad and alarming because Jesus seemed to have little concept of supporting the Roman state, which was militaristic. Church history demonstrates that these kinds of state and church crossovers are dangerous. Constantine royally screwed up the faith in 325 and this kind of service and behavior comes far too close, if not mirroring, that kind of behavior. We must be more careful in aliging ourselves with the state. It is not all it cracked up to be.

Jesse said...

Kyle, you said it much more eloquently than I could hope to. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The church qua church does not owe allegience to the state. But does a Christian owe allegience to a state? Albeit a limited allegience and one that must be jettisoned when it conflicts with kingdom of God. But is there not a God made, natural allegiance required of one? Here is what I mean. I bear allegiance to family, friends my locality for a number of reasons. One reason is for the way these entities make life possible for me. Given this, does not the state -- whether local, state or federal rightly ask for my allegiance -- Christian or not?


Kyle said...

Good points.

Peter, I think you draw out a helpful contruction here. I might owe "peaceableness" and limited obedience to the State, but not unquestioning allegience, and certainly not blanket approval of its character, policies or actions.

Only Jesus gets devotion. The State is the subject of careful critique, and perhaps cautious and occasional praise.

+ Alan said...

Allegience is a troublesome word, as is "owe." Allegience holds great weight for me. Therefore, I can give no such thing to any State no matter what "it" affords me. And as I remember it, I owe nothing to any man except to love him. So, be a decent law-abiding citizen, rendering to the respective "Ceasar" what is his? Sure. We are called to that. But my allegience belongs to God alone and to His Kingdom, where my true and lasting citizenship lies. I would be called to the same kind of "quiet" life if I happened to have been born in China or Cuba or Iran. Of course I would also be called to a holy disobedience if some law asked me to go against my primary citizenship. Hope that adds to the conversation in some constructive way. Peace.

Anonymous said...

"we were socialized to see the Church and the US government as the same, and that line continues to blur."

Bailes, this is a joke, right? In what context could someone even attempt to make this argument?

"Any worldly power, be it Nazi Germany, the British crown or the American empire, cannot ally itself with the Church of Jesus Christ."

Kyle - Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of the Anglican Church and the "Defender of the Faith" is she not?

The Archer of the Forest said...

The line between church and state or church and empire is a very tricky one for us Anglicans. In many ways, from the English tradition the church was the state.

I'll take Famous Anglican Lackeys for $800, Alex...

Kyle said...

Mr. Chairman,

Three points.

1. Making fun of Bailes' arguement doesn't count as a counter argument. It doesn't add to the discourse,and is simply disrespectful. So please add helpful things, or read quietly. I will answer for Mr. Bailes: this context. He's making the argument in this context. Answer it in a fashion worthy of your alma mater, or ignore it.

2. Do you have a point to make regarding the C of E? No, I don't think establishment is a good idea, if that's what you're asking.

3. It should be noted that so far, I actually know personally everyone who's commented here, and most of them know one another. We're friends, not adversaries. I'll respect your choice to continue in the discussion as well as your anonymity in this context if you write me a quick note to tell me who you are.

Anonymous said...


The limitation of this medium is that you can't tell the tone of voice. The comment about "is this a joke" is along the lines of "What????" followed by the other question. Making fun was not the intention. Moreover, I made no counter argument - I asked a question. I want to know where and how he was told to believe that the Government and the Church were one and the same - and something other than saying the Pledge to the Flag to start Bible School. Bailes knows my language well enough to know what I meant, I hope, but if he thinks the tone was demeaning, that was not the intention.

And on the subject of appropriate discourse, don't you think the nature of your comments was a bit elitist in tone? I get the impression I'm being told "How dare you come here and comment, peasant!"

Why not answer the question about the Anglican Church? Why did you dodge it?

Kyle said...


I will not have a pissing contest.

Drop the sarcasm and support your arguments (as opposed to baiting folks), or find something else to do. If that's elitist, so be it.

I'll answer your question explicitly this time and again as you to make a point: HRH Queen Elizabeth II is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Allison said...

Whoa. This isn't the friendly discussion I left.

A little disappointing, I must say.