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The Church in Nation-States

Empire In Its New Mode

The Church of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate in the shadow of "The Gherkin," which houses corporate offices in London's financial district.  The church building dates from the 12th century, which began with the London Council of Churches abolishing slavery in 1102 AD.  It serves an evangelical Anglican congregation.  In 1608, Sir Alberico Gentili, founder of the study of international law, was buried there.  Its location at the heart of the former British Empire and center of financial capitalism - which is dependent on the rule of law of nation-states - exemplifies the challenge of being a faithful Christian community in the midst of modern nation-states.  Photo credit: Roger Vander Steen | Public Domain, Wikimedia.

 
 

the church and nation-states: empire in its new mode

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Messages and Papers on the Church in Nation-States

Politics and God’s Restorative Justice resources on Christian relational ethics and how they would be expressed, primarily in the context of the United States

The Myth of Christian Ignorance concise resources on Christian attitudes prior to the Enlightenment towards scientific and philosophical knowledge, learning, medicine, arts, peace and war, politics and justice, economics and indebtedness, slavery, and human dignity. The “Enlightenment” was portrayed as “light” after the “darkness” of Christian influence in Western Europe. But this is a self-congratulatory myth.

Reflection on the Presidential Election of 2016 (Nov 30, 2016) voiced a concern about how white American evangelicals are turning towards Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church as a model of a state-church partnership, in order to politically oppose Muslims and pro-gay voices.  This continues to unfold.  See Young Turks, Putin Spies Infiltrate Major Christian Organization (The Young Turks, Jan 11, 2019) involving "The Fellowship Foundation" aka "The Family" in Washington DC and the National Prayer Breakfast being a way to work around the State Department. 

 White American Evangelical Political Attitudes and Behavior: Explanation and Correctives White American evangelical political attitudes can be characterized by the debate between John Winthrop and Roger Williams, and their respective attitudes towards Native Americans, slavery, fairness, and faith in the civic space.  This is a presentation also explores Scripture and church history to argue that Roger Williams was correct.  Given to the staff of Emmanuel Gospel Center, Apr 18, 2018, as a follow-up to how Christian restorative justice impacts ministry; audio file here 

Why Question Atheism from a Political and Moral Perspective? A presentation on how the Enlightenment tradition gave birth to racist liberal democracies on the one hand, and Marxist communism/state-capitalism on the other.  The Enlightenment tried to dethrone Christian faith from political theory and the Christian church from political power.  Thus, the ideology of the individual and the nation-state went to these two extremes, colored by the presumption of cultural, intellectual, and spiritual superiority that Europeans had about themselves.  Protestant heresies, fed by self-imposed Protestant ignorance about the church prior to Luther, and combined with a growing nationalism, accelerated the problem.  Race became the badge of membership in Empire or the token of citizenship in the Nation-State.  Authentic Christianity, therefore, must stress Pentecost (a principled cultural diversity) as the expression of Jesus' new humanity for all humanity.  

Human Dignity: Does Every Individual Matter? Science, philosophy, existentialism, other religions, and double-predestination based theologies mean that some human beings do not matter. Only a fully Trinitarian theology with a medical substitutionary atonement can provide an adequate foundation.

God as the Foundation of Human Rights (Genesis 1 - 11) Genesis 1 - 11 was aware of other Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean creation stories, and argued against them, as shown by the literary analysis of these literatures.  Topics of disagreement include:  the value of every human being; the relations of humans and God/gods; the reason for catastrophes like the Flood; the resolution or movement.

The Kingdom You No Longer Want (Luke 13:17 - 21) (and ppts) given at Neighborhood Church of Dorchester, Aug 13, 2017 after the Charlottesville, VA white supremacist violence on Aug 12

Race:  Can Faith Help? - Has Christian Multiculturalism Failed? (1 Corinthians 9:19 - 22) message 1 at a retreat

Race:  Can Faith Help? - Learning to See Oppression (Intro to Luke 19:1 - 10) message 2 at a retreat

Race:  Can Faith Help? - Racism, Wealth, and Power (Luke 19:1 - 10) message 3 at a retreat

Race:  Can Faith Help? - Jesus' One New Humanity (Ephesians 2:14 - 16) message 4 at a retreat

Why Did God Choose a "Chosen People"? Why Not Just Skip Right to Jesus? an important question when considering the phenomenon of nation-states

Books and Articles on the Origin of Modern Nation-States

Carlton J.H. Hayes, Nationalism: A Religion (Amazon book, 1960, 2016, 2017)

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (Amazon book, 1983, 1991, 2006)

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Amazon book, 2007)

Krishnan Kumar, Were Empires Better Than Nation-States at Managing Diversity? (Zocalo Public Square, Mar 16, 2018) a thought-provoking article which makes us ask the question of whether Nation-States are necessarily an improvement over Empires, and why Pentecost-expressions of political pluralism might have been more possibly in formal Empires rather than formal Nation-States.

Books and Articles on Christians Challenging the Institution of Nation-States: Africa

Andrew Harding, Central African Republic Crisis:  The Church Sheltering Muslims (BBC News, Feb 13, 2014)

Ed Stetzer, An Interview with Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History, on Global Christianity (Christianity Today, Mar 21, 2014)

Tim Townsend, Forgiving the Unforgivable in Rwanda (CNN, Apr 13, 2014) and Pieter Hugo and Susan Dominus, Portraits of Reconciliation: 20 Years After the Rwandan Genocide (NY Times Magazine, Apr 6, 2014) and Kari Costanza, Rwanda: 20 Years Later (WorldVision Magazine, 2014)

Books and Articles on Christians Challenging the Institution of Nation-States: Americas

Race: Jesus’ New Humanity as Response resources focused on the United States context on issues of race, with focus areas including slavery, housing, education, employment, politics, health disparities, etc.

Leuenberg, Human Dignity is Unassailable, Inalienable, and Indivisible (Leuenberg blog, 2008), a response to the Russian Orthodox Church's 2008 statement on human rights

Stephen Colbert, The Catholic Side of Stephen Colbert (youtube video, Oct 27, 2010) where Colbert testifies before Congress about migrant workers

Joseph Stiglitz, How Dr. King Shaped My Work in Economics (NY Times, Aug 27, 2013)

Joanna Moorhead, Conscientious Objectors: Men Who Fought a Different Battle (The Guardian, Apr 25, 2014)

William Barber, A Moral Monday Letter to Ferguson (Red Letter Christians blog, Oct 13, 2014)

Rebecca Onion, Rules of Business Ethics for Early 19th Century Christian Merchants (Slate, Apr 29, 2015)

Hanna Kozlowska, Pope Warns Churches to Take In Refugees - Or Else (Quartz, Sep 16, 2015)

Associated Press, United Methodists, Catholic Leaders Support Syrian Refugees (Kansas City Star, Nov 20, 2015)

Bishop Roy Sano, Amid Hysteria, a Call for Hospitality (United Methodist Church News, Nov 23, 2015) response to Roanoke, VA mayor David Bowers' citation of the internment of Japanese Americans as a positive national security precedent

The Guardian, Jane Addams: The Activist Who Set the Foundation for Modern Social Work (The Guardian, Oct 24, 2017) and Jane Addams (Wikipedia article)

Nathan Thrall, How the Battle Over Israel and Anti-Semitism Is Fracturing American Politics (NY Times Magazine, Mar 28, 2019) The growing prominence of the B.D.S. movement — and the backlash to it — is widening fault lines from college campuses to Capitol Hill.

Books and Articles on Christians Challenging the Institution of Nation-States: Asia, Eurasia

Christopher Marsh and Daniel Payne, Religiosity, Tolerance, and Respect for Human Rights in the Orthodox World (2009)

Olga Lossky, Toward the Endless Day: The Life of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (Amazon book, Mar 15, 2010) about one of the most important Orthodox theologians in the 20th century

Pravoslavie, Monks from the Kiev-Caves Lavra Stand Between Police and Demonstrators in Kiev (Pravoslavie Orthodox Christianity blog, Jan 11, 2014)

Timothy C. Morgan, China Frees Gao Zhisheng: Top 10 Lawyer Now Country's Persecuted Conscience (Christianity Today, Aug 7, 2014)

Jack Jenkins, Why Christians Are Helping Lead Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement (Think Progress, Oct 12, 2014)

Matthew Bell, Christians Take a Prominent Role in Hong Kong Protests (PRI, Oct 12, 2014)

Ian Johnson, China’s Unstoppable Lawyers: An Interview with Teng Biao (New York Review of Books, Oct 19, 2014)

Michael Bordeaux, Father Gleb Yakunin Obituary (The Guardian, Dec 30, 2014) an Eastern Orthodox example of human rights activism

Melanie Kirkpatrick, Chen Guangcheng, the Voice of China's Voiceless The 'Blind Lawyer' Recounts His Fight Against Communism's Corruptions (Christianity Today, Mar 20, 2015)

Matthew Namee, Ecumenical Patriarch Opposes Slavery in 1862 (Orthodox History, Apr 27, 2015)

Nicholas E. Denysenko, The Orthodox Church in Ukraine (Amazon book, 2018) a case study examination involving the challenge of plural national identities; important given Paul Goble, Stalin Starved Populations to Death to Russify Ukraine, North Caucasus and Kazakhstan, Statistics Show (Euromaidan Press, Nov 27, 2016)

Victor Gaetan, Pope Francis’ Holy Diplomacy in Ukraine (Foreign Affairs, Sep 5, 2019) “Why Washington and the Vatican Don’t See Eye to Eye”; draws attention to four principles Pope Francis expressed in Evangelii Gaudium.

Books and Articles on Christians Challenging the Institution of Nation-States: Europe

The Church and the Shoah: The Church For and Against Nazism resources documenting the role of Christians who resisted and supported Nazism and the tragedy of the mass murder of the Jewish population.

Leuenberg, Human Dignity is Unassailable, Inalienable, and Indivisible (Leuenberg blog, 2008), a response to the Russian Orthodox Church's 2008 statement on human rights

John Dickson, Indigenous Rights Before Their Time (Centre for Public Christianity, Mar 20, 2008)

Greg Clarke, Racism, Equality, Peace, and Christianity (Centre for Public Christianity video, Apr 15, 2008)

Bronwen Hanna, Rescue and Resistance on the Plateau (Centre for Public Christianity, May 27, 2008)

John Dickson, Melba Maggay on Faith, Justice, and Culture (Centre for Public Christianity, Sep 11, 2008)

Greg Clarke, Caroline Cox on Modern Slavery (Centre for Public Christianity, Apr 28, 2009)

Christopher Marsh and Daniel Payne, Religiosity, Tolerance, and Respect for Human Rights in the Orthodox World (2009)

David Molyneaux, The Role of the Church in the Fall of the Berlin Wall (blog, Aug 28, 2009)

David Bentley Hart, Revolutionary Christianity and Its Alternatives (video, Mar 3, 2010)

Simon Smart, Life and Faith: William Cooper and the Battle for Land Justice in New South Wales (Centre for Public Christianity, Sep 15, 2013)

Hanna Kozlowska, Pope Warns Churches to Take In Refugees - Or Else (Quartz, Sep 16, 2015)

Melody Wachsmuth, The Refugee Crisis Frontline: Croatia’s Christians Lend a Hand (Christianity Today, Sep 22, 2015)

The Guardian, Jane Addams: The Activist Who Set the Foundation for Modern Social Work (The Guardian, Oct 24, 2017) and Jane Addams (Wikipedia article)

Scott McConnell, The Immigrants Challenging Europe’s Code of Silence on Islam (The American Conservative, Jan 11, 2019) "They have been liberated by their ethnic backgrounds to speak more candidly than the vast majority of their countrymen"

Vanessa Gera, Polish Nationalists Protest U.S. Over Holocaust Claims (Associated Press, May 11, 2019)

Gauthier Vaillant and Élodie Maurot, What Can Christianity Do For Europe? (LaCroix International, May 18, 2019) gives a helpful history of Christian influence in Europe as rooted in respect for the human person

Joshua McNall, The Church as Echo of the Press (Jochua McNall blog, May 29, 2019) C.S. Lewis disagreed with a morning prayer written at the start of WW2, “Prosper, O Lord, our righteous cause.” Lewis wrote to his brother, Warnie: “I ventured to protest against the audacity of informing God that our cause was righteous—a point on which He may have His own view.”

Roger Cohen, Greece Is the Good News Story in Europe (NY Times, Jul 8, 2019) “Greek resilience through crisis demonstrates that reports of democracy’s demise are exaggerated”

Susan Neiman, There Are No Nostalgic Nazi Memorials (The Atlantic, Sep 14, 2019) “Americans could learn from how drastically German society has moved away from the nadir of its history.” Important because remembrance is an ethical act, and because post-WW2 Germany named Christian faith in its Constitution and had significant Christian leadership

Books and Articles on Christians Challenging the Institution of Nation-States: Middle East

The Church Under the State of Israel resources exploring the struggle of Palestinian Christians in the State of Israel.  The Zionist interpretation of the State of Israel is itself a version of the ethno-state vision of the Enlightenment.  Zionism is supported uncritically by many white American evangelicals because of poor exegesis of Scripture, guilt over American anti-Semitism, and syncretism with the ethno-nation-state of Enlightenment rationality.

Princeton University, Christianity in the Near East: Past, Present, and Future? (Arab Orthodoxy blog, May 15, 2015) especially Samir Khalil Samir, The Role of Christians Within the Arab-Islamic Society of the Middle East

Emma Green, The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East (The Atlantic, May 23, 2019) “An ancient faith is disappearing from the lands in which it first took root. At stake is not just a religious community, but the fate of pluralism in the region." The Trump administration has tried to support Christians in Iraq, but given US involvement in the region, such support is a mixed blessing.

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: General

Paul Freston, Protestant Political Parties (Amazon book, 2004) an impressive global survey of how Protestants have expressed Christian faith (or not) in the political sphere

Daniel McCarthy, Why Liberalism Means Empire (The American Conservative, Jul 16, 2014) regarding classical and secular liberalism, one wing of the Enlightenment, which challenges traditions and cultures without providing a substantive spiritual frame of reference to replace it; shows how Enlightenment liberalism is a thin parody of Christian missionary activity 

Adam Serwer, The Nationalist's Delusion (The Atlantic, Nov 20, 2017) a helpful, historically broad analysis of how racism manifests in politics

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: Africa

Johan Tredoux, Apartheid at 9pm (Uncommon Community, May 15, 2019) highlights the role of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Dutch Afrikaaners resisting slave abolition by the British Empire, another Christian effort

Timothy Isaiah Cho, How Learning About Abraham Kuyper’s Influence on Apartheid Changed Me (Medium, Dec 20, 2018) Dutch Reformed theologian Kuyper believed that Africans were inferior to Europeans, on the grounds of the “curse of Ham” theory; Kuyper also was averse to racial intermarriage.

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: America

The Church in White America: The Supremacists resources related to why American white supremacy is a specifically Protestant heresy and problem

Lawrence O'Donnell and Jon Meacham, President Donald Trump Has No Interest In ‘Moral Leadership’ (MSNBC, Oct 29, 2018) features the United Methodist minister who called Jeff Sessions to repent on immigration, quoting Matthew 25

Tom Porter, The Christian Right Is Looking to Putin's Russia to Save Christianity From the Godless West (Newsweek, Sep 15, 2018)

Catherine Osborn, How Bolsonaro's Christian Coalition Remains Precarious (Foreign Policy, Jan 1, 2019) "A loose alliance of Catholic and evangelical conservatives helped Brazil’s new president to power. But their continued support is far from certain."

Eric Levitz, How American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Myth (NY Magazine, Jan 2, 2019) involving American foreign policy

Young Turks, Putin Spies Infiltrate Major Christian Organization (The Young Turks, Jan 11, 2019) involving "The Fellowship Foundation" aka "The Family" in Washington DC and the National Prayer Breakfast being a way to work around the State Department. This confirms my concern which I wrote about in my Reflection on the Presidential Election of 2016, in November 2016.

Trevor Noah, Is Rep. Steve King Racist? Enter Trevor Noah: Racism Detective (The Daily Show, Jan 15, 2019) an entertaining take on a serious issue:  the monopolistic appropriation of Christianity (and other things) by whites in the name of "Western European culture” 

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: Asia, Eurasia

David Bentley Hart, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Christ (First Things, Sep 14, 2009) mentions Dostoyevsky's belief in Russian blood and soil, an Eastern Christian crusade to retake Constantinople, and anti-Semitism as a semi-pagan belief

Admin, Ecumenical Patriarch Criticizes Nationalist Tendencies Within Eastern Orthodoxy (Pravmir, Apr 30, 2014)

Christian Science Monitor Editorial Board, One Moscow Voice for Healing in Ukraine (Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2014)

Rod Dreher, Church to Orthodox Fascists: Repent! (The American Conservative, May 5, 2014)

Sergei Chapnin, A Church of Empire: Why the Russian Church Chose to Bless Empire (First Things, Nov 2015); see also Nicolai N. Petro, Russia's Orthodox Soft Power (Carnegie Council, Mar 23, 2015);

Pravoslavie, Has Post-Soviet Russia Really Morphed Into a Bulwark of Christian Morality? (Pravoslavie, Apr 28, 2015); Ryan P. Hunter, Analyzing the Transformation of Church-State Relations in Russia from 1987 to 2008 (blog, Dec 1, 2015)

Katherine Kelaidis, Why is the Church Silent About LGBT+ Violence in Russia? (Public Orthodoxy, Jan 9, 2017) should also be asked in the U.S. and other Christian-influenced nation-states

Stephen Turley, The Reawakening of Christian Civilization in Eastern Europe (The Imaginative Conservative, Jan 23, 2017) although I am concerned that it is not thorough ethically and politically

Dmitry Adamsky, Russian Nuclear Orthodoxy: Religion, Politics, and Strategy (Amazon book, 2019) “considers how, since the Soviet collapse in 1991, the Church has worked its way into the nuclear forces, the most significant wing of one of the world's most powerful military organizations. Dmitry Adamsky describes how the Orthodox faith has merged with Russian national identity as the Church continues to expand its influence on foreign and domestic politics. The Church both legitimizes and influences Moscow's assertive national security strategy in the twenty-first century.”

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: Europe

R. Kendall Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology  (Amazon book, 1996) a very important work exploring how early Christian apologetics and theology did not fully articulate the original New Testament anchoring of Jesus in his Jewish context and the thought forms of Hebrew biblical narrative.  This resulted in a political situation under European Christendom which left the Jewish community vulnerable.  The section on Kant and Schleiermacher as representatives of Christian Modernism which sought a "universal" grounding without reference to Judaism is especially relevant.

Gregory Paul, The Great Scandal: Christianity’s Role in the Rise of the Nazis (Church and State, Oct 11, 2003) traces the Christian alliance with the Roman Empire into anti-semitism and the rise of German Aryan "Volkism" and the German equivalent of "manifest destiny" through the conquest of Lebensraum ("living space"). For more on this, see The Church and the Shoah: The Church For and Against Nazism.

David Bentley Hart, The Violence of Christian History (video, Apr 8, 2011)

John C. Rao, The Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism & Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society (Amazon book, 2017) a collection of mainly Catholic authors critiquing the effects of the Protestant Reformation

Bill Bigelow, The Real Irish-American History Not Taught in Schools (Common Dreams, Mar 16, 2019) the Anglican Church did not challenge the English imposition of the Irish potato famine

Other Books and Articles on the Church Capitulating to Nation-States: Middle East

Yoram Hazony, The Virtue of Nationalism (Amazon book, Sep 4, 2018) praises the heretical appropriation of the Old Testament national freedom motif by the English, Dutch, and Americans, without acknowledging how those empires violated biblical ethics from Mosaic Israel (which included welcoming of foreigners, fairly egalitarian distribution of land, restorative justice, and empowerment of women) from Jesus' mission (anti-territorialism, expansion of communal identity, principled multi-culturalism) and ethics of repentance (restitution in both Moses and Jesus) which would normally be applied to colonialist injustice.  See review by Friedrich Hansen, Reflections on the Renaissance of Nationalism (Geopolitica, Sep 4, 2018) from a Russian-Eurasian geopolitical posture, which many Eastern Europeans support, and regular support for Hazony from The American Conservative.

Peter Beinart, Debunking the Myth that Anti-Zionism is Antisemitic (The Guardian, Mar 7, 2019) "All over the world, it is an alarming time to be Jewish – but conflating anti-Zionism with Jew-hatred is a tragic mistake"

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics