Book Review: The Myth of a Christian Nation

Gregory A. Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Nation, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. 207pp. Hardcover.

I haven’t even finished reading this book and yet “Wow!” This is one of the heaviest hitting most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. It is the most important book written of late. This book should be read by every mature American Christian. However, it will probably not be and Greg will be anathematized as most dissenters from the status quo are. As the title suggests, Greg attacks the myth of America as a Christian nation head on. He treats the topic comprehensively and passionately. However, it should not be inferred that this is merely a persuasive work. Greg does get emotional at times, but his arguments are solid, substantial, and difficult to refute. His fundamental goal with this book isn’t so much to tear down or criticize America or American Christians, but to exalt Jesus and promote His genuine and beautiful heavenly kingdom. To accomplish this Greg must show that America cannot be considered a Christian nation now or ever in its history. Greg’s essential premise is that since Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, neither America or any other nation can be considered a Christian nation–by definition. However, honorable, noble, and just a nation may be, it will always fall short of Jesus’ vision for the kingdom and can never substitute for it. Jesus had the opportunity to establish an earthly kingdom and rejected that course for the establishment of a beautiful spiritual kingdom. Greg argues that the notion of “taking back America for God” is fundamentally flawed because America cannot be considered to have ever been acting purely Christ-like in its history. America has had a bloody history punctuated by frequent wars. No matter how just these wars may have been, Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, not kill them. Don’t misunderstand, Greg is not suggesting that America does not have the right to exercise military force in the protection or promotion of its national interests. He does not suggest that a nation subscribe to an isolationist or completely non-military policy. Governments have the “power of the sword” and the responsibilities that go along with it. He is just saying that the power of the sword is fundamentally not like Christ, so when any nation goes to war in the name of Christ this is false, tarnishes the name of Christ, and does substantial harm to the promotion of the Gospel. America’s history of oppression, exploitation, and outright slaughter of Native Americans; slavery, rape, and murder of Africans; and discrimination against other non-whites from colonial times to the present further illustrate that American cannot be considered to adequately represent Christ. Greg gets most emotional as he argues that this earthly vision of America as a Christian nation obfuscates the Gospel of the Kingdom and hinders its advance both in the US and abroad. Two centuries of violence and oppression in the name of American Christianity have hardened untold millions of hearts against the beautiful and attractive Gospel of the Kingdom.

This book helps Christians like myself who are having increasing difficulty defending America’s unchristian history and present unjust and violent foreign policies. It puts solid arguments behind what has been an otherwise uneasiness with the notion of America as Christian nation. It also helps us to maintain a proper focus as American Christians. We should be focusing our efforts on loving and serving people rather than political activism. We should be focused on getting more Americans to be fully Christian rather than trying to get America as a whole to be more Christian. The former transforms individual lives; the latter does not transform lives, and may actually make individuals more resistant to the Gospel. The former will transform the nation as individuals behave more Christ-like and consequently transforms the climate of the nation. The blessings of God have remained on America, not because America is a Christian nation, but simply because there are Christians in America.

More to come when I actually finish the book.

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