Yes, STILL in the Intro
So we are still in the intro of Greg Boyd’s book, “Myth of a Christian Nation.”
This is what Boyd says on page 11-12 of “Myth”:
“For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, “taking America back for God,” voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.
I will argue that this perspective is misguided, that fusing together the kingdom of God with this or any other version of the kingdom of the world is idolatrous and that this fusion is having serious negative consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.
I do NOT argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. While people whose faith has been politicized may well interpret me along these lines, I assure you that this is not what I’m saying. The issue is far more fundament than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I hope to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God.”
Two issues need to be raised here. The first one has to do with “legislating morality” and the second one has to do with sphere sovereignty.
On the one hand, the issues above are noble. That is, Christians seek to make the world into what they think is a better place just as many people involved in the political process tend to do. I’m sure Boyd wouldn’t have problems with some laws that should be passed against certain things he considers evil. On the other hand, again, these Christians are committing what Skillen calls a “general moralism.” One of the first questions that one needs to ask, whether they are on the right or left is, “Why should government get involved on this issue?” “Should government make laws against every possible evil?” “What is PROPERLY POLITICAL?”
Now there are some things government has absolutely no business being involved in (some of which aren’t even evil to begin with) and it doesn’t take much thought to see this. Paul Marshall in God and the Constitution: Christianity and American Politics says:
“There are areas where we definitely should try to impose our morality or legislate our views and there are areas where we should not. There are many, different types and levels of morality and conduct: some are appropriate for politics and some are not; some are matters of personal taste, while others are mattters of life and death, and therefore politically central. We shouldn’t try to tell people what they should put on their pizza. It’s a matter of taste, and , unless someone is about to die of food allergies, people should be free to make up their own minds about what they want for lunch.”
In the areas that are evil, from a Christian perspective, it seems we have to co-exist alongside those evils (though this may mean fighting those evils in other ways or by other means) . The idea here is from the parable of the man who sowed good seed in his field but someone who was his enemy had come along and planted weeds, Matt 13:28-30. Jesus says that both should grow together. Again, Paul Marshall states:
“If as the parable says, God is patient even with those who do evil, so much more should we also strive to live alongside others in political peace.
In fact, Jesus went far beyond describing God’s patient acceptance of certain kinds of evil. He said that God not only allows people to live in disobedience, but also still actively cares and provides for them even as they do so.”
Though these are the first fundamental questions to ask, they still do not address how they are related to the question of a differeniated creation. The question of what is properly political is not only to ask what the proper role of government is or what government’s proper jurisdiction is but it is to also ask what are the proper roles (and responsibilities) of other areas of civil society ie., families, churches, police, unions, hospitals, schools, etc, etc, etc. Again as Paul Marshall says,
“This chapter has stressed that the fact that someone may be doing something bad is not itself grounds for government action. Individual, families, churches, unions, and businesses have their own rights and responsibility and need to have the political freedom to exercise that responsibility….the mere fact that greed and lust, and waste and pornography, are evil is not in and of itself any grounds for any government action.
In this particular sense we should agree that is is not the task of government to enforce morality. The government’s task is not to compel everything that is right or moral, but to enforce the particular morality that we call justice–which lies at the core of genuine poltical morality. Governments must respect the proper independence of others—respect independent human callings human responsibilities, human rights. Human rights are one way of referring to an area of human decision and responsibility properly beyond the authority and power of governments.”
Essentially, when Marshall speaks about the “independent human callings and responsibilities” he is saying that different spheres of authority, ie., mothers, fathers, teachers, police officers, doctors, families, banks, unions, schools, etc, what we call “civil society” have particular callings and responsibilities from God. That is, as a result, they have a right(s) to carry out these callings and responsibilities–callings and responsibilities given by God via the nature of what they are. Government’s job is to not to go beyond it’s “authority and power” to carry out these callings or responsibilities for that would be government acting in an omnicompetent manner. It would be going beyond IT’S God given calling and responsibility. In other words, government should not take over the role of the other spheres. This is not to say that the spheres never overlap. But it is to say that each sphere should not be CONFUSED with another sphere.
Sphere sovereignty, as a tradition, plays no role in the thought pattern of Boyd throughout this book and that is unfortunate as that seems to be a more balanced understanding of faith and politics than what is offered to us in Myth.