Taking This Country Back For God

Do we need to take this country back for God, or is this goal a distraction from the larger mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of Jesus? Are the two goals in conflict with one another or can they coincide? What is the relationship between God’s kingdom and the American socio-cultural landscape? Should we seek to have our deepest Christian convictions legislated in American society? Can they genuinely be legislated? Are we dual citizens: citizens of both God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of this world, or are we resident aliens? How do we negotiate the life the Gospel calls us to in relation to the living responsibly and realistically in the world? I consistently struggle with questions like these, and though I don’t have clear answers, I do have tendencies and underlying principles that influence how I live out my faith in relation to politics and culture in America.

While in grad school, I came across pastor and theologian Gregory Boyd when I did a paper on various models of the atonement, and I found his work to be provocative and insightful. Recently, I also found him to be kindred when it comes to addressing the above questions. Not long ago, Pastor Boyd gave a sermon series titled “The Cross and the Sword,” which became the foundation of a book he wrote, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church. The response of Evangelicals to this book has been polarizing, with some viewing him as practically apostate, and others viewing him as a prophet giving much needed words to a wayward Church. With mild reservation, I am of the latter group, and for this reason I have decided to post the three videos below, which together comprise a 22 minute interview conducted by Charlie Rose. Though you may not agree with Gregory Boyd, I think if you are a reflective Xian, you have to wrestle with his ideas.

Part I

Part II

Part III


Gregory Boyd’s Webpage

12 Responses to “Taking This Country Back For God”

  1. Roger Green  

    Haven’t watched the Boyd piece yet, but I did want to respond to the notion of taking back the country for God. I know any number of people who voted for Bush 43 (TWICE!) because he was a Christian, who supported McCain this year because Palin is a Christian. Well, obviously, the right brand of Christianity.

    In the public arena, public piety holds little sway with me. I’m not going to say that GWB is not a Xian; that is not for me to say. I WILL say that MY understanding of the faith precludes starting a war of choice, condoning torture, et al.

    Meanwhile, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render unto God what is God’s. That difficult, shallow cliche of living “in the world, but not of the world” probably applies here, too.

  2. Kevin Benson  

    Tony – I’m glad you blogged on this topic because I just read what I thought was a good piece on this same subject by columnist Cal Thomas. Here is the link:


    I will take a look at the videos and follow up with some thoughts but right now I need to get to bed.

  3. Anthony Velez  

    Kevin – I particularly liked the following quote from the article you referred to, as I think it gets near the heart of the issue.

    “Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture.”

    Along with this, however, is the problem of thinking the vision of the Bible regarding living justly can easily be translated into the options given in the American socio-political landscape. This is one of the main elements that Boyd makes in his book. Related to this, and perhaps most importantly is his idea that if you pick up the sword to enforce morality, you have to put down the cross that brings the hope of genuine transformation. I know that throughout the ages Xians have debated about whether this is true, but what I don’t see, particularly among my more conservatives brothers and sisters, is wrestling with whether this might be true. Primarily, I see them espousing the idea that we have a mandate to win the country back for God, and that one of the key tools to do so is picking the “right” person, and getting legislation passed.

  4. Scott  

    Excellent interview. Thanks for this. I’ve added Boyd’s book to my Audible library. Looking forward to “reading” it during my walk to/from work.

  5. Roger Green  

    I wouldn’t disagree with anything he said. Yes, not only is the U.S. NOT a Xian nation, it ought not to be.

    It occurred to me, in my ongoing conversations with my favorite bus companion, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who, among other things, DON’T vote, may be closest to the value of not involving themselves in the worldly affairs of politics.

  6. Anthony Velez  

    Scott – I am glad you liked what you heard. You will have to tell me what you think once you have finished “reading” it.

  7. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – I agree with you that the U.S. is not a Xian nation, particularly if Xian is characterized by that which exhibits the characteristics of Christ, which of course is antithetical to things like slavery, racism, Anglo-Ethnocentrism, and imperialism. However, (oh yes, I do love finding the “howevers”) I think it would be historically accurate to say that Xianity has been a dominant influence in shaping the sensibilities and values of American culture.

    Also, I agree that the U.S. should not be a Xian nation, and like Boyd, I say that more out of concern for the well being of the Church. Although, given the track record of using religion to absolutize political values and convictions, I think this is also healthy for society. Moreover, I think that whole idea of a Xian nation is problematic insofar that Xianity is not a reality that can be nationalized. Though I do think Xianity is communal, and that it does have societal and political implications, I don’t think that the being of Xianity, so to speak, can be substantiated in the structures by which nations have existence. As Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” I think that Xianity lives, moves and has its being in the power of God’s word moving through God’s Spirit, which is always a reality beyond human manipulation, and therefore beyond being institutionalized.

    Finally, though you did not say it, I want to be careful to point out the Boyd is not a pietist; he is not advocating for a faith that focuses on the individual’s soul. Neither is he espousing any kind of withdrawal from socio-political affairs. I think his emphasis is two-fold. First, the transcendent Kingdom of God, being not of this world, does not advance by worldly forms of power. In Boyd’s vernacular, instead of working over others, it works under them, through sacrificial service and love. Second, the Kingdom vision of justice is a comprehensive reality that does not fit into the political landscape of America, and consequently no one, neither on the left or the right, can claim to have God’s agenda regarding politics.

  8. Roger Green  

    Anthony – I should make clear that I do not subscribe to not voting in order to be right with God, only that it would be one way to avoid the conflicts you’ve been addressing.

  9. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – Thanks for the clarification, but I did not think you were expressing your conviction in what you said

    About this matter, I would like to say that I subscribe to a tragic viewpoint regarding faith and politics, which is to say that no matter how scrupulously one might strive to live righteously, whether by engaging the realm of politics or by withdrawing from it, in the end we will all be entangled in forces and structures that will undermine our best intentions. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to do what is right, (for example, vote according to our values and conscience) but rather that the ultimate working out of righteousness is in God’s hands. I see this as one implication of Paul’s notion that the just shall live by faith, and this viewpoint is one that should instill a bit of humility, as the natural outcome is that the stones we are tempted to throw at others will inevitably fall back upon ourselves.

  10. Chris "Lefty" Brown  

    I have half-joked for years that any real Christians shouldn’t run for any office, shouldn’t become politicians, policemen, or civil and armed service simply because it forces them to trade the cross of Christ for the burden of national service.

    You become the beast you ought to slay, I guess. Can public service do good. Absolute-freakin’-loutely! However as Jimmy Carter wisely said at its best a government can only execute justice, it can not administer grace. The transformational message of the Good News is lost on good works. You may outlaw stone throwing at prostitutes but it won’t make the soul of the prostitute safe from the hounds of hell.

    And I say this as a die-hard liberal acknowledging that government is not the ends to the means, the means still remains in our hands to be the change, to be Jesus in those moments that leads a soul to Christ and the transformation question.

    That being said, I am quite happy to have a progressive President that will improve many things sullied by our current leader.

  11. Anthony Velez  

    Chris – When I think about cultural transformation, particularly in America, I think of Martin Luther King. He is a person that effected great change and he did so without formal political power. Having said this, I am mindful of the fact that efforts like his helped the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act come to fruition, which I think provided a formal influence to the grassroots influence that together effected a more powerful change in the collective attitude of Americans.

    All of this is to clarify that I am not advocating that Xians withdraw from political or civic involvement, but rather, when they are involved they need to remember that the foundation of their power to effect change is in no way bound to the institutional structures of the world. They also have to remember that the default condition of these institutions are fallen and therefore their influences tend to run contrary to God’s original plan. This means that even when Xians get the “right” person in a position of power within these institutions, they are working within structures that will not easily submit to genuine righteousness, and that even in instances where institutional power is used to ostensibly effect good, there is likely going to be an unforeseen effects that produces evil.

    The point is, though we Xians are called to be salt and light, and in the world but not of it, we have to be careful and discerning of all the ways the world is in us, and this is not easy. At the end of the day, moreover, I think we have to accept the fact that everyone will have dirty hands, and will be in need of mercy. I realize that what I am saying could lead to cynicism and paralysis, but I do not think that people of faith can give into these things. My conviction is that if people are going to effect change in a deeply broken world, they have to be completely sober about the task at hand, and they have to realize that genuine righteousness is beyond all of us. As I said to Roger, I think that this is one implication of Paul’s notion that the just shall live by faith. We must live passionately and faithfully to a vision that will always be on the horizon, and only ever partial in our experience.

  12. K.L.B.  

    Now of course, we all know that Jesus was obviously a Democrat, right?

    I mean, He rode on a donkey, stood up for the oppressed and poor, spoke truth to power and a whole lot more.

    So, he was obviously a Democrat, and not only that, but a radical liberal Democrat.

    Now, we all know Jesus likes a party.


    Why, He even made the best wine for ’em all to drink!

    But Jesus would be disappointed with what’s happened to His party in America today. Yet in Germany, the Christian Democrats are a whole lot better!

    Of course, the preceding is all tongue in cheek (or is it tongue on keyboard?).

    The Scriptures clearly indicate that our citizenship is NOT of this Earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Now, to get to Heaven, as the song says, you gotta’ raise a little Hell. And raising a little Hell is a euphonium, I mean euphemism for challenging the status quo. Clearly, Jesus did that quite often. So it’s okay to “raise a little Hell” for Jesus in that sense. But the wording just doesn’t quite seem to be appropriate. So we’ll just call it challenging the status quo, because it sounds euphonic.

    So let’s start the challenge.

    I’m not so much interested in taking the United States back for God, as I am for taking it forward with God.

    God looks forward. He doesn’t look back.

    Those who look back get salted, as did Lot’s wife.

    Christ calls us to Him, to fellowship with the Father.

    Politics involves the “art” of compromise. Compromise is when both parties agree to give up something they want in order to get something they both want.

    The kingdom of Heaven, in obviously stark contrast, is ruled by a monarch.

    God does not compromise. God demands our allegiance. He cannot have anything else.

    God in Christ did not say “come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and we will “make a deal.”


    God did not say “come let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, “we’ll figure out something for you to do to make you feel better.””


    God is a dictator. It is His way or the highway to destruction.

    Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the light. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

    He did not say, ‘I am A way.’ He said, “I am THE way.”

    When we come to God through Christ, we do not come either of our own accord, or on our own terms.

    In The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, near the end of the story in the book “The Silver Chair,” Aslan the Lion (a figure or type of Christ) is recorded to have said to the children, “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.”

    Christ calls us.

    The late C.H. Spurgeon, in a sermon delivered 30 March 1856, wrote that “…the apostle, when he said, “Whom he called, them he also justified.” … is a general call which many men, yea, all men reject, unless there come after it the personal, particular call, which makes us Christians. You will bear me witness that it was a personal call that brought you to the Saviour.”

    Christ said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”

    God’s kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, is not ruled by a Burger King. You can NOT have it your way. Nor does anyone in the kingdom of Heaven sing the song popularized by Frank Sinatra, which line says in part, “I did it my way.”

    No, no! NO!

    “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

    The kingdom inside our hearts – the “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” – is where He enthrones Himself… but only with our submission, only with our concession, and only with our permission.

    Our perceptions, which are often based upon historical “evidence,” suggests to us that monarchy or dictatorship are evil. Thus, the human invention of a government which is the marriage of a democracy and a republic, vis-à-vis, our United States.

    Even one of your blogs mentions it was Reinhold Niebuhr whom wrote that, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”

    The human heart is evil. Even the regenerate heart is evil. We know it for a fact. In the entire existence of humanity, it has not changed. It has continually demonstrated its wickedness and depravity, even among those whom many might consider wholesome or pure (save for Christ).

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” {KJV, AKJV} One version says, “The heart is a twisted thing, not to be searched out by man: who is able to have knowledge of it?” {BBE} The Amplified Bible says that our heart “…is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]?” – Jeremiah 17:9

    However, God is not evil.

    The Message says in verse 10 that, “But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

    We are called “pretenders,” and in the modern vernacular we would say, “posers.” And even some might say “wannabes.” Not honey bees, but “wanna bes.”

    If we are carrying forth anything else other than the exclusive message of Christ, we are polluting it.

    We are given dire warning about adding anything to, or taking away anything from the message.

    I, for one, do not want to do that.