|American and Christian flags; source. (c) Kaihsu Tai.|
... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." For years I've happily sung this chorus, based on Philippians 2:10 and 11 (context). I also love the song "Every Knee Has Got to Bow" by the Fairfield Four. But exactly how would this come to be that every knee and every tongue would follow this pious imperative? And exactly how would I persuade any non-Christian today that this would be a happy outcome, in view of the behavior of those of us who've already kneeled and confessed?
When I read the BBC article, I remembered a Sojourners article from earlier this year: "I Hope We Never Become a 'Christian Nation' Again." As author Stephen Mattson points out, some commentators lament the USA's supposed post-Christian decline into moral decay. The evidence cited for this decline often includes the loss of Christianity's social and political privileges. This approach, as Mattson correctly notes, seems to treat Christianity as a sort of brand whose market share is slipping based on corporate metrics. He charitably doesn't go off on one relevant tangent--how the snide and corrosive rhetoric of too many Christian celebrities contributes to that slippage.
Mattson suggests a change of perspective: "What if instead of a post-Christian nation, we're actually a pre-Christian one?" My gloss: What if Christian faith, divested of social advantages, is now free to earn--not demand, earn--the attention of non-Christians by blessing and forgiving and admitting mistakes and crying and celebrating with complete honesty--in short, by offering Living Water? What if we became known for refusing to smear the reputations of those we disagree with? What if we paid taxes for the common welfare with an eagerness equalled only by our stubbornness in refusing to pay taxes for torture, warfare, and any other form of death-worship? I continue to think that rather than sounding gloom and doom, we ought to be proclaiming a new "golden age of evangelism."
However, I still find it hard to think in political terms about what it will look like when we really do win "every" heart. Would the church become the government? Please, no--we've had some truly awful previews of what it looks like when Capital-C Church Gains Power. Would we have Christian anarchy instead? That has a bit of a romantic attraction, but, really, that would only be sustainable if evil itself were abolished. In my happiest fantasy, Jesus himself would return to put a gentle end to the religion industry, abolish all hierarchies and conceits of power, and simply gather us around himself. After all, we confess that Jesus is Lord, not that Christianity is best, or will someday beat all the other brands.
So maybe it's a far-off dream, although a biblically defensible one. But the nice part about it is that we can start rehearsing now.
Cue the Quakers.
What Thy Friend John "would like to hear at meeting."
"Years [plural] of the evangelicals."
"Are American Christians Really Being Oppressed, Or Are They Just Whining?"
In case you were wondering, "US is an oligarchy, not a democracy" (BBC). "Is American an Oligarchy?" (New Yorker.) "Scholar Behind Viral 'Oligarchy' Study Tells You What It Means" (TPM).
"Climate change is the fight of our lives--yet we can hardly bear to look at it."
"Celebrating the Life of Stan Thornburg."
In the midst of the difficult Ukrainian situation, we get this totally artificial and bizarre bombshell: "Israel stops US-led peace talks citing Palestinian unity." Apparently we only negotiate with people we already agree with. Interestingly, journalists refuse to drink the Kool-aid.
Moscow Friends are considering a new call to prayer, addressed to the world family of Friends. We'll consider it this coming Saturday at business meeting. If we approve a statement, I'll post it on this blog. (Update: here it is.)
For dessert: Ray Charles performed by Samantha Fish and band at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center in Whippany, New Jersey.