How Does the Church Differ From America?

american_jesus

How Does the Church Differ From America
Brian Zahnd

What is the church?

Is the church a religious building with stained-glass and a steeple?
Is the church a religious gathering that meets on Sunday mornings?
Is the church a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit religious organization?

I don’t want to give a quick and jaded “of course not.” There are reasons why stained-glass and steeples, Sunday gatherings and not-for-profit status have become associated with the church.

But…

In the end this is not what the church is.

Maybe the church is something like this: The other way of being human (together). The way given to us by and built around Jesus Christ.

The church is a distinct way of being human.

As the most social of beings we are constantly trying to figure out how to be human together. This is the human project. (War, hunger, and poverty are our most conspicuous failures.)

There are many ways to be human. For example…

The Greco-Roman way. (This has faded away, or more accurately, morphed into other ways.)

The Jewish way. (This is still with us, but it too has morphed over time.)

The Hindu way. The Buddhist way. The Muslim way, etc. (The great religions are more than a set of beliefs, they are ways of life.)

The secular way. (This is the way that has the most momentum in the modern Western world.)

The American way. (This is a secular way disguised as a kind of religious way.)

The particular challenge for the American Christian is to distinguish the American way of being human from the church (the Jesus way of being human). If there is no essential difference between being Christian and being American (as a way of life), then what is the point of the church?

This is a problem.

Many American Christians would find it difficult to list five ways in which the Jesus way (the church) differs significantly from the American way. For them the church and the American way are essentially the same way of being human. Which in essence means this: The church does not actually exist. What exists is America. The church (and every other institution) exists only to support the supreme idea of America.

Oh, boy.

Do you doubt my claim that in the United States the idea of America has by in large eclipsed the idea of the church? Then take my challenge and try to come up with five ways in which the church (the Jesus way) differs fundamentally from America. Can you do it?

Here is my attempt (off the top of my head):

1. The church confesses that Jesus is Lord and “We the People” are not. (So no flying the American flag [“We the People”] above a flag that is meant to represent Christian faith.)

2. The church believes that only Jesus has a manifest destiny to rule the nations and that the kingdom of God is the only exceptional kingdom (nation).

3. The church would rather suffer (and even die) than inflict violence upon its enemies.

4. The church believes that we are judged by how we care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, and the imprisoned, and therefore, these practices should be prioritized.

5. The church believes that the cross of Christ shames institutions built upon and sustained by violent power.

6. The church believes that Jesus is the savior of the world — not democracy or capitalism or technology or military might.

7. The church believes that attempting to be “number one” is antithetical to the way of Jesus.

8. The church believes that the supreme value is love, not “freedom.”

9. The church believes that helping suffering people is more important than maintaining a position of power.

10. The church believes that the “city set upon a hill” is a society built around Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount, not Thomas Jefferson and the United States Constitution.

11. The church believes that Jesus and his kingdom is the “last best hope of the world,” not America.

12. The church believes that abortion, capital punishment, and nuclear weapons are incompatible with being pro-life, pro-human, and pro-Christ.

Okay, I came up with a dozen, like I said, off the top of my head. (I just typed them as I thought of them.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I really do. It’s my home. For the most part it’s a fine place to live. But it’s not where my faith or my supreme allegiance lie. America is not the “last best hope of the world” (as claimed by Lincoln, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama). The first and last and only hope of the world is Jesus Christ and his kingdom. My supreme faith and allegiance is reserved for Jesus and what he is building. I am a revolutionary Christian. And I am willing to suffer for it.

Amen.

BZ

P.S. This post was not “planned out.” I wrote it just as I thought it. A kind of stream-of-consciousness post. When I asked, “Can you come up with five ways in which the church (the Jesus way) differs fundamentally from America?,” I had not yet answered my own question. I just wrote down what came to mind. I didn’t edit them or alter the order. I had intended to list only five, but ended up with twelve. If I were to take a few hours to write this, instead of a few minutes, I would probably say it in a different way. Still, I stand by it.

  • The Church Militant: those Christians on earth who are engaged in a continuous war against evil and the enemies of Christ.

  • Yes, provided that we understand that “though we are human, we don’t wage war as humans do. We
    use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the
    strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

  • Matt

    Why just nuclear weapons? Wouldn’t Jesus be against having a military at all? What about a police force? I’m not terribly religious, although I’ve read the Bible, and the message over and over seems to me to be that justice is accomplished through God’s might not our own.

    Is there a line to be drawn that separates threat of violence by scale? The answer may well be yes. Certainly, I can imagine that a police officer can do her or his job with love, although if she or he carries a gun, it is hard to imagine how its use would be an act of love.

  • Halo9x

    I agree with most of your points. However, abortion, capital punishment and nuclear weapons are not on the same plane. Abortion kills the innocent. Capital punishment is justice for the violent (Rom 13), and nuclear weapons were used to end a war and since have mainly kept the peace exactly because they are so terrible. If those who practice violence ( Muslims) get nukes (Iran) then they will be used to start a war.
    America and it’s Republic are great bastions of freedom BUT it is not the Kingdom of God. It was begun by men of whom many were Christians (real not Deists) who understood the government was a way to govern men but Christ was our King. At this present time, sadly we no longer stand for truth, justice, or morality. We are indeed off course. I agree, only Jesus is our best hope. As Paul wrote, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” Our Founding Fathers would agree.

  • And when pilgrims en route to the Holy Land needed protection from raiding bands of Muslims armed with more than just the false arguments of their prophet, Mohammed, it behooved Christendom to create religious orders of knights for their protection, e.g., the Knights Hospitaller.

  • Ray Ogle

    I would struggle to list one. Americana has overtaken most church ideals.
    I could easily list 5 things I value that the church does not.
    1) Transparency
    2) vulnerability
    3) brokenness
    4) Love
    5) Grace
    6-13) All 8 Beatitudes.

  • This is on point. I have felt the need to articulate similar feelings, but have always been afraid. There’s nothing people love more than their country. I’m grateful to be here, but I’m also a bit disgusted by how intertwined God and country have become.

  • There’s a big difference between a policeman and a hydrogen bomb.

  • The confession of Jesus as Lord is more than a spiritual experience of personal surrender. It is a confession of allegiance. The early Christians would not surrender their allegiance to Christ or share it with Caesar and Rome. This made them suspects and outcasts of the empire, and led to their persecution and martyrdom. It seems to me that most American Christians have blended their allegiance to Jesus with the American empire, blurring the lines and in doing so have compromised their allegiance to the Kingdom of God. One case in point is the propaganda of Manifest Destiny that practically destroyed the Indigenous people of this land. This was and is the bad fruit of a blended allegiance, and today many Native Americans reject Christianity because there has been no clear difference, in practice, between American colonialism and the practice of American christianity.

  • Brother! I recently stumbled upon your blog and I must say it has enriched me considerably. Thank you for writing.

  • Gerald Lewis

    Concur Terry. Your eyes are wide open.

  • Jordan

    “America is not the ‘last best hope of the world.'” – Here here! I imagine Roman citizens believed this about Rome.

  • Is that Christ like? I may be wrong, but it sounds like placing our safety in front of His teach about praying for those who woudl do you harm.

  • Herm

    “P.S. This post was not “planned out.” I wrote it just as I thought it.”

    “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    “Please, sir,” replied Oliver, “I want some more.”

  • Jon

    I would say the biggest issue is that the USA adopted and immediately distorted a lot of biblical especially OT ideas. And now as time has past the Western Church lives more by the distortion then the truth. I believe this is how satan has worked from the beginning twisting and distorting Gods goodness, creation, and truth.

  • oconnor0

    Of course it behooved Christendom, but that isn’t the Kingdom of God.

  • I may be wrong, but for the medieval clergy to encourage pilgrimages to the Holy Land and then do nothing while those pilgrims are cut down along the way sounds like the church hierarchy was placing its own safety ahead of its exhortations.

    The Hospitallers aka The Knights of St. John probably arose from an association with a hospital in Jerusalem that was dedicated to John the Baptist and founded to care for sick and injured pilgrims. After the conquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, the Hospitallers became a religious military order charged by the Pope with the care and defense of the Holy Land, to include those traveling to it.

    Was that Christ-like?

  • If Christendom is “the collective body of Christians throughout the world and history” and the Kingdom of God is something Christians currently experience (Luke 17:21) and not just eschatological, how are the two not related?

  • I’d argue probably not, but everyone see these things different. If the issue was around protecting people to come to the Holy Land, it strikes me the easy answer is don’t encourage people to go to the Holy Land.

    Hospital, fantastic. Defending the Holy Land less so. Again, everyone reads these things different but when I read the teachings of Jesus a great deal of that teaching and His death is to break down the need for specif people or places to connect with God. To end religion.

    Encouraging/requiring people to go to a specific place to meet God and then trying to defend that very place seems far more like the temple of the Old Testament than the new temple in Christ. It’s building and then defending a new religion, not living the self sacrificial, other centered call that Jesus places on His disciples. Nothing in the call of Jesus speaks to safety but rather it often talks about the hardship and suffering that will come as a result of being his disciple.

  • Deborah Henry

    Humans wage war. Spiritually, we pull down strongholds with the Word of God (as a two edged sword), as the ARMY of God (more than conquerors), putting on the (ARMOR) of God. Jesus is Lord and We are The People of The United States of America. Every nation will finally bow down to the Kingdom of God; America is not exempt. The Church has no intention to inflict violence against enemies…Jesus is Peace. The Church cares for others and we must care for our soldiers. The Cross of Christ shames violence of any sort. Our mighty God is stronger than military might. Any nation that thinks they are number one will be judged. The supreme value of the Church is love and freedom. The world will continue to maintain a struggle for position and power until Jesus returns. Jesus is the hope of the world. There will be wars and rumors of wars until Jesus returns.We long for the “city on a hill in a sermon mount society”; until then, we live on this earth with politicians and government leaders that we pray for. Humans kill babies, there is capital punishment, and nuclear weapons. Being pro-life, pro-human, pro-Christ is the very nature of Jesus. We are in a battle and God will win. The Church differs by being the sanctuary of God where His peace reigns. America is our homeland and we pray for our country. The American flag is a symbol of honor and for those that have sacrificed their lives to defend her country. The message of non-violence and the love and peace of Christ is the better way. However, the moment a non-violence message is mixed with mocking “America” or “America’s National Flag”; then the message becomes an attack on our national heritage, where we live, those that have defended or currently defending our homeland. Respect America. Respect the American Flag. God bless America. God bless our churches.

  • oconnor0

    If that’s what Christendom is, sure. If Christendom is the earthly dominion of nations of people attempting to rule as Christians (as it was in the Middle Ages), then they aren’t really related. One serves the crucified God, the other serves national interests.

  • Laura Schultz

    Was America wrong in intervening during World War II when millions of innocent people were being brutally tortured and killed by the Nazi regime? Or would it have been better to let those people – most of whom were God’s own people (the Jews) and/or a part of the church (Christians) – suffer instead of inflicting violence on our enemies?

  • RedKansas

    Quite a few of these are reasons I am no longer a protestant pastor but now an Orthodox Christian. #1 on this list created a huge blow up at the first church I was an associate at. Do NOT mess with the American flag – it will cost you! Like BZ, I love living here but America is not the Church or the Kingdom but most lines are very blurred.

  • Christendom is “the collective body of Christians throughout the world and history,” according to the Advanced English Dictionary.

    So what’s the source of your derogatory definition for “Christendom”?

  • If you’re living in the West as I am, it’s easy to talk about the “hardship and suffering” of being a disciple of Christ.
    But it’s quite a different story for a Coptic Christian in Islam-dominated Egypt who has to leave home to obtain work in Libya, only to find himself kneeling in an orange jump suit with his hands tied behind his back.

    And if the easy answer is simply not to encourage Christians to go anywhere dangerous, then why should churches encourage missionaries to spread the gospel anywhere it’s not safe to do so?

  • WWII (and especially WWI) was largely the result of German Christians not being able to adequately answer the question “How does the Church differ from Germany?”

  • Right on, Terry.

  • You’re absolutely right. It’s way easier for me to say that this is how we should respond when I’m not being threatened in that way. I suppose there are two ways to approach this then. Since both of us are living in the west we can hold no view because we can’t understand the lived experience. That’s fair.

    The other is to defer to someone who has had the lived experience. I suppose in that sense it’s lucky that Jesus can and does understand the lived experience of those who are being oppressed and displayed with his life how we would respond.

    I have no problem with people going where it isn’t safe. But if the only way to go is to use violence to ensure your safety and your safety must be ensured, then you should probably just stay home.

    We aren’t going to see eye to eye on this Joe. I see no justification for a Christian to be violent, period. I think that’s what Jesus taught and modeled. I see that as the way Jesus calls his disciples to live, even when the world around us is full of horror and danger. Just as His was.

  • Scott L.

    That’s an interesting point Brian, but also not at all responsive to the much tougher question Laura was asking you.

    How would you respond to her question about what the United States should have done (or what the Christian response outside of Germany should have been) rather than what failings within Germany’s Christians led to the rise of the Nazi Party or its/Germany’s evil acts?

  • oconnor0

    Oh, I probably made it up – based on things I’ve read about how the word appeared to be used (the nations comprised predominantly of Christians – when the lines of who was a Christian was blurrier) and influenced by Wikipedia’s entry on Christendom and other online dictionaries talking about “Christian nations”.

    Edit: Anyway, my point was and is that forming an order of knights to kill Muslims makes sense for kingdoms of this world to do to protect their interests and citizens, but it doesn’t make sense for followers of Jesus to do.

  • charlesburchfield

    i think you already have an answer in mind.

  • charlesburchfield

    yes herm! i thot that too. i wish everyone would feel so free! bz may have had a breakthru!

  • charlesburchfield

    I think ppl w/ profound disconnect from their conscience can only use slogans in place of the truth abt the hidiousness of america’s history!

  • Scott L.

    What I think is that it was a worthwhile question and I want to hear the answer.

  • charlesburchfield

    is it against flesh & blood?

  • charlesburchfield

    There is a troll on board itching for an argument. I won’t fight.

  • charlesburchfield

    nuke them?

  • AED didn’t say, but as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: “aye, there’s the rub”.

  • Yet both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were members of the British Expeditionary Forces in WW I.

    St. Augustine had asserted that a Christian could be a soldier and serve God and country honorably. He claimed God gave governments the sword for good reason (Romans 13:1-4) and that passivity in the face of a grave injustice was sinful. Further, defense of oneself or others could be justified, especially when authorized by legitimate authority, e.g., religious military orders under papal charter to protect pilgrims.

  • Phil, I think we can agree to disagree, but for the record no one said you can’t hold nonviolent views no matter where you live, or that missionaries should be armed with more than just the gospel.

  • Scott L.

    Is that your answer? I’d still like to hear Brian’s.

  • tmselden

    I appreciate your remarks and would say that your statements come from a more christianized area of America. Being from the Seattle area, I would insert the word “purportedly” in between the words “church” and “believes.” The majority of churchgoers nowadays couldn’t even tell you what church is now and what it was designed to do. Sad commentary on the condition of the church.

  • Deborah Henry

    Terry, Yes, there is a lot of history between America and Native Americans and the Church. Interesting organization, Warriors for Christ’s vision is to disciple Native Americans both on reservations and in urban areas, to learn about Christ and share God’s word with other Native Americans . ~Gordon Shadburne, President

  • Kevin Thomas

    The government will do what it will–but as followers of Jesus He has shown us a better way. Jesus NEVER condoned, sanctioned, or excused violence in any way. It is absolutely nothing to celebrate…

  • Kevin Thomas

    I don’t hear anyone mocking…truth be told I am a resident alien of this country. I appreciate it and strive to make it a better place–BUT I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God. I have more in common with a Jesus Follower in North Korea than a non believer in America.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Nope–pro life womb to tomb… Jesus has shown us a better way. “While we were yet sinners…” I was given mercy…we are to stand for the same. Forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration are of Jesus…as His followers we are to do the same (in thought and deed).

  • I too.

  • Scott L.

    That doesn’t really answer the question either. The government consists of people. So either you assume that you cannot imagine a world in which the people at the head of the government, making the decision to go to war or not, are Christian, or else you need to confront the question of what is the proper Christian response.

    Moreover, to assume the former has a deep ethical “free-rider” problem. You get to have the “benefit” of the government’s use of violence, but not the moral responsibility. This cannot be the basis for a fully-formed moral theology of war (or pacifism). It is because the Scholastics started out with the assumption that the King is to be expected to be a Christian that they were forced to confront the question head on of what then may (or must) the King do.

  • Deborah Henry

    We make America a better place when we witness to nonbelievers in America and show them the Christ way. There are real American Christians that follow Jesus. Thank God for Jesus followers in North Korea.

  • Kevin Thomas

    I am sure there are….lets not mix the two Kingdoms.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Nope…because I am a citizen of a different Kingdom…while I appreciate where I live…”benefitting” from the system holds no relevance to me. I cannot control the Government. ..but I can control me..at least sometimes lol. I choose Jesus’ way in thought and deed. The way of mercy, reconciliation, and restoration. How do I do that? Through ascribing unsurpassable worth to all through self sacrificial love.

  • Scott L.

    I can’t tell whether you’re missing my point entirely or simply choosing not to engage with it directly because to do so is more difficult than taking the perspective of seeing the government as a completely outside agency from you personally, and therefore unnecessary to think about from the perspective of a very narrow moral theology.

  • Deborah Henry

    With deeds of love and mercy to a lost and dying world, the heavenly Kingdom comes. We live on this earth till sin’s fierce war shall cease. We are citizens of both kingdoms.

  • Kevin Thomas

    Scripture seems to say we are aliens in a foreign land. This Kingdom is ruled for now by the Evil One. As a follower of Jesus I am a citizen of the upside down Kingdom where the weak are strong, the poor are rich, the meek inherit the earth, and where peacemakers are blessed by God. In my Kingdom we power under as opposed to over and we ascribe unsurpassable worth to all through self sacrifical love. This is the very anthesis of this world. No … I dont think we can serve two masters and be citizens of both Kingdoms. The difference between the two is like night and day. Just my thoughts…

  • Kevin Thomas

    We are having a paradigm clash…lol. I think I clearly understand your point. We simply disagree…and that’s okay…

  • Scott L.

    Well Kevin, we may very well disagree, though I’m not sure you’re actually engaging me on my point.

    Your point seems to be that the government will do whatever it is it’s going to do, and that has little to nothing to do with you.

    My point is that that provides little answer for the Christian who finds himself King (or President) of a nation. So either there must be a way to analyze the question from the perspective of one in whose charge the government is placed, or else we have to assume that one simply cannot be a Christian King or President.

    The latter seems both cynical and gives rise to the “free-rider” objection I raised earlier as a valid concern the World could raise against Christianity if Christianity requires such a worldview.

    But I don’t think it does require that. I think it is indeed possible to be both a Christian and a King or President. So my question is what is such a person to do when presented with the choice between war and peace, defense of country or of those unable to defend themselves, or restraining from the use of violence to meet perceived threats of harm.

    I may have a different answer than you, or I may not. But the original question posted raises the question, and it’s one that I think needs answering for any moral theology of violence or pacifism to be complete and consistent.

    So my question to you is, what do you say on the subject, since it seems to be one of interest to you? Can a Christian also be a King or President? If not, why not? If so, what then should he do when presented with the question above re what to do in WW2?

  • Kevin Thomas

    I can’t speak for anyone else…but no I could not be President or King because I would find it impossible to refrain from compromising my citizenship to the Kingdom of God.

  • Scott L.

    Well then the question is, what does one say to the World, when the World looks at a Gospel preached as such and says “you’re advocating for an ethic but depending on others who do not follow that ethic for protection? Like Augustine, you wish for Temperance for the leaders you are obligated to pray for, but not yet.”

  • Kevin Thomas

    I don’t depend on anyone for protection. My trust is in God. I wish for nothing of the leaders…they will do what they will. I speak only to the thought and deeds of Jesus followers. I desire to know”nothing but Christ and Him crucified” (Paul). Jesus shows us the way of the cross…we decide if we will pick ours up not matter the inconvenience or difficulty.

  • Deborah Henry

    Kevin, God bless the peacemakers that serve our living God with deeds of self sacrificial love for the kingdom of God is within.Yes, scripture says we are aliens in a foreign land, because this world is not our home…we are not home yet. We live in a fallen world ruled by a fallen kingdom. There is no “my kingdom”! We pray Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. God uses us as His hands and feet as His representatives. We are not serving two masters; we are serving God in a fallen kingdom (the world, planet earth, ruled by the prince of darkness) for the Kingdom of God, the prince of peace and light. But we are citizens of planet earth serving God (our master) as citizens for the Kingdom of God. Let us not distort His Truth and our earthly reality.

  • Kevin Thomas

    We disagree than Deborah… Maybe it’s semantics and how we define citizen. Peace my sister!

  • Sam Lynch

    I really appreciate this post. Growing up in the 90’s and Southern Baptist really squelched any seed of being a true student of Jesus and His Kingdom of the Heavens come to earth. Thankfully Jesus is a good and patient teacher. I think opening this discussion makes a lot of people squirm because they are so used to living in accordance to world’s power structures. They have trouble conceiving a life without them regardless of how brutal they may be (think Israelites wishing they could go back to Egyptian slavery where at least they had a steady diet). In this type of discussion people immediately want to jump to “. . .but what do we do about (fill in the blank)?” It seems we love to find excuses rather than own up and and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the right behavior. It seems like the people of Jesus’ day also asked a lot of questions along these lines. Yes loving your enemy has some consequences. People will probably get hurt or die which initially makes it even harder to practice enemy loving behavior. I don’t know exactly what loving our enemy looks like in our (American) context. It can be really confusing to me in a day to day practical sense. But it is hard to desire pain or death on somebody that you pray God’s kingdom come and will be done in their lives. I am guilty of dehumanizing the situation often. I just don’t want to make excuses any more as a follower of Jesus, even if that goes against the “American” way. That’s what makes Jesus’ message revolutionary on all fronts and to all empires (yea I started A Farewell to Mars. . . love it!) even America. Let’s trust that we are the body of Christ in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. I think we have to live a better story than constantly saying “but (fill in the blank)” when it comes to Jesus’ hard sayings. Thanks again. Grace and Peace.

  • Bill Brown

    The only difference between a police officer with a revolver and a B-2 armed with a thermonuclear bomb is magnitude. Both exist because of man’s propensity to sin. Both can effectively use the threat of death as a deterrent to violent behavior. Both can be servants of sin and worsen the suffering in the world.
    One day, neither will be necessary. For now, neither will be eliminated.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    Except MENA Xians ask God to forgive Da3esh and their persecutors and very few have raised arms. Persecuted Xians around the world suffer relentlessly and in centuries past have gone into hiding vs. forming an army. This idea of forming an army to “protect” our kind is a wordly viewpoint that seeks to advance/protect one’s kind and not the crucifix/sacrificial lifestyle of Christocentric submission. The difference between us is exactly that we practice pacifism and realize that God is Our Defender and Vindicator and pray that in mercy and providence God convicts and transforms our persecutors into our brethren, just as Christ did with Paul.
    To answer your last question — in Operation Auca, missionaries Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, and Nate Saint attempted to preach the Gospel to the indigenous Waorani, however, they were martyred by a few Waorani tribesmen. Their wives (and children) moved in with the Waorani and managed to lead several Waorani people to Christ. To this day, Christianity rivals the indigenous Waorani religion. Had the missionaries employed the methods you suggested, relying on military prowess for protection and not the Will of God, no Waorani person would be transformed into Christ by any means. The militarization of Christianity is contrary to the Kingdom of God which works against war, violence, and hierarchy.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    St. Augustine was also a raging antisemitic misogynist heavily influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy and Manichaenism.

  • “antisemitic misogynist”?

    In any case, he left Manichaeism for Christianity.

  • “In his work, Augustine asked whether a Christian can ever justify killing another, given the Biblical imperative to ‘turn the other cheek.’ Augustine’s answer was this: One can use force, not to protect oneself, but to protect one’s neighbor. As the scholar Jean Elshtain, author of the highly regarded book “Just War Against Terror,” explains:

    “For early Christians like Augustine, killing to defend oneself alone was not enjoined: It is better to suffer harm than to inflict it. But the obligation of charity obliges one to move in another direction: To save the lives of others, it may be necessary to imperil and even take the lives of their tormenters….”

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    Ok, but we don’t follow Augustine, we follow the words of Jesus who said to love and pray for our enemies, and was docile as a lamb until death by a cross.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    Augustine was antisemitic in that he literally compared the Jews to every despicable Biblical character, i.e. Cain, Ham, Judas Iscariot, etc. He considered them enemies of Christianity and God but lowkey respected them for their adherance to the Torah despite his belief that they were morally and spiritually reprehensable. As for being a misogynist you can read any of his works on women (especially that of their sexuality or works on Eve) and see his complete and utter disgust for women, clearly not drawing from scripture but from the neo-Platonic idea that women were naturally sinful whereas men were the only people capable of veritablity.

  • Augustine (whom I deeply respect and dearly love) was also a bishop and theologian in the employ of the empire. In the end, imperial theologians have to find a way to justify imperial wars. And the Bishop of Hippo did just that. But like the song (almost) says…

    (Just) War (Theory), what is it good for?!

  • “we”?

    In the Western church, four eminent ecclesiastical writers have attained the title of Doctor of the Church: St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and St. Jerome.
    I have no trouble reconciling their teachings to those of Jesus, but if you do, that’s your problem, not mine.

  • For a misogynist, Augustine had a very close relationship with his mother, Monica, who coincidently was also a woman.

    And if the Jews were the “enemies of Christianity,” then does that make the author of John’s gospel an anti-Semite as well?

  • To define what constitutes a just war is not to justify all war, imperial or otherwise.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    We, Xians, followers of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, those that have been called according to His Will by salvation and sanctification through the sacrifice and blood of Jesus Christ — and I have no problem discarding antisemitic gentile converts who wrote things contrary to Scripture. If you feel like you have to reconcile their teachings to the words of Christ in order to satisfy un-Christocentric modes of thought, that is not my problem.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    (1) Clearly you misunderstand “misogyny.” Having a decent relationship with one’s mother doesn’t negate the ability for someone to hold misogynistic sentiments. Regardless of what Augustine felt about his mother, he still wrote damaging things about women that testify to his misogynistic viewpoints.
    (2) I’m talking about Augustine, a 4th century gentile convert who entered Christendom at the very beginning of its rampant antisemitic legacy. A gentile with no previous introduction to Jewish literature with cultural context proclaiming the progenitors of his own religion as enemies is scores different from a Jewish person at the conception of an emerging religious identity describing intra-cultural and intra-religious tensions.

  • When you talk about Augustine, you’re talking about a Doctor of the Western church, an organization which you apparently have no association, or familiarity with.

    But while you and Barack Obama criticize Christians from previous centuries, today’s misogynistic sentiments are held by men called Muslims who practice female genital mutilation, honor killings and sex slavery, or don’t you follow current events?

  • “un-Christocentric modes of thought” from Augustine, a doctor of the church of Christ?

    Yet you claim to be a Xian: Chinese for an “enlightened person,” it is rooted in Taoist mythology, not Christianity.
    A Xian can mean almost anything from a magician to an alchemist; how “Christian” is that?

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    I’m highly familiar with the Western Church considering that I am an Occidental Xian but nonetheless I reject many views held by the Western Church similarly to how Protestants disregard Catholic (and to a lesser/marginal extent) Orthodox practice. (I’m not Protestant ~) Augustine’s esteem as shaper of Western Xian thought doesn’t negate his position as someone with flaws who perpetuated toxic ideas.

    I also criticize fellow Xians in the current century who are just as misogynistic and antisemitic as their predecesors. Islam is adhered to by billions of people worldwide and thus is as mutlfaceted as its adherants. There are violent and misogynistic Muslims and there are also transparent and justice oriented Muslims, the latter of which I happen to be acquainted with. Eradicating sexism and militarism in Islam is not my focus as I am not of the Muslim faith. Eradicating sexism and militarism in Xianity, however, is my prerogotive, being an Xian. Sexual abuse, domestic violence, and insitutionalized religious misogyny are heavily rampant within the Church; it’s hurting people within our own flock. Does that not concern you? How can you worry about the speck in the eye of Islam when the Church has its own log to chop away?

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    “un-Christocentric” refers to things like justification of violence, in which Augustine would unfortunately be guilty of. Contrary to popular belief, Church fathers have flaws and are capable of being wrong!

    Actually, Xian (先) means ancient/previous/preceding in Chinese. In English, it’s short hand for Christian — X is a substitute for the Greek Χ (chi/khi) which is the first letter of Χριστός (Khristós), anglicized as Christ. 😛

  • In English, it’s abbreviated Xtian so as not to be confused with Xian/Taoism.

  • Why don’t you ask the dwindling number of Christians left alive in the Middle East about “the speck in the eye of Islam” that has killed their friends and neighbors and driven them from their homes in Mosul and elsewhere throughout the region?
    What concerns me is your bogus moral equivalence arguments that are all too similar to Barack Obama blaming Christians for the Crusades while he allows the Muslim of ISIS to run rampant in the 21st Century.
    And you don’t have to be of the Muslim faith to be an Islamic sycophant, which you clearly are.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    There are literally mutiple Chinese meanings for the transliterated “Xian”, however in English, Christian is abbreviated as both Xian an Xtian, in which I prefer to style it as Xian.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    Because they pray for Da3esh and I trust God in how He watches over His children — Jesus called us to persecution, we’re going to be persecuted. They hated Jesus, why wouldn’t they hate us?
    Xians were responsible for the Crusades. Obama allows the Da3esh to persist in the Mashriq because the U.S. set up al-Qaeda from which the Da3esh was produced. The U.S. literally created the circumstances that allowed for the Da3esh to ravage West Asian countries precisely because instead of letting countries work out their own problems, they installed “Islamic” armies to fight of Communism and thus extreme Islamic regimes arose across the Asian continent. It’s entirely political. Keep in mind that these Da3esh “Muslims” pray in different directions (and not towards Makkah) and persecute Shia Muslims as well as Xians, Yezidis, and ethnic Kurds. Xians are not the only victims of the Da3esh. It’s not just a Muslim vs. Xian conflict.
    I find it interesting that strictly adhering to Jesus’ teachings of pacifism is comparable to being an Islamic sycophant. Nevertheless, the interest in “Islamic terrorism” affecting Xians in West Asia is a myopic lense. The Da3esh is planning on joining forces with Boko Haram, a Nigerian terrorist group that has killed thousands of people in Nigeria. The majority of Boko Haram’s victims? Muslim. But they aren’t important because they aren’t Xians, right? Are the Black Muslims, Yezidis, Shia Muslims less important than the Suryaye and Copts? Why doesn’t Obama do anything to stop the genocide against the Muslims in Burma? Why doesn’t Obama do anything to stop the genocide against Muslims in the Congo? Why doesn’t Obama do anything about the political prisoners in North Korea? What’s Obama doing about Congress repeateadly setting up drone strikes that kill hundreds of children? Why is a single (and flawed) human being responsible for ending the problems of the world? How are you sure he won’t make things worse by getting involved?

    It’s not that I need to defend Islam, it’s that human systems of government facilitate grievious atrocities for the sake of defending themselves and their interests. People are dying, individuals are being disadvantaged, rights are being violated. Conflating the Kingdom of God with wordly systems will always, always, always result in death and desolation rather than resurrection and redemption. As long was we persist in the ideology that we need to engage in worldly politics by using force or making Xianity compulsory in law, we will see the same pattern of war and sin repeat over and over again.

  • There are many meanings for the transliterated “Xian,” but in English it isn’t abbreviated as Xtian, nor is Xtian spelled Xian.

  • Yes, you don’t need to defend Islam, but you and Obama defend it anyway, which is why I refer to you both as Islamic sycophants.

    And from your previous post:
    “Sexual abuse, domestic violence, and institutionalized(sic) religious misogyny are heavily rampant within the Church; it’s hurting people within our own flock. Does that not concern you? How can you worry about the speck in the eye of Islam …?”

    But is 1,400 children your idea of a “speck”?

    In Rotherham alone, British authorities failed to stop the long-term sexual abuse of 1,400 children over a 16-year period because the culprits were mostly Pakistani Muslims.

    But that shouldn’t concern you, or your fellow Muslims because Mohammad — who was engaged to a 6-year old and who later consummated their relationship when the girl, Aisha, was only 9 — is the template for the behavior of all male Muslims.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    lolol im done you’re just a seething islamophobe who compares pacifists to Obama because condemnation of warfare = defending bad people (or as you so carelessly phrase it, Islam.) Sweetheart, God bless you and I hope that one day God opens your eyes as They did mine. 🙂 Go in peace, dear.

  • Dahreen Euxari Sahan

    Was Christ our King when the Founding Fathers facilitated the creation of a framework that allowed for almost 300 years of one of the worst human traffficking cases in world history?

  • LOL — Stick a fork in yourself and your Muslim friends in Rotherham because you are both done.

  • Kent W.

    Wow! You can’t out-think his argument (or probably even understand it) so you must resort to name calling and hurling insults. What ever happened to ” They will know we are Christians by our love”?

  • You can move along now, Joe. Perhaps your own blog?

  • I see you didn’t remove Sahan’s reference to me as a “seething islamophobe,” or perhaps you agree with him and his view that misogyny and sexual abuse is “heavily rampant” within our church?

  • I don’t read most of these, Joe. I just see too many argumentative comments from you.

  • Apparently it’s much easier to see just me than having to moderate all the members of this forum who take severe exception to my “argumentative comments”.

  • It’s easier to see you because you make about half the comments.

  • Halo9x

    Kevin, it sure is easy to paint a group of people you never met with a broad brush of accusation. You’re probably uninformed that many of the Founding Fathers were in fact abolitionists, like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington. No, the Founders did not create a perfect utopia. The slavery issue was resolved at great cost. Very sad. Unfortunately, we were not able to accomplish that feat as the Brits ( who brought slavery here) did in England. The Founders recognized what they were creating was simply a way for a free people to govern themselves and yes, they recognized Christ was the true King and yes, for many of them that was true. No, for many today that is not the case. Sad for us.

  • Halo9x

    I think the truth is more that many Germans were not committed to following Christ. They, unfortunately, looked for a ‘savior’ to lead them out of their wrecked economy. By the way, the Allies in their treatment of Germany after WW1 actually created the conditions that led to WW2. Those Christians who did follow Christ wound up in concentration camps along with the Jews and others.

  • Halo9x

    As a Christian, America is the country I live in. However, God is NOT American! The church and any country should never be confused as being one. America used to be a predominantly Christian oriented country. I don’t think we can say that anymore. The America I see today is less civil and more coarse than it used to be. The entertainment industry has a desire to appeal to the worst in us for the most part. You can hardly go to a movie that doesn’t have profanity or sexually explicit scenes and TV is joining the rush to perversion. So, there is no doubt the country and the church are NOT the same. The country used to be Christian friendly, I don’t see it that way anymore.