Sunday, November 9, 2014

Christianistan Part II--Why a Christian Society/Country is Usually not a Good Idea

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about this concept. The contemplation wasn’t whether or not a Christian country would be a good thing or not. I already know it would be a horrible idea. But, my scrutiny was about the why of this.

When I was a young Christian, I lived and studied within a Christian subculture (a small parachurch organization that was almost a commune) and it was our aspirations to create an even more defined society.  One of our members, Art, did leave for such well-defined commune, one outside of normal society.  We, on the other hand, lived together, and spent every day together, had a very clear hierarchy of authority, but we still functioned within the broader American society. We went to a state college and worked regular secular jobs.

I did spend four days living in Art’s real commune, with a serious consideration about joining one like that once I had finished college. For Art’s commune, it was different than our parachurch group for several reasons. They all worked at the commune business (a chain of restaurants). The individuals weren’t paid, but all the income went into the commune pot and was shared according to need (so a commune in the official definition of the term).  In that commune, the leaders made all decisions. If you wanted to take a bus to go home and see your family, they would have to approve that trip and provide the funds for the ticket.

In our group, we also had to get permission to go home (which was usually denied) but we didn’t have to ask for money from the communal pot.  However, all of us had an idealism that a mircro or macro Christianistan would be a utopia.

So Art’s commune collapsed a few years later, as they all do, due to the leadership’s abuse of the members, misuse of money, teaching authoritarian doctrines.  I down know how the “elders” ended up abusing the members but it typically involves psychological and sexual abuse.

After we got back from the mission field, my wife and I had a great desire to return to live overseas.  We actually loved living abroad.  I looked for several opportunities and couldn’t find one, except for the military. I did join the Air Force.

Evangelical friends used to ask me, “If you love living overseas, why not go back as a missionary?”  I would tell them, (before even I understood what I was saying), I would never serve with a Christian organization again because they could tell you to do terrible things and then stake the claim that it was “God’s will” for your life.  A secular company couldn’t do that. Even the military, as much as an authoritarian hierarchy that they practice, couldn’t do that.

I do see the ideal society, being the Christian society built around true Christian ideals.  Don’t steal. Put the needs of others first. Be good, responsible parents. Don’t hate. Don’t murder. Love your neighbor. These are all great Christian ideals that would lead to a certain utopian society.  If a real theocracy could exist, and in the new heaven and new earth it will, it will be beautiful.

The problem with how things are, rather than how we could only dream then to be, I think has to do with our misunderstanding of sanctification.

In our old evangelical way of thinking, we saw a world where we came into the Christian fold as blank slates.  Our moral selves were written in the thin air of the spiritual world, so it was very fluid and subject to immediate changes. It was all moral. No matter what had happened prior to moment of conversion, the only thing that mattered was following a set of principles which would cause us to grow into mature Christians. Once you were mature, it was assumed that you only had God’s will at the center of your being and everything you said and done could be trusted as from God. If you were a leader, others could trust you with their lives.

But in reality, our character is written deeply in the sulci of our brains, in the material.  If we were abused as children and had baggage from that, or if we were born with the genetics of a personality disorder, those things are not changing very easily.  So, the myth becomes an illusion. We start to pretend that we are better than we really are because our erroneous theology says that we should be maturing quickly (or we are slackers).  Those who migrate into leadership roles, often do so because they are manipulators, not because of their selfless wisdom.

So this sets up a dystopian world. Humility is lost. There are only a few Christian leaders of large mega ministries who caution people to be careful of them. These few know that they stand on grace alone. There are only a wise few that insist on checks and balances to watch them because they know that the only thing that separates them now, from the awful person they were before they became a Christian, is wet tissue paper.

I didn’t understand that thirty years ago.  I was totally shocked when a good friend of mine, who had been the drug culture of high school and early college, after one bad day . . . returned to that culture. This was after she had spent five years in a hard-core Christian discipleship group.  She had been one of the few chosen to go on staff because she was so godly. Then she had one horribly bad day and the tissue barrier broke.

1 comment:

NOTAL said...

Saying the sinners prayer doesn't change the simple fact of humanity, that power corrupts. Nor the complementary fact that power attracts the already corrupt.

I think most improvements in society can be viewed as reductions in depth, breadth, or strength of power. E.g. reducing men's power of women, reducing white's power over blacks, reducing a monarch's power over their subjects, reducing the church's power over the state and vice versa, etc. . .

The will to power, at least power over others, is pretty antithetical to the teaching of Christ (see the Beatitudes). Although that hasn't stopped the effort of people since at least the time of Constantine to use Christianity as a tool of power and empire.

Christian Theocracy (or micro Theocracy like Art's commune) is following a long rich tradition, but it's the tradition of ruler-of-the-empire Constantine, not the tradition of the killed-by-the-empire Christ.