Christians as Exiles vs. Christians as Rulers

There are two veins of thought in current, mainstream Evangelicalism (shortened here to CME).  One paints Christians as exiles in this world, as aliens and foreigners, just waiting for their great homecoming.  The other puts Christians in a position of power in this world, holding headship over creation and the people in it.

The first is expressed in Bible verses like John 17:14, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world,” and in sayings like, “Be in the world, not of the world.”  It is expressed in the lyrics to songs that pine after heaven, “I’ll fly away to glory.”  It’s a common theme, I’m sure you’ve heard many renditions of it yourself.  Some of it is pie-in-the-sky nonsense, but a good deal of it is Biblically defensible.  Jesus describes himself as homeless, having no place to lay his head and encourages his followers to see themselves as strangers in their own land – for the dual purpose of both yearning for a better land, the kingdom, and to have empathy for the truly exiled and homeless.  When we consider how much suffering most of humanity has had to bear, there can be no surprise that the after-life became an object of much adoration and expectation.

Some CME-ers, however, see their lack of belonging as implying a lack of responsibility, or even, the impossibility of responsibility.  I have actually had the following beliefs articulated to me, by real people I actually know; I have not made them up or embellished them.  “Jesus is coming back in the next ten years, therefore there is nothing that we have to worry about concerning the environment, wars, or even our own retirement savings.”  “God made this earth, and he will destroy it, therefore we are not capable of destroying it through climate change or even with nuclear weapons.”  And the  furthest in the future thinking, “Entropy cannot be real because it would interfere with God’s total sovereignty in deciding when the world will end.”

All of these beliefs help the believers wash their hands of the actual responsibility they have to the world and the people in it.  Wouldn’t you make different decisions if you believed the Earth were indestructible or wouldn’t even be around for another decade?  Why would it matter if you spoiled the air and water and led hundreds of species of animals to extinction?  You’d sleep like a baby even if diseases became resistant to antibiotics or terrorists got a hold of nuclear weapons.  You can’t change any of these things.  Chances are, they won’t beat the buzzer of the end times, and even if they do they’ll just be another sign of those very times.  You certainly couldn’t have done anything.  I mean, even Newton couldn’t force the universe to follow statistical laws!

But there’s a second viewpoint in CME, that centers on power, not helplessness.  From this vantage point CME-ers are seen as the only people who are capable of ruling this world.  This idea is expressed when God tells Adam and Eve that they dominion over all the fish, birds, and land animals.  We see it when politicians talk about how America was founded on Christian principles or when they suggest that President Obama is Muslim (incorrectly, of course) as an insult and to undermine his legitimacy.  CME-ers are the only ones with truth, God’s laws, and God’s blessing.  If other people rule then all people will suffer under God’s wrath, so really they just want to be in power for everyone’s good.  Political proponents of this viewpoint call it “Domionism” because Americans have already caught on that theocracy is a bad thing.  But theocracy it is.

To be fair, this view also encompassed smaller goals than overthrowing our current system of government.  It’s the view that tells people that they can take whatever they want from the Earth without consequence; it’s already theirs and why would you be punished for taking what is yours?  People holding this viewpoint can be boggled at the simple idea of considering whether or not killing animals for food or pleasure is appropriate.  Of course you can kill and eat what you want, it’s already yours!  This is the view that sees women and children as possessions, just another set of things that belongs to you.  Oops, did I say you?  I meant them.  The Earth, it’s creatures, and marginalized people don’t belong to just anyone, they belong to the CME-ers, or ought to anyway.

These sound like they should be in opposition to each other, that they should spawn different traditions and theologies, one that focuses on a detached otherworldliness and the other on amassing power and influence in the here and now.  But rather they blend together to create a political monster (I would suggest that most people advocating these views have a political or financial stake in either their promulgation or the fear that their promulgation creates).  This monster wants all the power but shrugs all responsibility.  The monster wants to tell you what is permissible in your bedroom, wants to ban books from libraries, wants to display their own religious symbols in important public spaces.  But this monster does not want to reduce its carbon emissions, does not want to care for the poor that our economic system creates, and does not want the blood of tens of thousands on its hands – victims of its culture of violence and misogyny.

This is a monster that must be killed.  It’s a terror to political and religious life alike.  This monster is the definition of social evil, grabbing for power while shunning responsibility.  The politically active have a responsibility to engage and defeat the monsters talking points.  When it has become clear that the monster speaks only lies then we must publicly ignore it.  Christians have a responsibility to call out the God of the monster as an idol and an abomination, as a thing that hates not loves, that damns rather than saves, and sides with the powerful and entrenched rather than with the poor and the discarded.

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One Response to Christians as Exiles vs. Christians as Rulers

  1. Pingback: More on Christians as Exiles | Behold, Confusion!

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