Book Review: Christian America and the Kingdom of God

This is the book I wish I were smart enough to have written.  It is similar to Boyd’s Myth of a Christian Nation in its discussion of the Kingdom of God, but Richard T. Hughes expertise as a historian makes this volume much more comprehensive.

Main Themes of the Book:

  • The notion of Christian America and the notion of the Kingdom of God are polar opposites
  • Ironic truth that Christian America so often behaves in such unchristian and even anti-Christian ways
  • Christians should behave in the public square in ways consistent with their profession of faith, instead of worldly ways
  • Biblical and Theology illiteracy runs rampant in the US

Assumptions by the author:

  • the book doesn’t concern itself with whether America is a good or moral nation.  he recognizes that it is at times
  • the book/author does not seek to diminish the good done by Americans

Chapters 2 & 3 are a fine study on the prominence of peace and justice in all teachings on the Kingdom of God.

His discussion on the Founding Fathers and the period right before and after the Revolution is fascinating and will upset many a Tea Party goer.

His dissection of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is frightening.

The section discussing the Gilded Age (post-Civil War, industrial/economic boom) has disheartening.  The American “work ethic” is great but in that period we see the rise of oppressing the poor/workers at the expense of financial growth.  It was the beginning of the rise of Materialism and Abundance as idols in America.

The fact that religious revival often occurred in reaction to immigration gave me a lot to think about.

Some myths mentioned in the last chapter that explain a lot:

  • Myth of the Chosen Nation: From Tyndale, to the Puritans, to Jonathan Edwards, all the way to President Bush, the view that God has chosen America to serve a certain purpose has been used and abused.  Some expected a golden age of peace, others preach the Gospel of Wealth or the Gospel of Democracy. I was personally upset with one of President Bush’s last speeches where he really drove home the point of spreading democracy, as if it were the Gospel of Jesus.  Made me real uncomfortable, and I had voted for the guy.
  • Myth of the Innocent Nation: Based upon the assumption that America is chosen and Christian, anything goes.  Mistreatment of Natives in the belief that you are the New Israel cleansing the Canaanites from the Promised Land.  Institutional racism.  Slaughter of civilians (was unaware of US involvement in the Philippines around 1900).  Oppression of poor. Emphasis on revenge.
  • Myth of the Millennial Nation: thanks to Darby and Scofield many Christians expect an Armageddon that will involve nuclear destruction, and war in the middle east.  The view that the righteous will be raptured doesn’t lend to trying to avoid the Armageddon.  Boy, will they be disappointed and we all will suffer for it.  This is why we turn a blind eye to Israel’s sins and support them without question.  And anyone who doesn’t gets in trouble with the evangelical leaders and voters.

I may blog more about it or I may not.  At times it made me sick.  I was encouraged to focus more on peace and justice in my life after reading chapters 2 and 3.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves the church and Jesus more than they love America.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Christian America and the Kingdom of God

  1. Like his other books, it will make you think, and will almost certainly change your perspective on some pretty fundamental stuff. If you haven’t, you might also want to read his history of the churches of Christ.

  2. brian

    i love Reviving the Ancient Faith, I wish more Church of Christ members would read it. helped me move past a sectarian/denomination view of the church

  3. Allan

    NOTE: I HAVE NOT READ THIS BOOK.

    I’m going purely on what I’m reading in your review of it. I’m just trying to learn what is being challenged…the idea that the Nation was founded as Christian or that the nation (people? gov’t? Constitution?) acts in/seeks after Christian ways.

    If he’s just going on about how people who call themselves “Christian” don’t act like Christians…I don’t need to spend $22 on a long version of Romans 7:14ff. 😀

    Is that confusing?

  4. brian

    not at all.

    he rejects both, that the nation was founded as a Christian nation, says alot about jefferson’s deism and his and others’ effort to avoid a state religion, although, many baptist groups tried to get it “official” from their time on.

    and rejects that we are or have been a christian nation. he agrees that Americans and America have done much good, but drives a wedge between any earthly kingdom and the kingdom of God. a gap that seems lost on may Christians in American today.

    earthly kingdoms use deceit, violence, force to preserve themselves and grow their interests, which is counter to putting others above self, the self-denial of Christianity

    one interesting scriptural point I left out is when Israel begged Samuel for a King, and God said that a king would enslave your sons and daughters, etc. and etc. and all that occurred by Solomon, he lived in opulence

  5. brian

    what I got from it is more than just Christians behaving badly, or even hypocrisy, but Christians placing a Christian stamp of approval on things that are total opposite of what Jesus taught, and calling it Christian

    it seems endemic, systemic, or some other word that ends in “ic” that I can’t think of

    I wish people who disagreed would read and respond, but of course, I seldom do that. hard enough to find time to read what I like to read.

  6. WOW! I cannot wait to read this book! I’ve read Hughes others stuff and loved it all. I’m on an American history kick lately so this is right up my alley. Sorry to disappoiont, but I agree with you completely!

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