Mind your own business

Thomas Fleming deconstructs the central myth of many conservative Republicans:
To explain the decline of American Christianity, conservatives continue to cling to the myth of a nation settled by pious believers seeking to found “a shining City on a Hill.” But this republican Eden, on which God has uniquely bestowed his blessings, was corrupted by the Tempter. The American people are still, for the most part, good and faithful Christians, but they are under assault from immoral Hollywood movies, wicked journalists, and pointy-headed intellectuals, etc. Setting aside the obvious problem of equating New England (particularly the worst aspects of it) with all of America, we should ask ourselves this: Could men and women of strong faith really be corrupted by Hollywood movies that no Christian has any business going to see? Can you imagine Saints Peter and Paul attending the premier of Kill Bill or Saint Monica watching Lost with little Augustine? If America were, in fact, a basically Christian or moral nation, Hollywood would be out of business, and so would most colleges and universities.
Conservative Christians are right to complain that they are being persecuted by the government, and I do not have a solution to this grave problem except to suggest that they are wasting their time in trying to change the laws. Instead, they might consider the example of early Christians living under the pagan Roman Empire. Most Christians paid their taxes to Caesar, served in Caesar’s army, and were good neighbors  and loyal citizens of Caesar’s empire. They did not engage in futile protests about infanticide, nor did they abuse and insult their pagan neighbors. They minded their own business, went to church, and prayed for the empire’s conversion. If today’s American Christians had the faith of a mustard seed, they would spurn the false prophets who have enslaved them to a party or political ideology and go about their Master’s business.

Thomas Fleming deconstructs the central myth of many conservative Republicans:

To explain the decline of American Christianity, conservatives continue to cling to the myth of a nation settled by pious believers seeking to found “a shining City on a Hill.” But this republican Eden, on which God has uniquely bestowed his blessings, was corrupted by the Tempter. The American people are still, for the most part, good and faithful Christians, but they are under assault from immoral Hollywood movies, wicked journalists, and pointy-headed intellectuals, etc. Setting aside the obvious problem of equating New England (particularly the worst aspects of it) with all of America, we should ask ourselves this: Could men and women of strong faith really be corrupted by Hollywood movies that no Christian has any business going to see? Can you imagine Saints Peter and Paul attending the premier of Kill Bill or Saint Monica watching Lost with little Augustine? If America were, in fact, a basically Christian or moral nation, Hollywood would be out of business, and so would most colleges and universities.

Conservative Christians are right to complain that they are being persecuted by the government, and I do not have a solution to this grave problem except to suggest that they are wasting their time in trying to change the laws. Instead, they might consider the example of early Christians living under the pagan Roman Empire. Most Christians paid their taxes to Caesar, served in Caesar’s army, and were good neighbors  and loyal citizens of Caesar’s empire. They did not engage in futile protests about infanticide, nor did they abuse and insult their pagan neighbors. They minded their own business, went to church, and prayed for the empire’s conversion. If today’s American Christians had the faith of a mustard seed, they would spurn the false prophets who have enslaved them to a party or political ideology and go about their Master’s business.

8 thoughts on “Mind your own business”

  1. Joel,

    If we all buckled down and simply got on with serving Christ in our every day lives, living the faith and recognizing our fellow human beings as icons of Christ (for we are all made in His image), then the faith would be strengthened – from within better able to weather and withstand the surrounding culture (for mature humble faith sees through clearer eyes. I am taken by your analogy between the battles Christians in the US (and to a lesser extent, the ‘West’) expend their energy fighting, and those that were around during the time of the first tender shoots of Christianity. Nothing’s changed (surrounding culture wise); we just have a few more nifty gadgets and modern-day tech when it all comes down to it. Indeed, the church minded its own business – it helped where it could on an individual and community level but the thought of presuming upon ‘Caesar’s territory’ as it were would have been almost anathema. The early church prevailed – with prayer and quiet living. = through the persecution and life within a system far harsher than ours, it prevailed!!

    I used to attend a congregation with Russian members in it back in the 90’s; these folk lived through the persecution the USSR inflicted upon Christians (among other peoples) and said on more than one occasion, even after everything they’d lived through and eventually escaped, that what the Western church needed was a little dose of what they’d had to put up with to bring home how truly important faith was, and to focus the faithful away from petty squabbles and political intrigue back onto Christ. Indeed, they went on to say that folk in lands such as theirs would pray for a similar shakeup to take bloated, inneffective, complacent Western Christianity by the collar and give it a jolly good shake. Laodicea anybody??

    By our own choices and convincement, we can opt out of the destructive elements of our culture; nobody’s holding a pistol to our heads and forcing us to ‘watch’… we should also remember to remember that others are icons of Christ, also, and, that we need to treat them as such while attending to our own faith. This does not include behaviours that divert us away from the service of Christ and the living of a whole of life faith (that will, in the end, by the grace of our heavenly Father) bring about more profound change to the world around us than any amount of lobbying and political enterprise can. Remember, this is far different from endorsing Caesar’s programme…

    Upon an Orthodox blog I read, one writer summarized the ‘Pillars of Christianity’ if one will…

    Pray with humility. Fast as you are able. Give alms generously and not grudgingly. Avoid judging others. Be a faithful steward of whatever ministry you are given. seek to live in obedience where possible rather than by craftiness. Make a good confession without excuses and a good communion. Remember God above all things and be kind – always.
    (http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/)

    US Evangelical Christianity (and the rest of the Western faith with it) needs to remember that this – THIS CHANGED THE WORLD FOR CHRIST. and, if we let God in, it can change again, because it cuts right across all hot topics, all political persuations, all despair. It works, and it can work again, one Christian, one parish at a time.

    The faith survived dark times once, and can (by the grace of our heavenly Father) do it today, also.

    I am truly inspired and appologize for my lengthy ramble.

    Sarah,
    Sydney,
    Australia.

  2. No need to apologize and I do agree that the overriding tenor of most American Christianity is Laodicean. But the kingdom of God is like leaven that leavens the whole loaf, even while unseen!

  3. Interesting suggestion that Christians in the US act like the early Christians in Rome. You do remember that Christians under rulers like Octavious and Commodus were tortured, killed and thrown to wild beasts for entertainment, don’t you? 😉

  4. NFL Junkie and all readers/commenters,

    I think this is Joel’s point; if Christianity survived a far harsher system by following a few simple guidelines than that which we could imagine being placed upon us today, all the more reasons for US Christians (and Aussie ones too) to pull their heads in and go about their lives centred on the living out of a Christ centred faith that encompasses what I have already outlined in my own response rather than hacking themselves and one another to pieces over two or three issues that seem to have consumed evangelical Christianity to the point that Christ is never mentioned and even less, seen. They have forgotten that their fellow human beings are icons of Christ, for we are all created in the image of god. Furthermore, all too often, an attitude that is of ‘us and them’ that gains superiority by seeing the ‘other’ as almost ‘less than human’ does not reveal Christ to a hurting world. Finally, they blindly consume, or at best, rail against the excesses of popular culture without simply ‘changing the channel’, in most cases. Though frail, faulty and flawed as we all are, are we open to Christ working through us, revealing Himself through us to those around us? the hot button issues that are railed against today, have always been with us in one form or another. How did the sapling Church deal with these issues, how did Jesus Christ Himself deal with them during His Earthly mission, and, how are we dealing with them today? is Evangelical Christianity dragging the entire faith down with it? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

    And remember, preach the gospel always, only occasionally use words.

    Blessings,

    Sarah,
    Sydney,
    Australia.

  5. “nfljunkie,” yes, I do realize that. They also converted the Empire in 300 years, produced Christendom and civilized the world.

    1. It’s an interesting thing to think about. It’s my understanding that, during the first few years of Christianity, Christians didn’t seem to have access to political power or the internet as we do presently. Today, Christians are in all walks of life, including politics and, because of the changes in how we communicate, Christians also have much more of an opportunity to have a voice. It makes me wonder how the early Christians would’ve acted within the freedoms of our world. My guess is that it wouldn’t be entirely different than how Christians are handling it now. That being said, it’d be really cool to see how Paul utilized technology.

      1. It seems to me that Paul used the technology of his day every bit as much as we do in our day. He targeted major cities on important crossroads, wrote extensively and was well-learned.

        While Christians weren’t *in* power for a few centuries you still see converts amongst the courts of Herod and Caesar in the earliest NT documents.

  6. Ephraim Radner has written an interesting article related to this called “Children of Cain: the Oxymoron of American Catholicism” in _The Fate of Communion: the Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church_.

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