Love Across the Lines: Navigating National Boundaries and Christian Allegiance
Our globalized wold connects us to individuals and groups from all over. As Christians, how do we relate to them with love while our country or culture might do otherwise?
Starting with this example of international politics, the concept of love across government boundaries situate us, orient us, toward what the scriptures call us to do, what’s the call of Christian ethics, theological ethics in this environment? How can people think rightly about these troubling matters?
First thing I’d wanna say cause I really want to, I love having an ethicist here. It’s really helpful. The first thing, I think the New Testament invite us to step back and be very careful about in many ways conflating our identity as United States citizens or people who live here. You know kind of the–
ur political identity.
And identity as a church and allegiance to Jesus, which is, always, way out there in front of any other kinds of political allegiances,
Religio-political allegiances. So, pulling that apart is so crucial, for me, in this discourse. So, I just want to start there, to say, we can’t say us as the Church, in the same breath that we say us as citizens or members of this United States community. Does that make sense?
Yeah, I was thinking, one of the trends, and you would know this in the work that you’ve done, is the role of narrative, that, you know, Christian ethics. I mean, we all have the story, Christian ethics is storied. You know, even, Hermanus, when we think about scripture now, it’s not this isolated collection of a bunch of bible verses, but it’s telling some kind of story. Yeah, so I think that I agree with Jeanine.
I think that part of the challenge is to do the self reflection about which story am I really bound to. The question that I ask often in my ethics classes. Y’know, what difference does a Christian– Being a Christian really make? And you can imagine if I wrote that down that really is bold and italicized and underlined and then 25 point font or something. That y’know, when I come to think about the issues of the world, economics, politics. How really do I bring my Christian claims to bear on here?
And I think this is tricky, I think Richard Niebuhr in his book, Christ and Culture, identified what he called the enduring problem of this relationship between church and state.
And so, y’know he’s got those five types of Christ in culture, Christ against culture, kind of across the spectrum that he uses for… to kind of– to historically understand how the church at any given time has understood it’s social role, it’s political obligations and all sorts of things.
But the– I wouldn’t say the faulty assumption but what is missing is this sense of what the prior question for us as Christians is what does it mean to be the people of God? And what does it meant to be the people of God in a variety of context? And so, I think y’know, your question is an important one because it gets really down to ultimate kinds of loyalties and to go back to the topic of ultimate kinds of love.
Right? So, y’know, to be grateful for being a citizen of a particular country but I agree, I think the New Testament relativizes citizenship
In a very significant way. And I think the thing that probably disturbs me is– This is a sweeping generalization but I make it nonetheless that how little conflict Christians feel between their Christian identity and their– what I’m gonna call their nationalism. And I think it many ways kind of complicates the kinds of situations that you’re alluding to.
And do you think that conflict is not felt enough?
Wyndy: I don’t think it’s felt enough.
Or, if it’s either not felt enough then that could be for a variety of reasons or for some, they don’t think that any conflict actually exist.
And this became for me, I mean, I can think of all sorts of things. So y’know, your question earlier about the earlier section of prayer, when I was in seminary, I always say that y’know, way back when I was in seminary, the first Gulf War, what, Desert Sto– What was it called?
Yeah, Operation Desert Storm
Wyndy: Was that what it was? I was in Denver, that’s where I was in seminary and had graduated and was in a wonderful vibrant church and this church had a very strong military presence. It had a significant outreach because of it’s location to army officers or military officers, I don’t know which branch of the military.
And I remember the deep discomfort, remember everybody lotted that because it was quick. And y’know, just war criteria. Basically one of the criteria for just war is a war has to be win-able. And so, okay that was maybe a good thing. But the thing that was so disturbing for me and I think this, for me, was kind of that ah-ha moment, was the glee and the delight that people felt about this victory. And I remember thinking to myself, “to whom am I more tied?”
To an Iraqi Christian, who’s home maybe was just destroyed who was maybe just killed, right? So to kind of think along those lines as the nature of the church which is the truly, global body,
Was just, for me, a moment that I think these things really came to the surface.
And it just speaks to the question of solidarity, what is the solidarity to us?
Wyndy: Right, to whom am I– right, and I was living on the east coast with nine-eleven. And it was the same kind of– the same kind of tension, y’know, feeling the horror of what happened and yet, the rede rick was we come together as Americans, when– how I read scripture and what I think to seem to be central practices of the Christian faith, at least should give me pause, right?
It might not, with clarity say, well then this what you should do but at least it ought to give me pause, so that’s when I really started to think about y’know, these intersections between spirituality and prayer and what we pray about. And again, when the US invaded Iraq, I was sitting in church, a wonderful, vibrant community and the prayer, the pastoral prayer for the day was kind of the cycle, social needs of the individuals in that congregation and I’m like, “we’re about raiding in all the war!”
No, point of reference in our liturgical practices in our prayer life that’s something significant.
is happening in our world.
and maybe lament is a thing
Wyndy: Maybe lament.
Jeanine: we need to read and engage. Richard Bech
Wyndy: Yeah. in his recent blog post is talking about as a pacifist from my understanding, his perspective, talking a little bit about just war theory, but one of the things he notes is that whatever moves ahead, in terms of a national decision on these kinds of issues, the grief the church had feel. Whatever direction it happens that lives are lost and so just a sense of do we have glee?
When you said that, I just thought of his writing, do we have a kind of sense of justified yes or do we have a deep sense of sadness. He said, “whatever a nation decides to do, the Christians in its nation”, I’m pretty much paraphrasing him, “will grieve”.
Wyndy: Mm-hm. When these things are enacted. And I think that was, for me, really helpful to say, okay, as a Christian, will I grieve with those who grieve?
Y’know that, the stubby attitudes. It seems to me, that’s a call