Oct. 14, 2008
Bestselling Author and Pastor to Address Risks of Mixing Faith, Politics Oct. 22 at Whitworth
Both John McCain and Barack Obama have felt compelled to prove their Christian bona fides in order to attract religious voters to their campaigns for the U.S. presidency. This is not a new phenomenon, but it is a dangerous one for the country and, especially, for the Christian church, according to pastor and bestselling author Greg Boyd.
When Christians become too connected to political candidates or causes, Boyd says, "they stop trusting the power of self-sacrificial love and start trusting the worldly power of laws, policies, bombs and bullets. The church stops looking like Jesus, which is our singular call, and starts looking like a religious version of Caesar."
Boyd will elaborate on this theme in a public lecture, "Myth of a Christian Nation," on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth University. The lecture will be based on his bestselling book, The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church (Zondervan, 2006).
In the introduction to the book, Boyd writes that his central thesis is that a significant segment of American evangelicalism has allowed the kingdom of God to be fused with a "preferred" version of the kingdom of the world, characterized by voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion and gay marriage, keeping the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance and fighting for prayer in schools.
"I do not argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics," Boyd writes. "The issue is far more fundamental than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I hope to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God."
Boyd says the fusion of faith and politics in 2008 is similar in significant ways to the run-up to the 2004 election, during which he felt significant external and internal pressure to shepherd his 5,000-member congregation at Woodland Hills Church, in St. Paul, Minn., toward conservative candidates. Instead, he delivered a sermon series outlining a biblical case against the Christian faith being too closely associated with any political agenda. To say he was surprised by the response, Boyd says, is an understatement.
"I had never received so much positive feedback," he writes in the introduction to the book. "Some people literally wept with gratitude, saying they had always felt like outsiders in the evangelical community for not 'toeing the conservative party line.'" Boyd says he also received considerable negative feedback; nearly 1,000 members left his church. The church's experience led to coverage in The New York Times, National Public Radio, Christianity Today and CNN, among other media.
Boyd says he thinks the challenges of George W. Bush's administration have alerted some Christians to the danger of getting too close to politicians, regardless of how much faith they profess. But he's concerned that Christians on the left may succumb to the same temptation for political power.
Assessing the landscape in 2008, Boyd says he sees "much more buy-in to politics on the religious left, much less buy-in on the religious right. I also see many more people who are getting a vision of the Kingdom of God that transcends politics and that advances the cause of God by simply living, individually and collectively, like Jesus."
Boyd is the founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church and also is founder and president of Christus Victor Ministries, which facilitates his writing and speaking ministries outside the church.
He is author or co-author of 18 books, including the award-winning international bestseller Letters from a Skeptic, (Cook Communications, 1984) recounting messages between Boyd and his father that resulted in his father's conversion to Christianity. Boyd's latest book, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Baker, 2007), which he co-authored with Paul Eddy, won a 2008 best book award in the biblical studies category from Christianity Today magazine.
Boyd served as a professor of theology at Bethel College for 16 years, where he received the Teaching Excellence Award and Campus Leadership Award in 2000. He received his B.A. in philosophy from the University of Minnesota (1979), his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1982), and his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary in (1988).
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.