Singing The Lord’s Song
in Our Homeland
A Feature Review of
Bowing Toward Babylon: The Nationalistic Subversion of Christian Worship in America
Craig M. Watts
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by James Matichuk
This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog.
Reprinted with permission.
*** Visit his blog for many other insightful reviews!
The gospel of Jesus Christ is living water for our dry, thirsty souls. Nationalism poisons the well. For citizens of the Kingdom of God, our political, national affiliation is not the most significant thing about ourselves. And yet, America has a long history of co-opting Christian language and worship for nationalistic, political ends. Craig Watts, the pastor at Royal Palms Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, FL, probes the reality of American Civil Religion that has permeated our churches in Bowing Toward Babylon.
Several practices of American civil religion have permeated Christian worship in US churches: The placement and honoring of American flags in the sanctuary, celebration of national holidays, the singing of patriotic songs, etc. Watts makes the case that, “rather than being innocuous practices, expressions of nationalism in worship constitute manifestations of misdirected worship that lead to the spiritual malformation of worshippers” (11). In other words, the symbols and story of America (or any nation) is at odds with the Christian story, where Christ calls a new humanity from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Drawing a long prophetic tradition, Watts calls America, Babylon— a metaphor for an empire or nation where God’s people are tempted to succumb to majority practices and the worship of national gods.