Archives For Nationalism

 

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
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
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.

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Critiquing Nationalism

A Feature Review of

Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspectives,

Peter Leithart

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

 

Reviewed by Branson Parler

 

For some, the adjective “evil” is necessarily entailed in the concept of “empire.” Not so, argues Peter Leithart, who is compelling, provocative, and insightful as always. Why do we need a more complex account of empire? In part, Leithart argues, the historical reality is that all empires are living and therefore not static and not all identical. We also need a nuanced account of empire because the Bible does not treat historical empires with a one-size fits all lens. Furthermore, Leithart contends, “imperial ambitions and concepts were ‘reinscribed’—or better, always already inscribed—at the heart of Jesus’ teaching” (37). In other words, if we purge the concept of empire from the Bible, we would purge the core of Jesus’ life and message: the imperium of God is at hand. Leithart contrasts God’s Abrahamic empire with both Babels—empires that attempt to impose uniformity on other nations—and beasts—empires that devour the saints and drink their blood.

 

The book is divided into three sections. In part 1, Leithart uses three metaphors for Scripture’s analysis of various empires—rod (Isa 10), refuge for God’s people (Dan 2), and beast (Dan 7). Leithart’s concise overview would serve as a great introduction to the theopolitical nature of the biblical text. Leithart’s attentiveness to the craft and art of biblical and theological exegesis is a delight.

 

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In our continuing effort to fund the publication and free distribution of The Englewood Review, we are going to be collaborating more intentionally with Christian Book Distributors.  Primarily, we will be offering you the opportunity to buy bargain books from CBD that we think of are interest.  Buying books this way is a win / win / win proposition.  You get great books for a great price,  CBD gets the sale and we get an excellent referral fee from CBD.  These books make great gifts!

This week’s bargain books (Click to learn more/purchase):


30708: The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society The Making and Unmaking of Technological Society

By Murray Jardine / Baker

$1.99 ! – Save 93%!!!
Has Christianity failed to engage the culture of technology and use scientific advancements responsibly? Jardine offers an incisive critique of the damaging elements in Western societies and argues that it’s possible to adandon the destructive aspects of technology while still embracing its benefits. Thought-provoking! 304 pages, softcover from Brazos.

6730X: The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church

By Gregory A. Boyd / Zondervan

$1.99 ! – Save 90%!!!
Should church and state really be separated? Does the church belong in the political arena? Arguing from Scripture and history, The Myth of a Christian Nation makes a compelling case that whenever the church gets too close to any political or national ideology, it is disastrous for the church and harmful to society.

031613: The Story of the Christ The Story of the Christ

By Scot McKnight / Baker

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For two thousand years the figure of Jesus has been the most powerful and pervasive influence on Western culture, not only in religion and ethics but also in politics, literature, music, and the visual arts. This book features insights from Scot McKnight, author of the bestselling book The Jesus Creed.

 

THE OTHER JOURNAL Reviews
Steve Long’s SPEAKING OF GOD
http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=885
Modern philosophers and historians were convinced of the death of metaphysics; they buried questions of existence and being deep in the grave. But according to D. Stephen Long, author of Speaking of God, even their proofs for this death borrowed from clear metaphysical assumptions, and so Long is neither surprised by the resurgence of metaphysics nor unprepared to explore its many relationships with other disciplines, particularly language, philosophy, theology, and politics. In Speaking of God, Long has fashioned a refreshing examination of these subject matters, specifically addressing reason and faith, philosophy and theology, power and truth, and metaphysics and politics. He pursues questions of reason and faith, and then, in the face of a hermeneutics of pure negation and a flat metaphysics, he argues for a richer, deeper Christian life, a flourishing life nourished by the search for truth.
Read the full review:
http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=885
Speaking of God:
Theology, Language, and Truth.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2009.
Buy now:
A Review of Why America Fights:
Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq
http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/0709/book/book_brown_whyfight.html
The War in Iraq is a highpoint of U. S. foreign policy. A cruel dictator is overthrown with the wholehearted support of the Iraqi and American people. Democracy is courageously introduced in the politically oppressive Middle East. In-country hostilities are brought to a quick end thanks to a successful military surge.
To some this is what happened in Iraq. But to others, President George W. Bush’s invasion of a far-off land was a poorly explained and disastrous misadventure. The administration misled the public about the true nature of the war and its consequences. Such prevarication was a sharp break with truthful American leadership in the past.
Not quite so, says Susan A. Brewer, Professor of  History at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, in her new book, Why American Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq. Rallying support for its wars (including unsuccessful ones) by the U. S. government, she contends, is nothing new.
Read the full review:
http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/0709/book/book_brown_whyfight.html
Why America Fights:
Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2009.
Buy now:

THE OTHER JOURNAL Reviews
Steve Long’s SPEAKING OF GOD

http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=885

Modern philosophers and historians were convinced of the death of metaphysics; they buried questions of existence and being deep in the grave. But according to D. Stephen Long, author of Speaking of God, even their proofs for this death borrowed from clear metaphysical assumptions, and so Long is neither surprised by the resurgence of metaphysics nor unprepared to explore its many relationships with other disciplines, particularly language, philosophy, theology, and politics. In Speaking of God, Long has fashioned a refreshing examination of these subject matters, specifically addressing reason and faith, philosophy and theology, power and truth, and metaphysics and politics. He pursues questions of reason and faith, and then, in the face of a hermeneutics of pure negation and a flat metaphysics, he argues for a richer, deeper Christian life, a flourishing life nourished by the search for truth.

Read the full review:

http://www.theotherjournal.com/article.php?id=885

Speaking of God:
Theology, Language, and Truth
.
Steve Long.

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

A Review of Susan Brewer’s Why America Fights:
Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq

http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/0709/book/book_brown_whyfight.html

The War in Iraq is a highpoint of U. S. foreign policy. A cruel dictator is overthrown with the wholehearted support of the Iraqi and American people. Democracy is courageously introduced in the politically oppressive Middle East. In-country hostilities are brought to a quick end thanks to a successful military surge.

To some this is what happened in Iraq. But to others, President George W. Bush’s invasion of a far-off land was a poorly explained and disastrous misadventure. The administration misled the public about the true nature of the war and its consequences. Such prevarication was a sharp break with truthful American leadership in the past.

Not quite so, says Susan A. Brewer, Professor of  History at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, in her new book, Why American Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq. Rallying support for its wars (including unsuccessful ones) by the U. S. government, she contends, is nothing new.

Read the full review:

http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2009/0709/book/book_brown_whyfight.html

Why America Fights:
Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq
.
Susan Brewer.

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

 

Ultra-brief Reviews
By Chris Smith

The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It.
Les Leopold.

Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture.
Larry Samuel.

Hardback: AMACOM, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


The Seven Faith Tribes:
Who They Are, What They Believe and Why They Matter
.
George Barna.

Hardback: Barna Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Those of you who have listened to William Cavanaugh’s insightful telling of the story of the recent financial collapse will find a similar story told in more detail in Les Leopold’s The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity and What We Can Do About It.  Leopold deftly weaves the tale of how corporate financiers created products such as Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO’s) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS’s) to artificially generate profit for themselves and set the nation’s (and the world’s) economy on a crash-course.  Leopold’s critique of the financial system here is excellent, but he is repeatedly unwilling to critique the widespread greed and unsustainable expectations for profit held by investing individuals and organizations.  He concludes the book with two chapters of “proposals Wall Street won’t like,” which are rooted in a much more sensible economics and leave the reader with much to ponder.

I found Larry Samuel’s new book Rich: The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture to be a disturbing complement to Leopold’s work.  Samuel traces the history of America’s über-rich class (which he notes is the “first mass-affluent class in history”) over the course of the twentieth century.  Samuel’s work is fascinating as a cultural history, but it also illuminates – albeit without much reflection – the ubiquitous American desire to enter into this elite class of the richest, a reality that Leopold seemingly wants to avoid discussing.  One of the most intriguing themes in Rich is Samuel’s exploration of how the wealthiest class reconciled their fortunes with Christian faith.  Essential to this justification was the concept of “stewardship,” and the story that Samuel narrates here resonates nicely with Kelly Johnson’s critiques of stewardship in her recent book Fear of Beggars (Eerdmans 2007).

And now for something completely different…

George Barna’s recent book The Seven Faith Tribes: Who They Are, What They Believe and Why They Matter tackles, in the typical demographic fashion on which we have come to expect from the Barna brand, a religious and political assessment of the broader American culture.  The book, premised on the question “What will it take to restore our country to greatness?” is lacking in serious reflection on – e.g., on questions like what is “greatness” and why should the United States aspire to it and at what cost?  The nationalism that undergirds Barna’s work might work well for selling books especially in a time of apparent national crisis, but it does little to nurture (and arguably is at odds with) the trans-national Kingdom of God that has been secured in the death and resurrection of Jesus and is now breaking into and transforming the world.

 

“Peripheral Events That Subvert Empire”

A Review of
From Patmos to the Barrio:
Subverting Imperial Myths.

by David A. Sánchez.

 Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee.

 

From Patmos to the Barrio:
Subverting Imperial Myths.

David A. Sánchez.
Paperback: Fortress Press, 2008.
Buy now:   [ ChristianBook.com ]

 

As an Evangelical missionary serving in Mexico City I have my reservations about La Virgen de Guadalupe.  Her association with syncretic practices does much to detract from the person of Jesus and from a Christian faith in general.  And, as many empire subverters in the United States complain that our crosses are too often draped with the Red, White and Blue, so too are the crosses in Mexico draped with the bandera of La Virgen in regards to patrimony.  Here to reject La Virgen is to reject Mexico itself and all that it means to be Mexican.

 

Nonetheless, David A. Sánchez’s book, From Patmos to the Barrio: Subverting Imperial Myths, is an excellent work in religiopolitical scholarship, writing from the much-needed post-colonial biblical studies perspective.  He brilliantly weaves history, biblical studies, and literary analysis to provide the reader tools to recognize reappropriation of imperial propaganda by the dominated for purposes of empire subversion.  Sánchez’s brilliant and highly relevant example of this regards the use of La Virgen de Guadalupe.

  Continue Reading…