The Myth of a Christian Nation

Christian EssentialsI recently grabbed this book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, from a huge CBD discount sale – it was under $5.  Though I’m not a fan of Greg Boyd, this book is interesting and worth reading.  I don’t buy all of Boyd’s premises (such as his Anabaptist theology and pacifism), but he does make some good points.  I believe Boyd is right when he says that Christianity in America has too often capitulated to and been domesticated by the political winds of the day, from the horrendous article on the World Magazine website to the weird and wacky world of Pat Robertson. 

Here’s one quote worth pondering.

“I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry.  To a frightful degree, I think, evangelicals fuse the kingdom of God with a preferred version of the kingdom of the world (whether it’s our national interests, a particular form of government, a particular political program, or so on).  Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus – who, incidentally never allowed himself to get pulled into the political disputes of his day – I believe many of us American evangelicals have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues.”

In this book, here’s one thing Boyd argues:

“The myth of America as a Christian nation, with the church as its guardian, has been, and continues to be, damaging both to the church and to the advancement of God’s kingdom.  Among other things, this nationalistic myth blinds us to the way in which our most basic and most cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples.  Instead of living out the radically countercultural mandate of the kingdom of God, this myth has inclined us to Christianize many pagan aspects of our culture.”


“…Because this myth [of a Christian nation] links the kingdom of God with certain political stances within American politics, it has greatly compromised the holy beauty of the kingdom of God to non-Christians.  This myth harms the church’s primary mission.  For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ.  Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, antigay news, or Republican news.  And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it” (quotes from p 13-14).

I think he makes some good points there.  In my opinion, most of Boyd’s observations about how Christianity has become Americanized are good ones.  However, I disagree with many of his responses about how we can ‘de-Americanize’ the gospel or move past this “myth.”  He goes the Anabaptist route; I’d take the Reformation one (see Mike Horton’s Gospel Driven Life  or Carl Trueman’s Republocrat for two examples).  In summary, I’d say Boyd’s book is worth reading if you can get it for a good price – and as with all books, read discerningly.

shane lems

5 thoughts on “The Myth of a Christian Nation”

  1. Should probably read this in conjunction with “In Search of Christian America” by Mark Noll, George Marsden, Nathan Hatch. The historians nail the lie some Christians put out, to their shame.


    1. Yes, Richard, I agree – I thought of Noll and Marsden, and even some Wells would be helpful. Thanks for the note.


  2. Wow, that World article is crazy. It seems as if having the “right” political views in his mind is the same as preaching the gospel. What a strange way of understanding Christianity. It’s also unfortunate that the writer seems to have fallen under the whole cult of personality/celebrity fixation that I’ve seen other christians do when they decide a famous person is on “their side”.

    Carl Trueman’s book sounds really good. The interview with him on the Westminster website is really great. I really love the attitude the Westminster professors seem to have towards Christ and Culture and Politics.


  3. Agreed on both of your paragraphs, Pat. I’ll blog on Truemans book soon. See you in a few weeks at the Reformation rally?


    1. I’m actually going to be out of town that day, so I won’t be able to make it. I hope it goes well for you guys, though!


Comments are closed.