Myth of a Christian Nation, Chapter 1 - The Kingdom of the Sword:
" The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. " (Luke 22:25-26)
Jesus says that the kingdoms of this world "lord it over" others. They use authority and power to influence their domain through laws, enforcement, and fear. Greg says it best: " Wherever a person or group exercises power over others--or tries to--THERE is a version of the kingdom of the world. While it comes in many forms, the kingdom of the world is in essence a "power over" kingdom. In some versions--such as America--subjects have a say in who their rulers will be, while in others they have none.....there have been democratic, socialist, communist, fascist, and totalitarian versions of the kingdom of the world, but they all share this distinctive characteristic: they exercise "power over" people." (page 18)
The kingdom of this world has and will always be like this. That's how our fallen world works. People take control, make the rules and regulations they feel are right, enforce these rules on their citizens, and sometimes try and enforce them on others around the globe. Greg points out that this ability to enforce rules and keep evil in check is the primary purpose of these kingdoms. He argues that based on Romans Chapter 13, God uses the kingdoms of this world, in their fallen and sinful state, to keep evil and wrongdoing in check. It is our job as citizens of whatever kingdom of the world we find ourselves living in to live in conformity to its laws, insofar as it does not conflict with our calling as citizens of the kingdom of God. I believe John Howard Yoder sums it up best in the following statement on God's relationship with the kingdoms of the world: " It is not as if there was a time when there was no government and then God made government through a new creative intervention; there has been hierarchy and authority and power since human society existed. Its exercise has involved domination, disrespect for human dignity, and real or potential violence ever since sin has existed. Nor is it that by ordering this realm God specifically, morally approves of what a government does....the librarian does not create nor approve of the book she or he catalogs and shelves. Likewise God does not take the responsibility for the existence of the rebellious "powers that be" or for their shape or identity; they already are."
Greg goes on to explain the relationship that Satan has with the kingdom of the world. In the gospel of Luke it says that when the Devil tempted Jesus, he showed him "all the kingdoms of the world" and then he said: " To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you will then worship me, it will be yours." (Luke 4:5-7) Jesus, of course, does not go on to worship the Devil to acquire these kingdoms. But, as Greg points out, Jesus does not dispute the devil's claim to own them. Later in Jesus' ministry he refers to Satan as the "ruler of this world". ( John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) In 1 John 5:19 we find this statement: " the whole world lies under the power of the evil one". Greg further explains that this term "ruler" which Jesus attributed to Satan, is a political term used to denote the highest ruling authority in a given region. Jesus is basically saying that Satan is the CEO of all earthly governments ! Greg's point is that while every action of a government may not be in itself "evil", we as Christians must never forget that "even the best political ideology lies under the influence of a "power over" cosmic ruler who is working at cross-purposes to God" ( page 22).
Further on in the chapter Greg talks about the "tit-for-tat" way of the kingdoms of the world. He explains it like this: " If you hit me, my natural (fallen) instinct is to hit you back--not turn the other cheek ! Tit-for-tat, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth--this is what makes the bloody kingdom of the world go around." (page 24) Greg continues the discussion by relating the example of the current conflict in the middle-east and some of the reasoning behind what is going on. He speaks about how sometimes, our us-vs-them mentality is a result of historical conditioning against the other. Greg says this: " Much of the profound animosity Islamic terrorists feel towards "satanic" America is fueled by a cultural memory of what Christians did to Muslims during the Crusades. Believing that America is a Christian nation, they direct their collective, historically acquired hatred toward it. Now, you might be tempted to respond by saying, 'Well, they did a lot of bad stuff to Christians throughout history as well'--and you'd be right. But this is exactly the sort of thinking that fuels the endless tit-for-tat kingdom of the world." (page 25)
I hope you are getting the point. To sum it up then we can boil it down to four short points.
#1 The kingdom of the world rules by a "power over" method, using laws, regulations, and the fear of the sword or punishment to accomplish its goals.
#2 While God did not create the kingdoms of the world he uses them in their fallen state, he orders and sorts them much like a librarian sorts the book in a library. He does not have to approve of them and their ways but wisely uses them for the best possible good.
#3 All of the kingdoms of the world are under the control of the Devil/Satan. While not every act of a government is in itself evil, we as Christians must be mindful that even the best government still lies under the influence of Satan who is working at cross-purposes to God.
#4 The kingdom of the world plays by a "tit-for-tat", eye for an eye, us-vs-them, rule set. It more often than not sets us and our ways of life and thinking against that of those from an opposite way of life.
Greg finishes the chapter by giving us a taste of what is to come in Chapter 2. He mentions that the kingdom of God operates completely different than the kingdom of the world. He says: " The kingdom of Jesus was, and is, a radically different kind of kingdom indeed, and it is this kingdom that all who follow Jesus are called to manifest in every area of their lives." (page 28)
I hope that this review has been in at least a small way beneficial to your time. I hope you will go and pick up a copy of this great book and see what it has to say for yourself. We'll end with a question.
Jesus was the only person who ever truly and fully had "power over," yet he chose not to exercise it. Do you feel that this is a model for us to follow or a choice unique to Jesus' mission? Explain your answer.