DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A Christian . . . Nation?

Written by: on May 14, 2015

Gill Valentine, in her book “Social Geographies: Space and Society”, reorients the field of social geography around “space”. With the orientation set on space, a new look at what has traditionally been viewed as physical and fixed characteristics of our society becomes open to more fluid boundaries to the characteristics traditionally viewed as constructing and constituting society. Valentine’s work definitely causes the reader to relook at space and truly presents the opportunity to see our world and its make-up anew.[1] With the focus being on space, the shifting and evolving role of identity, both individual and group, make up the backdrop of this very intriguing text.

Personally I was attracted by the chapter on “nation” as space, as last semester in my academic essay, one of my concluding thoughts/questions was . . . “Would the current identity of “the Church” in America be strengthened if it saw itself as a ‘nation’? With the American identity becoming less and less Judeo-Christian (if it truly ever was) and with shifts such as the latest Pew Research is affirming of a departure from America being a “Christian nation”, what if Christ-followers today and leaders within the Church used a “nation” lens to rediscover its flailing identity and voice in the Western culture and world.

Now, I must confess, I am way out of my league and beyond my boundary of knowledge and competence, but there was something clicking in thinking about the voice of the Church as a “nation”. If physical boundaries and fixed physical space become more fluid and more people saw the gap between a Christian identity and an American identity, then I think rethinking what Christianity looks like in our Western cultural landscape could provide a fresh lens of voice and relevance. In my essay I wrote:

In light of Hunter, Hauerwas, Bauman, and Ruether, it could be reasonable to consider the thoughts and the metaphor of the Church as a restorative nation. As Charles Villa-Vicencio, expresses in his article, Neith Despair Nor, “An African proverb says it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a nation to build a social order.”[2]

In his book, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson defines nation as, “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.”[3] A nation is imagined because it is based on an ideology. A nation is limited in light of its capacity of control. A nation is sovereign because of the radical faith of its constituency. And, a nation is a community because of the intense relational solidarity that is the true fabric created from the personal, social, and political commitments for which it stands.[4]

If the Church could see itself as a restorative nation, such as Bauman refers to as extraterritorial and non-governmental, then a new politic, a new narrative, a Kingdom alternative would be offered to the world: A band of people living out an adventure of courage and hope through a life of service, sacrifice, and suffering while offering compassion, mercy, and justice to the broken, oppressed, and exploited. The Church would then be a religio-political nation of just power, courageous love, and faith-filled hope offering God’s story and a true possibility of making the world a better place.

Affirming this thinking, from a negative light, would be the thinking of ISIS and its spread in recent times. In the CNN special, “Blindsided: How ISIS Shook the World”, the idea of ISIS as a transnational terror organization was discussed and a direct correlation could be seen between how ISIS has spread and the possibility of the need of Christianity to rethink its identity to be packaged and spread in such a way. Now obliviously the tactics of spreading the ideology would greatly shift from a radical evil violence to a radical holy love, but in all honesty everything else could remain the same. Especially in the United States, where Christian identity has been lost in the “American Dream”, rethinking our Christian identity as a “nation” is at least worth some conversation and dialogue.

[1] “Amazon Prime,” Social Geographies: Space and Society Review, accessed May 14, 2015, http://www.amazon.com/Social-Geographies-Society-Gill-Valentine/dp/0582357772/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1431598019&sr=8-1&keywords=social+geographies+space+and+society.

 [2] Charles Villa-Vicencio, “Neith Despair Nor,” Sojourners, April 2015, 27.

 [3] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections On the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Revised ed. (London: Verso, 2006), 6.

[4] Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7.

About the Author

Phillip Struckmeyer