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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

11 responses to “A Christian . . . Nation?”

  1. Travis Biglow says:

    Phil,

    I like this, “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:” I want to be restorative in the work of the Lord. I think it is so profound because it seems like the church does not know
    that we are a kingdom of God and that we should be a source of healing, change, and non governmental. I plan to work in my research with many of these positive concepts.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Phil and Travis, could it be that this “nation” would be trans-national, positively subversive and ultimately restorative?

      Holy cow man… Phil, I am going over to grab your essay from the google site…
      J

      • Jon Spellman says:

        Ok, here it is…
        “In Bauman’s suggestion could be a hope for the Church. The Church could find a new politic that is extraterritorial, non-governmental, and reaches above sovereign governments to help people in need of a new narrative.”
        – Phil Struckmeyer

        yes

      • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

        Jon, It will definitely require some constructive deviance and yes, it could be trans, subversive, and restorative. 🙂

    • Phillip Struckmeyer says:

      Thanks Travis, I will definitely be following your research work!

  2. mm Nick Martineau says:

    Phil…This is really good work. I love seeing you bring your research into the blog space. It’s giving me perspective and thoughts I never would have had on my own. From the negative example ISIS really brings home your point. Detaching the American dream from following Jesus needs to be a starting point. Thanks Phil…really good stuff.

  3. mm Dave Young says:

    Phil, I like the creative process, where you don’t look at it too analytically but more for the metaphor. What would the metaphor of the church as a nation have to offer? I would hope “the church as a nation” would offer such a significant contrast to the nature of ISIS that it resulted in truly attractive, gracious space. On the other hand, if you start a church as a nation campaign – don’t count me in! Its already too political. ha

  4. mm Brian Yost says:

    Phil,
    Like the others, I love the imagery of “it could be reasonable to consider the thoughts and the metaphor of the Church as a restorative nation”.
    The church could actually create and define space in which others could find their existence. The brokenness of the world could become restored through the work of Christ in his church. Good Stuff!

  5. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Phil, I like your line of thinking…the church should be a restorative community that unites, even when human politics divide. We pray this when we say the Lord’s prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) The church has so much division, but I believe it would look much different if Christians united under the flag of God’s kingdom.

  6. mm Mary Pandiani says:

    “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.” A powerful statement, Phil. It’s an adventure that could impact the world as God’s restorative purpose. For some reason, I kept thinking of “Band of Brothers” (and maybe two sisters) as a way to describe our cohort – looking up the context, the phrase comes from Shakespeare when Henry V, outnumbered with his men, goes on to fight the French on St. Crispin’s Day

    Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remember’d;
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

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