Christian America and the Kingdom of God (Chapter 5)

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In the fifth and final chapter, Hughes culminates his vision of a Christian America and his retelling of the history of ‘Christian’ America with the developments of both Christian and political fundamentalism in the last century.

While he deals masterfully with the pre-WWII rise of a pacifist fundamentalist version of Christian – those who just gave up participating in the civics of this country – and spends quality time with the rise of the Religious Right since the 1970’s, he skips some of the most important points, and that of the Red Scare and Christian American. While it is not detrimental to his argument, there are key events in the intervening years between WWII and the late 70’s which produced tactics used by many today.

It is this chapter which many conservatives will find difficult to digest, Hughes tackles the rise of the Religious Right, a very active political force, comparing it to the rise of fundamentalism that existed pre-WWI. In doing so, he fails to handle sincere Christian believers with the sensitivity that he has shown before. His acoustic statements about fundamentalists can be placed on large segments of evangelicals and even Catholics. While those of us who may have heard his type of rhetoric before understand his point, the very crowd that he is trying to reach may be turned off a bit by his demeanor; however, if the fundamentalist, evangelical, and occasional Catholic can move past that, and place it in context, then this is a fine conclusion to this book.

The subject matter he presents will be portrayed  as the ‘same, tired, liberal’ rhetoric, but it is truth nevertheless. From the influx at the beginning of last century of Catholics, and non Anglo-Saxon, immigrants from Eastern Europe, to the same immigration problems in the 70’s, but this time from war torn area in Asia and the Middle East, Hughes explores the nativist reaction to the rise of multiculturalism. Attaching the debates at the turn of the century of biblical inerrancy and thus, evolution, to these reactions, Hughes presents a fair, even if indigestible, portrait of the beginning of the fundamentalist movement. He then brings in the rapture mentality, and the history of Darby-Scofield-Lindsey-LeHaye, showcasing Darby’s creation of dispensationalism and how it has effected the conservative Christian’s political mind.

After an examination of the use of Christian rhetoric by the previous American President and his administration, Hughes then moves on to examine the three American myths of nationhood – the chosen nation, the innocent nation, and the millennial nation. In doing so, he takes his time to develop the path of thought which led to, and has since used, each notion of the nation to capitalize on political gain. Most telling, and harrowing is his telling of the myth of the millennial nation, in which we can read from the words of modern American leaders the drive to destruction and the believe that the Rapture will secretly whisk Christians away no matter who starts the war. While he pays no attention to historical notions of eschatology, he does bring to light the destructive force of recent reinterpretations of End Time events and how they have fueled, and continue to fuel, American foreign policy. His concludes with a discussion of this, adding,

When all is said and done, rapture theology is little more than the myth of Christian American writ in violent, apocalyptic terms.

He provides 17 pages of end notes for support and further reading.

Hughes writes with great care not to offend the patriotic American, but to influence the Christian into approaching Christian America not in the lit of the warring nation of Israel, but in the light of the kingdom of God as found in the Prophets and in the New Testament. It is quite simply a call to (de)arms, and frankly, if someone was looking for a reason to avoid both major political parties, and to form a third, a Christian one, this would be the book which would be at the nucleus of such an enterprise. This book should be given to every Christian member in political office and to every politically active Christian. Hughes has constructed a Christian political manifesto by deconstructing the myth of the Christian nation currently in the minds of far too many. He does not dismiss the many contributions of Christians to the American way of life, nor does he call for the end of religion on the public square; instead, in this book, a Christian will find a right course of action in approaching the political scene.

For those of who you cannot understand the idea that Conservative Christians are Liberal politically, this is the book for you.

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