Chapter 4 (From Resident Aliens to Conquering Warlords) chronicles the rather depressing aspect of church history which involves Christians’ repeated use of violence to accomplish (supposedly) Godly ends.
During this chapter, Boyd examines Jesus’ temptation in the desert. He points out that Satan tried to get Jesus to agree to become a ruler of the kingdoms of the world without going to the cross, but Jesus refused. He then notes that “tragically, the history of the church has been largely a history of believers refusing to trust the way of the crucified Nazarene and instead giving in to the very temptation he resisted.”
Boyd then provides an overview of church history which points out how, beginning in the third century and continuing to the present, Christians have used violence in God’s name. It began with Augustine, who ultimately decided the church may use terror for the sake of the gospel, since God uses terror for the good of humans. This, in turn, justified the crimininalization and torture of suppoed heretics. During the Middle Ages, some macabre torturing devices were even inscribed with the words “Glory be only to God.”
Supposed witches were burned. During the crusades, terrible atrocities were committed against the Jews. Christians fought against Christians. Naitive Americans and Africans were slaughtered, displaced, and enslaved becuase it was thought that God had given Western Europeans a “manifest destiny.”
And, more recently, before his recent and untimely death, the late Jerry Falwell was quoted as saying that America should hunt down terrorists and “blow them away in the name of the Lord“! Likewise, Pat Robertson recently advocated the assasination of a foreign leader. Indeed, Boyd points out, much of the motivation for Islamic terrorists can be traced back to horrible violence that was initiated by Christians centuries ago.
Boyd pulls no punches here. He says that this entire array of behavior is nothing less than the church giving into a demonic tempation, and that the attempt to make the kingdom of God into a kingdom of the sword may be the worst version of the kingdom of the sword, becuase it acts under the alleged banner of Christ.
Here are some of his concluding thoughts:
One wonders why no one in church history has ever been considered a heretic for being unloving. People were anathematized and often torturned and killed for disagreeing on matters of doctrine or on the authority of the church. But no one on record has ever been so much rebuked for not loving as Christ loved.
His point, I think, is that the true heretics are those who committed these atrocities, and not those who were victimized by them. So how is it that, in light of this blatantly obvious misuse of God’s name, we continue to miss the point? He goes on:
While God uses the sword of governments to preserve law, order, and justice, as we have seen, there is a corrupting principality and power always at work. Much like the magical ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the sword has a demonic power to decieve us. When we pick it up, we come under its power. It convinces us that our use of violence is a justified means to a noble end…. Most of the slaughtering done thorughout history has been done by people who sincerely believed they were promoting “the good.” Everyone thinks their wars are just, if not holy.
Having now set up his argument, Boyd’s next few chapters will systematically dismantle the powerful, widely held myth that America is somehow an exception to this rule.