Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:6-8
Throughout the History of the church there have been times when the church has moved off mission and moved into tyranny. This has happened when Christians have substituted the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of humans or fused the two. Even in the book of Acts, the disciples were yet uncertain how the Kingdom of God was to come when they asked Jesus this question, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
I think it’s hard for humans to grasp that the Kingdom of God is somehow fully other than the nations and reigns of this world. We have from time to time merged the Kingdom of God with human systems of power.
We are in such a time now. Christian nationalism has emerged within the last 50 years to become a powerful political force to “Take American Back for God or “Make America Great Again”. It is like the disciples’ question, “are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Israel had a memory of a glorious past, when they were powerful and strong. Dominated by Rome, God’s people longed for a time when they would be free.
Jesus’ answer is a surprise. He reminds them of their mission to witness of God throughout the world.
How did Christian nationalism come about?
Christian Nationalism came from concepts common to what is known as Dominion Theology. In Dominion Theology, the people of God are to exercise dominion over the nation—a top-down dominion. Their goal is to bring about their idea of the Kingdom of God through the force of law. They believe that the United States is a Christian nation founded on principles that come directly from the Bible and that as a Christian nation, the laws should reflect the Biblical moral code and laws. Many are unaware of how these concepts have seeped into our politics.
Dominion theology takes two main forms. The first is Reconstructionism which is the most rigid system of Dominionism. Reconstructionist teachings come from R. J. Rushdooney who wrote the Institutes of Biblical Law, a book outlining his view of how the law system should reflect the law codes of the Old Testament. His premise is that nations ruled by the Old Testament Law are nations that receive God’s honor. Others deserve and will receive death. It is harsh, violent and dominant.
R. J. Rushdooney’s teachings are shocking. He was big on capital punishment for rebellious teens, gay people, and adultery. He also taught that the family should be ruled by the father and wives must obey and honor their husbands by serving him and his vocation. His vision is rigid and based on power to dominate wives, children, and nation.
And this reign would come about through a variety of ways including political power and at last resort, violence. Common reconstructionist authors are: David Barton, Gary North (Rushdooney’s son-in-law), and Gary DeMars. (Many are unaware of Rushdooney’s love for the Theologians who defended slavery).
Another expression of Dominionism is the Seven Mountain Mandate.
This is a common teaching among some Charismatic faith streams in which, the people of God are to infiltrate seven spheres of influence that they believe are the primary shapers of culture. They are Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, the Arts/Entertainment, and Media. Taking these mountains is based on the Covenant of Abraham that tells about Abraham being the father of many nations. (Nations Biblically is not a country but peoples in Hebrew–Ethnos or peoples in Greek)
This is a central feature of the Trump prophesies and Prophets (especially Lance Wallnau.) These prophets continue to believe that the former President is still the President and that somehow God will put his anointed back into the seat of power.
In case you missed it, each of these groups are actively seeking political power so that they might implement their view of the Biblical law and Christian governance. And the majority of our Christian energy goes toward obtaining political might instead of fulfilling the mission of God.
Pentecostals and Charismatics should especially be concerned about how far the church has moved off course. Scripture tells us in Acts 1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The power of the Spirit is directly related to the mission of God. And God’s people are to go throughout the world telling and living out the story of Jesus. We are witnesses to the reality of the Jesus story.
Here is what the apostle John says about his witness,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3
In no instance did Jesus take over Rome and set up Biblical law, nor did Jesus take over Israel and set up a human kingdom. He did not appoint his disciples as agents of a human government. Jesus reigns in hearts and his power is the power to lift and serve others. His mission was spelled out in Luke chapter 4 when he said this,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And that is what Jesus did in his life and ministry. He asked us to follow him—do what he did and more. The power of the Spirit enables us to tell and live out the story of Jesus as he healed, lifted the weak, raised the dead, spoke truth to power and ultimately gave his own life.
The disciples were to create Jesus formed communities who would be shaped by the witness of Jesus Christ and they too would become witnesses to the world. And the faith would continue—not by power, not by military might, not by political takeover. The kingdom Jesus came to bring influences human hearts (Ez 36:26) It’s a healing reign, a reign beginning in God’s love and extending in a mission to bring that same healing love and life to others.
I am calling the church to a course correction and return to the Mission of God.
Faith Totushek has served two churches as a solo pastor in Minnesota and Connecticut. She Currently pastors at Grace UMC in St Cloud, MN and served as Director of Worship at St Francis United Methodist Church in St Francis, Minnesota. Faith graduated seminary in 2007 with an MDIV in New Testament and Pastoral Ministry.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!