The question Telford Work poses in chp 3 of his book Ain’t Too Proud to Beg is the question of how Christians are to understand this prayer request: “May your kingdom come!” And his chp admirably sketches how Christians have related to the State.
Which of the following do you think are Constantinian — those who see a formal alliance, or fusion, of civil and Christian institutions: Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, George W. Bush, the Boy Scouts, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarian Universalists? (He mentions each of these except Dobson and McLaren.)
He explores the powers against us and sin as spiritual, sexual and structural to get us started. Nice sections.
Then Work explores two models in the Church:
Investment — qualified (more or less) allegiance to spiritual, cultural, economic, and political powers — to them or to what they could be. He explores this mostly through the Boy Scouts (and he is an Eagle Scout and has sons in Boy Scouts and he stands both with and in criticism of such).
Some see investment as divestment so that both Falwell and Barbara Kingsolver are feathers in the right and left wing of the same eagle (58). The “Culture Wars are not a way between Christian faith and secular humanism, but a skirmish between two varieties of Constantinianism” (59).
Withdrawal — separation. He meanders here through Jehovah’s Witnesses and agnostics as “para” Constantinianists. The civil and Christian pass one another in the night. Today’s evangelicals, he says, are “new Episcopalians” in that they are “ever more integrated and assimiated” (63).
Both investment and withdrawal “work around the Dominion System rather than taking it on in the name of Jesus Christ” (64). Old theologies saw the church as militant and triumphant.
“The real question is not whether we are invested in the world, but whether the world is invested in God’s reign” (64). How are we involved in the Kingdom? is the question.
How we frame Eternity is central:
“Eternity-as-progress turns the coming of the Kingdom into the world’s emergence at the climax of the present age. Eternity-as-timelessness twists the Kingdom’s coming into immortal souls’ going into transcendence. Eternity-as-hyptertime reduces it to ongoing sacramental or evangelical traffic with parallel realms. Eternity-as-predictive-timeline imagines a scenario of coming that fails to come” (69). [This is very good stuff.]
Then Telford sketches the kingdom as eschatological presence.
“The question Christ poses to the world is whether it is invested in God’s reign. The question he poses to his disciples is whether they have the patience to keep posing it” (78). Bingo!