Interview: Carl Teichrib on Church and State

The SciendaQ fall edition is here! Click here to get the info for downloading the zine free during launch week.

This quarter, we’re delighted to have a special guest for our issue commemorating the 2012 American Presidential election.

Carl Teichrib has authored specialized reports and over 125 articles on globalization and its many sub-topics. He has been an accredited observer and/or participant in a variety of international events, including the United Nations Millennium Forum, the UN Third World Urban Forum, Global Governance 2002, and other major global conferences.

Carl has held memberships in key organizations centering on foreign affairs, regional issues, security/intelligence studies, and macro-economic concerns. He has given lectures across North America, and has been a guest on various radio talk shows.
Carl is the Editor-in-Chief of Forcing Change Journal, a digital magazine dedicated to tracking trends in world events and the key players involved. Carl specializes in discussing the intersection of politics, economics and religion, and making sense of how they influence our daily lives and local communities.

You can read Carl’s blog at forcingchange.wordpress.com, or find his digital magazine at forcingchange.org.

SciendaQ: With an election looming the United States, and the recession and a major cultural divide creating high tension, let’s talk about the idea of “a Christian nation.” This seems to come up with particular emphasis in certain political contexts. What does it mean to be Christian, and can a nation fulfill the criteria? 

Carl Teichrib: Quelling the risk of taking the first part of your question, “what does it mean to be a Christian,” and turning it into a 10,000-word essay, I’m going to defer to Scripture.
Acts 17: Here, in addressing the men of Athens, Paul lays out a rough draft:

1) God made the world and everything in it,

2) God desires that men would seek Him and find Him, for we are His special creation—His “offspring,”

3) That God commands His people to repent—literally to change their minds, turning from what Man says is the way of salvation (the list is long, but at the personal level it boils down to the way of self) and agreeing with God’s prescription, literally turning from sin to salvation,

4) For all men will be judged by a divine Judge,

5) and this Judge is Jesus Christ—and the proof is that He was raised from the dead.

Then in John 14 we read these words from Jesus Christ: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This parallels with Matthew 7:14, “Enter through the narrow Gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Paul, as a follower of Jesus Christ, referred to himself as a “follower of the Way” in Acts 24.

In a nutshell: A “Christian” is someone who has abandoned all other human/self-proclaimed pathways and intentionally turned to the One Way of God—Jesus Christ, the Way of restored righteousness.

Now, the second part of your question: “can a nation fulfill the criteria?” No.

We know from Scripture that nations (as a collective of people) are judged, and that one people-group, the Israelites, have been chosen through Abraham as a conduit for God’s specific work in Jesus Christ. Moreover, in the Old Testament the Israelites as a nation often received God’s blessing and wrath based on how the people-group responded to God’s calling. However, this did not negate the personal aspect of individual righteousness. Consider the words of Ezekiel 14.

“‘Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, destroy its supply of bread, send famine against it and cut off from it both man and beast, even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves,’ declares the Lord God.”

Salvation is, first and foremost, an individual affair: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

That said, a nation could have a foundation built on Christian values and thus be “Christian” in a cultural and historical sense. The United States fits this bill, as does the entire Western World. But this in no way grants national citizens a “ticket to Heaven.” Indeed, there are dangers in boasting ourselves as “God’s nation” or a “Christian country,” including running the risk of correlating salvation with citizenship—thus elevating our national culture to the status of a “way” between man and God.

SQ: You’re a researcher and writer on the intersections between politics, economics and religion. We know by reflex that political power and money go hand in hand. But religion and politics seem to intersect around utopian concepts. Utopian ideals require that people not trespass against each other. This doesn’t fit with the Christian conception of humanity as sinful. What key alterations must be made to the Christian worldview in order to dovetail it into political ambitions “for the greater good”?

CT: First and foremost, the belief that Jesus Christ is the exclusive way of salvation must be dropped. In order for the Christian community to dovetail with the global political/religious culture and the “greater good,” it has to remove that which causes separation. The narrow truth-claim that Jesus Christ is the “way and the truth” has to be shunted for a more inclusive worldview.

I witnessed this while attending the United Nations World Urban Forum in 2006. During a special session on religion-in-the-city, it was agreed that city councils should work to rezone downtown areas in a way that reflects the new global norm—churches that preach exclusivist truth claims should be disbarred from city cores and replaced with interfaith centres.

Ultimately, Christians must accept that humanity’s salvation must come from humanity itself. We can manage our own destiny.

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SciendaQ Vol. 3 focuses on the intersection of church, culture and state in its usual collection of short stories, essays and interviews.

MARC SCHOOLEY contributes a supernatural short story featuring a Vietnam vet’s struggle to perceive the spiritual truths of himself, his past and his down-and-out present.

ASHLEY CLARK contributes the third installment in her serial creative nonfiction, in which a library-dwelling homeless woman’s unusual intellect leads her to an inexplicable revelation.

PAUL AND LAURIE MATHERS present an essay on Christ and culture, discussing that fateful intersection from Constantine to Calvin to the American Puritans and current events.

P.A. BAINES presents the humourous self-help guide, “Are You A Politician?”

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