Boston has been a catalyst for change dating back to the time of the Reformation. The city not only predates our nation, but played a pivotal role in her formation. During Thanksgiving, the rutted cobblestone streets are filled with people making their way through this historic harbor town, the faint smell of fish and revolution in the crisp autumn air.
The last time I went to Boston with my family we stayed in a prison. It used to be the Charles Street Jail, but now stands as a rather upmarket hotel. Just steps away is the exact place where several colonists dressed up as Mohawks dumped 342 crates of tea into the harbor. It appears as if angry people from Massachusetts are aiming to start another revolution. This time the target is the gospel itself.
The Boston Declaration was published on November 20, 2017 and is being described as a modern day Barmen Declaration. It’s not. The latter was a document that set apart the confessing church in Germany from the tyrannical dictatorship that had enveloped the state church and made it a servant of the Third Reich. The Boston Declaration, on the other hand, rebukes anyone who has a biblical confession of faith and instead elevates social agendas above the teaching of Scripture. This document paints over false religion with a universalist brush of love, but stabs at the heart of any believer who won’t go and do likewise.
The Declaration begins by describing the motivation for writing it, as well as the author’s understanding of what it means to choose “life and good” (Deuteronomy 30:15). It describes “The Jesus Way” and laments a church that misses the mark, and a final call to action that basically restates a series of condemnations with an appeal to get with the program.
These condemnations are the nerve center of the document, and they deserve a biblical response. Below are condemnations in italics, followed by my biblical critique. My intent is to show that the biblical mandate of the Christian life is in contrast with the Boston Declaration:
The first condemnation:
We reject the false ideology of empire building and the myth of racial laziness and substance abuse that harms the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the US territories.
But Jesus Christ taught during the time of the Roman Empire. It was large and oppressive, but he told his followers to pay taxes knowing this would support it, and further its expansion (Matthew 22:21).
The wisdom books teach that laziness is a universal problem among all people from Puerto Rico to Pakistan. The only false ideology is one that preaches the absence of responsibility (Proverbs 6:6).
We reject the false ideology that peace is achieved through military strength and that violence is the necessary foundation for freedom, safety, or security. We stand against the manufacturing and proliferation of weapons which continue to drown the planet in the blood of millions through global war and the terrorism of domestic mass shootings.
Yet Jesus honored a request from someone who embodied military strength. He commended the man’s faith, and never told him to change careers (Matthew 8:9). Both Paul (Romans 13:1-7), and Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17) say that peace comes through the military arm of government.
I understand what is meant when people oppose “weapons,” despite the naive simplicity of the Declaration’s language. But the simplicity of the language mask this point–Christ himself is a weapon of mass destruction. He will personally and intentionally vaporize rebellious humanity in an apocalyptic conflagration (Revelation 20:9). Ruling with a rod of iron does not mean diplomacy (Revelation 2:27).
We reject the false ideology of the corporate ruling class that services and supports the US military, dispossess and represses poor communities of color, and which erodes and blocks real empowerment of the most vulnerable of peoples and of any real people’s democracy.
Since being evicted from Eden, the world has known nothing but oppression (Ecclesiastes 8:9), and wealth can often enable it (James 2:6). Political strategies will not reverse it, instead we look forward to a greater hope and a new creation (Hebrews 10:34).
We reject the false ideology of American exceptionalism and the evil of political corruption, calling for integrity in our elected officials and multilateral governance. It is this myth by which moral responsibility is suspended in the pursuit of its interests.
All leaders are to be servants at heart, and not corrupt (Matthew 20:26) but Christians have flourished for centuries under corrupt regimes. The mission is not to reform the government, but to bring the transforming power of the gospel to bear on all people. If we are exceptional in any way, it’s in the fact that we resist the immediate gratification of protest in favor of the eternal fruit of godliness.
We reject the false ideology of white normalcy and bigotry. We reject the false identification that exclusively binds whiteness with Christianity, true humanity, and United States citizenship. We reject antisemitism, which is driving much of white Christian nationalism.
Bigotry is sin, and anyone who believes in the creation account knows we all share a common ancestry (Genesis 5:2). In the true gospel, there is no whiteness or blackness or anything in between that can claim a position of superiority against the rest (Galatians 3:28).
We reject the patriarchal and misogynistic legacies that subject women to continual violence, violation, and exclusion. We stand strongly against sexual abuse and harassment in the highest offices of power.
Jesus Christ was a model of perfect godliness in every facet of his life, including his treatment of women. He made a powerful statement when he chose to reveal himself first to Samaritan woman (John 4:26). Any follower of Jesus Christ will see his compassion and gracious lordship in everything he did. Believers are to do likewise.
We reject violations against the Earth, especially the stripping of her resources and polluting that harms her and the creatures that inhabit her soil and seas.
Jesus Christ will return to destroy the fallen world and nothing in all creation can stop him (2 Peter 3:10). In the meantime, his followers will exercise stewardship and dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26), show respect for it’s creatures (Proverbs 12:10), and appreciation for how it reveals the glory of its maker (Romans 1:20).
We reject economic policies that are grounded in an illusion of extreme individualism and favor the accumulation of wealth for a few to the detriment of the many.
The accumulation of wealth for some does not necessarily lead to the poverty of the masses. Every person is to work (Proverbs 12:11), and under normal circumstances only the lazy will lack food (Proverbs 13:4). Good governments encourage productivity (Ecclesiastes 5:9), and even care for the poor. Certain individuals will prosper disproportionately, and with that comes a greater responsibility (Luke 12:48). The gospel promotes sharing, not the involuntary redistribution of what one has earned.
We reject Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry.
The word phobia means fear, and it’s generally inconsistent with a gospel worldview. In fact, believers fear only God (Matthew 10:28). Fearing him means openly rejecting demonic schemes that cause others not to fear him (Romans 3:18). This includes Islam (and provides a a good reason to attend the Cripplegate Conference). Our war is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). Other religions are the mission field, and by despising all shame and fear, we can be evangelistic disciples of Jesus Christ.
We reject homophobia and transphobia and all violence against the LGBTQ community.
Jesus Christ never had a phobia toward any sinner. He was never violent against them either (Luke 9:54-55), and even defended them from the violence of his own disciples (Matthew 26:52). The true gospel is an invitation to everyone regardless of their past. It’s a call to take hold of the life giving power of redemption, and the hope of being made new.
We reject all anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that fail to recognize the contributions of immigrants who have come from every corner of the world to strengthen the fabric of this nation—culturally, economically and spiritually.
The Bible clearly reveals the love of God toward the foreigner (Deuteronomy 10:19), and his protection of them (Exodus 22:21). In fact, the Jews were called to love the foreigner as themselves (Leviticus 19:34). This applied to those who were not Jewish, but chose to live alongside them in harmony as a submissive follower of God. On the other hand, Jews and foreigners alike who broke the law of God, or threatened the welfare of the community, were quickly cut off from the people.
Expect more declarations, statements, and manifestos in the future. Those who try to court favor with the world will always be striving to justify their sin, and dress up false teaching in the robes of humility. They disguise themselves like colonists wearing Indian clothes in a vain attempt to lead others astray. If you know the Word, you have all the truth you need to stop the madness before the goods are spoiled.
Source: The Cripplegate