Isn’t that exactly what many conservatives do as well? Of course. A lot of Christians try to use Christ’s name in order to prove that God is on this side or that side. Jesus is used as a political puppet for our agendas. But I refuse to refer to this a Constantinian Christianity, as many scholars have; rather, I would prefer KUYPERIAN Christianity, to avoid a polemic that has played itself out and has had more of historical implications here in the USA.
Last night, I could not get to sleep and so I was reading a couple of biblioblogs and I came across a name that I had not ran into in years: Abraham Kuyper. I remember first reading hisLectures on Calvinism the Christmas break of my senior year, 2004ish I believe. Although it was a lecture on Calvinist religion, it also was an articulation of the theological background behind Kuyper’s Anti-Revolutionary [re: the French Revolution] politics and Party. Something must be said and admired for theologians who are engaged in public; on a comparable level, at one point Reinhold Niebuhr ran for office. I opened up for the first time in a long while Vincent Bacote’s The Spirit in Public Theology: Appropriating the Legacy of Abraham Kuyper and started to remember all that I read in Lectures. Not only was Kuyper’s theology opposed to the secularism of the French Revolution, but also Anabaptist politics particularly because there was seen as a radical difference between the church and the world. At one point, Bacote even argues that Kuyper’s politics cannot be considered “Constantinian” [in a polemical sense, the idea that the church fell because it came to power under the Emperor Constantine] (page 71). His claim is that the church became paganized rather than vice versa, but since I do not share that understanding of Constantine, I share the views of John Howard Yoder primarily, which argued that the underlying premise of “Constantinian” politics is that Christians have an obligation to participate in society, and that withdrawal is considered to not be a valid alternative. In this light, Kuyper’s political theology and practices are very much so “Constantinian.”
As I was reading Bacote’s work again, I came to a strange conclusion, but not totally off base. Abraham Kuyper’s religious politics sounded very similar to President Woodrow Wilson, a contemporary of Kuyper here in the U.S.A. as well as a member of the Reformed Christian tradition. Political ideas such as the inevitability of progress, the notion that God NEEDED a select few human beings to serve as mediators of God’s sovereignty, as well as the Christianization of the world approach (late 19th and early 20th century internationalism) were shared by both, and one cannot forget the influence Kuyper’s ideas had on the the politics of the Boers during South African apartheid or the fact that Woodrow Wilson was responsible for further segregating Washington D.C. during his presidency. Is this just a conspiracy theory? Consider this: Woodrow Wilson became a member of Princeton’s faculty in 1890. Kuyper gave his Lectures in 1898, 4 years before Wilson would become president of Princeton University. Not so far fetched to see that Woodrow Wilson was influenced by Kuyper’s ideas.