Emergence Christianity: Triple Citizenship

I am finishing up the new book by Phyllis Tickle, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters. I will do some blog reviews of the book later, but I wanted to mention a concept she lays out that I think is very important for understanding the Millennial Generation and the new patterns of church we are seeing. That is the concept of Triple Citizenship.Here is my analysis of what Tickle is observing here:

In the medieval, European church, we might say there was single citizenship. This was “Christendom,” the kingdom of the church, where church and state were indistinguishable. The popes were kingmakers and yet they came from the royal families of Italy. The king of France had the power to move the papal court to his own country for many years, the Avingnon papacy. Government systems collected tithes for the church.

With the rise of modern Western society, and especially with the advent of the great democracies of Europe and North America, we began to have dual citizenship. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. We might be American citizens as well as citizens of the kingdom of God through our membership in a church. Sometimes this created conflict, but mostly it was a smooth relationship. The biggest problems came from those who did not understand a difference between nationalistic patriotism and Christian faith.

In the 21st century we have seen the rise of a global community, especially as connected through the internet and social media. So we are citizens of our religious community, citizens of our country, and citizens of the world. And this third allegiance may be the more important one. This is the Triple Citizenship that Tickle writes about.

She summarizes this attitude in a composite quotation (p. 136):

When I help build a house for somebody, I want it to be a home where I and my family would be welcome and where the new owners will be welcome in my house. When I help to provide food, I want it to be food shared among us easily and frequently. I’m not out to save the world, just to be part of it.

I resonate deeply with that last part, “I’m not out to save the world, just to be part of it.” This triple citizenship concept breaks down the us/them dichotomy, the idea of dividing the world into savers and those who need saving. We care about disasters in Haiti or in Joplin because we stand united with our fellow citizens of the world. I like that. Maybe not Giant Theology, but close. I’ll keep working on it.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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3 thoughts on “Emergence Christianity: Triple Citizenship

  1. I am interested in reading this book… but will look forward to hearing what you have to say, because it’s not going to get on the list very soon. I find this fascinating, and perhaps I’m off topic, but I was asked last week, “Why do you think that, according to a recent study, Pastors are willing to make a personal stand politically, but not from the pulpit.” I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years. I used to have much more political angst than I do now, this has helped me.

    I am an American, because I live in America. I am patriotic, and I am grateful for the freedoms that I enjoy here. I have traveled around the world, and I love it, I will continue to do so and to be part of the global village as much as time and resources allow. But this is where I live. However, my first citizenship is the Kingdom of Heaven it seems to me. And it seems that citizenship informs the other two that Phyllis talks about.

    We don’t fly an American flag at our church, not because we don’t value America, but because Christianity isn’t “American.” It’s so much broader. If my allegiance to my country gets in the way of my allegiance to Christ or my brothers and sisters in Christ, the my priorities are out of order.

    Does that make sense… or is it way off topic?
    John

    • John,
      Having American flags in a place of worship doesn’t make sense to me, but I have trouble explaining it to other folks. Even bringing up this topic for some seems both unpatriotic and unChristian. I don’t think I am either one. I am proud to be an American and would not choose to live anywhere else. But I don’t think we should incorporate the American flag into Christian worship.

      I agree that my first citizenship will always be the Kingdom of God.

      MK

  2. I have struggled also explaining this. One thing I have been incorporating into my preaching, and conversations, a ton over the past month – in some fairly direct speaking – Is that when our disagreements about our political leanings destroy the unity of the body of Christ (locally, nationally, or internationally for that matter) then we may be in trouble. Obviously, politics swerves in many cases into our morality and how we connect that to our pursuit of God gets complex. I find it deplorable that a Christian who supports Mitt Romney for President might actually HATE and speak very unkindly about a Christian who supports Barak Obama’s re-election… or vice versa.

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for doing it.

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