TIME Television

George R.R. Martin Says This Religion Inspired the Game of Thrones Faith Militant

"The Sparrows" are based on a real religion

George R.R. Martin, the author of the books that inspired Game of Thrones, says the medieval Catholic Church “with its own fantasy twist” was his inspiration for the Faith Militant cult, also known as “The Sparrows,” that is now taking center stage in the show.

“If you look at the history of the church in the Middle Ages, you had periods where you had very worldly and corrupt popes and bishops. People who were not spiritual, but were politicians,” Martin told Entertainment Weekly. “They were playing their own version of the game of thrones, and they were in bed with the kings and the lords.”

Read more at Entertainment Weekly

TIME faith

Gay Marriage in Ireland Isn’t a ‘No’ to Catholicism

Many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith—not in spite of it

Ireland’s historic decision to pass gay marriage by popular vote Saturday has led many to question the strength of the Catholic Church in the land of St. Patrick. For example, The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley wrote that Ireland’s “yes” to gay marriage was a “no” to Catholicism. But such simplistic reductions miss the complex and evolving Catholic worldview on civil gay marriage.

Pope Francis began this evolution shortly after his election in July 2013 when he said, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Dublin’s Catholic archbishop Diarmuid Martin went even further last year: “Anybody who doesn’t show love towards gay and lesbian people is insulting God. They are not just homophobic if they do that—they are actually Godophobic because God loves every one of those people.”

Though Martin didn’t support the gay marriage referendum, he did call for creative approaches to address the issue and pushed back against what he thought were unfair attacks on the gay community during the debate. He went as far to say that some comments were “not just intemperate but obnoxious, insulting and unchristian in regard to gay and lesbian people.”

The vote in Ireland illuminates a dynamic shift on LGBT issues among Catholics and people of faith across the globe. Today about 60% of Catholics in the United States support gay marriage, compared to about 36% a decade ago.

In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it. One elderly Irish couple put it this way: “We are Catholics, and we are taught to believe in compassion and love and fairness and inclusion. Equality, that’s all we’re voting for.”

The idea of an inclusive Catholic Church may have seemed like a pipe dream not many years ago, but under the tenure of Francis the Troublemaker, it doesn’t seem that farfetched. Two summers ago the Pope tweeted, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

On the eve of Pentecost, it seems that Ireland has taken that message to heart and sent an unmistakable message to the Church and society at large: A community that excludes anyone is no community at all.

TIME Religion

2016 Candidates Must Step Up to the Pope Francis Challenge

President Barack Obama participates in a discussion on poverty with moderator E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Robert Putman Professor at Harvard University, at Georgetown University May 12, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson—Getty Images President Barack Obama participates in a discussion on poverty with moderator E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Robert Putman Professor at Harvard University, at Georgetown University May 12, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Don't fight cultural wars and ignore poverty

During the first year of his pontificate, Pope Francis famously said that the Church shouldn’t become too “obsessed” with only abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. A group of faith leaders in the United States apparently got the memo. Last week, a group of Catholic and Evangelical leaders gathered at a major policy summit at Georgetown University to discuss how they can work together with political leaders to defeat domestic and global poverty.

Sponsored by the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, the summit included a panel with President Barack Obama. During the panel, the president suggested that tackling poverty should be a higher priority for religious groups:

There is great caring and great concern, but when it comes to what are you really going to the mat for, what’s the defining issue, when you’re talking in your congregations, what’s the thing that is really going to capture the essence of who we are as Christians, or as Catholics, or what have you, that [fighting poverty] is oftentimes viewed as a “nice to have” relative to an issue like abortion. That’s not across the board, but there sometimes has been that view, and certainly that’s how it’s perceived in our political circles.

These comments suggesting that churches have focused too much on cultural wars and not enough on poverty caused quite a backlash among the conservative Christian community, with The New York Times’ Ross Douthat leading the charge.

It’s true that the president’s remarks were a bit over the top. There is no greater defender of the poor in the United States than the Christian community. With God’s grace, we started hospitals to care for the sick. We’ve established orphanages and soup kitchens from coast to coast, and we’re part of the largest charitable organizations in the nation, bringing comfort to those who are suffering.

And yes, we defend the dignity of every human life, but we don’t stop at birth. Because while life might begin at conception, we know it doesn’t end there. President Obama knows this reality firsthand. His first job out of college was to organize local residents in the South Side of Chicago to respond to an economic downturn spurred on by local factory closings. His work was sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

But there is something to be said about the president’s suggestion. As my colleague Robert Christian points out in Millennial, while the Church hasn’t been MIA, it hasn’t done enough to help the poor:

The reality is that some Catholic leaders, including bishops, are also to blame for the state of the culture war, its impact on the Church, and the way it has distracted many from a full commitment to the poor. The Catholics who have distorted the theological concept of intrinsic evil to support their right-wing political agenda are complicit. Those who have stretched prudential reasoning to cover imprudence and insincere politicians peddling ideologies infected by hyperindividualism are complicit. Those who use the body and blood of Jesus Christ as a tool to coerce politicians into conformity on just a couple of political issues, ignoring those affecting the poor, are complicit.

The times have changed. While Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority brought Catholics and Evangelicals together in the 1980s to promote traditional family values, prayer in school, and to outlaw abortion, today’s coalition has a much broader and altogether different agenda.

President Obama might rightly complain of Christian leaders’ efforts to address poverty in the United States, but this new faith coalition is leading the fight. Under their direction, Obama’s successor won’t have much to complain about, and will be expected to have a better, more robust approach to addressing the scandal of poverty in our nation.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Egotism Is a Necessary Evil of Generous Donations

Getty Images

David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

Seeing your name on a wall offers satisfaction and a sprinkle of eternity

My father once traveled with a group of rabbis touring Israel. At each stop they saw plaques commemorating the philanthropists who had donated to help build the hospitals and other institutions. Some of the walls, festooned with accolades, resembled honeycombs whose ingenuity of design enabled them to accommodate ever more names. After a day of touring, the bus headed back to the hotel. Staring out at the darkening horizon, one of the rabbis said, “Look everyone, the Goldberg memorial sunset!”

Non-profit institutions constantly face the thorny issue of donor recognition. All they can offer a donor, apart from the intrinsic satisfaction of having done a good thing, or supported a worthy cause, is public acknowledgment. If the donation is substantial enough, you become eponymous, your name enduring as long as the institution—like the Rockefeller, or the Getty.

Yet even that munificent strategy has pitfalls: When my old high school was rededicated by the gift of a generous philanthropist in memory of his brother, some alumni were hurt that the old name, based on an ancient Jewish sage, was abandoned. I know of one relatively new university that deliberately chose an anodyne name so that no one would be attached to it. When a suitable donor is found, people will not object to the new designation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it frankly: “Take egotism out, and you would castrate the benefactors.” Seeing your name on a wall offers satisfaction and a sprinkle of eternity. Even in ancient synagogues, archeologists have found dedications incised on stone seats, indicating that the practice memorializing oneself is not new. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

When it comes to donations of all kinds, purity and pragmatism make uneasy bedfellows. At a recent conference I attended on biotechnology and ethics, Steven Pinker from Harvard University excoriated the idea (attributed by an ethicist at the conference to philosopher Michael Sandel) that we should forbid people from donating organs for money because it impairs the altruism of the donor. “Would you want to be the one to tell a child’s parents that they cannot buy a lifesaving organ because of the dimming of the donor’s golden halo?” he asked.

I have similarly argued with those who don’t like that my synagogue is full of plaques. “Would you prefer the walls were clean and the halls empty?” To benefit from the generosity of others while begrudging them their own compensations is common enough, but anyone who is responsible for a church, museum, or university knows the attitude is profoundly unhelpful.

Sometimes people will give anonymous gifts, and I have known many who help quietly and wish for no acknowledgment. Does their reticence encourage others to contribute? Since competition is a spur to generosity (in parlor meetings the first gift often sparks others to give), anonymous support may even be counterproductive, dampening the enthusiasm of the competitive giver.

Ideals are often the mask worn by obstruction. If I need a kidney, I don’t care if the donor got money as long as he was not exploited or coerced. If I need to build an institution, I am happy to celebrate generosity that might encourage others and stand as a legacy to the donor’s family and the community. “Don’t be righteous overmuch,” Ecclesiastes advised us more than 2,000 years ago. Poet William Stafford put it best in a classic critique of overzealousness: “If you purify the pond, the water lilies die.”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Losing My Religion: America’s ‘Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome’

Reba Riley is the author of the forthcoming Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing.

I’d been given a religion that was built like a Jenga tower—when I took a few blocks out, it all tumbled to the ground

When I read the Pew Research Center’s report on America’s changing religious landscape, I don’t see statistics. I see Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

[n. pohst-truhmat-ik church sin-drohm]

  1. A condition of spiritual injury that occurs as a result of religion, faith, and/or the leaving, losing, or breaking thereof
  2. The vile, noxious, icky, and otherwise foul aftermath of said spiritual injury
  3. A serious term intended to aid serious spiritual healing—without tak­ing itself too seriously in the process

Where the data shows five million fewer Protestants, three million fewer Catholics, and nineteen million more “nones” who do not identity with any religion, I see Sarah the bartender who isn’t allowed to love Jesus because she loves women, Sam who adores the new Pope but hates the things the church has done in the name of Jesus, and David the minister who just can’t believe in hell.

I see thousands of stories of brokenness. I see the millions of people who crash into religion when they go looking for God. I see people so tired of being spiritually bruised that they give up on faith altogether.

And I ought to know: I used to be one of them.

The first time I wrote down the term “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” was sometime in the early 2000s. It didn’t matter that the phrase was written in blue eyeliner on the back of a cocktail napkin or that much wine was involved. In vino veritas!

Strung together, the four little words framed pain I couldn’t express, said what I couldn’t. They identified the reason I couldn’t pray, or darken the door of a church, or say the word “God.”

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome was the reason I was a “none.”

People who leave or are left by their faith lose a lot more than a place to go on Sunday morning. They lose relationships with family and friends, social status, tribal approval, self-esteem. They lose their God, their identity, their certainty, their gravity. I know because I lost all those things.

I left my faith and ministry training program in my early twenties after my questions became much bigger than the answers provided by my evangelical subculture. Or maybe it is more truthful to say, my faith left me. I’d been given a religion that was built like a Jenga tower—when I took a few blocks out, it all tumbled to the ground, destroying me in the wake of the fall.

I am not an isolated case. I know this because once I started writing about “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome,” many people had the same reaction I did. “That’s me,” they responded, telling story after story, in person and via email, of the same struggle, the same yearning to have faith of their own without being bound by dogma.

I didn’t know that naming “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” was the first step on a very long journey of spiritual recovery. I didn’t know that I’d spend the majority of my twenties rebuilding my life without God (and doing a pretty good job, I might add), right up until I became very ill, or that my illness would force me to face PTCS after nearly a decade of avoidance. I didn’t know that I’d face it the most reasonable way a really sick person could: visiting thirty religions before my thirtieth birthday. And I sure as hell didn’t know I would chronicle my experiences in a book by the same name, or that the journey would transform me from a person who couldn’t even talk about faith to a person whose life work is talking about faith.

I only knew that when I first said “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” the words clicked—a key in the lock of my injured spirit. I knew that when I talked about it with others I found out I wasn’t alone. I knew it was a place to start.

PTCS is real, pervasive, and quite possibly one of the reasons why the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points since 2007. It’s part of the “why” behind the “what” of Pew’s findings, but, as my experience shows, it can be much more than that. Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is a place to begin a conversation about the reality of spiritual injury and the many, many paths to healing.

Reba Riley is the author of the forthcoming Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME jeb bush

Jeb Bush Says Christians Can Refuse to Serve Gay Weddings

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall meeting, on May 16, 2015, at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall meeting, on May 16, 2015, at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

He also said marriage equality is not a constitutional right

Jeb Bush said in a new interview that Christian business owners can refuse to serve gay weddings.

The presumptive Republican 2016 presidential candidate told the Christian Broadcasting Network that refusing service would not count as discrimination if it went against a business owner’s religious beliefs.

“A big country, a tolerant country ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” Bush said.

The question became a flashpoint earlier this year amid debate over an Indiana law that proponents said would protect religious freedom but critics said would sanction discrimination.

Bush also said in the interview that he doesn’t believe same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

Read Next: Jeb Bush Casts Wide Net on Religious Liberty in Address

TIME Religion

How the Church Can Get Millennials Back

Christopher Hale is executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.

Lead with Jesus

This past week, the image of the United States as a Christian nation was contested by a new Pew study that showed that the number of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped significantly. While the trend occurs across all age groups, it’s most notable among millennials.

Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, correctly predicted such a reality:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision.

Being Christian is no longer a cultural norm, but a free decision. So what can the Church do to attract young people back to the pews? To me the answer is quite simple: Lead with Jesus.

In December 2013, Elizabeth Tenety wrote an article in the Washington Post titled “Like Pope Francis? You’ll love Jesus.” Tenety notes that what we love about Pope Francis is what has continue to amaze us about Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus that Christians often present today is either too colored by our own political agendas or incredibly stale. But the troublemaker who founded the faith was nothing short of a radical.

Brandon Ambrosino puts it this way:

Jesus’ resurrection marked the end of Caesar’s way of doing things. It established a new kingdom in which enemies are loved, the marginalized are given primacy of place, and the poor are blessed. In this kingdom, hierarchies are subverted, concentrated power is decentralized, and prodigal children are welcomed home. Black lives matter here, as do queer lives and the lives of undocumented aliens within our borders — “Remember the stranger in your midst” is a common refrain in this kingdom.

A Christian faith without Jesus and his radical mission at the center is superficial. Too often those entrusted with passing down the faith of Jesus Christ have instead reduced it to what Pope Francis calls “a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.” This version isn’t a meaningful faith that provides life-long meaning for its people and that stands the test of time. It’s a faith without a future.

Make no mistake: Leading with doctrine instead of the person of Jesus simply will not work among today’s skeptical young Americans who are constantly inundated with the false god of consumerism, empty political rhetoric, dictatorships of relativism, a historical fundamentalism, systems of ethics lacking goodness, and intellectual discourse high on privilege and short on wisdom.

Since the end of Jesus’s life, his followers have been dedicated to spreading his story throughout the world. In the United States, there has been a long tradition of Christians leaving their home and going to serve on missions to spread the Gospel to countries around the globe.

But if the Pew report is correct, it seems that Americans don’t have far to travel to find missionary territory today. It’s in our backyard. It’s on Wall Street, where the law of God has been replaced by the law of the marketplace. It’s in Washington, where our lawmakers fail again and again to make our nation more just and less cold. And it’s in our communities, our families, and even our own hearts, which have become sterile and cold amidst this globalization of indifference.

These are the places the Gospel is needed most. These are the places where Christians must lead with Jesus.

Pope Francis has some advice for those engaging in this work: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. … In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds.”

In the end, it’s pretty clear: If Christianity is to have a renaissance in the United States, it must get back the source and the summit of the faith: Jesus of Nazareth.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Sen. Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio Dismisses Pope Francis’ Views on Cuba, Israel

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Running for President, Leading a Global Faith Have Different Goals

During a Q&A on foreign policy Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio took a shot at an unlikely public figure: Pope Francis.

After delivering a meaty speech outlining his hawkish foreign policy priorities at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Florida Republican criticized the 78-year-old pontiff’s take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S.-Cuban standoff.

“His desire is peace and prosperity, he wants everyone to be better off. He’s not a political figure,” Rubio said. “Anything he can do to open up more opportunities for them, he’s going to pursue.”

Rubio contrasted that with his own approach.

“My interest as an elected official is the national security of the United States and embedded in that is the belief that it is not good for our people—or the people of Cuba—for an anti-American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores,” he said.

And asked about the Vatican’s support for separate states of Israel and Palestine, Rubio said the United States must stand with its ally Israel.

“It is the only free enterprise, democratic, pro-American country in the Middle East. If we had more free enterprise, pro-American democracies in the Middle East, my speech would be a lot shorter,” Rubio said.

Asked about his earlier support for separate states of Israel and Palestine, Rubio was dour: “I don’t think the conditions exist for that today.”

It won’t be the last time Pope Francis plays a role in U.S. presidential politics. He’s set to visit Philadelphia in September of 2015, as the presidential race gets even more heated.

Read more: The Possible Presidential Candidate Who Agrees the Most with Pope Francis

TIME Religion

Abe Foxman: Vatican’s Recognition of Palestine Is Disappointing

Anti-Defamation League director Abraham 'Abe' Foxman attends the 'Woman In Gold' New York premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on March 30, 2015 in New York City.
Michael Loccisano— Getty Images Anti-Defamation League director Abraham 'Abe' Foxman attends the 'Woman In Gold' New York premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on March 30, 2015 in New York City.

Abraham H. Foxman is the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

It may disincentivize Palestinians from finding a two-state solution

The Vatican’s announcement that it will soon officially recognize a Palestinian state is disappointing. I understand the church’s concern for the plight of the Palestinians, particularly as stories have surfaced recently that Palestinian refugees in Syria were being targeted by ISIS. I, too, would like to see their situation significantly advanced. Unfortunately, this step by the Vatican, following similar ones by several European Union countries, is premature and will not serve the larger goal: a political solution of two states for two peoples.

These recognitions don’t take into account the Palestinians’ role in failing to reach an agreement with Israel. Clearly, Israel is facing issues relating to dismantling settlements and finding a solution for Jerusalem, all in a regional environment at a time when extremist Islam groups are gaining ground, and where Israel’s experience in withdrawing from territory has not been a good one. Let us never forget, however, that the crux of the problem today, as it has been for decades, is the Palestinian refusal to accept the legitimacy of Jewish state.

We saw this at Camp David in 2000 when Israel offered Palestinians a state, dismantlement of a majority of settlements, and 90% territorial withdrawal. The Palestinians said “no” to an agreement that would have fundamentally changed their lives for the better. At the core of it was an unwillingness to accept a Jewish state as permanent and legitimate.

The same thing happened after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and Israel’s even more magnanimous offer in 2008. To this day it’s clear that the Palestinians want to have their cake and eat it, too: to get an independent state without having to end their long, illegitimate struggle to dismantle the Jewish state.

Negotiations are the only responsible road to the Palestinian state because a solution requires give and take on both sides. These premature recognitions play into the Palestinian fantasy and actually disincentivize them from doing what they have to do.

What is particularly disappointing about the Vatican announcement is that it comes from a church that has made and continues to make huge strides in its relation with the Jewish people. Pope Francis has been outstanding in his relationship to the Jewish community, in his commitment to combat anti-Semitism and in his good relations with the State of Israel. The warmth that is his holiness’s trademark has been very apparent in his relations with our community.

Pope Francis follows in the tradition of Pope John Paul II, who took the 1960’s Vatican II breakthrough of Nostra Aetate, and translated it into a completely new and dramatically better relationship with Jews. This has been felt both on the macro and micro level. Broadly speaking, the church rejected anti-Semitism, established relations with the State of Israel, and spoke of Judaism as a sister religion. In communities, young Catholics were exposed to more positive images of Judaism and Jews, and relationships between Catholics and Jews grew significantly.

The Anti-Defamation League’s work is but one of many examples of that. Our Bearing Witness program for Catholic school teachers, where discussions are held on the Shoah, anti-Semitism, Catholic, and Jewish readings of scriptures, could not take place without the great progress that has been made.

Catholic-Jewish relations will, in my view, continue to improve in the years ahead. Pope Francis truly believes in the importance of them. Still, I believe the Vatican, much like the United States and the E.U., needs to look more realistically at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state will not further a fair solution or an end to the conflict.

Only a negotiating process in which both sides accept the need for compromise and, particularly, one in which the Palestinians finally accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, can lead to the desired goal, and truly transform the lives of the long-suffering Palestinians.

Read next: Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine in New Treaty

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

If America Became a Christian Nation

They probably wouldn't like what it looks like


With political season kicking off again, so is the season where folks begin to use the term “Christian nation.” Some claim we were one, some claim we are one, and some say we need to become one. Yet, each time I hear that phrase I have an inner Princess Bride moment where I say to myself, “you keep using that word, but it doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

Because truth be told, if America actually were to become a Christian nation, I don’t think the people who advocated for it would be too happy with the end product. Since Christian is supposed to mean “little Christ” or “Christ follower,” we actually have a way to offer some clear cut examples of what a Christian nation would look like– because all we have to do is look at what Jesus taught, and how Jesus lived, as a model to pattern national behavior.

So, what if we became a Christian nation? Well, a few things would have to change… drastically. Here’s a few quick examples:

We’d Have To Abolish the 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment is so beloved by American Christians that this alone would likely be the sticking point preventing us from ever becoming a Christian nation. Jesus taught his disciples that they were to never use violence to respond to evil (Matthew 5:39) and that they were to actively love their enemies. He also lived a life of nonviolent enemy love as a model for us to follow– and living our lives patterned after how he lived his is the ultimate proof that we belong to God (1John 2:6). A Christian nation would have no room for the 2nd Amendment.

We’d Have to Replace the Department of Defense with the Department of Enemy Love.

Refraining from killing one’s enemies is just part of the package with Jesus- he also taught that enemy love was to be an active love. He taught his disciples that they were to bless their enemies, serve their enemies, and actively do good things for them. In this regard, disbanding our military would be the first thing a Christian nation would do, but the second thing would be that they would begin actively loving enemies. Converting the Department of Defense into the Department of Enemy Love and using those billions of dollars to bless the world- particularly the Muslim world- would be a good start towards having a nation that looked like Jesus.

We’d Have to End Capital Punishment.

Of course, there would be no capital punishment in a Christian Nation because Christ is the one who disrupted a public execution and told the executioners that only a perfect person was qualified to serve in the role of executioner (John 8:7). This means the role of legitimate executioners has been vacant ever since, and would not exist in a Christian nation.

Eradicating Poverty Would Be One of Our Most Pressing Concerns.

In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us a picture of the final judgement day, and describes the scene as he gathers “all nations” before him. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending which side you end up on) Jesus doesn’t give the nations a theology exam. However, he does judge them based upon whether or not they took care of the poor and vulnerable– and those who did not (professing Christians) are told to “depart.” A Christian nation would remember that feeding hungry people is one of the boxes on Jesus’s judgement day score card.

We’d Freely Care for the Sick.

Healing people of illnesses was one of the central aspects of Jesus’s earthly ministry. Any nation worthy of calling itself a Christian nation would also be a nation who freely and indiscriminately provided healthcare for the sick and lame, just as Jesus. Jesus even freely healed a man who was paralyzed because of his own stupid life choices (John 5:14), so any Christian nation would be extremely generous in the provision of healthcare.

We’d Become The Most Loving Nation Toward Immigrants.

That passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus judges the nations? Welp, one of the other items on the score sheet is “welcoming immigrants” (Matthew 25:35). A Christian nation would be seen as the most pro-immigrant nation on earth.

We’d Do Away with the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kids all across the country begin their days by standing, facing a piece of fabric, and taking a pledge to give their allegiance to it. In a Christian nation however, we would recognize that it is impossible to serve two masters and would be repulsed at the idea of pledging our allegiance to anyone but Jesus himself. Furthermore, we wouldn’t take oaths in a Christian nation (Matthew 5:34), so the entire practice of pledging allegiance to the flag would seem creepy to us.

We’d Pay Our Taxes Without Complaining About It.

It seems many of those who think they want America to be a Christian nation see taxation as a form of thievery, but when Jesus weighed in on the issue (speaking within a culture that had a high taxation rate) he simply noted that we should pay to Caesar whatever belongs to him. Jesus had his big moment to expose the evils of taxation and missed it- essentially telling his followers to pay it and move on. In a Christian nation, we’d all be like Jesus: telling people to pay their taxes.

As over-the-top as some of these seem, they’re all things that Jesus directly taught and modeled for us to emulate. Any Christian nation, by definition, would have to be a nation that lived out the teachings and example of Jesus, and would be a radical anomaly on the world scene.

So, politicians can use the term “Christian nation” all they want, but I don’t think any of them understand what the term actually means– nor do I think any of them would find a Christian nation appealing.

A Christian nation doesn’t exist, nor will one ever exist. However, the Kingdom of God does exist, right here, right now– and you’re invited to live within it, where all of those above things are lived and practiced already.

Benjamin L. Corey holds a Master of Arts in Theology from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, a Master of Arts in World Missions (Cum Laude), also from Gordon-Conwell, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society. Ben is currently completing his doctorate at Fuller Seminary in the field of missiology. In addition to writing for Patheos Progressive Christian, Ben is a contributor for: TIME, Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, and The Good Men Project. He has also been featured as a guest on HuffPost Live, the Drew Marshall Show, and Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang. Ben is a syndicated author with MennoNerds, a collective of some of the top Mennonite & Anabaptist voices today.

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

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