Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Myth of a Christian Nation, Part 6

Chapter 4 of Myth... is entitled "From Resident Aliens ti Conquering Warlords," and in it Boyd talks about the shift that happened in the early 4th century CE. Before this shift happened, the early Christians saw themselves as "resident aliens." As Boyd writes:

They were a persecuted minority and as such did not dream of corporately exercising "power over" others. Indeed, the church of this time grew--and grew at a mind boggling rate! This growth came about not by Christians fighting for their rights, as so many do today, but largely by Christians being put to death!
pp 75-76

The shift that took place in the 4th century was that Christians obtained political power for the first time. The Emperor Constantine won a battle in the name of Christ, and soon after would make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. This certainly would have been inconceivable to Peter and the early Christians.

Boyd contends that this shift has stained the Church ever since, that since this point the Church has resorted much too often to "power over" rather than following the peaceful, loving servant hood of the first century Christians. The result today is comments like this from the late Jerry Falwell:

You've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I'm for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.
(Falwell on CNN, emphasis added)

Boyd points out how the result of the Constantinian shift was "a long and terrible history of people using the sword 'in Jesus' name for the glory of God.'" In addition, history has shown that "Christendom" has acted about as badly as most versions of the kingdom of the world (i.e the Holy Roman Empire, the Medieval Catholic Church, the Crusades, the Inquisition etc.). And, "if violence in oppression is demonic are demonic, violence and oppression 'in the name of Jesus' is far more so."

This tragic history has to be considered one of Satan’s greatest victories, and the demonic ironies abound. In the name of the one who taught us not to lord it over others but rather serve them (Matt. 20:25-28), the church often lorded it over others with a vengeance as ruthless as any version of the kingdom of the world ever has. In the name of the one who taught us to turn the other cheek, the church often cut off people’s heads. In the name of the one who taught us to love our enemies, the church often burned its enemies alive. In the name of the one who taught us to bless those who persecute us, the church often became a ruthless persecutor. In the name of the one who taught us to take up the cross, the church often took up the sword and nailed others to the cross. Hence, in the name of winning the world for Jesus Christ, the church often became the main obstacle to believing in Jesus Christ.
pg 81

Boyd's critique of the Church's use of "power over" throughout history, which is in stark contrast to the first century Christians, is quite indicting. What other ways can you think of where the church has resorted to power over in recent times? And, where do issues like pushing for the Ten Commandments being displayed in schools and courthouses and other modern political fights fit in?

Next time we will look at chapter 5 titled "Taking America Back for God."


Nate Watson said...

Gotta love Falwell...good thing we have Hagee to take his place. Despite the fact that 313 and the Edict of Milan gave Christianity political power that can (but not always) corrupt (but did ((eventually)) in this case), I believe God used the situation to preserve the faith. Love or hate the Catholic Church...they kept us alive.

Nick said...

Hmmm...i see your point. Though I think it is kind of like saying, "Love or hate the slave trade, it brought africans to america and gave us our cultured nation as we have it."

That is certainly a fiercer example, but i think it makes the point. Perhaps we can throw an overall corrupt and evil time period a bone by pointing to a good that came out of it, but it certainly doesnt redeem the period or make up for the evil it caused.