Saturday, November 21, 2015

Recovering Constantinian

Hello, my name is Karl and I am a recovering Constantinian. I grew up going to church: Sunday morning and night as well as Wednesday night. I was straight laced, no drinking or drugs and of course Republican to the bone. As an example, I decorated one of my school binders with “BUSH ROCKS.” (Somehow I retained friends who were very much liberal.) I would recite the pledge everyday in class, and wished death upon the Taliban and all enemies of the West/Christendom. Ironically, when I was approached by the two factions of Neo-Nazis at school, I told them it was against my beliefs to harbor such hate. Clearly this was a contradiction when compared to my hate for the Taliban, etc. Looking back, I have two hypotheses why I took this stand. The first is I had several Hispanic friends. I could not imagine hating them which was the natural logical progression of being Neo-Nazi. (Strangely, the leader of one of the factions had a best friend who was Hispanic...) The second is I was so blindly pro-Israeli (for what I thought were Biblical reasons) that I could not support it either. I continued my life in Christendom going to Ozark. I was there to learn how to share the love of Jesus around the world. While most of my learning happened doing classwork, sometimes the biggest changes came from conversations in the dorm. I starkly remember one conversation that happened which was a turning point in my belief system. Somehow a few of us started discussing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and US involvement. A few of us were staunch supporters of the US military. We said it was a necessity to get rid of the dictators and to cease the conflict. On the other side was one guy who made a point of pointing back to Bible, asking where that justification could be found. As good Constantinians, we pointed to Romans and Paul's writing on the role of government. He asked how we reconcile that with the commands for us to love our enemies and to pray for our enemies. We had excuses for that. What got me, though, was when he asked something along the lines of who gave us the right to choose to kill someone before they heard the Gospel. I think we continued arguing after that. However, later that night and for the next few days, I couldn't get that question out of my head. It was then that I realized just how much of a Constantinian I was, putting the needs of our nation above the soul of anyone else.

At this point I feel I should step aside and define Constantinian. In the early 4th century Emperor Constantine decreed Christianity to be the state religion. The reasons are sometimes debated. However, what cannot be denied is when the Church joined with the State, the Church changed. Unfortunately it was not for the better. Just like when Israel demanded a king in the First Testament and things went downhill, so too did it in Rome. The neutering and syncretism of the Church that happened when it joined with the State has continued from Rome to America. Tradition overtook actual Biblical truths, replacing the commands of Christ with the commands of Uncle Sam. I became a part of this culture, as my parents and their parents before them. Is being a proud citizen a sin? No, I don't believe so. Is putting the security of the State above the advancement of the name of Christ a sin? Yes. I fully understand that taking this to heart may have many impacts on our personal lives, economics not being the least of them. Many of my family members and friends have served in the military. For those who haven't, quite a few have worked as civilians for the military or government in some form or another. Do I believe all work for the State is wrong? No. Do I believe it wrong if it specifically would cause a violation of Christ's commands? Yes. This is not a new thing. Whether it was faced by the converts in Ephesus or soldiers in the Roman military such as St. Martin, it is as old as the Church itself. Yet, as Jesus said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” There is no question that following Jesus is hard. Whether in regards to a Christians relationship with the State or with other humans or any other issue. Again, as Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life...” I am trying to live a life that is free of hypocrisy between my political belief and my saying I follow Jesus. This may lead me to seem a fool or a non-patriot. I am okay with that. I would rather be deemed a traitor to the State and guilty of treason than to fail Christ. I know I fail Him plenty as it is. However, ever since that turning point in the dorm some 8 years ago, I have been trying to grow. I am thankful for others on the same journey, such as Shane Claiborne, Logan Mehl-Laituri, Carl Medearis, and others. It's scary to move forward radically. But that's why Jesus prayed for us. He prayed for us to be united so that we have others to lean on during the journey. 

Now I'm asking you, if you would like to join me as a recovering Constantinian, just let me know. Road trips are more fun with friends, anyway. How might this look for us? I don't know how it will look for you. For myself, it means being proliferation, from the womb to the tomb. It means putting the conservation of the world we were commanded to care for above the various causes of its destruction. It means advocating relentlessly for us to obey the Word of God by helping the refugees. Not only that, but helping them without qualification.  Sure, it's quite possible a terrorist may get in. However, if you've looked at the vetting process for refugees, you'll know without a doubt the chance of that is beyond slim. It means confronting racism and supporting the nonviolent Black Lives Matter movement. It means pushing for diplomacy and no further military action. It means petitioning for nuclear non-proliferation.  It means supporting returning soldiers not for what they did but because what they went through and for the sake of their humanity. It means rejecting consumerism which is for the benefit of the economy of America to not only be wise with our finances but also to enable us to care for those near and far in need. Again, this is not an easy path, but if the words of Christ are true... It is worth it. 

Grace and peace,

1 comment:

jeff youngblood said...

this is good. I've been a recovering Constantinian for over a decade myself. It often causes me conflict with other Christians.I too point to the bible, and often confront this militant, consumerist American "christianity." It's heartbreaking at times. But it is a necessary fight, a good fight, as Paul encouraged us to wage...

-Jeff Youngblood