13 October 2008

Christendom


Last week, during bible study on Revelation, the priest on the DVD was making a distinction between Christendom and Christianity. He said that Christ came here -- suffered and died -- to establish His kingdom. It was not His intent to have a band of groupies or hangers-on or to create "Christianity."

I thought it was an interesting point.

Previously, I had envisioned Christendom as what knights fought to preserve and see come to fruition. Kind of a romanticized medieval ideal. It seems many people adhere to this notion, some promoting the idea that the Crusades are an example of why the papacy or Roman Catholicism is intrinsically corrupt. Others use it as a stepping stone to argue for the separation of Church and State. An example::

To me, Christendom is characterized by forced conversions, inter-denominational fighting, political power-plays by church leaders, and heads of state trying to usurp the authority of the Church to cement their own positions. All you have to do is study the history of the Middle Ages to see this drama play out. If Rome didn't like what your King was doing, they had the power of interdiction, they could deny you sacraments, effectively denying you access to the grace of God. The Pope supported insurgents in countries whose ruler opposed Rome and the Church, starting war in the process. The conflict between England and Spain was fueled in this way, Catholic Spain trying to put a Catholic ruler back on the throne in England, while Protestant England fought for its spiritual life. Of course, had Henry VIII not wanted a divorce, the Reformation might have taken a LOT longer to get to England. A big reason that Wycliff's attempt at reform in England didn't work was that the political situation wasn't right. The Spanish Inquisition was caused by this concept of Christendom. So were the Crusades (ALL of them, not just the ones against the Muslims). International disputes, fought in the name of Christianity, were the result of rulers striving for this ideal government. They failed to realize that man cannot bring the kingdom of God into existence, only God can do that.

A lot of people think that we in America can usher in the Kingdom of God by voting in good politicians (what an oxymoron THAT is). We forget that when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the first attempt at creating Christendom, one of the first things he did was force all his troops to convert. This isn't an option now. The world is vastly different now than it was in the fourth century, or the seventeenth. And the United States, for all our posturing, was not created to be a Christian nation. It was founded on basic Christian ideas, but it was founded to give comfort, refuge, and representation to all. Our government is not designed to create a Church-State. We should not want it to.

Crusades and Inquisition aside, here at home I know that it does not say in the Constitution that there needs to be a separation of Church and State...that was in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists. However, constitutional lawyers will be debating what is meant in the Constitution for some time.

As far as not wanting a Church-State, I would point to how St. Peter is treated in the bible. He is made the prime minister of Christ's kingdom (see Jeff Cavins' Bible Timeline for a great explanation). St. Peter is also given the keys to bind or loose and is the rock that the Church is built on.

But, why do Christians champion Christianity but not Christendom? If we are imperfect at holding up the walls of Christendom, then how much poorer will we be left to devise our own kingdom?

7 comments:

mum6kids said...

Sorry, I know I can be a potato head-especially at thend end of a busy homeschool day-but I didn't get this?? Surely Jesus DID intend to establish 'Christianity' because He established the Church on Peter. So the 'groupies' were chosen and sent out.
Perhaps He never intended a political establishment-in the same way God never intended Isael to have a king; but I am confused about the idea He never intended Christianity.
I'll read it again later-perhaps it will be clearer.
God bless

swissmiss said...

Sorry, I didn't explain it well since I didn't have much time. The priest was making the point that Jesus came to begin His Kingdom, not to create a religion. Didn't mean to make it sound like the apostles are groupies...they are those who the King entrusted with His Kingdom, especially St. Peter who was given the keys and set up as the "Prime Minister" of the Kingdom. Sorry, wasn't clear!

Charlotte said...

Interesting that you chose to discuss this topic, thanks very much! I have Jehovah's Witnesses in my family, and within their "faith," they believe they are the only Christians, and that all the rest of us non-Witnesses (Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, etc.) are part of Christendom, which they believe is controlled by Satan. When I talk with them, I always have to be careful, since using either term in the "wrong way" always results in my being "corrected." Anyway, I like your explanations and I think they are valid ways to think about this topic.

swissmiss said...

Hi Charlotte, welcome to my blog. Thanks for your kind words. I used to work with a lady who was a Jehovah's Witness, but she never said much to me about religion even though she knew I was a Catholic. My cousin was married to a lady who was a JW, but they have since divorced. Not being a very good apologist, I have a hard time talking to these people. Heck, I even have a hard time talking to my Lutheran in-laws!

mum6kids said...

LOL Swissy Thank you. Honestly, if I hadn't been so tired last night I think it would have been obvious.
God bless

Smiley said...

Hi Swiss Miss. i am not going to add something to your post. I do recommend strongly that you read a book called 'Cathedral and Crusade the chuch from 1050 to 1350 ' By Henri-Daniel Rops. He also wrote many books on church history.

swissmiss said...

Smiley:
Welcome to my blog!
I'll have to check out that book. Thanks for the suggestion!