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?