THE PASTOR'S CORNER
“Politics and the Christian Church”
I can hear some of you taking a deep breath and saying to yourself, “Pastor Bill is retiring and now he is going to get all the stuff off of his chest that has been bothering him.” I might in fact touch on how I believe the current state of political divide in our country is hampering the work of the Christian Church, but my main focus of this article is helping you to see that politics and the church go way back. I would agree with many of our historical scholars that make the argument that the Christian Church changed dramatically in 313 CE. The change that took place was so great that I do not believe the church has ever been able to fully regain the mission set forth by Jesus and the early church fathers.
The event that changed the direction of the Christian Church for the last 1700 years was the day that Constantine in the year 313 CE made the decision to make Christianity the imperial religion in all of the Roman territory. In one of his daily meditations titled, “Jesus as Central Reference Point”, Father Richard Rohr writes, “As the imperial mind took over, religion had less to do with Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, inclusivity, forgiveness, and simplicity, and instead became fully complicit in the world of domination, power, war, and greed itself.” Rohr goes on to say, “The gospel of good news to the poor now saw riches and pomp as signs of God’s favor. The coming kingdom of God was no longer a fundamental theme.” The message of the early church before Constantine centered on Jesus changing the lives of his believers.
Rather than a “me first” philosophy to life, the Christian began to focus on the needs of the community. Or as Pastor Sandy Carpenter said so well in her sermon on 10/17, we begin to care for the “other “and not just on me. Rohr makes a profound statement when he says, “Constantine himself was not changed, the church was.”
My hope for the Christian Church is that it wrestles with what it is called to do in the world today and heading into the future. My prayer is that it rediscovers what Jesus called it to do in the first place. Can the church be a place where forgiveness and healing take center stage? Can we be a place where the poor and brokenhearted are lifted up cared for by the entire community? Do we live our lives based on what Jesus said, or do we live our lives according to the norms of society? Will we live our lives based on our political views, or will be live our lives based on the radical love and grace of Jesus’ teachings?