thanks but no thanks, constantine
warning: the contents of this post will be very nerdy and church history-related. continuing to read this post may result in your perception of me as a really cool, hip, suave, in-the-know guy being severely tarnished… proceed at your own risk.
many people in the u.s. see this country as the epicenter for christianity. many of those people would also claim to be living in a “christian nation” and that we have a coup on all that is good and holy.
the fact, though, is that it’s no mystery among researchers that the christian population in the united states has been in decline for quite a long time. we’re headed the same direction as europe. on the other hand, some parts of the world are booming with christian growth, particularly central america, africa, and most notably, china. in fact, china now has more followers of christ than the united states. furthermore, we are now beginning to see fledgling efforts by chinese missionaries to come to the united states to evangelize what is the 3rd largest mission field in the world.
let me re-iterate the point: china, where christianity is barely legal, has more believers than the united states. in china, christianity, as stated, is legal, but with some caveats. there are rules: no members under 18, no overt evangelical work, no emphasizing the second coming and, above all, no questioning of communist party rule. yeah… one could say that it’s legal, but it certainly isn’t legal to let it live and breath in its “raw” state. churches are subject to strict sanctions and manipulative rules by the government and many believers involved in house churches are regularly chastised and detained for their beliefs.
our “christian nation” with our christian president and our christian-first attitude is steadily losing christians (or at minimum, we’re not gaining any as others are dying off). china, in its strict communist oppression of christianity, is booming in people making decisions to follow christ.
it was the best of times. it was the worst of times. the year was 313 and christians could finally walk the streets without fear of death or extreme consequence. sounds good, right? well, getting killed is definitely a plus, but there have been some severe consequences throughout history that we are still dealing with here in america a couple thousand years later.
in essence, when constantine converted to christianity, it took christianity from an underground movement of pure devotion and faith, to the mainstream thing-to-do.
in 313, christianity became the new black.
the new black indeed. the black mark that lingers is that when christianity is the socially and culturally acceptable “thing-to-do” it becomes exactly that: a thing to do. rather than being an identity—a mode of living like jesus—it, particularly in the u.s., has become a routine, a geographic descriptor, a once-a-week ritual, a family heirloom.
when christianity becomes imperialized, it loses its authenticity, its passion, its bold revolutionary statement like jesus made. on the other hand, christianity in china—in a land where christianity is the enemy of the state—is daring and courageous and passionate and requires a sincere desire to follow the jesus of the bible.
so, for those who want to see this “christian nation” return to its roots and want to see a christian knight in shining armor leading our nation from his golden pulpit, let me ask you to consider if we really want constantine leading us into the future, brandishing his weapons of war with the cross and the name of jesus?
let us return to a christianity that looks like the revolutionary and countercultural force that was jesus as described in scripture. let’s return to an underground movement of passion that lives in community, chooses love over division, values peace over war and honors being followers of christ rather than being followers of rules.