A Greater Awakening: 21st Century Letter to the Churches in the Usa
The Editor-in-Chief of SOJOURNERS Magazine, the Evangelical Jim Wallis has released a new book, The Great Awakening, written with hope to wake up American institutionalized Christians to be a part of the rebirth and renewal to heal, mend and transform “the biblical scandal of poverty around the globe and here at home, the crisis of environmental degradation and climate change that pose a threat to God’s creation, and to the multiple assaults on human life and dignity that shame our world.” [Page 12, Feb. 2008, SOJOURNERS]
Jim’s seeking revival, but this non-institutional Christian of The Beatitudes, is calling for a revolution and it begins with common sense and goes retro; back to the voices of wisdom that founded this nation.
“Soon after I had published the pamphlet “Common Sense” [on Feb. 14, 1776] in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion… The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”-Tom Paine
Wallis proposes Seven Principals and Rules of Engagement for Christian political involvement in the world:
1. God hates injustice.
2. The kingdom of God is a new order.
3. The church is an alternative community
4. The kingdom of God transforms the world by addressing the specifics of injustice.
5. The church is the conscience of the state, holding it accountable for upholding justice and restraining its violence.
6. Take a global perspective.
7. Seek the common good.
All seven points are well and good and I wish Jim luck and pray he does indeed arouse the sleeping Christians for the western institutions have failed at its commission. Too many churches in the USA have become places to socialize and be entertained and to be patted on the back just for doing the minimum of what is required if one claims to be a Christian; and churches have become business’s that maintain the status quo and not so much about the social gospel.
The gospel-which means good news, that Jesus preached, was very political and a direct challenge to the politically powerful and the arrogant, self-satisfied, self-righteous teachers of the law.
Two thousand years ago the Cross had NO symbolic religious meaning and was not a piece of jewelry. When Jesus said: “Pick up your cross and follow me,” everyone back then understood he was issuing a POLITICAL statement, for the main roads in Jerusalem were lined with crucified agitators, rebels, dissidents and any others who disturbed the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces.
In the latter days of Nero’s reign [54-68 A.S.] through the domination of Domitian [ 81-96] Christians were persecuted for following the nonviolent, loving and forgiving Jesus. That Jesus was first left behind when Augustine penned the Just War Theory.
Before Emperor Constantine brought Christianity into the mainstream, all the early Church Fathers taught that Christians should not serve in the army but instead willingly suffer rather than inflict harm on any other. St. Augustine was the first Church Father to consider the concept of a Just War and within 100 years after Constantine, the Empire required that all soldiers in the army must be baptized Christians and thus, the decline of Christianity began in earnest.
With the justification of war and violence supplied by Augustine’s Just War Theory, wrong became right. Nothing much has changed in two millennia, for in today’s Orwellian world politicians claim the way to peace is through war and that nuclear weapons provide protection. American money claims ‘In God we Trust’ but the truth is America’s faith is in an out of control Military Industrial Complex that seeks domination, power and control over any who would defy and challenge the American status quo. Eisenhower warned America not to bind our economy to the Industrial Military Complex and like most prophets, he was ignored.
In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity and thus, those who had been considered rebels and outlaws began to enjoy political power and prestige. Jesus’ other name is The Prince of Peace, and with the marriage of church and state, his true teachings were reinterpreted. The justification of warfare and the use of state sponsored violence corrupted what Christ modeled and taught. Jesus was always on about WAKE UP! The Divine already indwells you and all others. Christ taught that to follow him requires that one must love ones enemies; one must forgive those who hate, curse and revile them, without even a thought of payback.
Christ lived a life that proved evil can be opposed without being mirrored, and that the cycle of a “tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye”, will never bring peace and justice. Before Emperor Constantine brought Christianity into the mainstream, all the early Church Fathers taught –and all Christians never served in the army but instead willingly suffered rather than inflict harm on any other.
The term Christianity was not coined until three decades after Christ walked the earth. Until the day of Paul, followers of Christ were called members of The Way; the way being what he taught!
Christ was never a Christian, but he was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up [intifada in Arabic] for he challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.
What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces of his time, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant!
Clement, Tertillian, Polycarp and every other early Church Father taught that violence was a contradiction of what Christ was all about. There have always been those Christians who spoke out against this corruption of scripture and they have been ignored, reviled, rejected, mocked, persecuted and maligned throughout time. There have always been Christians who have never abandoned the true teachings, such as the Quakers, Mennonites, some Catholics and Protestants who have been faithful witnesses to Christ by denouncing violence and caring for the poor. There have also always been Jews, Muslims, atheists, anarchists, secularists, rebels and revolutionaries have lived lives that embody the message of Christ; have in fact done what he actually said, which was most revolutionary.
Christ, you know it ain’t easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They’re gonna crucify me-John Lennon
The institutionalized Christians may crucify me for claiming that many who attend 21st century American churches have re-crucified and maligned Jesus, for they worship an institution and pages in the Bible. All institutions are man made and the Bible was not FAXED in from heaven, it was written down after centuries of the oral history being passed down. When ever stories are retold, they change, and we all know this if we ever played the childhood game of telephone. Scribes were imperfect human who made many mistakes as they recopied texts; many also added their own point of view and some even left out what they chose to.
The most decisive event in the history of Christendom occurred when Emperor Constantine accepted the Christian faith, for those who had once been persecuted were now protected by an earthly king. Both a patriarchal monarchical state and church were formed at the same time. Power struggles and debates were common among the early Christians. Individual churches determined which texts were read, and they all had their favorites. Constantine sought to unite his empire, and uniting the church was a savvy political move. He announced he would pay for fifty illuminated copies of scripture to be bound, and thus the biblical canon was established and sealed. There was fierce debate among the bishops about what should be included and what left out.
The proto-orthodox, who had now become the dominant voice, determined what was heretical for everyone. The proto-orthodox demanded much-loved scripture to be burned, usually because it did not fit their understanding of God. We know more today about how diverse Christianity had once been with the discovery of the Nag´ Hammâdi Library. [Refer to Part One is this series for more information]
I may get crucified for this, but I contend that there is a cult within The Body of Christ in the USA that worships the institution and pages in the Bible, and it is a cult of the dead. Just because the canon was sealed, does not mean that God stopped talking to his creation and we can all hear Him/She/? in the voice of our own conscience, as well as in the voices of open vessels such as poets, musicians, critics, dissidents and rebels throughout history.
Just because I no longer do church, I am still connected to the mystical Body of Christ and the most rigid of fundamentalists are my sisters and brothers. St. Paul, who never failed to express his freedom of speech, warned the followers of Christ, NOT to judge the