Thursday, April 09, 2009

Balancing History and Identitiy

I'm trying to find the balance between accepting our dark history as a church (not to say there are not numerous bright points, but church history is always under the shadow of the crusades and other fundamentalist movements) and proclaiming our true ecclesiological identity. It's undeniable that Christianity has been used as justification for all kinds of anti-christian movements and actions (genocide, murder, slavery, etc.). The temptation is to simply say, "well, that wasn't 'Christian' in the first place... it has nothing to do with us." But just such a response may lead us into our own brand of fundamentalism... only accepting those who pretty much think like us, we may end up a huddled group with our backs to anything that doesn't match our definition of Christianity. We must claim and accept even the dark parts of our history as a global/trans-national/ trans-historical Church, take responsibility for it, and perhaps suffer the consequences. But nevertheless, distinctions must be made between that which is truly of the teachings of Jesus and that which is obviously not. (this hints back to an earlier post called "Other Kingdoms")

Let's take the Crusades as an example of how we might deal with this balance. We must accept them as part of ourselves, part of our identity, part of our history... start there and you may want to start by apologizing (as I think Pope John Paul II did formally in... was it 2000...). But then we must seek to reverse history, take it back, and reclaim our true identity as followers of the servant-king Jesus, who never resorted to violence or vengeance. How do we begin this reclamation and redemption? As followers of Christ, we do what he did. We begin by living it out! Words come second because actions, as the corny catch-phrase boldly claims, "speak louder than words." Start by living out Christ's peace with the people around you, with your church family, and with your community. Be a lamp-post of hope in a world of hopelessness and a beacon of peace in a world shadowed by violence. Do not mistakenly find yourself complicit with the empire, with the patters of death in the world, but rather offer yourself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:2).

Christianity... in fact religion in general is not inherently evil (I guess that could depend on the religion) until it finds itself wrapped up in "power." When the church starts accepting as givens the things that should only make sense to the powers that be, i.e. armies, borders, bullets, etc. that's when we become something anti-christian. This is why Jesus offered a whole new way of thinking about power, "the first shall be last..."

2 comments:

Rudy said...

Well said my friend.

WES ELLIS said...

Thanks Rudy. I'm still struggling with these issues.