Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Thoughts On The Death Of The Religious Empire Known As Christendom

Good Riddance!
So long!
Auf Wiedersehen!
Whew! That said, don't blame God, Jesus, or the bible for fake "christians". Genuine Christianity will survive its thousands of years long duet with paganism.

The Rise of Christendom from

The life and culture of Medieval Europe was dominated by a single institution -- the Church. Beginning with the coronation of Charlemagne as the Holy Roman Emperor in 800 A.D., the political entity know as Christendom continued to exist until the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 when German princes were "permitted" to choose to be Lutheran, and therefore, no longer answerable to Rome (although the title of "Holy Roman Emperor" continued to be used until MUCH later). However, even by the 14th Century (the period in which the persona known as Barthel aus Pennswald is rumored to have lived), the cracks in the foundation of Christendom were beginning to show, as evidenced by these songs of Walther von der Vogelweide:
"King Constantine's Folly" "The Roman Shrine" . Any of Christianity's critics cite the abuses of Christendom as prime examples of everything that's wrong with Christianity. Some will even go so far as to say that the Church is itself responsible for the "Dark Ages", especially given the attitude of the Church toward the "new knowledge" that came out of the Renaissance. (Can you say "Galileo"?) Obviously, so the argument goes, the Church wanted to keep the populace uneducated, in order to maintain their power. Furthermore, the Church was not above using torture and threats of eternal damnation as a means to that end. Well, yes, that does sound pretty convincing--especially if you know a little bit about Galileo or the Spanish Inquisition. For that matter, I don't think any Protestant Christian can deny that abuses of authority and power did occur, since one of the goals of the Reformation was to eliminate those abuses. (Luther's "95 Theses", which sparked the Reformation, targeted one abuse in particular: the sale of indulgences.) The real problem with Christendom, however, was not Christianity itself, but the political power which the clerical heirarchy enjoyed. The issue is not Christianity or even "religion" in general, but the abuse of power and authority in the name of religion. But the political power of Christianity was not a medieval development: it was Roman. Prior to Constantine, Christianity was either ignored or actively persecuted in the Roman Empire. According to legend, Constantine was moved by a dream1 to legalize Christianity. This was accomplished on June 13, 313 with Constantines Edict of Milan. Within a few years, the Arian controversy threatened to split Christianity into two factions. Constantine quickly realized that his dream of uniting the empire under the banner of Christianity was futile if Christianity itself was not unified. So it came to pass that Constantine convened the first of the seven ecumenical councils, the Council of Nicea in 325. There, the bishops debated over the letter iota: whether whether Christ was of the "same substance" as God (homoousion), or, as Arius argued, of a "similar substance" homoiousion. In the end, the bishops decided that Christ was indeed of the "same substance": God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. The Arian controversy became the Arian heresy, and the original version of the Nicene Creed anathematized all who did not adhere to that creed. Thus, out of political necessity (or perhaps simply political ambition?) was born the pattern of intolerance among Christians. No longer was it sufficient to believe in Christ--you had to believe in Christ in the right way. In essence, the Council of Nicea was the betrothal of Christianity and Empire. In its best, Christendom was an attempt to restore the glory which was Rome, to rebuild the Roman Empire. (Hence the name "Holy Roman Empire". 2) At its worst, it was every bit as depraved and decrepit as Rome under Caligula. The tension between these two extremes cracked the foundations, and the walls of Christendom began to tumble, even during the height of its power. In these Modern Middle Ages, the crumbling of Christendom has continued to progress unabated. Some are desperately trying to rebuild the colossal edifice, proclaiming that we need the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Others, seeing the destruction that has come to pass, have proclaimed not only the death of "The Church", but also the death of "God", or at least, the concept of "God", since they're not even sure God existed in the first place. However, we must not confuse the death of a corrupted institution with the death of faith or the death of God.


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