The Greatness of Christianity

Westboro Baptist Church at the United Nations ...

Westboro Baptist Church at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on the day of Pope Benedict’s address to the UN General Assembly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ignatius of Antioch, in writing to the church in Rome, concludes a passage with the thought,

“Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the World.”

There are a few ways to look at this, I guess. The first, is through the lens of the self-proclaimed martyr who believed that only through his death could he be ‘proved a Christian.’ The second is through what some may label empire critical and the such. By this, I mean we understand Christianity as the other kingdom, opposing the World System. In this case, like much of the New Testament, World = Rome.

I hope he meant the latter.

After all, Westboro Baptist Church, John Hagee, John Piper and others of the ilk are often hated in the name of Christ, although we may debate just what merits ‘Christian’ when we speak of some of these.

In the last few months, we’ve seen — and I count this as a positive — a warmer reception of tradition Catholic teaching thanks to Pope Francis. Some have gone so far as to say he is ‘making Christianity cool again.’ I have to wonder what the Holy Father would have to say about that.

This presents two different realities of reception of Christianity. Ignatius demands we stand against the World System. Today, many want traditional Christian teaching to bow to modernity, the new World System.

By the way, I’m not against progressive in theology based on the Quad. I believe very much in progressing theology based on new understandings rendered to us by the host of sciences.

However, examine closely how the Right, politically, in this country desires the Church to be an arm of the State? Allan Bevere covered this in Politics of Witness and it still rings true. Not to say the left doesn’t have their sway as well, but the Right wants Church blessings on war (bad eschatology) and the such.

Have we in the West become too aligned with the Government? Isn’t it not time to find the Church hated by political parties?

Thoughts?

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Post By Joel L. Watts (10,125 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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2 thoughts on “The Greatness of Christianity

  1. Pope Francis is certainly an interesting chap. I was fortunate enough to be at a Papal audience in 2009 in St. Peter’s Square. I can only liken it to being at a rock concert, such was the atmosphere. Groups of pilgrims from all over the world would stand on their chairs and chant a prepared piece (all before the Pope arrived) – other groups would respond by trying to outdo them. A group of schoolchildren from Germany who were next to us were not to be outdone by the French nearby and shouted until I thought they were going to pass out. Then the helicopter carrying the Pope arrived. It flew directly over the Square and the place erupted with shouts of approval. Ten minutes later the Pope-mobile arrived and he was very carefully driven down all the various channels made through the seats. A great procession finally saw him take his seat on a large throne type chair on the steps of St. Peter’s. Basically, what I am trying to say is that while the whole event was awe inspiring even to me as an Atheist, it was largely pomp and circumstance with little message.

    I was very much reminded of Jesus cleansing the Temple. Throughout the Vatican there were many little shops selling rosaries and medals for quite a profit. The Pope then blessed all the little trinkets people had bought that day or brought with them. In fact we were told before hand on the bus that brought us there that this would be happening and bus actually brought people to a shop with the purpose of buying things to be blessed. I couldn’t help thinking that the basic message of the biblical Jesus had been lost.

    With Pope Francis, however, things do appear to be different from the very start. He seems to be going back to basics and I like how he is influenced by Liberation Theology. I only hope he brings it more into practice. The cynical part of me says that while he appears to be more liberal and tolerant, looks can be deceiving. I would like to see more than sound-bytes and talk and more actual change that makes the Church more inclusive and a Church that serious begins to accept responsibility for the crimes that it has committed.

  2. Not all hate is created equal. There is a difference between being hated for one’s curious beliefs and being hated for one’s despicable actions. Early Christianity had little, if any, history. It was contemned by a paranoid empire for being different and thus a threat to a comfortable lifestyle.
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    Since those early days, however, Christianity has acquired a lot of history. Some of it is both quite unsavory and, quite frankly, most unchristian. Much like Adam in the Garden, Christianity lost its innocence when it tasted the fruit of politics and secular power. Thereafter, it tended produce better churchmen than it did Christians.
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    If Jesus were to return to the earth and act as a typical preacher, he would demand a copay for healing the leper and raising the dead. He would expect to be well housed and overfed. There would even be a fee for turning water into wine! In turn, he would tout this as proof of God’s blessing.
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    Much like capitalism, Christianity has become little more than a money-maker for a few at the expense of the many. In the United States, its assets are protected by governments. For most of the 20th century, its clergy was exempt from military service. Then, much a house of spoiled brats, this same pampered clergy further expected government to be the enforcer of cherry-picked elements of a Bronze Age moral code that once sanctioned slavery and in some instances rape.
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    Forget being hated. That requires at least a modicum of respect. Unless Christianity gets the beam out of its own eye, its antics will become worthy of a long-running and highly rated television sit-com!
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    The currently youthful generation of Millennials are rewriting the rules. Whether those rules include respect for Christianity depends in large measure on what the faith has to offer. Thus far, Millennials have all but abandoned fire and brimstone political pulpiteering and the once sacrosanct culture wars. Given the alternatives, being a perpetual paternal parent is probably not going to bode well for Christianity.

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