Covid-19, and the Separation of Church and Constantine

in #covid194 years ago


When I was a little girl – I mean, just before my fifth birthday – I received my first full-length Bible. King James Version, no less. That worn-out Bible you see above is it.

My parents had taught me to read at two and led me to Christ that same year.

So, since I had little better to do at four going into five, I sat down with this new Book and read it cover to cover over the course of the next year. I didn't know that you weren't really expected to do that until you were an adult, and of course, I didn't understand most of it. But I was five, and had little else to remember, so, in it went into my memory.

Now being a tiny little Christian with that much head knowledge can be dangerous. As life circumstances play out with you and around you, the Word starts to come back to mind and so you know that you and others are not following it. That's a BIG problem when you don't know adult conversations are not for you yet.

This also made church life a little challenging, because I had already read the book of Acts, and as I grew older, I noticed that church as we do it in the United States was not at all like church in the Bible. The challenges have only grown more stark in adulthood.

I'm not picking on any denomination. Because of my skills as a musician, I've worked in just about every major denomination available.

But that whole thing about so many denominations … the result of Protestants who keep on protesting one another …

And that whole thing about how many of us think church is a set of Sunday rituals …

We owe this first to the emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire and stopped the persecution of Christians across the empire. That was a good thing.

But the emperor also made himself head of the new state religion, and also added both Roman religion and adapted elements of ancient Judaism (found in the Bible, true enough, but explicitly ABOLISHED for the Christian in Acts 15 and also the books of Galatians and Hebrews) in order to make the new state religion glorious and acceptable to all people.

One major problem resulted immediately.

When the emphasis on meeting with God in a fixed temple with certain rituals was dragged into Christian life, that forced an immediate choice between the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the words of Constantine, for as early as John 4:21-24, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said the places of meeting people were arguing in his day would someday be pointless (and destroyed), but God the Father was looking for those who were going to worship Him everywhere “in Spirit, and in truth.”

The Roman church took Constantine over Christ, in defiance of Christ and actual Christian practice for 300 years before then – even before persecution, one can read in the Bible where Christians were meeting together from house to house, fellowshipping whenever and wherever every day, in the midst of life.

No fixed temple, and all the things that go with that – rituals, clergy, choirs, etc, and the need of offerings to keep that up – is ever contemplated in the New Testament. Offerings are taken to meet needs, but there is nothing to hold up a liturgical structure.

And this leads to the second major problem … did I mention that Constantine was the emperor of the Roman Empire? His brand of European imperial Christianity would sweep the world in the next 1,700 years of Europe's conquests, and his legacy of Sunday ritualized worship is re-enacted across denominations every Sunday wherever Europe has gotten a foothold.

Until NOW.

Covid-19 has broken the mold.

Still, over that same 1,700 years, real Christians have been practicing what they preach every day of the week, worshiping and praying together in the midst of life, looking out for each other and the community, building hospitals, schools, and many other things to make life more livable in the midst of preaching eternal life through the cross work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps it is now a moment that this pure strand of Christianity can flourish again in the United States of America.

Certainly we have had enough of self-centered prosperity preaching and the same nationalism and disregard for the humanity of all people being backed up from popular pulpits for political gain.

It IS a struggle – in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, churches are complying with the order to shut down all gatherings. This is extremely disruptive to my community, and especially our seniors, to whom this has cultural ramifications younger people do not always appreciate.

But today, we have technology … all kinds of opportunities to make sure no one feels abandoned and isolated.

All kinds of opportunities to show REAL love, REAL faith, REAL service to others, even during this lockdown. I thank God I am in a church that already was moving in this direction!

The rituals of life, and our indulging in them, cover up a lot of things … Covid-19 is ripping the covers off of a lot of those things across the culture.

We shall see, soon enough, whether this thing called Christianity is still anything real in the United States of America, absent the trappings Constantine left us.


Great read. I cannot attend a church facility for this reason. Everyone is trying to emulate Jesus but he NEVER went to church. He congregated where the people were, in public...

I respect your position. I know a lot of Christian people who feel this way, and I would too EXCEPT that there are still people to minister to in the building who know nothing else, and also because those who know the Lord in my building are also faithful in the streets with the people.

The Lord was a perfectly observant Jew and so did go to the synagogues and temple of His day during His lifetime, preached once (Matthew 4) and turned over the tables a little after His triumphal entry (after Palm Sunday), but He did pass the majority of His time with the people. At least six days out of every seven... and after synagogue or temple, He returned to the people.

The early Christians used buildings too when a particular congregation got too big for a house -- we see that in the book of Acts occasionally -- so I don't think the Bible is forbidding us to assemble in a building on Sunday. I think the problem is that many of us have idolized those buildings and the rituals we do in them, and then neglect the worship and service we should be doing the other six days. So, in a sense, the Lord is using Covid-19 to break the idol, and forcing us to live out our faith in Him every day of the week. Terrible duress, yes, but ...

You are one of the few Christians I know that is aware of that part of the history of Christianity and understand that the construct of "the church" is a power structure and nothing else.
One example is the priests who are supposed to be celibate only came about with Cluny and that priests weren't allowed to marry before to protect the property of the church, but they had often many children with their common-law wife - bastards, as they were called at that time, couldn't inherit property and all was well in the world.
We all have seen the results of this craziness as the lid has come off more and more exposing the many abuses perpetrated by priests and nuns. So sad to take a beautiful thing and turn it into an instrument of hate, torture, and so much more.
Let's hope that we are all rising to our best selves in this CoVid 19 world.

There are more of us that know than one would think, outside of European heritage. One might say in order to keep the faith in a robust manner, we have to seek the truth. Slave owners, and segregationists, plugged into the structure that supported them from 325A.D. onward. But even in the midst of that, the pure strand of the Way (the most ancient name) has never died out, in any tribe and nation where people have understood simple Christianity: we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so He sent His Son the Lord Jesus to die on the cross for all that sin and rise again, thus making the way for all men to escape the universal judgment that otherwise awaits them -- hence the ancient name of "followers of the Way" for those who believed in Christ. But we are not "saved" to be indifferent about the people around us in any way -- "Do good to ALL men," is a command completely suppressed in Constantine's model. Humility, gentleness, grace, generosity -- all denied by Constantine's model. Yet we are out here, quietly doing what "followers of the Way" are supposed to do. We don't need the structure. My prayer is that Covid-19 sorts out the worshipers of the structure and the followers of the Way in America, and that we start recognizing the "Constantinians" for what they are.

My hope is with you!!! So many bad things have happened in the name of (insert just about any religions name) used as an excuse to maintain the power structure.
I really hope that we are all rising to our better selves and not falling down...

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