I’d like to begin by stating “Christianity never fairs well when it is in power”, history can attest to this. When the Church aligned itself with the Empire it in turn became a tool through which power was exerted. A power that those in authority believed was ordained by God. As a tool of the
I’d like to begin by stating “Christianity never fairs well when it is in power”, history can attest to this. When the Church aligned itself with the Empire it in turn became a tool through which power was exerted. A power that those in authority believed was ordained by God. As a tool of the Empire the Church indeed was afforded many privileges which I believe hampered the Church’s ability to fulfill its true mission as cited in Isaiah 61:1, a verse Jesus used to describe his own ministry. This verse speaks of being good news to the poor, the freeing of captives and the healing of the broken hearted.
By underwriting the Empire’s desire for uniformity and control, the Church, rather than helping the poor, left many in poverty. Instead of freeing captives, people were enslaved, and as a consequence many are left broken hearted. When the Church has power it forgets Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave.”
The Christian faith is not about upward mobility, but rather calls it adherents to a downward mobility as servants. Empires, States, Corporations seek power and control. Jesus said to his followers, “…it will not be so among you”. The Church’s involvement with the Empire contaminated the Living Water which was intended to quench the thirst of those who thirsted for justice. As a tool of the Empire the Church was unable to offer an alternative in which it could resist the atrocities done in the name of the State and of God. Rather it put itself in a position where it ran errands for the world, an example of this is the 15th Century papal bull Romanus Pontifex which sanctioned Portugal and later Spain’s ruthless expansion into “non-Christian” territories. Needless to say, this papal bull is another stain on the Church’s already shoddy record. But that was the 15th century. Since then I believe the Roman Catholic Church has come a long way although it still has a ways to go. I say this in light of Vatican II, a council held from 1962 – 1965. This council was a major step in the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. Out of this council came the document titled “Nostra Aetate” which states the Church’s position in regards to non-Christian religions and peoples. I believe this directly applies to the discussion at hand. Nostra Aetate begins by stating:
In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.
In this the Church recognizes our commonality, something that was indeed lost when the Church saw “pagans” as the other that needed to be conquered rather than embraced as Children of God. The effects of Nostra Aetate are slowly being seen in the Church’s willingness to enter into dialogue with those of other faiths, specifically Judaism. Over time it is my hope that what Nostra Aetate calls the Church to will also find its way in addressing the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. The reality is the Roman Catholic faith is world-wide and because of this the Church often moves at a slow steady rate taking into account the effect a papal declaration will make globally. Because of this, for Christians and First Nations people, if we want immediate change, the change must begin with us. In the face of injustice we must speak. When an antiquated document is used by those with Authority to maintain their privilege and power, we must speak. It begins with us! A new and better world begins in the here and now, not by simply traipsing up what was, but rather working toward what can be. When people are being oppressed, let’s liberate. When the poor have no voice, let us be their voice! First Nations and Christians together. United against the new threat that plagues us both, the new Empire that plunders our earth of its resources. That condemns people to poverty. That silences the voices of the oppressed. Let us unite Together!
By Jonathan Massimi, Pastor of Counterpoint Church.