The spell of Constantine continues to cast a long shadow. During his reign, the relative position of so-called Christians flipped from being oppressed and crucified to being blessed by the state. Though it provided protection for many, those who chose not to bow down to Empire were still at risk.
I believe we could again be approaching a time when politics and American ‘christianity’ are so entwined that those who live out a selfless and cruciform love for others will be misunderstood, marginalized, or even considered enemies of the state and disposed of by so-called Christian political leaders who are threatened by the unimpeachable teachings of Jesus. Maybe it’s less of a return and more of an increased awareness that this dynamic has never really vanished from view, and we’d be wise to notice the prevailing overlap and alignment between church and state. The persistent reality is that Empire must get its way.
There is no ‘justice for all’ when Empire gets its way. Anyone who pursues that hopeful and self-evident truth will be opposed by those in power who have the most to lose when equality is given. If power wasn’t so appealing and intoxicating, real equality would’ve occurred long ago. When influence is leveraged to only protect those in power instead of protecting everyone, and when church and state are entwined, the goodness of the Good News has been neutered. Dirt and ice cream are not a tasty mix.
This is why social movements that pursue justice are marginalized and attacked. Christians have a mandate to ‘do justice’, yet it’s often certain religious leaders who most vocally oppose and twist the narrative of those elevating their concerns of prevalent and systemic injustice. And then when civic leaders are too closely aligned with and receive blessings from those religious leaders, the Good News is tainted, often beyond recognition. History has shown that more harm is done to the gospel in these circumstances than good. And the survival of the Good News goes underground at the expense of true justice for all.
A similar seduction occurs from any position on the political spectrum – come, bow down to the influences of power and control. Government is the best vehicle for positive systemic change. Drink from the refreshing waters of popularity and attention. Nuance and thoughtful disagreements are evil. There are many melodies to these siren songs. It is not easy trying to escape the long shadow of Constantine, but my soul depends on doing just that…