I am one of those people. The ones who analyze their positions and thoughts, hoping they are correct, or possibly in the ball park. Sometimes I am shored up, and vindicated. Sometimes I am proven wrong, by myself or another. So I take the Philippians 2:12 seriously. Which is why I am leaving the Catholic church, and probably what most consider mainstream Christianity.
Maybe the Anabaptists were right. That’s the conclusion I come to. You won’t find many of them anymore. The Amish and the old order type Mennonites aren’t exactly proselytizing for converts. While I admire their dedication, I think they missed the point. A forest for the trees kind of situation. Farming in Pennsylvania using a mule might hearken back to earlier centuries but they still have first world problems. I haven’t heard of a cholera outbreak recently around Lancaster, PA.
The Mennonite Church USA is sort of hidden, at least in this neck of the woods. They do some charity work that I am familiar with, but other than that I’m at a loss. So why would I choose to align myself with hard to find, or hard to cope with, religious traditions?
First, I won’t. Join the Amish or those old order guys. I am still a Christian, and believe you can function as one in modern society. There is nothing in the Gospel that teaches me to separate from society. There is a great deal that tells me I should live out the Gospel so society could have an example, even a poor one. Because I will admit, I am a poor example. But like many Christians I try to explain it away, and sometimes use passages from the Gospel, or preferably the Old Testament, to do so. It doesn’t wash though. Which is why I am stepping away.
In America we have a unique thing going on. It’s called American Civil Religion. It has gone into a chrysalis and emerged lately. Before it only asked adherents to value America and its traditions, now it is trying to dress up like Jesus. There are two sides, just like our political party system, liberal and conservative.
The liberal ACR with Jesus tells its adherents to value human life. Okay, I can go for that. We should care for the poor, the orphaned, and elderly. All good things, and oddly enough what Christ taught. Liberal ACR with Jesus does something unique. It speaks out against war and torture, while ignoring abortion. This is where Conservative ACR with Jesus steps in. It doesn’t mind, at face value, caring for the poor, orphaned, and elderly, but it has a problem with abortion. It also has a problem with some of Christ’s teachings, just like Liberal ACR with Jesus. Conservative ACR with Jesus supports violence, but only under certain circumstances to be fair. The problem is Liberal and Conservative ACR with Jesus are not Christianity. Not even remotely.
Jesus is against violence, and taught His followers to shun it, avoid it, and condemn it. That part about turning the other cheek, that applied to Christians. When Peter was rebuked for drawing a sword, that applied to Christians. The entire Gospel of Jesus applies to Christians. And that is where any ACR has a problem. The Gospel does not apply to ACR or its adherents. Not the Baptists, not the Catholics, not the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, or Joel Osteenites.
For centuries Christians have scoured the Bible for an explanation regarding anti-Christ. The early church fathers taught it quite simply. It is anything that is counter to the Gospel of Jesus. The government, and probably all governments, are counter to Christ. They are Caesar. Even Paul pointed that out, and then they killed him. Christ taught his followers they could not have two masters. Either they will love one and hate the other, and he is right, but that does not stop ACR. It simply changes into clothes that mimic Jesus. Which is why Christians should separate, and refuse to participate in government.
Can a person be in the military and still be a Christian?
The early church excommunicated those that joined the military. When Constantine came on the scene, and made Christianity the “state religion” it became a noble thing. That was the first noticeable metamorphosis of Civil Religion. Soon CR came up with the “Just War” concept, and governments have run with it.
Can a person be a police officer and still be a Christian? An abortion provider? A prison warden?
How could a Christian, in good conscience, respond to violence and still live under the weighty instruction of Jesus? They cannot. So the Liberal ACR and Conservative ACR attempt to allow it through complicated hermeneutics, but they fall short. Nowhere can they find anything that shores up their positions, which means they are not followers. Not wanting to be left out of the fold they preach their “brand”, but it is at its heart counter to Christ. Anti-Christ.
I am left wondering where this leaves me. The answer is simple. I am a Christian. Which means I do not recognize Caesar as anything other than a nuisance. I pay taxes because they are extracted without my consent. I obey reasonable safety laws. I also attempt to live out the Gospel. In doing this I find both the liberal political agenda and the conservative political agenda detestable. Can a person be a police and still be a Christian? They can as long as they do not plan on responding to an assault with violence, or maybe if they do respond they repent and sin no more. See. That makes it hard. Which is why Christians are not a part of the government. There are many that claim they are, but if Jesus ever took out a copywrite on it they would find themselves having to change. No. Christians cannot serve the government, because it asks for a denial of certain parts of the Gospel. This leads to it being reduced to something else, civil religion.
This will anger some, others might cheer (for the wrong reasons).
I saw posts on social media from people that I know. Most of them have made obvious references they are Christians. Today I saw commentary regarding CIA torture methods, in light of the report and discussions taking place in D.C. Most of the people that made references to being Christians commented on the necessity and legitimacy of torture, and war. Some went so far as to say Christ neither condoned nor condemned it. I checked my Greek NT, and several English translations. He does condemn violence in all forms, and it starts in Matthew chapter five and runs all the way to the end of the Gospel of John. Some of these people I worked with as a police, and some I was in the military with. While I do have a degree of respect for them as individuals, their religion is ACR. Not Christianity. In fact, they are counter to Christ. That seems to be the norm in this era. The saddest part is, they know it. ACR teaches a person can ask for forgiveness if they are wrong and continuing with the sin. Christ did not teach that. So I sin, but when I do I recognize it and I am ashamed. So I repent. I do not attempt to explain how my sin is righteous using impossible references or ignoring it.
Since the Catholic Church teaches a doctrine of “Just War”, and Conservative ACR runs with that, and since liberal theological social clubs (my new phrase for all religious groups now) teach things Christ did not, I am shunning them all. The Anabaptists were right, and maybe the Amish aren’t so goofy.