Learning to Live Again - The Life of the Church in a Post-State Era

Throughout much of the history of the Church, the Church has just followed society hook, line and sinker.  From the time of Jesus until 313 AD the Church had an on and off again relationship with the State.  On again meaning that the State was persecuting and killing them; off again, meaning that the State would leave them alone despite Christianity still being illegal.  In 313, that all changed.  Constantine issued the edict of Milan making it legal to be a Christian.  Throughout the 4th century laws were passed until Christianity became the State religion and all other religions were made illegal, and with that, a dark era for the Church was inaugurated.  No longer was the Church viewed by Christians as a kingdom without borders, colonies of God’s kingdom here on earth, people not of this world; Christians began to confuse the State with God’s kingdom, and the State and the Church started dating while Christ waited for His Bride to come back around.  It wasn’t until recently, that this hold of the State on the Church and the lust of the Church to control the State have waned.

Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony
Stanley Hauerwas shares this watershed moment by telling a story of his childhood in Greenville, South Carolina.  On one Sunday night in the summer of 1963, “in defiance of the state’s time-honored blue laws, the Fox Theater opened on Sunday.  Seven of us—regular attenders of the Methodist Youth Fellowship at Buncombe Street Church—made a pact to enter the front door of the church, be seen, then quietly slip out the back door and join John Wayne at the Fox…On that night, Greenville, South Carolina—the last pocket of resistance to secularity in the Western world—served notice that it would no longer be a prop for the church.  There would be no more free passes for  the church, no more free rides.  The Fox Theater went head to head with the church over who would provide the world view for the young.  That night in 1963, the Fox Theater won the opening skirmish.” (Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, 15-16).  And the church has been reeling ever since.  Now, we are beginning to find our legs.  We are not in cahoots with the State any more.  The seductive siren call of power, law, and control never fit well with the call of Christ to be a servant one to another, to love our enemies, and to go the extra mile.  Jesus never meant for His Church to wield to power of the State.

Instead of being the bride of Christ throughout the centuries, the Church has been dating Themis, the goddess of Law.  And breaking up was tough.  During the fifteen century affair, the Church forgot its purpose and how to function although their have been faithful remnants and glimmers of God's Kingdom that we can look to in relearning our role as the Bride of Christ.  Since breaking up with Themis the Church has gone through a deep depression, tried dating around, but now we’re finally getting back to Jesus.  And dating Jesus doesn’t look like the way the Church has been since the time of Constantine, but it’s the way that Jesus has designed us to be.  These are good times to be following Jesus.