Will the Real Christianity Please Stand Up!: Part 2, When Christians Became Patriots

Before I start, take a minute to read through the comments to Part 1. Some very reflective and thoughtful observations. Thank you those who shared. You may or may not know this, but I blog about three months out in front of myself. So any feedback I receive happens three months too late. All that to say, if it looks like I took a tack in this series that you warned against, don't take it personally. These posts were written three months ago. 

Now, back to what I was thinking three months ago...

Back in the early days of blogging George W. Bush was president and we were fighting a war in Iraq. The "golden era of blogging" began in 2003, at the start of the Iraq War, and went through 2009, just after the election of Barack Obama. 

During the years of the Iraq War and during the 2008 election, Christian blogs spent a lot of time writing about Constantinianism in voicing their opposition to the war in Iraq. Christian blogs were very Anabaptist during the golden era of blogging. Not so much anymore.

Why the change? 

My argument, made in 2016, is that the post-evangelical Christians who inveighed again Constantinianism during the Bush years weren't really Anabaptists. They were, rather, Christian realists in the tradition of Reinhold Niebuhr. That is to say, progressive Christians, as witnessed in the 2008 election of Barack Obama, actually wanted and desired to win and weld the power of the nation state. You saw this hypocrisy in how post-evangelical bloggers hammered Bush with Constantine but said nary a word about Obama's drone war. Turns out, it's okay to pull the trigger when it's your guy holding the gun. And we saw again the thirst to win back and weld power among progressive Christians in the election of 2020. 

All that to say, it's hard to decry Constantinianism when you're trying your damnedest to win every election.   

The other reason we don't hear much about the Constantinian heresy today is that the theologian most associated with exposing this wrong turn in Christian history was John Howard Yoder. During the Bush years, Yoder was a ubiquitous name on Christians blogs condemning the Iraq war. But after the exposure of Yoder's sexual abuse of women his name has vanished, and along with that a decline in conversation about the perils of Constantinianism.

So this post is a bit of a throwback, harkening back to the Bush years where talk of Constantinianism was common on Christian blogs. 

If you don't remember those years, the Constantinian heresy refers to when the Roman emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire. The heresy was in fusing Jesus with empire. 

Again, this was a point that was frequently raised during the Bush years, and while it is less common to find a conversation about Constantinianism on Christian blogs and Twitter today, I think it's still the place to begin when looking for the "real" Christianity. Specifically, what poisoned the well of Christianity, then and now, was the marriage of the gospel with empire, the cross conflated with the nation state, the church sacralizing national ambitions. The great heresy of the faith was when Christians became patriots. 

I know Yoder is a problematic figure, but he was exactly right in pointing out that the great heresy of Christian history, the demonic taproot of "bad Christianity," is the Constantinian heresy, the mixing of "God and country." 

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