Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Death of a Church

No I don't mean the Lutheran Church of Small Town killed by their own cliques and refusal to change.  I don't lose sleep over those deaths.

The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It DiedI'm almost done reading The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died  by John Philip Jenkins and this is a hard read because it is SO depressing.  And disturbing.  It's disturbing not just for the loss of  the rich  diversity  of ancient Christian traditions but also because IT IS STILL GOING ON TODAY with Christians in the Middle East.  There is a very good analysis of the situation by Robert Hunt in A New Year of Violence against Christians.

We were all raised on stories of the Western church growing despite persecution.  You know, the "blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church" kind of stuff.  But the truth is,  a church can be killed through persecution.  And it seems that the Roman church really only survived because it had stronger armies and more political clout.  That's really enough to shake your faith.  

In "Lost History" Jenkins does a very good job of  breaking the "Oh Islam was a peaceful tolerant religion in the middle ages" myth while also recognizing this was a time when WHOMEVER was in power thought it was perfectly acceptable to annihilate anyone who did not conform.  It's not that Islam is particularly violent.  Or that Christianity is violent.  It's that PEOPLE are violent and power hungry and if they can use religion to further their goals, they will.  

It's very  dark and depressing and  I don't know what else to say other than 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

And pray for the churches of the middle east.  


  1. Amen. The Alexandria bombing -- in a country that isn't especially hostile to Christianity, all things considered -- has made me even more worried about the Christian communities of Iraq and Pakistan. The Iraqi Christians, in particular, are an odd bunch, historically speaking -- Nestorians, historically if not (always) theologically. When they're gone, which could be any minute now, the only Nestorians left will be the tiny South Indian communities.

  2. I think one of the tragedies of the loss of these diverse but ancient traditions is that if they were still around and vibrant we would not be able to be so cocksure and arrogant about what are western understandings of doctrine. I know some people still would, but I find it pretty difficult to call a church as old as the Coptics or the Chaldeans "heretics".