(CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION and CONFLICT – continued)
According to John 15:19 and John 17:14-16 Jesus spoke of his followers and of himself as "not of this world." And after the death of Christ, early Christianity kept itself apart from the powers of the Roman state, Christians believing as they did that their concern was about preparin the Second Coming of Christ and not about serving the Roman state or worshipping its gods.
They suffered persecution by the state. Then Emperor Constantine provided them protection and helped them economically. Constantine's mother and then Constantine became Christians. His sons became emperors and more Christian emperors followed, and with power, Christians began an intolerance toward Jews and pagans – the kind of intolerance that was not the habit of polytheists. Hindus, for example, were accustomed to living side by side with the worshippers of Hindu gods that they did not worship. The Christians did not intend to be mean spirited. It was just that they saw religious beliefs other than their own as evils created by the devil.
While Christians were picking up the habit of intolerance, Constantinople's emperor Justinian was using his worldly power to prepare for the Second Coming, and to this end he tried to reunite what had been the Roman Empire. And he and Constantinople's emperors after him did what they could to maintain order and defeat foreign armies. They also used their political power to enforce what they believed was right thinking. Justinian outlawed paganism, including Plato's old academy at Athens, and he drove non-Christian philosophers into exile. Fearing that God might bring famine against his sinful subjects he outlawed blasphemy, sacrilege and homosexuality. He persecuted the religious community in Palestine known as the Samaritans, and he put restrictions on the religious and civil freedoms of Jews, including outlawing the Talmud, which he described as puerile fabrications, insulting and blasphemous. The good Christian emperors of Constantinople, who were believers in the Trinity, reached out to distant areas that were a part of their empire and flogged, tortured and executed non-Trinity, Monophysite Christians. Those with powers were not libertarians. They were not about to leave people to decide for themselves what to believe. They had something that Jesus did not have: the power of the state.
It was the same for Christianity in the West centered at Rome. At first, the Bishop of Rome had exercised the influence that came with Rome being a special place. Political power accrued from that as the Bishop of Rome began making rules that it thought congregations distant from Rome should follow. Rome came into jurisdictional disputes with Christianity's other bishopric power centers – politics.
For awhile, the Bishop of Rome had little power beyond Rome. Power lay with Ostrogoth and then Lombard kings. The Bishop of Rome, or Pope, entered into relations or alliances with these kings in order to preserve his own well being and the well being of the Church at Rome.
The emperor at Constantinople and the pope disagreed on religious matters. In 663, the emperor exercised his political and military power (the two being connected) and deported Pope Martin to Constantinople. Rome's bishops were also land owners, which bound them to "this world" and the politics of ownership preservation, which did not always work well. In 773, Constantinople's emperor confiscated the pope's estates in Calabria and Sicily.
The Lombards at this time were allies of Constantinople's emperor. Pope Gregory III asked for help from his fellow Catholics, the Franks. Lombard’s king, Pope Stephen II named King Peppin of the Franks as Protector of Rome, and with help from the Franks the Lombards were defeated. A Lombard siege of Rome was broken, the Lombards were driven off. The king of the Franks, in 773, defeated the Lombards, ending the Lombard Kingdom and leaving the pope to exercise what political power he had with their interference or interference from Constantinople. The Pope declared Charlemagne as Emperor of Rome, the same title claimed by the emperor at Constantinople. And the politics of this world remained an integral power of the institutions that claimed to represent Christ's mission.
Copyright © 2007-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.