Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Christendom IS White Supremacy

I read a lot of books about how Christian churches should radically change, embrace the postmodern reality, get back to biblical principles, abandon old models. A lot of these books will criticise the old models under the label of "Christendom" - that European and colonial idea where power, culture, and religion are all aligned. In Christendom everyone is assumed to be Christian by virtue of being in a "Christian country" and the church is in the centre of power, resulting in, in some cases, state churches such as the Church of England. 

I agree with these criticism, but I feel like the whiteness of so many of these writers blinds them to the true sins of Christendom. It is not simply that Christendom is an old model, and we need to move on to something more relevant. I feel like sometimes that's what these writers are saying. Sometimes it feels like the criticism doesn't add up to anything more than "this isn't fashionable anymore". 

But it's much worse than that. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire it became corrupted to such an extent that its values were effectively reversed: from nonviolence to violence, from power-from-below, to power-from-above, from good news to the poor to good news to the rich. As the Empire crumbled but Imperial Christianity remained holding together European society these values were further embedded. Christianity, instead of following the humble way of Jesus became an expression of superiority and supremacy. "Christian" became a label for a race, a people, defined over and against others. 

The Crusades were the first violent expression of this Christian-as-race ideology. But then came European colonialism, a project that depended on a belief in the Christian-race superiority over other races. So what later evolved into white supremacy, was first Christian supremacy, and depended on that theological backing to justify the enslavement and subjugation of other peoples. 

White supremacy is the child of Christian supremacy, which is a fundamental expression of Christendom.

So when white writers today talk about moving beyond Christendom I want to say to them: yes, but this isn't just about church in a cafe being cool and church in a big old stone building being uncool. It's much more foundational than that. It's about recognising that Christendom fundamentally reversed the very nature of Christian faith from a decolonising movement to a colonising movement, and in doing so laid the groundwork for white supremacy in all its forms. Rejecting Christendom isn't just about what form the church takes, it's about repenting of the Christian-white-supremacy ideology and identifying Christian faith once again as a decolonising movement, led by a radical prophet resisting occupation in his homeland. 

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