In August of 2007 I wrote an article on Christian Atheism. At the time I was seeking to describe the strange phenomenon of modern Christianity – one in which life as we live it and life as we say we believe it are two separate things. This is not a problem of hypocrisy but of shipping Christianity to an off-shore location in which all significant spiritual activity is accomplished somewhere other than where we live.
Thus salvation is something accomplished in history (on the cross) or in the mind of God (a forensic or legal atonement) or anywhere other than here and now. Sacraments become memorials, a testimony to Divine Absence rather than Divine Presence. Initiation into the Church is accomplished by an “ordinance” which is simply viewed as a sign, a public act of obedience in which nothing happens (except perhaps in the off-shore location).
The result of this bifurcation of faith is an empty world in which we may speak of the “death of religion.” Modern Christians have a relationship to faith much the same as they have a relationship to a political point of view. Indeed, in many modern churches, the substance of the faith is itself the subject of political debate. What God would have us do as sexual creatures, for instance, is a matter of cultural perception and persuasion – not revelation. Such approaches to Christianity only guarantee that modern Christianity in America will be just that – American. Churches become the constitution at prayer (with all of the various views of the constitution represented by denominations or various wings thereof). We become a nation of red Church, blue Church, neither of which have any relation with The Church, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
This also makes the Church into a political instrument, or politics into a churchly instrument. Thus the victory of one party or the loss by another is seen as a victory of religious significance. Both major parties this election season embraced “faith,” and generally found themselves embraced in return.
But the truth is that Christianity with an off-shore Christ is not Christianity at all. Christianity that can be affected by a shift in the political winds is no Christianity at all. The ship of the Church was launched against the tide of Roman paganism and against the wind of growing state dominance of all life. The blood of many thousands was shed before the winds changed and allowed a certain freedom to the Church – and yet the Church against the tide and against the wind was stronger when the winds and tides changed than when it began its journey. For the Church sails upon a tide and wind blowing in this world oblivious to the political weather of kingdoms destined to fail.
The ability to repent and to walk in union with the Divine Light of God is as available in the Gulag as it is to the middle-class American who enjoys almost unlimited freedom. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
The death of religion, of the true Christian religion, occurs when the God who became flesh and dwelt among us, is seen as the God who has removed Himself (having accomplished His work here) and is found only in the distance of theological thought. It is little wonder that in the sterility of Christian atheism the vacuum of a true spiritual life should be filled with the vacuity of the political life.
The Republican party is dead. The Democratic party is dead. Neither of them can give you life. They belong to a world that is passing away. What remains is what has been established by God and still sails before the winds and on the tide that obey His voice.
There is a Kingdom of God, found in communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. It is not removed from us but has come among us. It breaks forth in human lives and burns with spiritual fire in the sacraments of the Church. It heals the sick, raises the dead, casts out demons and gives freely what it has freely received. It knows no economy other than the fullness of God who causes the barren woman to be the joyful mother of children, who brings forth water in the desert and changes water into wine.
Religion is not dead – only the false pretense of religion begotten in the delusion of the modern world.
“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered. Let those who hate Him flee from before His face.” And all these enemies live in me and in us all and God must arise in us and drive the enemy from within us. His Kingdom come, His will be done. Let the ship sail straight and true and know the Wind that blows where it will.
Glory to God for all things!