My friend, the Rev. Rocky Supinger, writes a daily blog at YoRocko! Recently he wrote a post called “Christendom is Over.” He shares about a wedding rehearsal at the moment when the couple climbs the steps of the chancel and are instructed to make sure they look at each other and not my friend Rocky. The bride quips, I’m sure in her excitement about what will soon be happening for real, “Oh don’t worry, he’s not even here.” Rocky, realizing that he and the church is just a prop for this bride, looks down, and recalls what he and I have both heard time and again: “Christendom is over.”
What that phrase means is that the period of time when the Christian church is at the top of the social ladder is over. Since the 313 C.E. when the Roman emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, officially declaring tolerance of the Christian faith, and soon after including the Christian cross on his coins. Over the past century or so the Church has slowly been left behind in the halls of power. We have witnessed the great cathedrals of Europe turn over into museums and hip breweries. In the U.S., church attendance has dwindled as the “Nones” have increased in number—those who choose “None of the above” when asked about religious affiliation.
Yes, Christendom is over, but I am not sure that is a bad thing. In the first few centuries, Christianity was a zealous underdog, giving hope to the hopeless and welcoming the otherwise socially marginalized. It became a movement of the forgotten and despised, founded on God’s love and preference for the poor that is recorded throughout our holy scriptures. Maybe without the distractions of power and prestige we might get back to helping and being on the side of people who are suffering most in our communities and around the world. Maybe now, leaner and more focused, we can get back to the work of being the Church for the world rather than of the world.