There is but a modest amount of information stored in my memory of the history of the Church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries since Christ. In the twenty first century in the United States, there is a theological divide with political consequences that borders on outright violence. This in some way mirrors the conditions of the Church in the throes of the Reformation.
I am unwilling to do the proper research to make this a scholarly accurate thesis. Rather my purpose is to highlight a current dynamic in order to engender hope for today and for the future.
The break from Rome to form new models for Church without papacy led to a divide in ecclesiology, namely the theology of what is and who is the Church. There existed fundamental differences regarding authority, power and empire. Although there were many “sides”, let us agree for arguments sake, that there was a generally understood divide characterized by the words Catholic and Protestant.
The notion of Anti-Christ arose in this context. It was the most extreme way to claim authority to remove validity from those with whom they had experiences schism. Although they may all have agreed to the orthodox teachings of the Nicene Creed, they remained out of fellowship with one another, manifested primarily in the halls of power in Europe.
Trump? I use this word to convey a political and theological movement going on right now. Let’s call them the Protestants. Those in another, characterized perhaps by the word Bernie, let’s call Catholics.
Vote Your Values is being used by Protestants to advance the cause in the political arena. Catholics are waiting to find expression in the same venue, through the coming elections.
Those Protestant and Catholic movements of old said one thing clearly about the other. “THAT IS NOT THE CHURCH. THIS IS THE CHURCH.”
Today’s version seems quite parallel. Archbishops and others were executed. The monarch determined the course of the nation. The opposition stood steadfast. We have not yet shed blood over this. But the political games are every bit as high stakes then as now. And people of faith went to the gallows for their faith.
We contemporary Christians have not been asked yet to bear the full weight of implications for standing firm. We have risked much with God and less so with daily life and work. More may be asked of us.
Consider the legacy we received from those five hundred years before us. It may be that we have a time and circumstance that has not been seen in a long time. Their salvation came through middle ground and compromise, long crafted. What will history record of our lives of faith? The strongest evidence may be found in the political arena, then as now.