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The Church In The World

My friend Peter Leithart takes issue [1] with my characterization of Russell Moore’s Erasmus lecture [2], taking care to say that he’s not sure if he is disagreeing with Moore’s point, or my characterization of it. He writes:

I haven’t listened to Moore’s lecture. From Dreher’s account, it sounds as pitch-perfect as most everything Moore has been saying and writing of late. But I want to register an objection to Dreher’s statement about trying to influence the culture. (I can’t tell whether I’m responding to Dreher or Moore or both.) My objection may sound like a quibble, but it’s not. It’s a friendly amendment, but a fundamental one.

The claim that Christians affect the world when they forget about trying to affect the world rests on a particular understanding of the gospel and the church’s mission. On this understanding, the gospel isn’t essentially about the world or its destiny. It’s about the destiny of souls, or the destiny of the church. The church has only a secondary interest in the world.

If that sounds too harsh a reading of Dreher’s comment, think about it back-to-front: If the gospel is a message about the world, then Christian couldn’t give up trying to influence the world, or culture, without giving up the gospel. If the gospel is about the acts of the Triune God to transform creation, we couldn’t give up trying to transform creation without calling a halt to mission.

More:

I doubt that Dreher (or Moore) actually believes we should give up trying to influence the culture. They call Christians to carry on a testimony with a countercultural lifestyle. But testimony to what? And to what end? Surely they both want our testimony to have some effect. The question to pose to the Religious Right is not whether we try to influence, but how. And there Dreher and Moore are exactly right: We influence the world (and should try to) by living faithful lives of prayer and witness, worship and service, by discipling our kids and loving our neighbors, living out the kingdom we proclaim.

Read the whole thing.  [1]

I think Peter is right, and I regret the confusion that my wording caused. I took Russell Moore to be saying that the kind of truly world-changing effects we are likely to see come indirectly from trying to serve God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This does not mean that we cease to engage in pro-life activism, or religious liberty advocacy, or anything else like that. It only means that we should re-think and re-frame our approach. The early Benedictines didn’t set out to “save Europe from barbarism,” or anything like it. They simply responded to the times in which they lived by dedicating themselves to an intense, purposeful life in a community whose habits were centered around prayer. Everything else followed from that. 

I have known too many conservative Christians who think that the main work we have to do is to change the world through political action of one sort or another. For that matter, I was that sort of Christian for a long time, though if you had accused me of that, I would not have understood what you meant. I believed — or at least I lived as if I believed — that the main part of our work in the world was to apply Christian teachings to public matters, with the intent of creating a more just world. There is nothing wrong with that! But what I did not discover until I was put to the test, and failed it, is that I had not done the kind of deep, contemplative, even monastic work internally, and in community, that would have given me the strength to live and to advocate as I ought to have done. That is, I carried on as if my task was to get the arguments straight and apply them to politics. It was, and is, insufficient.

Don’t misunderstand: I am certain that there are many Christians engaged in public life who do live balanced, grounded lives of faith. God bless them. I was not one of these people, and I paid the price for my short-sightedness and lack of discipline and preparation. I thought I was strong, but in fact in my vanity and confusion, I had hidden my weaknesses from myself. I thought I was a lot stronger than I really was. Had I spent as much time in deep prayer and other Christian disciplines as I did on reading, talking, and thinking about politics (especially cultural politics), I would have been in a much better place, not only in terms of personal piety, but more importantly, as someone capable of bearing witness to the world.

It is not my calling to be a monk. But I see much more of Jesus Christ in the faces of the monks of Norcia than I do when I look in the mirror. My belief is that the more I try to live as they do, within the station in life God has called me to as a husband, father, layman, and writer, the more authentically and effectively I will be able to live out my vocation. It’s a matter of putting first things first, of rightly ordering things. The times in my life when I have been worst at my various callings are times when I was spending the least amount of time in prayer and contemplation, and the most amount of time on action.

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32 Comments To "The Church In The World"

#1 Comment By Cascadian On November 1, 2016 @ 4:00 pm

Ok. This post has me fighting tears. I think you are absolutely spot on. Coming from a pagan, this might not mean much to many.

#2 Comment By Adamant On November 1, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

‘The early Benedictines didn’t set out to “save Europe from barbarism,” or anything like it. They simply responded to the times in which they lived by dedicating themselves to an intense, purposeful life in a community whose habits were centered around prayer. Everything else followed from that.’

Surely not ‘everything’ or even most things, although surely the faith was spread in some respects by the impressive examples lived by Benedict and others. Surely Constantine issuing the Edict of Milan, and a thorough going campaign to convert the pagans, whether by teaching/example or more direct martial methods is why Christian Europe existed at all.

‘But testimony to what? And to what end? Surely they both want our testimony to have some effect.’

You’ll need a Benedict, surely. But eventually you’ll need a Constantine and a Charlemagne.

#3 Comment By Jeremy Hickerson On November 1, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

excellent and convicting post, Rod.

#4 Comment By Liam On November 1, 2016 @ 4:29 pm

I would offer a friendly amendment to that amendment.

The Paschal Mystery is a New Creation. When we use the word “Church” and think of it in ways typical of Anglo-American usage, we are typically neglecting the eschatological dimension – a dimension that *has already begun* and in a sense is already perfected in Christ and his saints but not yet in us. That’s a “world”, as it were. But it requires seeing as through an ikon.

#5 Comment By Will Harrington On November 1, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

“Surely not ‘everything’ or even most things, although surely the faith was spread in some respects by the impressive examples lived by Benedict and others. Surely Constantine issuing the Edict of Milan, and a thorough going campaign to convert the pagans, whether by teaching/example or more direct martial methods is why Christian Europe existed at all.”

Um, no, or something. You overestimate Constantine’s influence in Western Europe and neglect to understand what was going on in the East as well. The edict of Milan affected the Roman Empire, which fell in the west and which lost almost everything in the east to Slavic pagan migrations. The growth of Christianity in Western Europe depended very heavily on monasteries that preserved the faith. We are people of the book after all, and literacy was drastically reduced, which is why we had dark ages to begin with. In the east, monks such as Cyril and Methodius were instrumental in spreading the faith among the Slavs, as was Byzantine diplomacy. I think you greatly overestimate the contribution of civil roman culture to the spreading and maintaining of Christianity in barbarian Europe. Christianity was obviously not well understood by kings such as Clovis, or even Charlemagne who happily combined bloodthirsty murder with their Christianity. No, especially in the west, it was the monks and clergy who maintained and preserved the teachings of the faith and, by extension, literacy in much of Europe.
Charlemagne did extend Christiandom’s borders through the sword, but the cost was a resurgent and militant paganism in the north that inflicted a couple of centuries of misery on Europe. Why do you think we need a Charlemagne? Not for Christianities sake. A Constantine would be good though. He defended everyone’s religion (except the druids, but they were all but gone). People forget that, although he did patronize the Christians by building churches and giving benefits to clergy, he never outlawed or discouraged other religions and he did not establish Christianity as a state religion. Yes, we need more Constantines.

#6 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 1, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

Great insight, with which I must ruefully concur.

#7 Comment By Adamant On November 1, 2016 @ 7:44 pm

Will Harrington says:
November 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

“Why do you think we need a Charlemagne? Not for Christianities sake.”

Precisely for Christianies sake. The monastic orders were critical components, to be sure, but any understanding of the Christianization of Europe (much less that of the new world) that omits or downplays conquest and forcible conversion is ahistorical.

#8 Comment By Matthew Fisher On November 1, 2016 @ 9:44 pm

“My belief is that the more I try to live as they do, within the station in life God has called me to as a husband, father, layman, and writer, the more authentically and effectively I will be able to live out my vocation.”

This reminds me of Opus Dei’s spirituality — and I mean that in a good way — as found for example in “Passionately Loving the World”.

#9 Comment By Gracie On November 1, 2016 @ 10:04 pm

Yes to this, with all my heart.

#10 Comment By Chris Atwood On November 1, 2016 @ 10:13 pm

Peter Leithart summarizes what he takes to be your point as: “On this understanding, the gospel isn’t essentially about the world or its destiny. It’s about the destiny of souls, or the destiny of the church. The church has only a secondary interest in the world.”

I was expecting him to say something like “This may seem wholly good and right” or “This looks a lot like the truth” and then have his “but.”

But then he apologizes for saying this may be ” too harsh a reading of Dreher’s comment”!

That first statement is so obviously false that it is “too harsh” to assert you might have said it?

Well to me it sounds obviously true so let me own it. I agree entirely that “the gospel isn’t essentially about the world or its destiny. It’s about the destiny of souls, or the destiny of the church. The church has only a secondary interest in the world.”

That’s the obvious truth and Ignatius or Irenaeus would have been sorely puzzled that anyone could think differently.

#11 Comment By Matt On November 2, 2016 @ 12:22 am

What you are talking about is the difference between grace filled evangelism as opposed to mere activism which is the secular means of accomplishment and influence.

The two are worlds apart, one is by grace and humility which builds virtue, the other proceeds from will and ego which leads to tyrannies and the edifices of ego.

Christianity and its culture are built on grace first and foremost, it operates in God’s timing and is not forced, it is a supernatural enterprise. When secular mortals desire some change the temptation is try to accomplish it in their short life times, thus force is the result. Will to power and the achievement to power is the sole aim of secular activist, they believe that nothing can be done without first achieving power over others.
Gods ways are not mans ways, no man is saved by government, but on the contrary many have been destroyed by it.
The more man turns from God the more he turns to government, and he becomes the activist for his kind of government.
The world to come is not part of his thinking, he is only interested in his utopia that he can create in this life. Achieve power and ” change the world ” is the constant mantra, power at all costs.
The supernatural way of grace does not seek worldly power, it seeks to do the Will of The Father, far from the efforts of ego that the worldly engage in.

Grace “changes the world” for the better, it builds virtue and informs conscience which governs men far gentler than the laws of men and the dictates of government. A culture of conscience is build on grace, reason and good will, thus in vain do the activists labour, they can only build poor cruel imitations governed by force.

#12 Comment By Chris 1 On November 2, 2016 @ 1:10 am

Perfect, Rod.

Having been there, done that, you nailed it.

#13 Comment By Matt On November 2, 2016 @ 1:39 am

Interestingly it was the change of the theology of the West that enhanced the secular powers and its activists. The rise of ” faith alone ” theology had remarkable effects, one was the dirth of charitable giving. Faith alone meant good work were no longer necessary for salvation.

Luther himself writes: “Under the papacy everyone was beneficent and gave freely, but now, under the Gospel regime, avarice reigns, each thinks but of fleecing his neighbour and enriching himself.”

To counter the disaster of poverty he created Luther established state welfare where what was once given voluntarily in love was now to be taken by force of the state.

” everyone was beneficent ” under the culture of conscience that the Catholic Church created.

We can see the movement away from the virtue of supernatural culture to the worldly dominion of government. Forced giving is not charity or the outgrowth of love, and is no excercise of virtue.

We can see the the theological change caused the secular encroachment and disturbed the long established spiritual cultural ecosystem.
Today people demand an entitlement from the state, where as formally the poor praised God for the great generosity expressed through fellow men in love. This bound society together better than anything, they were not the competing interests we see today.

To be a culture governed by God and conscience or a culture governed by worldly powers, that is the question.

Today we see a repeat of Israel’s demand for a king to govern them as they turned their backs on God.

#14 Comment By Publius On November 2, 2016 @ 9:21 am

“The early Benedictines didn’t set out to ‘save Europe from barbarism,’ or anything like it. They simply responded to the times in which they lived by dedicating themselves to an intense, purposeful life in a community whose habits were centered around prayer. Everything else followed from that.”

Hm, if I understand Benedict correctly, his was not primarily a response “to the times.” It was a response to God. Every age contains prowling lions that seek to devour the faithful, even among the faithful themselves — and even in their own hearts. Benedict’s rule was established to give form to inner and outer discipleship so that his brothers and sisters could become, and be recognized as, heavenly creatures.

Rod, would you say that the value of Ben Op strategies consists in their power to reform the world? Surely not.

[NFR: No, I don’t. The value consists in building a way of life in which it is possible to live out an orthodox Christian life in very difficult times. If it pleases God, our efforts may, over a very long time, bear fruit in a renewal of the world, or at least our part of it. The point is to serve God first, and let the rest take care of itself. — RD]

#15 Comment By Herenow On November 2, 2016 @ 9:33 am

Lots of wisdom in this one. Many people seem to go through the same process – of believing they are secure in their faith, but learning through trial and error that they are not. I believe it’s just part of the process. We all seem to experience the different soils of faith in a lifetime, several times over probably. Your honesty and clear writing about your experience is inspiring, thank you Rod.

#16 Comment By JonF On November 2, 2016 @ 10:19 am

Re: Yes, we need more Constantines.

Constantine was an autocrat and a rather bloody one at that (He and Henry VIII could have a bragging match as to who was nastier to their own families). We decidedly do not need a Constantine.

Re:” The monastic orders were critical components, to be sure, but any understanding of the Christianization of Europe (much less that of the new world) that omits or downplays conquest and forcible conversion is ahistorical.

There was very little in the way of “forcible conversion” and when attempted it generally failed, or at best imposed a thin veneer over a largely pagan society. It took generations even centuries, of slow work for Europe to be Christianized. A single royal decree from on high simply did not do the trick.
Also, the more infamous examples– Charlemagne’s forced baptism of the Saxons or Emperor Otto’s similar treatment of the Magyars– have more of a back story than is often admitted. Both the Saxons and the Magyars were barbarian tribes who were rampaging around Europe, looting, raping, enslaving, killing. When each tribe was defeated their armies were put to death to the last man, and the mass baptism preceding the massacres was a sort of last ditch effort at saving their souls– which was actually much resented by the rank and file on the Christian side as who wanted to meet such vile folk in Heaven? Had anyone here been alive at the time they would have cheered those massacres on, as Americans, a few still living, once cheered on the holocausts of Dresden and Hiroshima. And you would have likely though Charlemagne or Otto were being too merciful by insisting on the baptism before the bloody work began.

#17 Comment By Rob G On November 2, 2016 @ 11:02 am

“Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a thousand souls around you will be saved.” — St. Seraphim of Sarov

“Brighten the corner where you are.” — Old gospel hymn.

“The only thing a believer can do by himself is go to hell.” Old Russian saying, quoted by Fr. Tom Hopko of blessed memory.

Put these three together and you’ve got a nutshell version of the BenOp.

#18 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 2, 2016 @ 11:34 am

Rod, please take heart, or perhaps balance your self-criticism with the observation of a friend. Like Cascadian, this Pagan was touched by your self-examination and honest sharing of what you found, but I must gently contradict you on one implied point: you’ve always been that person you seek to be. You, like myself in so many parallel ways, simply fail to live up to it all the time, and at all of those times where, in hindsight, you know you should have been able to.

There is truth behind the argued point amongst interfaith debaters. I, and others, insist that we are all striving for the same destination, albeit on very different paths. Christians (amongst other monotheists) argue that the markers of the path — the tenets of faith — are much more important than is implied there, and I guardedly agree with that point even while holding to the first assertion.

It’s not the destination. It’s what we are and do along the way.

On our separate paths, we must guard against unwarranted pride in steps we take that we believe are progress towards the destination. We must also not ignore those steps of which we are very warranted of being proud. They are often seemingly small or subtle steps. It most often needs an observer to point out to you how very valuable they really are.

Your open heart and friendship is one of those steps on your path, Rod. God bless you for it.

#19 Comment By Christopher On November 2, 2016 @ 11:36 am

Rod,

I think you gave in too quickly. In classical Christianity (of both the western and eastern kind) there is a subtlety and nuance to the theology about “the world”. The world is in point of fact NOT saved, and Scripture/Tradition is quite clear as to its destiny:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be…” (2 Peter 3:10,11)

In this Christianity agrees with modern materialists who believe the cosmos will end in either another big bang or a thermodynamic freeze (though we are not nihilistic as to the *meaning* of this end as they are). We look for a ‘new creation, a new earth’ that has been fundamentally transformed. This does not mean that creation is evil, only fallen and thus in need of an ontological *change* that includes a very final judgment and end to this age/world/cosmos.

A central feature of the Protestant and its child (secularism) worldview is the theological negation of this classical Christian dogma. This leads to many things but one (central to your blog and this post) of them is the inversion of “politics rests on culture, and culture rests on religion/first principles” into “religion/first principles rests on culture, and culture rests on politics”. Marx is an obvious example, but less obvious is that the whole liberal democratic project of Western Europe and our American government/culture is also wholly dependent on this inversion. Since this inversion is not *true* either to Christian Doctrine or Reality, the whole modern world is a monument to it’s colossal failure – and both the “left” and the “right” sup equally at this error.

So the correct answer to Peter Leithart’s inquiry:

“But testimony to what? And to what end? Surely they both want our testimony to have some effect.”

Is of course the answer Jesus gives:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)

The effect (for which modern people are always very concerned) is not what we would want or choose…unless our hearts be converted.

#20 Comment By Will Bloomfield On November 2, 2016 @ 11:50 am

Right on. The interior life comes first, i.e., we must be deeply united to Christ through prayer and the Sacraments. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”

The interior life will manifest itself in good works and activities in accord with our state in life.

The book that convinced me of this is the Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard. See [3]

The priests that convinced me of this are from the religious order Miles Christi. They offer wonderful Spiritual Exercises retreats. See [4]

#21 Comment By Matthew Robare On November 2, 2016 @ 12:01 pm

“Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

#22 Comment By Will Harrington On November 2, 2016 @ 12:05 pm

So, again, outside of of Charlemagne, Norway’s Olaf, the Teutonic nights in Poland and Lithuania, oh and Clovis (very limited conquests in terms of European history) exactly where was Christianity spread by the sword? I don’t count spain because the reconquista was a very gradual retaking of AL-Andalus from conquerors and You can’t really count southern France unless you want to argue that the Albigensians weren’t Christians of some sort. The more modern historical error is to overplay the role of violence in spreading Christianity. It wasn’t all as peaceful as Ireland but I’ve talked to too many people who think that Patrick spread Christianity by force so the corrective is usually to de-emphasize violence because most peoples ideas of the spread of Christianity in Europe are already weighted and biased toward that side. it’s never one or the other, but it does seem to me that the common misunderstanding is not balanced. Forgive me if that is not the case with you. (By the way, I’m not touching the New World except to note that Columbus was a monster that even the Spaniards could not ultimately stomach and the Protestant missionaries in North America, while not using violence, did use the force of government in truly abominable ways. But that has to be balanced by the Jesuit missionaries who accomplished wonderful things in various places and the Russian monks, priests, bishops and Saints in Alaska who I think are, along with Patrick the model for Christian missionary work and evangelism in non-Christian cultures. The Russian missionaries even challenged the sins and excesses of the Russian trappers who exploited the Alaskans. Ron thinks we need a new St.Benedict, but I think we need a new Saint Innokenty just as badly.
But back to the broader point. Spreading the faith by the sword may make people go to church, but is does nothing to actually do the work of the church, which is to save souls. The best conquest can do for the faith is give those who preach and teach safe access to the people (at least safe from the rulers). In Europe those preachers and teachers tended to be monks.
Forgive me if I’m not clear. I’m enjoying the conversation but I’m dealing with a lot of pain today and I can’t really tell if I am making sense or not.

#23 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 2, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

Will: I truly hope you get your pain under control. Take care of yourself first, good sir.

A survey of documented accounts of conversions, notably in northern and northeastern Europe, show a fact that is surprising and often denigrated by modern Pagans who prefer to cite “history” to justify their claims of persecution. My main citation is A History of Pagan Europe, Jones and Pennick (both of whom are academically credentialed and practicing Pagans).

In short, the expanding Holy Roman Empire frequently used a form of diplomacy. No scare quotes around that term, because we have many modern examples of similar practices: they made it clear that they could isolate the nation/tribe/clan economically, and later come in and conquer with minimal military force. The leader(s) generally responded by openly converting to Christianity, then opening their borders to missionaries and sometimes violently supporting their efforts to convert their own people.

In this sense, “the sword” was always present (and presented), but was often wielded by the ex-Pagan leaders.

#24 Comment By Chris Atwood On November 2, 2016 @ 10:19 pm

“A central feature of the Protestant and its child (secularism) worldview is the theological negation of this classical Christian dogma.” [that is, negation of the dogma that “We look for a ‘new creation, a new earth’ that has been fundamentally transformed.”]

Why not just assert that Protestantism is all wrong because it believes in an all-powerful Pope or ascribes magical powers to sacramental gestures? ‘Cause that’s as close to reality as the idea that Protestantism negates the idea of the second coming. For crying out loud, I thought we were all wrong because were too apocalyptic.

Seriously, where do you Cathlodox GET this stuff? Do you have any sense whatsoever of what actually existing Protestants believe? Or do you really think we only exist to be some sort of abstract phantom of your latest lucubration about how the great declension began?

It would be offensive, if it wasn’t so baffling. I just don’t get it.

#25 Comment By Glaivester On November 2, 2016 @ 11:57 pm

I generally try to segregate my political activism from my church life, even though the political situation is what spurred my interest in becoming more church-involved.

But if you want to see an evangelical (specifically Southern Baptist) Church that is growing and reaching into the community, may I suggest you check out the Facebook page of my church:

[5]

Correct doctrine and preaching is very important to our church, evangelism comes first, but in order to achieve this we are extremely involved with our community and in helping people elsewhere in New England (and in the world, we have people visiting El Salvador and Haiti). We are working to spread the Kingdom and in the process hopefully to shed some light into the present world.

And my special calling in the church? I plant most of the flowers.

#26 Comment By JonF On November 3, 2016 @ 6:11 am

Franklin,

We should remember that ancient Paganism was not so much a matter of individual devotion as it was a matter of community worship: religion was a social thing. If the leader started worshiping differently then it was expected that his followers would too, and failure to do so was seen as a form of disrespect for his authority.

#27 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 3, 2016 @ 11:35 am

Jon, you have it right. I would just add that the Paganisms that the early Christians encountered were as institutionalized as any they established in their time of power. It should also be noted that the Romans treated many nascent or “foreign” religions in much the same ways they treated the Christians, as violently and with the same xenophobia. See also the Jews, the cults of Isis and Mithras, and some much earlier politicization of Roman religion. There’s an archaic branch etymology of the term “superstition” which had its roots in the codification of Roman religion. Superstitia were religions or beliefs in violation of the Roman law.

#28 Comment By Christopher On November 3, 2016 @ 7:24 pm

Chris Atwood says:

“the idea that Protestantism negates the idea of the second coming. For crying out loud, I thought we were all wrong because were too apocalyptic.”

Chris, the limits of a “comment box” do not really allow me to adequately support/explain in detail how I got from A to E (through B, C, and D) – my apologies. If you want, you can trace the intellectual history of modern secular progressivism and its grounding in earlier Protestant presuppositions (that themselves rest in RC Scholasticism – Protestantism is an internal debate/schism of the Western Church, not the Eastern one) through various scholars (believers and non-believers).

More specifically to my point, the sacred/profane division (which is a fundamental Protestant doctrine in all its forms) as reflected in Protestant understanding of the sacrements for example (for the East, even Creation itself is a sacrement!), also have soteriological consequences that lead to certain conclusions, such as what it means to be Christian in the world, how people are saved and what that salvation looks like vis-a-vis the world, etc.

Protestants don’t like to hear this (who would?) but the simple fact is that modernism/secularism/utopianism is at best a Protestant heresy, and IMO not even a heresy but a necessary logical outcome of your (theological) presuppositions.

As to why this is so, you might want to start with C.S. Lewis little book “The Abolition of Man”, or in modern English “The Destruction of Humanity”.

#29 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 3, 2016 @ 9:14 pm

My belief is that the more I try to live as they do, within the station in life God has called me to as a husband, father, layman, and writer, the more authentically and effectively I will be able to live out my vocation.

It’s a warming coincidence that the All Saints homily in the church I attended basically said that saints achieved sainthood by staying where they were, but in a different way.

#30 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 3, 2016 @ 9:41 pm

Franklin Evans

It should also be noted that the Romans treated many nascent or “foreign” religions in much the same ways they treated the Christians, as violently and with the same xenophobia. See also the Jews, the cults of Isis and Mithras, and some much earlier politicization of Roman religion. There’s an archaic branch etymology of the term “superstition” which had its roots in the codification of Roman religion. Superstitia were religions or beliefs in violation of the Roman law.

In the Roman mentality religion and the state were tightly connected. They actually were almost the same thing. That’s why cults which threatened the religious order of the state were fiercely fought, while other cults which simply aimed to coexist were tolerated and even integrated in the Roman religious worship.
But I wouldn’t say that “xenophobia” had played any role into this. Nationalism was an utterly alien feeling to Romans, whom since the beginning had a policy of assimilating conquered peoples and admitting them into the highest ranks of the state. By the way, even this couldn’t quench the thirst of the Romans for a spirituality that the dried-up state cult couldn’t provide anymore.

#31 Comment By Franklin Evans On November 4, 2016 @ 3:38 am

Guiseppe,

I agree that “xenophobia” was a very poor choice of term.

The rest sounds familiar. My limited knowledge of Roman Pagan culture is based on reading Taylor Caldwell’s A Pillar of Iron, then seeking out and reading translations of some of Cicero’s writing on which she based her novelized account of his life.

#32 Comment By Johan On November 4, 2016 @ 9:16 am

“You’ll need a Benedict, surely. But eventually you’ll need a Constantine and a Charlemagne.”

Yes, Benedict + Constantine contributed to the Christianization of Europe. Kind of like how Joe Blow and Kobe Bryant once combined for 61 points in a game. In the Christian version of history, the Kobe Bryants and the Constantines are often airbrushed out, and only holy Joe Blow won the victory.