A little video on African-American Christianity. Just a reminder that the Church is and always has been (and was designed to be) a revelation to all, not just one ethnicity:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.” (Re 7:9–12).
Irenaeus, writing in the second century, speaks of the “ancient apostolic churches”. He is referring to churches that had been in existence for about 150 years. He was separated in time from Jesus by a shorter span of time than we are separated from Abraham Lincoln. So what gives with “ancient”?
Funny thing: Irenaeus didn’t know he lived in the “early Church”. He thought he lived in the modern Church, just like we do. The reason he thought that is that he had no idea how long the Church was going to exist in the world because he had no idea how long the world would exist.
Nor do we.
It therefore follows that we may also be living in the early Church. After all, if the Church continues for another 50,000 or 100,000 years, then we will be discovered to have been living in the Church’s early infancy.
Why mention this? Because I sometimes wonder to myself if the entire history of the Church till now is just the first page of chapter 1.
A wag once remarked that when Christianity went to Greece it became a philosophy, when it went to Rome it became an Empire, when it got to Europe it became a civilization, and when it got to America it became a business. Whatever the truth of that joke, one thing is plain: Euro-American expressions of Christianity have tended to dominate people’s perceptions because Europe and America have been the political, economic, and military powerhouses of the world. Nobody’s mind leaps to the thought of the Ethiopian Church, or the Japanese Church, or the Chaldean Church, or the Syro-Malabar Church, or the Chinese Church.
But the reality is that the Church is going south and east. Whiteness and Christianity are only going to decouple more in the coming centuries. The future of the Church–rather like its beginnings–is brown.
That this does not occur to the MAGA Cult–or only evokes dread with them when it does–only makes clear that MAGA is a white supremacist fertility cult that happens to like dressing up in Christian clothes to hide its real aims. But the Church herself is and always will be pan-national, pan-ethnic, and has zero commitment to “western civilization” per se except insofar as it is useful to spreading the gospel. Just as the gospel was born in but broke out of the Jewish matrix, so the gospel will never be contained by Euro-American civilization either. Attempts to keep Jesus bottled up in categories like “white identity” or “western civilization” or “American values” are absolutely doomed.
Conservative white Catholics had better figure that out, because the center of gravity of the Church is already the global south and Asia and that genie ain’t going back in the bottle. We have–for the moment–the concentrations of wealth and media in the US and Europe. But that won’t last. Here we have no continuing city. Jesus is unstoppable and he mean to go into every highway and byway of the planet with the good news. If we cooperate with him, he will bless our work. If we set ourselves against him in pursuit of Mammon and MAGA and holding to our status quo, the biblical example of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 is what we can expect.