The Roman Emperor Constantine, wishing to unite his empire, made Christianity the religion of the state and Christendom was born. State money could be used to construct church buildings, and as time passed, the church grew in power and with power came wealth. For example, before Constantine a bishop or presbyter would have been persecuted for their faith, after Constantine, church office was coveted by some as an avenue to wealth and power. Of course the inevitable happened when the church is married to the state. By the late fourth century other religions were no longer protected by the state; pagan temples were destroyed; military service and judgeships were reserved for Christians; and by 423 pagans could be exiled, wealth confiscated, and sometimes put to death. Yes, the persecuted church became the persecutor. As more time passed Christendom has ordered: crusades, inquisitions, burnings of Protestants, burnings of Catholics, drownings of Baptists, witch burnings, abortion clinic bombings, the KKK, promotion of slavery as an institution, and unfortunately the list continues.
Christendom is NOT Christianity. I understand one definition of Christendom can be the use of the Christian faith for personal, economic or social gain. Christianity is simply living by the grace of God and following the teachings of Jesus. And among the teaching of Jesus is this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
Christianity is not alone. Other religions have their form of Christendom. The obvious example is our current battle with, let’s see what can I call it, “Islamadom?” Yes, I just made that word up, but it seems to follow the same patterns of how wealth and power (call it oil) can pervert religion.
With this said, let me be clear, I am a Christian. I trust Jesus as savior and Lord, and look to him to better understand how I am to live in this world. I, like all others who profess Christ, have a little (maybe more than I want to admit) Christendom in me.
“Lord, help me and be merciful!” Amen.