Around the year 1,200AD, for a variety of reasons, the Christian community decided to focus on two different paths. One group felt the call to withdraw from the world. They felt that our highest goal was complete devotion to God, and our quickest and surest way to find God was focused prayer, meditation, and withdrawal from the non-believing world. So they built monasteries with high walls, and many never again mingled with the outside world. The second group was far more aggressive.
They felt it was our duty to evangelize the world – even at the point of a sword. Their goal wasn’t really to engage the world, but to transform the world into a Christian kingdom on earth, even if that took violence to make it happen. They launched the crusades and became the literal “army” of God.
It was two opposite directions that now, almost 1,000 years later have continued to this day.
On the one hand we don’t build monasteries anymore, but we do build Christian publishing, recording, radio, and TV empires. We have our own Christian schools and colleges. We create Christian clubs and social networks. Again, for a multitude of reasons, we’ve virtually withdrawn from the world and created our own monasteries of the mind. Faith communities, that allow us safety and security from the outside world.
Another group is about hardcore evangelism. They obviously don’t use violence, but they do look at evangelism in some ways like a weapon. They love the reasoned defense of the scriptures, but don’t much care for the storytelling that Jesus used so well. They want to use overt Christian imagery – even in communities that have no clue what it means. They want to “take back America” and are frustrated that others aren’t comfortable with their belief that this should be a “Christian nation.”
I wonder if we started something back in 1,200AD that has led us in wrong directions, and kept us from really engaging the culture. Looking at the life of Jesus, I don’t see either tendency.
What do you think?