The first in a two-part series looking at how God is welcomed by the world:
This past week, I took some time to reorganize my home library. I’m not sure how many books I actually have in my library, but it is enough to organize them in order of topics. I rediscovered a volume on the failure of one of world’s first experiments with democracy, the Roman Republic. Historians debate the actually length of the empire, as it evolved from a Republic to an authoritarian Empire and then divided into a western experiment led by the Roman Church while the eastern Byzantine Empire was abandoned both politically and culturally to the Islamic-influenced Ottoman Empire.
The French experiment at democracy is nestled in these years of Roman evolution, and it is the French, not Roman, experiment that ultimately led to the founding of the United States of America. In the French experiment, the Church found itself on the wrong side of the Revolution. French intellectuals, like Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot, affluent themselves, argued that both the crown and the church should be dissolved. Diderot announced his desire to see “the last king strangled with the guts of the last priest.” The efforts of these intellectuals to first garner the support of the church gave way to animosity when the church refused to support the revolution and was, rightfully so, viewed as an enabler of oppression. Noted author and professor Dr. Hunter Baker writes that the French Revolution was, “designed not merely to overturn the throne, but also break the power of the altar.” Baker argues that the battle cry of the French Revolution was freedom, democracy and secularism.
However, this secularism was not just an idea of freedom of thought, but a freedom from Christianity and its declarations of ultimate truth. Of course, the aftermath of the Revolution was far from spotless. The gruesome and public execution of King Louis XVI by the guillotine fed a public frenzy for the blood of priests and bishops.
In France, a new empire of the fatherland was envisioned. In this post-revolution era, opportunity for power hungry leaders like Napoleon to rise to power became the heritage of the French experiment in democracy. The capstone of such despots was ultimately realized with the rise of Adolph Hitler, who fancied himself greater than Napoleon and the emperor of a new Rome. Even in the course of these human events, the church, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, found itself in the middle of international change. Many leaders welcomed the idea of a national church while others rejected faith wholesale and persecuted the church vehemently. At its best, the church moderated the will of power hungry monarchs. At its worst, the Church became a partner in oppression. The call of the Church of Jesus Christ is to announce the reign of God. This will generally put us at odds with both political sides and even the entire world.
Next week: A Secular Nation?