Christendom is dead… long live Christendom
April 29, 2009
For decades now the cry that Christendom is coming to an end has been sounding. I built part of my dissertation last year on this argument, blogged about it, read about it, thougth about it. I consider the beginning and end of Christendom probably the two most important events in the history of church. But the more the prophets call out that Christendom is over, Christendom is dead, the harder the cry is sounding: “long live Christendom”. And in South Africa, at least, maybe Christendom is not so dead.
When the ruling party use the church as part of it’s campaign, claim that they will rule till the second coming, consider themselves to be sanctioned by God, then maybe Christendom is not dead. When Angus Buchan gets 150000 men together and predicts (and calls for) the return of the opening prayer to parliment, then maybe Christendom is not so dead (at least not among Afrikaners who is his main supporters). When schools continue to get reverends and pastors to “open” the public schools with prayer and preaching, then maybe Christendom is not so dead. When we hear the cries of national revival and repentance: “South Africa must turn to God”, welcomed by many, then maybe Christendom is not so much dead. When I walk around the University of Pretoria campus earlier today, and overhear the numerous fundamentalist conversations running as I pass people, then maybe Christendom is not so much dead.
OK, so maybe the truth is that we have a big divide in South African culture. A very strong Christendom culture, and a total secular culture developing side by side at the same time. But the “long live Christendom” cry is just loud enough that post-Christendom theology cannot simply be a socialogical phenomenon, where changes in society naturally causes re-theologizing. Rather, post-Christendom theology in South Africa might need to be exactly the voice that critiques Christendom, and calls the church to move beyond this cry of “long live Christendom”, into the narrow road of following a carpenter from Nazareth, where the war terminology used by Christians no longer count, where we never win the war on culture, which always end in becoming the stewerd of culture, but create pockets of Christ following communities within this world.
Post-Christendom theology in South Africa need not in survivalist mode, where we frantically try to help the church survive because it’s time has passed. Rather, post-Christendom theologogizing is a prophetic voice, calling for an end to the call “long live Christendom”, not because the church is closing shop, but because the health of the church is at stake, our obediance to the cause of the preacher from Nazareth is at stake when his words is used to empower the Christian empire.