[Ed. note: This editorial is excerpted from the parish newsletter of St. James Episcopal Church, Livingston, Alabama (church pictured below), by permission of the author, The Rev. Richard Losch – CWG]
An aggressive and outspoken segment of modern society is doing everything in its power to destroy Christianity. The first wave is to push it out of the public forum, and the next will undoubtedly be a movement to suppress it altogether. The question is often asked today as to whether Christianity (or religion itself) can survive this onslaught. The answer is simple: Yes! Throughout history the Church has faced enemies who have sought to destroy it, and all they have ever accomplished is to strengthen it.
As the rabbi Gamaliel observed two thousand years ago (in Acts 5:33-42), if it is of God it cannot be stopped; and if it is not, there is no need to fight it because it will die by itself. We are watching the end of Christendom, but not the end of Christianity. Christianity is that Faith deposited once and for all time with the Apostles. It was given to us by God, and it is for all people.
Christendom, on the other hand, was that long period when the vast majority of Europeans (and subsequently, Americans) claimed to be Christian, the Church was a central focus of their daily lives, and public prayer was commonplace and expected.
The era of Christendom is disappearing, and it may be just as well. It was too easy to claim to be a Christian, and as a result we tended to take the Faith for granted. People went to church on Sunday because it was what one did on a Sunday morning, and everyone else expected it of them. The churches were full, but I wonder how many people, even some clergy, really understood what was going on there. There is a difference between going to church and worshipping God.
Perhaps now that Christendom is dying we can get on with the business of Christianity. When we consider that the Church’s mission is to save us from hell and bring us to everlasting life, we have to realize that this is serious business. The work of the Church is not to sponsor soup kitchens and promote social justice. These are only signs of the Faith, not its purpose. The work of the Church is to save souls.
It takes very little effort to be a part of Christendom, but to be a Christian is hard work. It’s good work, though, and the pay is extraordinary!