Is there still a need for me to call this website Ancient Answers? What can ancient thoughts possibly offer in answer to the problems of today? My ‘ancient answers’ have usually come from the Bible or ecclesial/patristic theology and spirituality. But at the same time that I’ve looked to ancient answers, I’ve also been drawn to certain men and women of my own and immediately preceding times. Very few are still alive, and some of those still alive are in their late 80s or in their 90s, so heaven will claim them soon enough. So I look to the near past, to William Stringfellow, Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Jacques Ellul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maggie Ross, and others whose writings will endure as long as there are Christians who haven’t succumbed to the siren song of Christendom. Yes, Christendom, the arch-enemy of Søren Kierkegaard, the oldest of my not-ancient heroes.
Christendom is precisely the form of Christianity that Jesus will spit out of his mouth in Revelation 3:16. And it is Christianity as most people know it; not just today but for twenty centuries. That’s why I cannot give preference to the ancient answers. They are no better than the answers – and questions – posed by Stringfellow or Merton; or Bonhoeffer, with his religionless Christianity!
Jesus still stands at the door knocking (Rev 3:20). After his resurrection he had to go through walls to speak to his cowardly disciples. Today he doesn’t go through walls, because the walls that we have built are not just psychological walls. They are physical walls that keep out all of Christendom’s undesirables. As has been the habit of Jesus since Matthew 25, he is with those who are kept out. He doesn’t go through any walls that his brothers and sisters cannot go through. Christendom in this country has blessed a heartless government that pretends to be led by ‘Christians’.
At every Liturgy, Orthodox Christians pray for “our country, the president” and all the public servants who carry out his will. And if that will is to keep Jesus out so the acceptable, ornately dressed, version of Jesus can be safely worshipped so be it. In the Orthodox Church, we even dress Jesus as a bishop! And we place this icon on the throne that the earthly bishop sits on! Pretty convincing image of Christendom, I would say, especially when the earthly bishop is in place! Jesus in all Orthodox icons has no choice but to bless the earthly pretenses spread before him. That’s the sin of Christendom. And of course Roman Catholic and Protestant versions of Christendom have their own blasphemous ways of making Jesus bless everything they do.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7)
“Who pierced him”? How about the ones who pierce him today! See, this is the temptation when we talk about ancient answers. It is too easy to get comfortable in the historical mode and ignore what is happening today! “Even so. Amen” is how the above translation renders the conclusion of this verse 7 in the first chapter of Revelation. The Greek is even plainer: ναὶ ἀμήν. Yes amen. Not even a comma. Amen means Yes, so a double Yes, a double assertion, this will be! God does not wait for us to say Amen. God speaks the Amen and speaks with double force, without any help from us or from our liturgical gatherings where dozens of Amens are spoken or chanted or sung.
There will be a reckoning. I don’t know how it will happen, but that ναὶ ἀμήν carries a lot of weight. The princes and rulers of today’s traitorous Christendom will be held to account. I will be held to account! The Bible challenges me when I allow it to speak to me directly and not through ecclesial interpretation. Stringfellow speaks to me without any ecclesial double-talk. Bonhoeffer speaks to me from a Nazi prison cell and tells me that only a new Christianity that sheds its Constantinian coverings can be adequate to respond to the evils of pandemic, environmental destruction, poverty, racism, violence.
So I don’t know what direction this blog and website will take as we go through this coronavirus pandemic. I know that I seethe with anger at how Christendom has responded in alliance with governments that care more about money and corporate profit than human lives. And the poor, the least of Christ’s brethren? They don’t even figure in government calculations. And above the cruel unresponsiveness to this disease lies the cloud and threat of violence. We comfort ourselves with happy messages and videos on Facebook that tell us the world might be better after this pandemic, because we are smiling more and our skies are less polluted. Yes, let’s comfort ourselves with happy talk and optimism. I like the optimism and I even share it with people on Facebook and even in this blog sometimes. But deep down I’m not optimistic. I’m sickened and depressed. I hope more writing in this blog will help me see through my own confusion. But I don’t want my anger to dissipate. My anger just might be the way I escape being spat out of His mouth!