19 June 2010

Greeks, Turks, and Two Kingdoms

Last night as we watched Greek dancers perform some of the circle dances from Macedonia, Crete, and the Peloponnese, I thought about the sad history of the Greek people and the lessons we as Christians can learn from it. They still haven't recovered from the loss of Constantinople in 1453. This anger has only been exacerbated by four hundred years of Ottoman domination until the Greek Revolt in the early 19th century.

In 1832 they finished the recovery of Greece-proper but multitudes still dwelt in Asia Minor and scattered throughout the Balkans. But then with the Ottoman collapse, the Greeks filled with desire to recapture ancient Ionia and the rest of their old possessions in Asia, invaded in the early 1920's leading to a complete disaster. The sad chapter ended with Ataturk expelling the majority of the Greek population from Asia Minor where they had lived for 3000 years. Athens was overrun with refugees and the loss of the Greek presence in Asia Minor was yet just another part of the Old World to pass away in the aftermath of the First World War.

As a connoisseur of Middle Eastern music I smiled at the similarities between Turkish and Greek folk music, not to mention their food and dress. Subsequently they've battled with the Turks over Cyprus, and collaborated with Kurds in their fight for a Kurdish homeland. It was no accident that when Ocalan, the PKK leader was captured in Kenya, he was hiding in the Greek embassy!

Because of their history and the hyper-Sacralism of the Byzantine Empire, even to this day to be Greek is to be Greek Orthodox. Some would applaud this category of 'christian-nation' thinking….but look at what it has done!

They continue to hate, murder in their hearts, and have fought many wars for the sake of a land, an empire they lost, a domed building on the Bosporus which in their minds was every bit the kingdom of God. I'm not surprised by this fleshly desire, but Christians should know better…..the problem of course is that Biblically speaking the Greeks are not Christians, the Byzantine Empire was not holy and in this whole worldview, this Christo-Cultural Monism is contrary to Biblical doctrine of the Kingdom of God. Any of these nation groups that have so tied their very ethnic consciousness to Christianity are harder to reach than a primitive savage of New Guinea. With these folks they have to be un-saved to be saved. They have to abandon their christianity for Christianity. What a mighty task and what a shame. Americans have obviously learned nothing from this. We are not a history loving people. We are ignorant of our own.

I was always moved talking to Protestant Christians in Italy, another society that defines itself by its Sacralism. To become a Protestant is to cease to be Italian! If you're a completely impious Roman Catholic …that's fine, but to leave Rome is a betrayal not of the religion, but the very national identity.

I know an Armenian man who boldly calls himself a Christian….but his passion is not for Christ, but because he's Armenian and was caught in the Nagorno-Karabakh war with the Azeris of Azerbaijan, who are at best secular Muslims. It's a cultural and historical divide with religious labels attached. But the Armenians have been Christians since BEFORE the Edict of Milan. Let's just say they raise their eyebrows a bit when you suggest they need to become Christians. National Sacral Christianity is a curse. The poor man has no clue as to what a Christian is. He thinks it's because his name ends in '-ian' instead of '-ov 'or '-ayev', let alone an '-al' or '-uk'.

Look at the Kulturkampf in Bismarck's Prussia. They were trying to define 'German-ness' in terms of Protestantism. Catholics weren't really Germans. They were hyphenated-Germans. Sound familiar?

As Christians we're all hyphenated. We're Christian-Americans or Christian-Swiss or Christian-Chinese. We're not just Americans. That type of thinking in the American church is Sacralism…a false Christianity…a syncretism. We should celebrate and defend social pluralism. Civilly speaking, it's what keeps us safe. Too many equate religious pluralism (a heresy) with social pluralism. They're not the same.

And yet the Christians in Germany went along with Prussia's Culture War in addition to the Kaiser joining the Lutheran and Reformed bodies. It was for the good of Germany. We have a different tradition here in on a practical level, but certainly Patriotism and Nationalism are pretty much de facto tenets of Biblical Orthodoxy. If I won't stand up and sing patriotic songs in church, I'm probably not saved. Not to worry…when that happens I just leave. It is idolatry. That's what's wrong with Greeks, Germans, Russians, and definitely American Evangelicalism.

And as far as the tradition which would frown at a government directive for the church….that's changing as well. For the last thirty years there has been an aggressive campaign in the church to overthrow the Biblical doctrine of separation of church and state. From tax-laws to faith-based subsidies…monism (at least in the minds of Evangelicals) is waxing.

Contrast this with the Hungarian Protestants… One of their famous mottoes was that it was better to live under the Turk than the Habsburg. Tolerant Ottoman Turkey left them alone and allowed them to pursue Reformed Christianity. Ottoman Turkey was certainly a Muslim state but had no problem with a pluralistic society. Under the Habsburgs the Hungarians suffered the horrors of the Jesuit Counter-Reformation. They could follow Christ and be better Christians living under infidels than a false Christianity. Something to think about.

The Hungarians also would fall prey to nationalism though they never tied it specifically to Protestantism or Catholicism in the same way the Scots or Italians would. Interestingly they fought alongside the Turks at the famed siege of Vienna in 1683…
(….which the key date was 9/12, not 9/11 as Chuck Colson and others have tried to suggest…trying to buttress their adherence to Huntington's Clash of Civilizations model.)

Hungarian Protestant rebels like Rakoczy hid in Turkey and had no problem fighting against so-called Christendom. I suppose to many this is part of the tragedy of the Reformation that it divided Christendom. I'm not happy with the Hungarians did…nor certainly with what they did when they achieved the dual monarchy, but for a while it seemed there were some who didn't think a unified Christendom was so wonderful. They preferred a pluralistic society…..so should we.

When they gained power in 1867 they were corrupted and shamefully treated the Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Serbs, and others who lived in the realm. The harshness of Magyarization fueled by an unholy nationalism led them being punished at Trianon after the war and their 'holy' nation…founded after all by St. Istvan….was rent asunder. The naiveté of Wilsonian diplomacy would lead to the Hungarians joining with the Third Reich under promises to regain the lost lands. How ironic…they lost everything in the end, more death and destruction, and almost fifty years of communist rule. Nationalism is idolatry. Christian Nationalism is even worse. There are a lot of Christians in Hungary. Look at what they went through…for what?

For many Americanists right now…(an Americanist being someone that has syncretized American democratic ideology/folklore myth/ and imagery with Christianity)…in other words about 99% of Evangelicals…they cry out that they want their country back. Here again, though they don't admit it, is another example of a Sacralist Ethnic Ideal. What they won't say or perhaps even admit to themselves is that they think TRUE Americans are White Anglo-Saxon Protestants…and thanks to the efforts of Charles Colson, Catholics have been included in this formula.

This is the same error the Greeks, Armenians, Russians, Italians, and others have made….and sadly it leads to a moral justification for unjust wars, sinful racism, and a false concept of God-sanctioned Imperialism. Just look at the Land Letter, urging Bush to invade Iraq….look at the Christian involvement in the absurdly juvenile and naïve Tea Party and the racist anti-immigration movement…and look at the 'christian' support for the Imperium Americanum and its bloody global military and economic policies.

They are blind to this because like the Greeks in Asia Minor, the Armenians in Karabagh, the Russians in the Balkans…God is on our side. American Constantinianism does have a different flavour. It's not so much concerned with a Christendom or Holy Roman Empire concept…no like the narcissists we are…it's pretty much just the United States. If you’re a dispensationalist, it's Israel and the United States, a sort of Judeo-Christendom.

Prior to the Constantinian Shift multitudes of Christians lived peacefully within the confines of the Persian Sassanid Empire…and before the 3rd century with their predecessors the Parthians, both dynasties long time enemies of Rome. But now with Christianity Sacralized….meaning the politics, military, and economics of the Roman Empire tied in idealogically with Christianity… is it any surprise the Persian emperors began to look at the Christian's as a fifth column? Read Foxe's Book of Martyrs about those persecutions. It's hard reading. Certainly the Persian emperors were wicked…but from a Realpolitik-type of perspective, which is all you can hope for from the world…it made sense. That kind of thinking made sense to most Americans as well. Look at what they did to the Japanese in America during WWII.

How many Christians today are persecuted as a direct result of the United States foreign policy? The U.S. is not a Christian nation…there's no such thing. Constantinian Rome wasn't Christian either….but tell that to Persians….or today to the Pakistanis. Not to mention the fact that when Sacralism occurs all that goes with that culture, good or bad is equated with the religious system. When Muslims see Lady Gaga or Sex and the City on the television…to them that's Christianity. And Christianity is to them patently decadent.

Ataturk was a wicked man directly and indirectly responsible for the genocides against the Armenians, Pontic Greeks, and Assyrians…but the irony there was, he wasn't even a devout Muslim. He wanted a secular western state built on Turkish identity defined pretty much by the Turkish language.

I'm not saying the Armenians, Kurds, or Greeks should have learned Turkish, but in the case of the Armenians it was their very Sacral identity which led them to conspire with Tsarist Russia against the Muslim Turks to try and carve up Eastern Anatolia (parts of which had indeed comprised ancient and medieval Armenian kingdoms). Turkey sat there at the end of WWI watching the western 'christian' powers like France and Britain divide up its old empire and then the Armenians were collaborating on their eastern frontier with Russia. Is it any wonder they reacted as they did? It was wicked…but it was certainly logical. They need to account for it, but once again Christianity doesn't seem to learn from this.

I am saddened to learn of so much Christian persecution out in the world right now, but I contend that now and in the past….a lot, not all, but a lot of it is due to Christian Sacralism.

Even the infamous Boxer Rebellion in China wherein so many Christians died….who were the Boxers? Why did they rise up? You cannot understand it outside the categories of Western Imperialism which on an ideological level was wedded to Sacralism. The Boxers committed murder, but the missionaries all too often were agents of murderous regimes.

I was very discouraged to hear Maurice Roberts the other day talk about how Britain lost their glorious empire because they forgot God. Had sad that so many British Christians have not learned the lesson. The British Empire like the American, Russian, German, Roman, Byzantine etc… are abominations, an affront to God, Bestial Images straight out of Revelation. This is Sacralism….the very aspiration of the leadership of Conservative American Protestantism.

What a disgrace that in late colonial India, it was Gandhi, lost Gandhi who was acting more like a Christian than the Christian English.

I am pleased to say that I did meet Christians in England and in Italy that are very concerned about being Christians. They have no expectations of their government. They know it is not Christian…it is just a tool of Providence so the true Holy Nation…the Church can do its work.

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