In some recent research that I’ve done over the past semester of school, I’ve come across some things that have really interested me regarding the early church versus our political situation today.
This all stems out of a paper by Ted Grimsrud entitled “From pacifism to the just war: the development of early Christian thought on war and peace.” The title is really pretty self-explanatory. Grimsrud claims (and I’m inclined to believe him, since he’s way smarter than I am) that the early church writers advocated a completely pacifist lifestyle. This held until the century leading up to Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as Rome’s state religion. The gradual enculturation of the church forced the development of theologies that treat violence, specifically state-endorsed warfare, as acceptable. Since the church was Rome’s religion, it had to be able to excuse Rome’s actions.
Right off the bat, this raised one huge question for me: a recent(ish) survey demonstrated that in the United States, Mennonite voting patterns in the last presidential elections very closely mirrored the voting patterns of the greater non-Mennonite population (apologies that I can’t cite the specific survey). What are the implications for the Mennonite peace stance if over 50% of our voting body is willing to vote for a candidate who has openly declared himself “a war president?” Will we see it erode over the next decades? And if it does, will there be anything keeping us from eventually being subsumed by the greater Christian Right?
But then again, perhaps I’m just being overly reactionist. Thoughts?
P.S. For those of you from outside of the ‘States, I apologize for the U.S.-centric nature of this post. I hope you’ll forgive me.