My young, my very young anabaptist radical friends,
you’re all much too young to remember this, so let me – as an ancient of days – tell you about something that is much older than you. …
No actually, I don’t want to talk about the past, but rather about how a past event is being overcome by the present and future! This October it will have been (note the future perfect tense!), yes this October the 28th of 2012 it will have been 1700 years since Constantine won the battle of the Milvian Bridge bearing on his standard the sign of the cross. He raised the severed head of his enemy on a spit as a sign that the “Christian god” had shown him favour.
This occasion is a sad day for many followers of Jesus who regret that our church leadership decided to accept the offer of the Emperor to endorse his military victory and accept the generous sinecures of the state. TheyÂ laid down the cross andÂ took up the sword. The unholy alliance between Constantine and the bishops of the Roman empire is the most significant (human) event of church history. As a consequence, the Church aided in the violent aggression against Jews and Muslims, against Africans and other peoples, against so-called witches and heretics. The medieval church believed that pope and emperor were entrusted with the two swords of Christ (Luke 22:38). Unfortunately, the repercussions persist to this day.
One of the core convictions of Anabaptists is that all of this was a great evil. We shouldn’t forget this day. We should commemorate this day and turn it into an opportunity for action!
One of the most remarkable things I’ve noticed over the last few decades is that even representatives of mainline churches (which used to be state churches) are acknowledging the Constantinian error. Here in Germany there are plans underway among them to have some sort of memorial in October. The plan: first, there is to be protest against church support of militarism, including protests of financial institutions supporting war, of armament companies and dealers and nuclear weapons, as well as open opposition to the institutions of military pastors and calls for Christians to abandon the military. Second, there will be calls to follow the way of Jesus, confessing the sins of the last 1700 years, public prayers of forgiveness of the sins of violence by the Church and calls to engage in new ways to resolve conflicts nonviolently.
My question: What do you think? Are there ways that you, in your region, could use this Sunday in October to mark the event and turn it into a significant day of peace in the name of Jesus?
(A postscript: I like the future perfect tense a lot. It has theological relevance. I think it has something to do with the fact that the world we live for is both present and future. The kingdom is coming, but it is here and now in our actions and lives.)