It is a great tragedy, so say the least, that the institutional Church has, since the days when it was legitimized by Rome, has placed itself at the disposal of the political and economic elites of virtually every country in which it has existed. "Constantine used the church as an instrument of imperial policy, imposed upon it his imperial ideology, and thus deprived it of much of the independence which it had previously enjoyed." [See here.]
Of course, along with that independence came ferocious persecution by the secular political powers, as the Church's values were, and are supposed to be, in complete contradiction to the values and interests of those powers. Once the institutional Church was able to be accepted by those secular powers, it all too willingly evolved into being its very agents, thereby flagrantly violating one of the major reasons for its existence in the first place.
The Church is to be the repository of the values and things of God; be an institution that houses those who are agents of God's grace in this world; living lives that by word and by example espouse the values that Jesus taught all those who would live Godly lives: Loving God and loving and not judging others.
Far from being an agent of the State, the Church is to be the conscience of the State; to express Godly values and behaviors; show God's alternative way of life to Caesar's power. The Church is not to in any way seek to appropriate any of Caesar's power or sell or give over any of its mandate from God for Caesar's use that can then, and frequently does, use those purported "Christian" values to justify its oppression of any of God's children.
The current state of affairs of most of the institutional Church has shown itself to be in contradiction to its mandate from Jesus; has shown itself to most spectacularly contravene Jesus' values by its historic advocacy and practice of discrimination of women, African Americans and, up to this present day, Gay people. It is Gay people who have been the unwitting major instrument in showing that unGodly contradiction, and showing the pathetic and moribund state of so much of the institutional Church.
Regarding LGBT rights, most of the institutional Church has been in the vanguard of not only oppressing these minorities, but has been a constant apologist for their oppression in both religious and in secular society, even going so far as to agitate for, and contribute to, their oppression, often resulting in lost jobs, fractured families, lives lived furtively and guiltily, suicides, assaults, and even murder.
And, as I have so often written, every drop of blood shed by an LGBT person can be laid at the feet of most of the institutional Church! Every clergy person who has ever preached or exhibited prejudice or discrimination against LGBT people, has that blood on his or her hands!
Also, in the U.S. in particular, this perversion of Christianity has become associated with Americanism, jingoism, militarism, exclusion of certain "others," advocacy of deprivation of civil and sacramental rights based upon an imputed discredited status that was often conferred and imposed by that very institutional Church, the desire to acquire increasing amounts of power, prestige, and wealth, and a whole host of other activities that are clearly antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.
The institutional Church has either condoned wars, even unjust ones such as the one in Iraq, or has largely kept silent in the face of wars and political and corporate corruption, and has been an apologist for the Power Elite and its actions, regardless of how those actions adversely affect the poor, assorted minorities, and other vulnerable groups.
Caesar has not adopted the Church's values; most of the institutional Church has adopted Caesar's values!
The message of the following email sent by Bishop Somers, containing relevant quotes from various Church Fathers, highlights the disparity between Christianity as we largely now experience it with the Christianity that was founded on the teachings, ministry, life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus! As you will see, there is no relationship between the two, save for the trappings that denote pageantry and "moral authority" to which credibility and fealty are expected and, unfortunately, all too often uncritically given, and all too infrequently deserved.
The following is the email that Bishop Somers sent out that I think you'll find instructive in showing how perverted "the Church" has become:
Early Christian Voices on War and Peace
Posted: 11 Dec 2008 09:14 AM CST
Special thanks to Micael Grenholm for the following early Christian voices on peace:
Justin Martyr wrote in 160 AD:
“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.” (Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4)
Tatian, (death c. 185), Justin’s disciple, wrote:
“I do not wish to be king, I don’t want to be rich, I reject military service. I hate adultery.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Vol. II, reprint 1979, p. 69)
Irenaeus of Lyon (ca 130-202) wrote:
“But the law of liberty, that is, the word of God, preached by the apostles (who went forth from Jerusalem) throughout all the earth, caused such a change in the state of things, that these [nations] did form the swords and war-lances into ploughshares, and changed them into pruning-hooks for reaping the corn, [that is], into instruments used for peaceful purposes, and that they are now unaccustomed to fighting, but when smitten, offer also the other cheek.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.
I, reprinted 1977, p. 512)
Hippolytos wrote in c. 200:
“A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath. If he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected for baptism. A military commander or civic magistrate who wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If an applicant or a believer seeks to become a soldier, he must be rejected, for he has despised God.” (Hippolytos, Apostolic Tradition 16:17-19)
Clemens of Alexandria (ca 150-215) wrote:
“If a loud trumpet summons soldiers to war, shall not Christ with a strain of peace issued to the ends of the earth gather up his soldiers of peace? By his own blood and by his word he has assembled an army which sheds no blood in order to give them the Kingdom of Heaven. The trumpet of Christ is his Gospel. He has sounded it and we have heard it. Let us then put on the armour of peace. … The Church is an army of peace which sheds no blood.” (Protrepticus XI, 116)
Tertullian (160-220) wrote in De Corona Militis:
“To begin with the real ground of the military crown, I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians. … Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? … Of course, if faith comes later, and finds any preoccupied with military service, their case is different, as in the instance of those whom John used to receive for baptism, and of those most faithful centurions, I mean the centurion whom Christ approves, and the centurion whom Peter instructs; yet, at the same time, when a man has become a believer, and faith has been sealed, there must be either an immediate abandonment of it, which has been the course with many; or all sorts of quibbling will have to be resorted to in order to avoid offending God, and that is not allowed even outside of military service; or, last of all, for God the fate must be endured which a citizen-faith has been no less ready to accept. Neither does military service hold out escape from punishment of sins, or exemption from martyrdom.”
About 240, Origen wrote:
“You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers.” (Against Celsus VIII.7.3)
Cyprian (200-258) wrote:
“The world is soaked with mutual blood. When individuals commit homicide, it is a crime; it is called a virtue when it is done in the name of the state. Impunity is acquired for crimes not by reason of innocence but by the magnitude of the cruelty.” (To Donatus, chapter 6)
Athanasius (298-373) wrote:
“Christ is not only preached through His own disciples, but also wrought so persuasively on men’s understanding that, laying aside their savage habits and forsaking the worship of their ancestral gods, they learnt to know Him and through Him to worship the Father. While they were yet idolaters, the Greeks and Barbarians were always at war with each other, and were even cruel to their own kith and kin. Nobody could travel by land or sea at all unless he was armed with swords, because of their irreconcilable quarrels with each other. Indeed, the whole course of their life was carried on with the weapons. But since they came over to the school of Christ, as men moved with real compunction they have laid aside their murderous cruelty and are war-minded no more. On the contrary, all is peace among them and nothing remains save desire for friendship…
Who, then, is He Who has done these things and has united in peace those who hated each other, save the beloved Son of the Father, the common Saviour of all, Jesus Christ, Who by His own love underwent all things for our salvation? Even from the beginning, moreover, this peace that He was to administer was foretold, for Scripture says, ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles, and nation shall not take sword against nation, neither shall they learn any more to wage war.’ Nor is this by any means incredible.
The barbarians of the present day are naturally savage in their habits, and as long as they sacrifice to their idols they rage furiously against each other and cannot bear to be a single hour without weapons. But when they hear the teaching of Christ, forthwith they turn from fighting to farming, and instead of arming themselves with swords extend their hands in prayer. In a word, instead of fighting each other, they take up arms against the devil and the demons, and overcome them by their self-command and integrity of soul.” (On the incarnation, chapter 8, 51 and 52)
Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395) wrote:
” ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.’ Who are these? Those who imitate the Divine love of others, who show forth in their own life the characteristic of the Divine energy. The Lord and Giver of good things completely annihilates anything that is without affinity and foreign to goodness. This work He ordains also for you, namely to cast out hatred and abolish war, to exterminate envy and banish strife, to take away hypocrisy and extinguish from within resentment of injuries smoldering in the heart. Instead, you ought to introduce whatever is contrary to the things that have been removed.” (The Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes, Ancient Christian Writers series, Newman Press)
The fantastic preacher John Chrysostom (347-407) said:
“That they may now understand that this is a new kind of warfare and not the usual custom of joining in battle, when He sent them with nothing He said: And so, marching on, show forth the meekness of lambs, although you are to go to wolves… for so will I best show my power, when the wolves are conquered by the lambs… For certainly it is a greater work and much more marvelous to change the minds of opponents and to bring about a change of soul than to kill them… We ought to be ashamed, therefore, who act far differently when as wolves we rush upon our adversaries. For as long as we are lambs we conquer; even when a thousand wolves stand about, we overcome and are victors. But if we act like wolves we are conquered, for then the aid of the Good Shepherd departs from us, for He does not foster wolves but sheep.” (Epistle Matt. Hom 34, n.1: - Breviary, June 11th)