How Christianity Sold its Soul
In 325 AD, Christianity sold its soul to Constantine and the Roman Empire. The most peaceful movement in world history beat their plows into swords, and their pruning hooks into knives. And so began the bloodbath.
How could they have done this?
Jesus and the Empire were diametrically opposed. The Empire was built on the ends justifying the means - They wanted peace, and they would kill hundreds of thousands of people to get it. Jesus, in contrast, argued that the ends WERE the means - If you wanted peace, you had to practice peace. Those who lived by the sword would die by the sword - reaping what they sowed. No matter how noble your cause, if you approached it through violent means, you would always achieve violent ends.
How could Christianity, built on Jesus’ life and work, turn around and trade in Jesus’ logic for the logic of the Empire? What twist of thinking could result in such a radical change? How could this happen?
It is PRECISELY by abandoning the fulfilled eschatology of the early Christians that such a radical change could take place.
If the kingdom of God had come, then it is obvious that the kingdom was not something that could be enhanced with bloodshed and warfare. If the kingdom had come, then the task before Christians was to begin the hard work of healing the world, making peace, and resisting oppression through the strength of self-giving love, after the model of Jesus of Nazareth. If the kingdom had come, then the only way to build the kingdom was to practice non-violent grace.
But if the kingdom had not come, then the way the kingdom was envisioned could by subtly changed. Rather than a bottom-up paradoxical presence of God, rather than a transformative community of peace, the kingdom could become a utopian dream of a Christian Empire. And that dream was only one step away from becoming an impetus for violent empire-building.
Only by giving up fulfilled eschatology, by letting go of a present and transformative kingdom, could Christianity sell its genius for the tools of violence. And that is exactly what happened.
By trading in their eschatology, they traded in the kingdom, and took the bait of Christendom.