I am still a Christian…despite the Church cosying up to power
1 Samuel 8 1-21
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. Yet his sons did not follow in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to govern us.’ Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.’ So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plough his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’ But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.’ When Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord.
“The prevailing ideas in every epoch are those of the ruling class” (Karl Marx).
And how easily the Church has fallen into line, nearly each and every time.
It wasn’t always like this.
The opening chapters of Acts, especially four, shows the Jesus movement as a communist community of equals, underpinned by mutual aid and a focus on the Kingdom.
What it wasn’t was an emollient cheerleader for the High Priest or the Emperor.
Since then, the Church’s leadership, irrespective of denomination, location, or time period, has all too often suppressed its inconvenient truths (except, ironically, in so-called Communist regimes), the better to live according to the flesh of control and domination.
In the UK, most of our churches are hot on tackling the symptoms, but oh-so-cold on addressing the causes, of societal ills, including monarchy (1 Samuel 11-18), capitalist economics and establishment political structures (eg bishops in the House of Lords).
However, the reason I do not despair is because of the URC and the wider Protestant movement in this country.
With a proud tradition of prophetic activism from the seventeenth century onwards (think Levellers, Diggers, Fifth Monarchists – ” No King but Jesus” etc), we are the most inclined to question, debate, and agitate about witnessing to the Kingdom against the overwhelming economic, political, and social power of big business, the military-industrial complex and their very many apologists and hangers-on.
I’m so thrilled to see an intensification of this prophetic disobedience and resistance, with new Bible-based initiatives such as the Joint Public Issues Team and YourChurch aligning alongside older, but reviving, groups such as Christian CND.
The Kingdom presses in with a new urgency and the Spirit looks to us to stop our compromising. I’m excited and expectant!
Revolutionary Christ! You are the true expression Of the truest power – The love of God. Let us not be charmed by the serpent of polite acceptance by the rich Rather shatter our earthly compromises, Our fear of being ‘not one of us’ Because we are really one of you, Builders of your Kingdom, Fearless in our love of your love of us. Amen