A choice in the year ahead

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. - Luke 1:78, 79

Christmas in Chicago brings side by side signs of the power of this world and the power of another. A child will go before them, we hear in Zechariah's song in the Gospel of Luke, "to guide our feet into the way of peace." Then, as now, we are in need of this voice.

An early Christian text from the second century or so, the Epistle to Diognetus, suggests that being a Christian is neither an ethnicity or an earthly citizenship but a way of life that is somehow at odds with the the societies in which Christians live. Christians may look like everyone else, but our practices of hospitality, charity and nonviolence should make us different.

But all this changed by the end of Constantine's reign, the emperor who Christianized Rome, in the fourth century A.D. Diana Butler Bass, in her book, A Poeple's History of Christianity, says that with Constantine, Christians no longer had to be "resident aliens," but they could hold dual citizenship in Rome and in the kingdom of God.

In fact, Christians had already conflated the two allegiances into one, fully identifying Roman interests with Jesus' way.

As I walked down Michigan Avenue, the miracle mile in Chicago, the two kingdoms as one was clearly still in evidence.

Empire then, empire now. We Christians must make a choice. I have a sense the choice will be even clearer in 2011.


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