Looking for a Christian Emperor

Looking for a Christian Emperor May 21, 2018

Constantine the Great, like Plato, manages to make enemies on the atheist and religious fringe. When Abeka books and Dan Brown both get you wrong, you did something right.

Like all historically significant men, Constantine made mistakes, committed sins, and caused harm. Like Winston Churchill with the Nazis and the Communists or Lincoln with the Union and slavery, Constantine is great, because he got the big issues right. No sane person would just do what he did in the past today, because he gave us the chance to learn to do better than he could do in his time.

His decisions gave the Roman Empire another thousand years, including a nearly continuous secular and religious educational system. If you read any ancient philosophy, thank Constantine the Great.

What did he get right?

Constantine stopped the persecution of Christians. Christianity was organized, smart, and intellectually capable of supporting philosophy while also having a deep connection to common folk. We were a religion of slaves and philosophers. Constantine did not make Christianity the official religion, though he favored it even before he was a Christian. Why? Christianity helped.

Constantine solved the problem of Rome. How could classical Roman civilization continue, when the city of Rome was indefensible, bloated, and corrupt? The great man saw that the ideas of Rome did not need Rome. He built a new, more defensible Rome: the Minis Tirith of the ancient world- Constantinople. This stroke of genius: Rome without Rome saved classical civilization.

Constantine helped Christianity reach maturity. By giving impetus to the Council that produced the Nicene Creed, Constantine forced Christians to deal with winning. Persecution is, in one sense, easier: somebody else (those pagans!) have to make the hard choices. Christians in many urban areas were already the dominant force, but the sporadic persecution of the Faith (never universal, always possible) gave the Faith an out. Constantine forced Christians to confront what they had already become: the most intellectually and culturally powerful force in the Empire.

Constantine did not write the creed, but he gave the intellectual space for the persecution scarred leaders of the Church to come to grips with what Christians thought was true. Their summary of the teachings of Jesus has served the church well ever since.

We need a restoration of a Christian empire. It has been done several times in the past, works, and would be better than all the alternatives. We are the best candidate to unite the globe peacefully.

Christianity is one of the few global faiths. As secularism declines globally, Christianity is growing in the places that are growing! Unlike many religions or philosophies that are growing, we can do high-level intellectual work. We were involved in the birth of science and from ideas like the Big Bang to the human genome project have always been at the table. There are world-class scientists who are Christians. Simultaneously, whether it is the staggering beauty of Ethiopian Christian art (the historic Wakanda!) with a wealth of interesting philosophical ideas still too little studied or the Chinese church that is growing rapidly despite continued atheist persecution, Christians can support a diversity of cultures and intellectual vantage points.

This is rare. We are not American, Chinese, or African, but can find expression in Indian, African, or even European languages. Only Christianity is viable to unite humankind, though it will be messy, and get us to the stars. The future needs science and art, physics and metaphysics, religion and philosophy.

The future is the Southern Hemisphere, Asian, and African, but we should save what can be saved of the dying West.

Constantine points the way forward: what is good about the old, what must be lost, and what can be saved.

Constantine created an Empire of steel and that is not what we need. In fact, we do not need a geographic empire at all and centuries of Christian thought have taught us the moral bankruptcy of coercion. Instead, a new Constantineanism will (like Constantine) recognize that the world has changed.  The new city and community must be global and virtual while maximizing the ability of each culture to work out its destiny freely. The New Rome will be an empire of words, uniting the people of the Book.

The new empire will be voluntary without conquest, but with dialogue. We have learned to do better than conquer since Constantine, thanks to the civilizational space he gave us. We will not persecute, coerce, or fall into the anti-Semite error. We will follow his model and encourage art, secular learning, and theology.

Where is our new Constantine?

We will have many new Constantines. Christians are now not just centered in one culture (Rome), but many. We are Chinese, Nigerian, Indian, Russian, Palestinian . . . We are an imperium of republics from every tribe and nation on the earth. We will resist the cultural moral colonialism of the decaying West and any group that rejects reason and science.

If you feel like terrorism, either alt-Right or anti-Fa, is the answer, we oppose you. Like the old emperors, we believe in the rule of law, but with the liberty defended by Christian apologist and philosopher John Locke.

The new Constantine will be a black woman, a Helen, in Zaire raising up a new generation of teachers. The new Constantine will be an Indian sage teaching us what Christianity is with an Indian voice. The new Constantine will be a Chinese person, a survivor of atheist re-education camps, who makes beautiful films.

The new Constantinople will be global, but not merely words. We are creatures of the Word and so will incarnate Christendom in little cities all over the world. The time of the single emperor is past, a part of Constantine’s project that must be abandoned to save Constantineanism. The time of steel is over or of one particular city or ethnic group that survives behind walls.

Our walls will be the best eternal ideas and our city is the City of God made particular in Louisiana, Lagos, or Luxembourg.

Out of many will come one: the empire of love.

 


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