In my last piece, I wrote about the consequences of marrying the empire to the Church. Being the Church history nerd that I am, I reviewed some of my early studies of the Church Fathers and how the earliest Christians conducted themselves. In short, I reviewed the time period closest to Christ and his Apostles which was the freest of government corruption, the pre-Constantine Catholic Church from 33 AD-312 AD.
Prior to 313 AD, this was a time of REAL Christian persecution where Christianity was illegal and underground mostly, not the Americanized whining of “Persecution” that we see now. The earliest Christians didn’t discriminate who was worthy of God’s love and care from the Church and who they thought “were not.” They gave to all marginalized people unconditionally. They did indeed care for the widows, orphans, the poor, and who Jesus called “The Least of These.” According to several Church historians such as John Boswell of Yale, the earliest Christians even took care of minority and outcaste populations like eunics and sexual minorities. They didn’t cast them out and condemn them for “being differently created in God’s image.” Prior to fifth century, the Doctrine of Hell was not formally established. Christians in the pre-Constantine era still believed in the Jewish afterlife which included a temporary period of refinement, not an everlasting hell. National Geographic gives a good history of “The Doctrine of Hell” here. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/article/160513-theology-hell-history-christianity
The early Christians did not win or convert people over by brute force but by acting as humble examples through caring for the poor, living holy lives, and actually displaying the virtues of Christianity to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” As a result, they turned Rome upside down, and Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the land in 313 AD. This of course started the first “marriage” between the Christian Church and State.
Now today in our post-modern world, many articles, books, and other publications are being written about The Age of Deconstruction. From the author of the article below, Brian McLaren, “For many of us, faith deconstruction has been a quest to honestly examine our faith, to understand how it has changed over time, to face the harm done by and within our faith, and to acknowledge that its contemporary forms are neither its original form nor its ultimate form, which means that our faith is not static, but is, in fact, improvable.”