Last April, in the build-up to Easter, I posted a series of thoughts about Jesus and Paul’s journeys toward Jerusalem, and the very different attitudes they took when arrested there. I argued that in Paul’s ‘strategising’ to get himself to Rome, we see the conception of power-Christianity, which perhaps came to full birth with the rise of Constantine and his assimilation of Christianity as a political and military tool.
For those interested in exploring this further, I highly recommend listening to this episode of the fantastic BBC programme ‘In Our Time’, which discusses the Nicene Creed. What’s fascinating is how this statement of faith was actually itself a set of statements designed to allow certain Bishops to ‘sign up’ to the view of faith Constantine wanted. It was ‘delicate theology and robust politics.’
As such, it too is couched in politically loaded language, and thus, as the contributors point out, a creed that helped move Christianity from a religion of peace, to one of war and power; from a ‘sea of boats all moving on their own tacks generally toward belief in Jesus, to one mothership, which demanded this creed as a boarding pass.
As you may know, the council was called in part to deal with the ‘Arian Heresy’, and Arius himself became a figure of hate in the Church. He died in a public toilet as his bowels exploded, and the church later set up a statue of him on that site, encouraging people to piss and shit on him. Nice touch that. Just what Jesus would have done.