Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on Christ's Kingdom and the Civil State

Arabic original here.

The Religious State is Inevitably Totalitarian

Christ the Lord said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). He did not say, "My kingdom is not in this world." There is a great difference between the prepositions "of" and "in" and their implications. Christ refused for His kingdom to be "of" this world. That is, in the image of the kingdoms of this age. As for the absence of the preposition "in" and the presence of "of" in place of it in the verse, it means to the greatest extent it can mean, that Christ's kingdom can be realized-- in a spacial and geographic sense-- in this world.

An objective reading of history confirms that the "Christian state", in its various forms and identities, from its establishment during the time of the emperor Constantine up to our present day, has failed miserably at putting forward an example of a Christian state that reflects what Christ meant in His words about "His kingdom." This state has failed because it was "of this world", and so could not be any different from what was prevalent in other nations. Indeed, Christian kingdoms have perhaps put forward the most perverse example of any states through their brutal practices.

As for Christians, Jesus says of them, "The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). Christ did not say that they are not in the world or that from today on they live in heaven. He said that it will be assumed that they do not behave according to the mentality of this world. He did not ask them to withdraw support from the oppressed, rather He sent them like sheep among wolves to say the word of truth: "All those who are of the truth heed My voice."

Christ called His followers to be committed to affairs of the world and of people, to defend values and virtues, to realize truth and eliminate falsehood. Contrary to what some people imagine, Christianity is a religion that does not only care about spiritual matters, but rather strives for a better world, ruled by peace, justice, love, and mercy... and this requires struggle against evil and sin. Even though historical experience is frustrating with regard to the inability to establish this ideal, promised kingdom, it is not impossible to achieve, even if it is difficult. Thus when Christ said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21), He did not call for excluding God from the affairs of this world in general and from the state in particular. Rather, Christ threw a challenge in the face of the ruling authority, which can be summarized in the following question: Can any earthly rule reach the level of the kingdom of heaven? Can the kingdom of heaven be realized in our present world, or is it necessary to wait until the last day to attain this hope? This is the meaning of what is said in the "Our Father", which Christ taught to His disciples. The expression "Thy kingdom come" requires the one saying it to struggle daily to make this kingdom present where he lives, here and now, not to wait with laziness and negativity as though the matter did not concern him. Historical experience in our county has established that all states ruled in the name of religious laws were totalitarian states that treated those who did not believe in their religions arrogantly and practiced religious discrimination against them. The time has come to work to build a civil state that honors the person, respects his freedom, and improves his condition. We dare to say that the civil state, where true citizenship reigns, is what will save religions from authoritarianism and arrogance. The civil state is what will save religions from those who appropriate them and speak in their name.

1 comment:

The Anti-Gnostic said...

This is a very naive view of the secular State.