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Capitalism, Christendom and Spiritual Practicality

This morning I am sensing a certain gratitude and renewed hope given the journey provided for my life and my family's walk out of poverty. A firm faith, and a truly amazing grace has afforded that trajectory.

Once again, I was motivated this morning by that hope and grace, compelled agai to write and explore "out loud" this exciting and historical window in which we live, for every 500 years a shift seems to happen in Christendom, surely you sense that if you are a Christ-follower?

Note, I did not just say, nor did I mean to imply "Christian"! Sounds judgemental I know, but please read on!

When those 500 or so year shifts in Christendom have been deep enough, entire cultures were transformed. At times religion has also reared her ugly head, with blood shed resulting, along with even theft of lands. I say religion, to imply the human institutions that always emerge over time, too often seduced by power and greed.

Given that the primary means driving our current culture is Capitalism, I ask the primary source of all information, AI, how she would define capitalism.

The read is lengthy, so though I would throw in some sick humor! Prayerfully of course!

AI's definition: "An economic system where private individuals or corporations own the means of production.  In a capitalist system, the government (or any other institution) does not own the means of production. Instead, the distribution of goods, prices, and products are determined by competition in a free market. 

She continued: "The goal of capitalism is to make the greatest possible profits for the owners. 

The core principles of capitalism are: 

  • Accumulation

  • Ownership

  • Profiting from capital

Examples of capitalism include: 

  • The stock exchange

  • Real estate investment

  • The military industrial complex

  • Private education

  • For-profit healthcare

  • Fast food chains

  • Commercialized sports

  • The travel industry

The term "capitalism" was used in 1283 to refer to the capital assets of a trading firm. In 1633 and 1654, the term "capitalists" was used to refer to owners of capital."

I then asked AI, if she might define Christendom:

"Christendom is the global community of Christians. It can also refer to the regions and countries where Christianity is the dominant religion. The term is often used to refer to historical periods when Christianity was the main political and cultural influence in Europe. 

Hear the world politics, think 2024 in evangelical America! Ouch!

Of course, in the back of my mind, still ring those words from December 28th, 2008, "My Church is in Foreclosure!"

I reference the book, Repo, the Church in Foreclosure.

In 2008, the economy was tanking, soon taxing the revenues of the churches, as well as most of the 501c3 nonprofits that dot our land. Church culture and Christendom (note an implied seperation of terms) began to shift rapidly, but perhaps not nearly as much as it would post-Covid!

On top of that aforementioned "Word from the Lord" recieved in 2008, loomed the historical significance of the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which began on October 31, 1517 with Luther mailing his 95 Theses on the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Another author wrote in 2017: "With surprising regularity, Christendom faces dramatic changes every 500 years. I say this, not because there is anything intrinsically special about 500-year anniversaries, but because of the historical precedent. If history repeats, are we on the brink of another such change?

He continues: "Christianity – as distinct from Judaism – emerged in the first century AD. Classical western chronology commemorates this event by counting years from the birth of Christ (it turns out that the originator of this method miscalculated, since Jesus was born around 6 or 4 BC, rather than 0 AD). Measuring 500 years from this approximate date brings us to 500 AD.

476 AD marks the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This was a truly ‘world event’ since it marked the end of the greatest superpower that the world had ever seen. (Again, it turns out that the Eastern Roman Empire, known as ‘Byzantium,’ would continue until 1453, nearly a thousand years longer. Trust me, it’s a complicated story). Most people considered Rome to be invincible, and her fall left a far more significant impression on human consciousness than even the first and second world wars.

Christianity found itself in new territory. While Christianity and Rome had a complicated relationship, the idea of a Christianity separate from the Roman Empire had previously been unthinkable. As Rome fell, the power void was filled by the church. What had once been a useful, but neglected activity – the conversion of barbarians – took on new significance. Barbarians must be converted, because they now ruled the world.

By 1054, the Middle Ages were in full swing. (At this point, I must refer to ‘Christendom’ rather than the Christian church, since the current ecclesiastic structure and doctrine looked nothing like its ancient ancestor. It almost looked as if the second 500-year anniversary (1000 AD) had come and gone without a change, but at the last minute a great separation – the Schism of 1054 – occurred. Pope Leo IX excommunicated the entire eastern half of the Church, and patriarch Michael Cerularius returned the favor on the western Church.

Prior to this time, the idea of a divided church had never occurred. To be sure, there had been hundreds of heretical offshoots of the church. Yet these had always been splinter-groups, heterodox individuals who may have exerted great power, but always succumbed in the end to the power of orthodoxy. In 1054, the institutional Church faced a new reality: divided Christendom. Nor was this division based on major heresy. It was the result of centuries of misunderstanding, culminating in a fierce debate on the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son (the filoque debate). Suddenly, the Christian map was radically different.

The fall of Rome and the Schism of 1054 were both culminating events, unsurprising to the historian. Rome’s power was gradually declining for hundreds of years prior, and the division between East and West was also increasing prior to those significant events. The Protestant Reformation, however, began precipitously and dramatically in 1517. No longer was the division between East and West, Catholic and Orthodox. Now a new group, with astonishing vigor, was on the scene. Protestant arrived with a deep commitment to the text of the Bible, and an apparent disregard for the time-honored traditions of Roman Catholicism.

The Reformation ushered in a period of freedom. Individuals were encouraged to think for themselves, to interpret the Bible rather than blindly accept what they were taught. In the process, Protestants laid the foundation of the modern world: democracy, individuality, freedom of conscience, and the rights of man. An unlikely bedfellow, enlightenment, helped these ideas along. Enlightenment thought gradually went down the path of deism, then atheism. Before long, there was a long-running war of ideas between Catholics, Protestants, and Deists – one that occasionally resulted in bloodshed." (1)

In 2023, the United States will celebrate her 247th birthday.  Yet, even before 1776, America was a collection of British colonies, mostly Christian, if not Theists.  In all fairness to Native Americans, the earliest Americans had arrived in the New World 30,000 years ago.  Keep this in mind, though history seems to neglect these people!

European colonization, driven by both greed and sincere Christian colonialism (note the toxic mix) began in the late 15th century. Most colonies in what would later become the United States were settled after 1600, predating the Constitution.

Perhaps both Christendom and Capitalism are now facing a providential challenge given this 500 year window since the "New World's" settlement, one launched both for religious and economic purposes?

Back to this growing sense of gratitude, along with an awareness of a deepening hope, given my experiences of late with a more caring generational shift now being observed.

It seems that along with one of the largest transfers of wealth in the history of our nation, we are also facing an enormous national debt, diminishing land area for food production, housing shortages and a global dependency for supply chain.

So where is the hope?

It is in the four generations with whom I now spend time, those in search of and contemplating the next shift both in Christendom and late-stage capitalism!

Church is changing, and the marketplace is ripe with young minds no longer driven by a lifestyle of pleasure and profitability, but rather social responsibility and concern for community, while respecting the principles of free market!

A new culture is arising among believers, one that questions religion, yes even what Christianity has become, understands corporate power struggles, driven by sense a personal calling for this Kingdom moment!

"A good man leaves an inheritance for his children's children, but a sinner's wealth is stored up for the righteous".

Proverbs 13:22.

Wow! What a time to be alive!


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