A Christian in Christendom

What does it mean to be a Christian in America today?

What does it mean to be a Christian in a 21st century Christendom?

How are we to be Christians who are countercultural, transcendent and subversive in a quasi-Christian culture?

What do you do when Christendom and Babylon are woven together in a single culture?

How are we to be authentic Christ-followers in a nation where 88% of the people identify themselves as Christian?

These are not easy questions to answer.

None of the New Testament epistles were written to people in our situation.

For the first 300 years or so the people called Christians (think Jesus-ites) were a marginalized and often persecuted minority in a pagan culture that afforded them no religious rights or civil liberties. They changed their world, not by protest or politics, not by legislation or litigation, but by the most absurd means:

By telling a story that seemed ridiculous.

The story of a carpenter who became king of the world by dying on a cross.

By a weekly celebration of this carpenter-king’s reputed resurrection.

By loving the unloved and caring for those most uncared for.

By healing the sick and setting free those tormented by demons.

By a passive resistance of quietly refusing to confess Caesar as Lord.

By dying.

Dying in arenas and coliseums.

Fodder for gladiators and beasts.

The laughingstock of Imperial Rome.

A spectacle of angels.

By dying.

And thus winning.

(To live is Christ, to die is gain.)

By sealing with their blood an outlandish and patently absurd confession:

Jesus is Lord.

This is our heritage. But it is not our situation. Not in America. Not in the 21st Century. We are not marginalized. We are not (considered) a minority. We are not persecuted.

Oh, you could tell Justin Martyr of how the ACLU persecutes us by filing suit to remove a Nativity scene from city hall, but he would probably just get a puzzled look on his face.

Our challenge is different (and I think greater!) then the pre-Constantine persecuted church: How to be a Christian in Christendom?

Christendom: Christianity as a territorial phenomenon; those countries where most people are Christians.


That’s how many Americans call themselves Christians.

You say, “They’re not all real Christians.”

No doubt.

But what’s do be done?

Shall we start a “we-are-the-real-Christians-and-you’re-not movement?

Pluck out the tares from among the wheat?

Jesus says, no!

Instead of prematurely attempting to separate the sheep from the goats (that’s Jesus’ job, not ours) and instead of attempting to concoct a new and more stringent definition of Christian (ending in self-righteous sectarianism), I think we would be best served to place a fresh emphasis on being Christian. By demonstrating the Christian life as a radical (but attainable) alternative to the the cultural assumptions of 21st century America.

How to be a Christian in Christendom?

This is not the situation in which the New Testament epistles were written, but neither is it a situation unique to our time. Others before us have grappled with this question.

Francis of Assisi in 13th century Italy.

Soren Kierkegaard in comfortable bourgeois Denmark.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany.

In fact I am convinced that Francis, Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer are tremendously relevant voices for our current situation and that is why I have been giving considerable attention to their writings.

And now I prophesy:

The change has only just begun.

So much more is to come.

Something fresh and new.

Something ancient and authentic.

Not a new definition.

(Definitions are conceived in ivory towers.)

But a new demonstration.

(Demonstration belongs to real life.)

I want to be a part of it.

I will be a part of it.

The established ecclesiastical order will be threatened and rearranged.

Many who are last will be first and many who are first will be last.

You say, “I don’t see it coming.”

That’s because it’s sneaking up behind you.

A new way to be Christian.

A new way to be human.

A new way.

Yes! A new way!

Jesus, help us to see the new way.

Jesus, help us to be the new way.

I want this more than anything.





On July 28 I led a group of 12 up Longs Peak. Here are some pictures.

The Group
12 of us hit the trail at 2:00 a.m. and here we are at the Boulderfield around 6:00.

The Trough
A long couloir that involves a considerable expenditure of energy to climb.
(Note Black and Blue lakes in Glacier Gorge below.)

The Top of the Trough
Looking up.

The Narrows
Five of our group at the beginning of the Narrows. A fun and easy traverse, though some find it a bit disconcerting.

The Hearse
A rock formation far below the Narrows. I pointed it out to some. With others I considered it unwise to ask them to look down or point out what might be considered an ill omen.

The Homestretch
The final steep push to the summit. A couple of our group turned back here. Philip, Caleb and Ashlie are the tiniest figures at the top of the picture.

The Summit
Some of our group (and others) on the large, expansive summit.

The Summiters
Nine of our group reached the summit.

Me and Joe Beach
Joe Beach is a friend, fellow pastor and Dylan fanatic from Denver. In his younger days he was a professional ski racer, but he had never climbed a mountain like Longs. Here we are together on the summit point of Longs Peak.

For Peri’s account of the day CLICK HERE.