Is Christianity a Western religion? After all, isn’t the West the “cradle” of Christianity? Isn’t America, the premiere child of Western culture, the “cradle” of Christianity?
The notion that America is the “cradle” of Christianity is still very recent in history, and it may soon no longer be true—not to mention that subjectivity reigns in the answer to whether or not America is the current “capital” of Christianity.
If it were true that America, or even the West in general, is the “home base” of Christianity, what criteria would we submit? The location of the Vatican at Rome? The mention of the word “God” in the US Constitution? The number of missionaries sent from Europe and America to Eastern lands? None of these criteria match up with scripture as a basis for establishing a “capital” for the Church, and they conflict with one another. The Vatican is the seat of Catholicism, but not of any other denomination. The US Constitution was not established as a theocracy, and the level to which the founders wanted Christianity to “rule” the nation is up for dispute. The term “missionary” can be deceitful, as it usually applied to people who travel overseas, whereas plenty of evangelistic work is done right here at home. Even if these criteria weren’t suspect in themselves, we must remember that Christianity did not come from any place in America or Europe.
History has given us many so-called “capitals” of the Christian religion: Antioch, Alexandria, the seven churches of Asia, Rome, Wittenberg, Geneva, Edinburgh, Harvard, Nashville, Salt Lake City. Why not Nicaragua, Romania, or Guam?—all countries with a higher density of Christians than America. What is the capital? Sometimes it just depends on what Western denomination you’re speaking to. What we have are cradles of denominations of Christianity and varieties of Christianity, if anything. In fact, our concept of “cradles” of a religion is itself influenced by our Western culture.
Suppose we say that, Catholic or not, you recognize Rome as the first Christian capital Constantine as the first Christian emperor. We would be speaking incorrectly. Constantine himself didn’t even believe Rome would make a good Christian capital, and chose instead Constantinople (Once called Byzantium, not called Instanbul—but that’s nobody’s business but the Turks) as a more compatible location for his “Christian” empire.
This history of advantageous locations for politically recognized “centers” of Christianity says more about politics and culture than it does about religion—whether it be Rome, Constantinople, or Texas. The fact that this religion spread throughout the whole world and still exists throughout the whole world today is what speaks for the religion.
Even during much of the time that Christianity thrived in Europe during the Medieval Ages, Christianity was still seen by countless people as a place geographically tied to Jerusalem, sometimes even more so than it was to Rome. One of the rationales given for the Crusades was the reclamation of the Eastern homeland of Christ and his church, the kingdom of Israel. Even the West itself has traditionally viewed the Middle East as not only the “source” of Christianity, but the home of the “holy lands.”
If history goes on for another thousand years or so, it may be that countless other lands will drift in an out as “cradles” of Christian growth. The prediction is often made of late that China will soon replace America in such a fashion. Europe and the Americas will only fall on the timeline as a few of those lands. As we shall see in future posts, the largest communities of Christians aren’t in America or Europe at all, but in the Southern hemisphere.
Dear Christian West: You are not the center of the work of Christ.
Dear Christian East: Don’t underestimate the work of Christ in you.
The mother of James and John wanted her boys to have some special place beside Christ based on fleshly reasons. Our place in the world does not determine our influence for the kingdom—we are not bound by geopolitics and culture. We are a people who thrive in persecution and turn the world upside down.
The center of Christianity is Christ. Where his people live faithfully, where there are churches of saints, Christ reigns.