An Imperialistic Church?
The ecumenical goal of uniting humanity sounds honorable. Surely all who profess faith in Jesus Christ want to see the unity for which He prayed realized on Earth (see John 17). So, how is that unity attained? Not upon a common faith in Christ, according to Letty Russell, a professor of theology at Yale. She has written:
When we universalize the Christian story of God in Jesus Christ as the only message of salvation for all people, we deny the power of God to work through all the poor and through all creation. To universalize our very concrete and particular faith is a form of imperialism over people of other faiths and ideologies (1993, p. 130).
To Russell, the Christian message is fine for Christians, but it is not the only way to approach God (1993, p. 129). This view is not uncommon. Society says: “Don’t judge!” And we cringe. We remember that it was our Master who spoke those words; so we feel ashamed when we are accused of judging. However, before we allow ourselves to be shamed into abandoning our faith in the Christian system, let us do some serious reflection.
Jesus taught that trees are known by their fruit, and that “righteous judgment” is a Christian responsibility (Matthew 7:15-20; John 7:24). He also said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Lines must be drawn. Judgments must be made. Is Christianity, then, imperialism? In a sense it is. As envoys of King Jesus, Christians are calling people out of “the power of darkness” into the “kingdom” of God’s Son (Colossians 1:13). Unity attained by alliances that overlook the kingdom is spiritual treason.
Russell, Letty M. (1993), The Church in the Round (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press).