Philip Jenkins wrote this great book, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died. I got one big thing out of this book. It is that Christianity is more harmed than helped by alliances with empires. It is those who make of themselves protectors of Christians who ultimately do the most damage to Christianity. “Looking at the sweep of Christian history, we are often reminded of… the foolishness of associating faith with any particular state or social order” (p. 260).
Christianity’s alliance with Rome made the church automatically suspect among the countries to the east that were Rome’s enemies. Whenever the church endorsed a regime, it was the church that suffered when that regime fell, as all regimes do. At one point the church was even close to allying with the Mongols; but even the whiff of such an alliance made it suspect when the Mongols were finally rebuffed (pp. 121-124).
Not only that, but the church has had to bear the blame for the atrocities of the governments it cozied up to and often apologized and made excuses for. This is true even today. Christians are now persecuted in places like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt because they were protected by dictators who were overthrown.
So when Presidential candidates make a point of stressing what good Christians they are, and how they will defend Christianity, it is very dangerous. Christianity is already overly associated with the West and its values and policies. To have a President asserting himself as Christianity’s defender and protector will only make things more difficult for Christians around the world. People will associate Christianity with America, and Christians will have to suffer even more over things that America does. This situation will only be made worse if the President carries out his promises to escalate the use of military violence and torture. The persecution of Christians will be ratcheted up.
It is one thing for Christians to be persecuted for their faith. This is something the church has often faced, and which God has always blessed. But when Christians are victimized because of their association with the policies and atrocities of a particular secular State? That is something else. That leads to the death of the church.
There were once thriving Christian communities across Asia. Most of them are gone now. Often these communities were wiped out because they were affiliated with governments, leaders, empires, and States that were perceived by the local people as enemies.
When someone’s family is killed by an American drone strike, do we really want people taking revenge on the local Christian population? If we have a President who has proclaimed himself Christianity’s advocate, this will happen more and more.