17 november, 2023

Following Christ rather than being a christian

 In the days of yore, when real socialism still reigned supreme in what was called the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, I visited Moscow - simply as a tourist. I cannot remember any more how we came to talk about it, but the word tovaríshch came up (unknowing persons like I said "tohvárish"). The guide taught us how to pronounce it properly. And then - not knowing what to expect - I said: "Since the proletariat is in power here I should call you tovaríshch then."
His reaction was even more critical than I might have expected. He replied: "Oh no, I'm not a tovaríshch. Mr. Brezhnew is a tovaríschch, and other high figures from the Kremlin are."
So the salute of comrades amongst each other had become a title of someone in power behind high walls. The world had been put upside down and the comrades were in control. You'd better obey them.

I had to think of what I was told in Moscow while I was trying to formulate why I do not like to be called a christian, and will hesitate to call myself by that name. Pat Robertson is a christian. Joseph Ratzinger is a christian. George W. Bush is very much a christian. So is Tony Blair. Or John Howard. Or Angela Merkel. Or "my" national Harry Potter Jan-Peter Balkenende.
I do not see how you could honestly say: oh no, they are not really christians. Just like there were and maybe still are communists who would say: Mr. Brezhnew was not a real communist. Socialism still has to be realised some time in the future. Maybe I can agree with that thought, but you cannot rid communism of the dictatorship of the tovaríshchi any more. Neither can you get rid of the stains attached to calling yourself a christian in 2006. It is a company I by definiton do not want to keep.

"Christian" is not about being someone. There are some places where being a christian is a matter of identity first and foremost. It is beyond irony that exactly these christians are being forced out of their homes thanks to the actions of christians like Bush and Blair (if you don't understand this: I am referring to the earliest communities of those following Christ, in the so-called Middle-East). Following Christ ("being a christian") is a task you take up (Matth. 11:25-30) voluntarily. That is the best you can say about it.

And in the final analysis in more than one sense following Christ means liberation of christians. That indeed is something to strive for.

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