As close followers of the Messiah, the Apostle James and his brother John looked forward to holding positions of power in the kingdom, but Jesus poured cold water on their ambitions. He said, “Rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt, but it cannot be that way with you.”
For centuries the Apostles and their followers won people over with their Christ-like simplicity, but in the year 500 something happened to smear that image.
The trouble started back in 320 when a priest in Alexandria named Father Arius began telling his people that although Jesus was a fine man, he was not the Son of God. All Egypt rejected this put-down of Jesus, but it was taken up by others in the Middle East, and they came to be known as Arians.
In 360 a priest named Ufilas, a member of one of the Germanic tribes invading Europe, translated the New Testament into a Germanic language. He did it in an Arian way, presenting Jesus as no more than a good man. Members of all the Germanic tribes eagerly read the New Testament of Ufilas, and the people of one nation after another became Arian. That was true of the Visigoths, the Lombards, the Huns, Burgundians and the others.
The pope had his back against the wall, and Christianity was about to be wiped out, when a new tribe, the Franks, entered Europe. Then, Clovis, its king, married a Catholic girl who persuaded him to feel that if his people became Christians he would become a second Constantine. On Christmas of 496 the Franks were all baptized at Rheims.
The bishop and priests ran into a problem. The social structure of the Franks, like that of all feudal peoples, had only two levels of people. People with inheritances belonged to the nobility. People without inheritances slept with the pigs.
In 500 the priests and bishops found a way of dissociating themselves from the pigs. They staged a ceremony in which each of them appeared before the nobility stating, “I have an inheritance. My inheritance is the Lord.”
The Germanic word they used for inheritance was klerk . That had them classifying priests and bishops as clerics. They were put on a level with the nobility, but then the nobility said that for the arrangement to work the clerics would need to comport themselves like nobility. They had to become Reverends, Right Reverends, Most Reverends. To survive Feudalism we had to become a feudal power. Maybe now, to survive under Democracy we should become what Christ wanted us to be in the first place.
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