Approaching Emmaus

Location: Santa Barbara

Friday, November 14, 2008

A thought bourne of my Christian History class and a bit too much caffene

The early church in the Roman empire was predominantly lower class. For example, Collistus was a slave, but eventually became the Bishop of Rome. There are many reasons why Christianity may have been mostly poor--not least of which is that there happened to be more poor people than rich! But what is especially interesting is the lack of rich people at the top. Even the Bishop of Rome was a slave.

I think this had a lot to do with the fact that Christianity was not recognized as an official Roman religion, and still had a lot of persecution. The rich have more to lose, so they maybe aren't willing to risk their possessions to secure their souls. Or if they are, they just want to be reeallly quiet about it. Being a bishop is too dangerous.

Of course after Constantine made Christianity an officially recognized religion, all of that changed. After that, you see the bishoprics and other higher levels completely dominated by upper class. This is not inherently bad, but you have to wonder how many of those people at the top really just wanted more prestige and worldly possessions and power.

I think bishops deserve honor and respect. But I was just thinking about how interesting it would be if that honor was upside down. When the bishop visits a parish and we have a picnic, the bishop is not allowed to eat the fancy desserts. He is made to sit at the table that is wobbly. He doesn't get the comfortable chair. What if the bishop was not treated, but expected to fast? Just an interesting thought. Christ was humbled and subjected to poor treatment, so perhaps the Bishops should participate in that honor by sharing that humility, or should I say, humiliation.

The Bishop salary would be less than that of a priests. The standard would be to provide that the Bishop has small inconveniences in everything he does, things that the normal people do not have to endure. But all done in a way that is respectful of the office and ultimately honorific of the man.

Then again, probably I've just had too much sugar-enriched espresso.