Empire Baptized – How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected by Wes Howard-Brook, Review by Bob Pajer

Here is a quote from Wes Howard-Brook’s book that partially summarizes his important message: 

“The final establishment of a single polity was something to which Origen looked forward as a possibility for the divine saving work which heals all fragmentation.  It was only a short step for his disciple Eusebius of Caesarea, to see the Constantinian monarch as a part of God’s plan for consummating the unification.” 

Our author draws from a work by Robert Markus in this quote to provide a foundation for his story about how the Roman Catholic Church moved away from Jesus’ way, to become the largest religion in the world.  Constantine had the experience and the empire to make the Catholic church into what it is to this day.  The price of course was Jesus’ actually teaching, according to Brook, a point of view this reviewer regards has perfectly true.  First Jesus is rejected by his own religion and then rejected by the very people who call themselves Christians.  This a broad statement of course and there are many exceptions to it, today and in the time it was put forth. 

This book is a scholarly study of how the Catholic church became what it is today and how it suppressed the ideas and practices of the early church in order to do so.  Instead of unorganized groups of believers of Jesus, congregating to express Jesus message, the message became an imperial church.  Constantine was just the one to make that happen.  A converted Christian himself, he filled the vacuum of leadership at a central level for the church.  He took with it the common practices that perhaps would have open doors to what Jesus thought and still does I’m sure. 

This is a well written book.  While a carefully researched text book, it affords the reader a chance to see what happened to the Catholic/Christian church in all this, what it became and what it is today.  Sadly the direction it took after Jesus left, has filled many of us with hell fire and brimstone teaching, and that has spread into Protestantism, which tried to escape from it but still retains much of what Constantine brought to religion.  I wish as a devout Catholic growing up in the ‘40s I knew source of the teaching at St. Jerome School in Brooklyn NY.  I was a willing learner, who became in later life a Unitarian just to get away from the brutal education that came from the early changes in Jesus’ teaching.  I know now why they told us not to read the Bible as it would those who taught us who would read it for us and tell us what it is about.  Much of Jesus’ teachings are preserved int he Bible fortunately and are being brought to us in beautiful ways by such teachers as Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr and Pope Francis.  And, 0f course Jesus has not given up on us, as he is always here with us with his miracles and his second coming, A Course in Miracles, his book channeled to two college professors at Columbia University in the 1970s.  Jesus is now telling us what his real message is and clarifying what we were taught in error. 

Empire Baptized is a wonderful read.  I recommend it to every Christian interested in another look at the literal approaches we have developed to reading the Bible, an approach that surely was a product of the empire which hijacked Christianity.   

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part255.