Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kierkegaard on Christendom

Soren Kierkegaard
Kierkegaard's Attack Upon "Christendom" 1854-1855
from
Attack Upon Christendom
by Soren Kierkegaard
translated by Walter Lowrie
quote from pages 121-122

[This passage comes after S.K. quotes Mt. 23:29-33 & Lk. 11:47-48] 

“What then is “Christendom”? Is not “Christendom” the most colossal attempt at serving God, not by following Christ, as He required, and suffering for the doctrine, but instead of that, by “building the sepulchers of the prophets and garnishing the tombs of the righteous” and saying, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets”? 

It is of this sort of divine service I used the expression that, in comparison with the Christianity of the New Testament, it is playing Christianity. The expression is essentially true and characterizes the thing perfectly. For what does it mean to play, when one reflects how the word must be understood in this connection? It means to imitate a counterfeit, a danger when there is no danger, and to do it in such a way that the more art is applied to it, the more delusive the pretense is that the danger is present...Christianity is played in “Christendom.” Artists in dramatic costumes make their appearance in artistic buildings -- there really is no danger at all, anything but that: the teacher is a royal functionary, steadily promoted, making a career -- and how he dramatically plays Christianity, in short, he plays comedy. He lectures about renunciation, but he himself is being steadily promoted; he teaches all that about despising worldly titles and rank, but he himself is making a career; he describes the glorious ones (“the prophets”) who were killed, and the constant refrain is: If we had been in the days of the fathers, we should not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets -- we who build sepulchers and garnish tombs. 

... 

...this expression “to play Christianity”, could not be used by the Authoritative Teacher; He has a different way of talking about it. 

Christ calls it (O give heed!), He calls it “hypocrisy.” And not only that, but He says (now shudder!), He says that this guilt of hypocrisy is as great, precisely as great a crime as that of killing the prophets.