Peter and His Keys

It’s cliché that St. Peter stands at the gates of heaven letting people in or keeping them out. I believe, although one can never be too sure about origins of church traditions, this is because Peter was given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Peter is a huge person in Catholic Theology, their view that Peter was the first pope and they can trace the succession of popes back to him (even the pirate pope) is well-known.

Protestants (non-Catholics) have long viewed this as being hooey.

Since Protestants are humans and humans go to extremes, we have tended to minimize and bash Peter. Paul is our man.

Paul was indeed the apostle to the Gentiles, but lets not be too hasty in dumping on Peter.

Jesus meant something by saying “upon this rock I will build my church” to Peter. There are many mental gymnastics Protestants have done to prove that “the rock” here can’t be Peter. But any simple reading of the context will show that, yeah, Jesus meant Peter is the rock of the church.

In fact, Peter being the rock the church is built on helps us understand what Jesus meant by “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Recently I read a guy (can’t remember who, he’s dead, an old guy from a long time ago, so you can trust him), that Peter is the one who opened the door for the Gospel to the Jews in Acts 2:14, the door to the Gentiles in Acts 10:34, and the door to the Samaritans in Acts 8:4-25.

Before Peter had shown up to any of these groups, the after-resurrection and ascension Gospel had never been preached to them before.

It almost seems as though God got Peter to these people first for some reason. Perhaps it’s because Peter was the rock, the beginner, of the church, the one who would open the way for the Gospel?! This is almost like John the Baptist opening the way for Christ: John decreases just as Peter does, as Jesus and Paul respectively take over.

Even Paul says the church is built on the foundation of the apostles, and Peter was the chief one after Christ’s death.

Seems plausible, more plausible than a lot of other dumb theories I’ve heard.

Peter is the rock the church is built on. He took the keys and opened the way for the Gospel to the people of the world. Thanks, Peter!

Christianity and the Subjugation of Native Americans

In reading books about white guys exploring the western US, you can’t help but have to deal with Native Americans and their plight.

In the biography of John Wesley Powell, who charted the Colorado River and Grand Canyon region, there is much about Native Americans. Powell viewed Indians as human beings, not as the majority of that time who viewed them as subhuman, worthy of nothing but extermination.

The author claims that it was, no doubt, Powell’s Methodist upbringing that led to the view that all people were created by God and worthy of respect. Even though Powell walked away from his childhood religion, it seems as though that stuck with him.

The problem with getting Indians to get out of the way so Whitey could take over, is that each tribe of Indians had myths, stories and religious meaning tied in with their geographic surroundings.

If you moved Indians from their land, you displaced them not only geographically, but you also messed with their heritage and religion.

That being the case, some ingenious white guys devised a plan to treat this particular inconvenient problem.

“He [President U. S. Grant] listened to a group of reform-minded Protestant ministers who asked that, henceforth, agents be appointed from their ranks to bring the kindly moral power of Christianity to bear on the Indian problem. If the natives could be made into Methodists or Quakers, it would take the fight out of them.

“Grant went along with the request, and the Methodists assumed jurisdiction over California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; Baptists were put in charge of all agencies and reservations in Nevada; while the Presbyterians had responsibility for the Indians of Utah and Arizona.”
(excerpt from this book, page 267)

I never knew there was such a systematic plan for the Christian church. (It also appears as though Baptists got a raw deal here. What’s up with that?)

This, I believe, is a classic entanglement with affairs of this life the church is to avoid. Being used as a tactic to subdue people for the government is not the best usage of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I suppose there is resulting peace that can come from Christian revival, but to use that, to make the peaceful end your end, rather than the care of souls, seems cheap.

As you may have noticed, it didn’t work very well. The Church never wins when it becomes a pawn in the hand of human government. Note the gross doctrine that came out of the Roman Empire’s Church.

Not only that, but the world doesn’t win when the church is a pawn either. The true mission of the Church and the spread of the Gospel will be entangled in all sorts of other stuff. Note the hostility toward right-wing Christianity brought about by the Moral Majority and other Christian/Political organizations. To share the Gospel, we know have to talk politics for half an hour.

It’s Christ alone. Not Christ and nation building. Not Christ and political gains. Not Christ and subjugation of people you don’t like.

It’s Christ. Christ and Him crucified. Anything else is a muddying of the waters to our own destruction.