THE BLOG
03/28/2013 12:51 pm ET Updated May 28, 2013

Two Kingdoms of Christianity

It has been a fascinating process to watch. The last month or so has been a wonderful television show. The old pope "doing a new thing" with his submission of his resignation. Then we have had the drama of the election of the new pope. Pope Francis has ignited all kinds of comments, criticisms, speculations and discussions. This has been a wonderful news event.

There is at the heart of the whole Roman Catholic tradition something that speaks to most of the Christian world. The whole elaborate ritual, the great pomp and circumstance, the elegant wardrobes, the magnificent buildings and art work. This is what the Kingdom of God is supposed to be like. Certainly that is what is suggested in all of the glorious surroundings and the great display of wealth and power. To all the world, this suggests that this is what the Kingdom of God looks like. The Kingdom of God is the streets of gold, the thrones of power, where there is no death (the pope did not wait until death), no tears. Here we get a chance to see the kingdom as most of us think we would like to see it. This is the theology of glory. This is the Church triumphant. This is the kingdom of God that makes all the earthly powers look small and weak.

It just may be that the new pope will be trying to direct the church in the direction of the other theology -- the theology of the Cross. The theology of Glory is the idea that the Kingdom of God is suppose to be happy, prosperous, powerful, victorious and triumphant. The theology of the Cross which grows out of Good Friday and Easter is that the Kingdom of God is present where there is suffering, where their is sorrow, where there is abuse, where there is death of goodness, where the innocent are in prisoned, where the kind are taken advantage of, that the Kingdom of God is in fact present where you are persecuted for righteousness sake. Pope Francis has already talked more about the poor and the least than previous popes.

It is obvious that most people want to enjoy the Theology of Glory. They may not know to call it that, but they know they want to show up at church on Christmas and Easter. To celebrate the joyful times. Even the the liturgy of many churches what once was Passion Sunday, has been converted to Palm Sunday and we get the joyful parade of palms and celebration. Good Friday is very poorly attended. It is a major part of the prosperity preaching that the Kingdom of God is supposed to be a place where all of our dreams and hopes are fulfilled. There is no suggestion in the Theology of Glory that God may have a different agenda than "making me prosperous."

The theology of the cross calls us to repent of our "hard hearted" determination to have our own way. The theology of the cross is that mystery that God is the one who is present at the places where every body else has abandoned or betrayed and He is able to sustain and give life in those places. Those are the places that most of us do not want to be. Those are the "people" that most of us do not want to be around or to have in our club (or church). The theology of the cross is the version of Christianity that see followers called to pick up their own cross, which is the sacrifice of their preoccupation with their own blessings and invest themselves in the places where there is no power, where there is no prestige, where there is no glory.

The great show of the new pope is the best example of the theology of glory. The story of Good Friday is the story of the theology of the cross. It is not hard to see that the Christianity in the United States, the most vocal element, is clearly rooted in the theology of glory.