The Church of the Great Divorce

The Church of the Great Divorce

The Church of the Great Divorce
By Eric Zehnder

(Editor’s Note: This essay written by Christian intellectual Eric Zehnder, explains how and why the Church in America disengaged from politics and retreated to the four walls of a building—removing itself from the culture, society and the 13 spheres.)

At graduate school I was the live-in page for a year with Yale’s greatest historian, Dr. Roland Bainton; he was the single greatest professor in Yale’s history. At the same time I was mentored by Dr. Paul Holmer, Yale’s greatest language and mindset analyst.

Dr. Bainton taught me of a great event in both church history and world history: “The Church of the Great Divorce in 1880.” He said it was one of the truly greatest occurrences in both church history and world history, but few spoke of it.

It took place this way: before 1880 there were great tensions between a Protestant left and an Evangelical right. The Protestant left were the more intellectual, more holding offices in academia, the Evangelical right were more biblical and tended to hold offices in the clergy.

More and more the Protestant left (not all Protestants, but a major shift in the thinking of the leadership) distrusted the particulars of the Bible, including the particular claims about Christ. The Evangelical right were absolutely insistent on the particulars of the Bible, and the particular claims of Christ to be the “only begotten Son of God.”

Finally, the Christian train track split one going off to the left, one to the right, the Church of Great Divorce happened.

To a casual observer it would have seemed these were now two complete opposites, but to a trained historian or mindset analyst, there was one way in which both were now alike, even more than before.

Their “unwanted unity” was this: before this great split, the Christians were the most well read, multi-sphere involved people in the history of the world; they saw every member of the body of Christ as having two purposes—one where God had placed them in the church; one where God has placed them in the spheres of human calling in the creation.

Now the Protestant left gave up trust in the Book, but read all other books; meanwhile the Evangelical right trusted only the Bible, and gave up reading all others books for any truth.

It would seem these two were polar opposites, but they both had one common goal: they both now agreed that Christ only knew or cared about the bible, or at most, religion; Christ knew or cared nothing about any other words, conversations, books, or spheres of life.

Convinced only bible study and church-going were sanctified callings for Christians, the Evangelical right stopped being well-read in all of man’s literature connected to all of man’s spheres; the next step was to stop developing the laity for sanctified callings in all great spheres.

In essence, now the church laity had no real job “beyond the four walls” of church sermons and activities. The Evangelicals divorced the church members from any sanctified purpose in the larger world of all of man’s spheres—this is part of the Church of the Great Divorce.

Just as quickly, a huge divorce between leaders and laity took place, only the clergy had a real job, and religion was the only scope of that job; the laity could be volunteers for church-related jobs, but they were now essentially jobless, unemployed. It was not so different among the Protestant left: professors had a great divorce from students, and the University became the new church.

The two groups who both used to serve the “laity, with their full range of sanctified callings in all the great spheres of man,” now both divorced the laity. Quickly, the Evangelicals sold all the many, great Christian universities; just as fast the Protestant left bought them.

People could of course still pursue careers or callings in the world outside the church or the college, but now there would no longer be a mighty people who had a vision of “equipping the saints” for service in all the spheres, giving them any support system; they could try, because in America you can try anything—but not with the support of a mighty people of God or Christ.

In this Great Divorce, both sides had to “chop down the Tree of Christ as central to all of reality”; Christ was divorced from the great spheres; the same was true of God, who made those spheres, and also the Spirit became divorced from the spheres—before the Spirit was connected to inspiring people to build the spheres with real wisdom, body, beauty, excellence, even history making.

The Life of Christ connected to the cross necessarily caused you to serve a tree of life-giving (through the victory of the resurrection) that you were to take to all peoples involved in all spheres in all the world.
All the church taking all the gospel to all the world (in all of its spheres) using all their gifts (old and new – and in all spheres) – that was the original meaning of following Christ.

To split off into two branches, however great was a denial of the Tree, a turn from the mind of Christ; now we had books, settings, and speakers – but no mind of Christ in line with going to the cross for all, above all, able to reconcile all branches (except the systematically evil).

Now indeed, a new systematic mind began to leaven both of these two Great Divorce sides; the Evangelicals would read only the Bible and get involved in only religion – and by extension, make unimportant or “ordinary and un-noteworthy” all other communication or spheres; the Protestant left would not use the bible for anything but ornamenture for oratory, and made Christ a 100 percent religious icon, irrelevant to life in any other sphere.

This had great effect on America, because up until the Great Divorce, 70 percent of the servant-leaders in all spheres, who expressly had the vision of “serving the whole people, and raising them up as the highest callings in all the spheres of man,” came from the Christians.

Now, that River, started by (Christ) dried up, or better, was dammed up at the church or college.

At first, in fact for decades, society rolled along tapping the strength built up by the greater type of Christianity before the Great Divorce, and by both the service of its members in the greater society, and inspiring even non-Christians to also pursue their best.

But the longer the years advanced, the more the rivers dried up; we became forts, instead of rivers – and no one, centrally, cared to give a river to common people. It was this river backed by visionary, vigilant, proactive, mentors-behind-new life that made America’s material fields blossom to such great degree, not the material lands in themselves.

Now we have this elder, youth split; left, right split; leaders, laity split; political elite, common people split. The tree that united us was chopped down, or at least the branches so into themselves they lost sight of it.

When the churches that followed the One Tree (the man of the cross is the man of the tree), we got a river of new life, meant to pour through every member into people in all spheres. This Christian Mainstream out-flowed all others, and it alone overcame the age of brutal Caesar and the Imperial Empire.

Many diverse people and enterprises built “along the banks of this River, or ones inspired by it.”

Now, both church-wings became forts, not rivers; no river flowed out to being it ever advancing, ever high-growth creating ever both banks uniting life to all persons in all spheres.

Both, church-wings made the cross and Christ with it, relegated to just Bible study and religion – they both marginalized Christ, both divorced him from the larger world, and all the common people within it.

Washington D.C. today is a great walled off city from all he American people; it is surrounded by the three walls of lobbyists, bureaucrats, and activists – and there is no river that flows out of true service, union, or even two-way communication with the American people. Washington D.C. has copied the Church of the Great Divorce.

Where to get that river of over spilling life again?

Where to get a freely given river, a river of self-giving “three dimensional” examples and vehicles of “real lives investing in real lives”—and restoring the vision of all persons having a sanctified calling where God has placed them in the creation.

Every pastor should have an eye for the purposes of every member in the church realm, and on eye for the purpose of each member where God has placed them in the larger creation. The church is not just the life and time spent in church – it is a mighty, multi-gifted, people pouring a river of life into the larger world and its spheres – a river of servant-leaders, who following the man of the cross, die to self to raise up others, in hopes they will “do even greater deeds.”

We have no such mentors, fathers, or mothers. The church was suppose to disciple the nation, so even our political leaders were captured by the vision of being servant-leaders; also constantly sending a river of new “raising up power.”

Can you tell me a single political leader intensely involved in raising up new life to their greatest callings in all spheres outside their control? Can you find a political leader who doesn’t build his or her own self or cronies first, or in fact, entirely?

But there are still two other problems that all of America suffers from now: there are new-conservatives who do indeed fight for certain documents, law, and respect for the hard-working leader – it parallels the Evangelical right fighting for the Bible, the right church doctrine, the honor of clergy above ordinary people, the absence of raising up new life outside them to go into all the 13 great spheres of life.

Such neo-conservatives quote Christian language, and genuinely mean it; but most of their definitions or practice follows the Church of the Great Divorce. On the other side, without the Bible or Christians central, the Protestant left morphed into the Marxist (an now fascist) progressives; now over a century later, they are “big players” who seek a monopoly on education and back a totalitarian monopoly in government.

All these problems causing such great suffering or insecurity began with the Christ of the Great Divorce in 1880; the “tree first, above all branches, bearing fruit in all spheres “of Christ was effectively chopped down.

Unless the church changes its mind about Christ and the Cross, about the Church of the Great Divorce, no hope or help is coming. We have cause our own Judgment Day. We must become rivers again, not forts; or God will let a Marxist-Fascist Giant Fort to swallow all of us up.

If we do not repent for and repudiate, in word and deed for the Church of the Great Divorce and become the “River of New Raising Up Power In All Spheres,” we are going to suffer worse and worse. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are not going to change their minds on this – are you?

(Editor’s Note: Eric Zehnder is a former Yale student, Huntington Beach master builder, writer, intellectual thinker, and was a cartoonist for Ross Perot with his cartoons seen by more than four million. He and his partner, Pete V. are doing memes and cartoons supporting Donald J. Trump for President. His current work can be seen on his website: or at the following Facebook pages: Diverse Deplorables, Trumped Card News, and The Spirit of Liberty.

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