Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christianity in a Nutshell

Israeli friends warned me about this.

They all warn that religious observances at the holy sites in Jerusalem can be a profoundly disappointing experience if you're not prepared. One Israeli acquaintance described Jerusalem as a city where everyone is convinced the neighbors are going to hell. The holy sites in Jerusalem are all battlegrounds of one kind or another, and have been for centuries. Another Israeli acquaintance described Jerusalem as a city so saturated with God that people go mad. There is even a mental illness unique to the city called "Jerusalem Syndrome."

A barroom brawl breaks out in front of the holiest shrine in Christianity, the Tomb of Christ; Greeks versus Armenians, and no one's been drinking. Who needs beer bottles when you got thuribles.

Israeli police and soldiers had to restore order. The Christian churches are all so suspicious of each other that the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are entrusted to a Muslim. The list of rulers and conquerors playing referee to the Christians in the Church is a long one; The Byzantine Empire, Ummayad Caliphs, Abbasid governors, Mamluk Egyptians, the Ottoman Empire, the British, the Jordanians, and now the Israelis.

Whose faith once delivered to which saints? Who "owns" the Gospel? Who has the patent on salvation? Who owns the copyright to the Bible? Who does God love best? Who's got it right and who's got it wrong? That's what these fights are really about. The ecclesiastical turf wars at the Holy Sepulcher are just the pretext.

As Montesquieu said, no kingdom is more prone to civil war than that of the Prince of Peace.

Religion can be such a worldly thing.


Unknown said...

Terribly sad. And as to who owns the Gospel or the place where it was played out...none of us. We can only live the principles it teaches, and most of us don't do even that very well. That's another sad fact.

MarkBrunson said...

And, so, Jesus weeps again.

You know, also, that there was an outright riot some time ago on Mt. Athos between two different Orthodox monasteries?