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Thursday, 31 January 2008


rodney neill

I don't know:

Having read parts of the history of Christendom recently it reads like a horror story of brutality,
violence and terror in the name of Christianity (I have just read some harrowing accounts of witch burnings in Europe. A history of the Popes in 15th century Italy makes similar reading). Being part of the Christian tradition is important to me but I am increasingly more uneasy about the churches history(esp after Constantine. All this makes the idea of reconnecting with our original founding story of Jesus all the more appealing.

some musings,



Rodney -

I think the horror stories are exactly what we should be reading (and you don't have to go back to the 15th century - there's the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, burning crosses in the U.S., and Serbian Orthodox priests blessing tanks in Bosnia.)

It's dangerous to pretend that all of that has nothing to do with us, that we are somehow beyond that, that oppression in the name of Jesus is somehow in the past. It happens all the time, on large and small scales, precisely because churches DON'T talk about Christianity's very real legacy (and continuing practice of)spiritual and physical violence.

We aren't just interrelated with the parts we like - we're connected to the parts we don't. And if the Bible is to be believed, the disciples were mostly clueless about who Jesus was and what he was about - and they were right there with him. Perhaps Christian history can keep us from getting too confident that we've got it all figured out now.

To be Christian is to wrestle with the whole ugly thing, and when we connect with the story of Jesus, we bring all that with us, whether we want to or not.

A lot of us have to wrestle very hard with the frequently violent and oppressive nature of Christianity the religion before we can get anywhere near Jesus. I know I do.

Alan Jamieson

In a couple of weeks time I am speaking in a church on the topic - Is religion the root of evil. The way some critics write (e.g. Richard Dawkins) it would seem this is the case.

I want to agree with Christy that terrible and horrendous things have been done in the name of religion. Some like witch burning and the Spanish Inquistion motivated by the so called 'best for the person' logic. With logic like - 'it is better to face the fires now and die than face eternal fires'. Or if what we do scares people into believing in God we are saving them from hell. So simple, even burning people is justified. Of course such logic denies the heart of Christian faith and the heart of God but nevertheless we need to own our past and present abuses of faith. It is our past and we need to remember it so we never repeat it.

At the Sunday service I want to apologise for all the abuse, wrong, evil and falsehood committed by the church. I would really like us to create a ritual around this part of the service. A confession space that includes the things we too have done as a church and as individuals that have hurt and wounded others.

From there I am thinking about two steps:- firstly lets acknowledge that faith in God has also promoted much good and forestalled much worse suffering. take for example the last century where human evil (without claim to God) unleashed horrors of an order we have never seen before - e.g. The holocaust.

And finally point to the true character of God - the Christ of the cross.

Any reflections on this approach?


I don't think religion in general or Christianity in particular is the root of evil - Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc. would seem to contradict that notion. Anytime any ideology - whether political, religious,or economic becomes more important than people - bad things happen, particularly when accompanied by a dictator and modern weaponry.

But there is something particularly insidious about being told that your oppression is mandated by God - be it Jesus, Allah, or Kali. This is me, not you, but if I were in charge of said service, there would be an apology, ritual, confession space for the abuses of the church. And that's where I'd leave it.

In my experience, those inside the church are EXTREMELY reluctant to acknowledge the dark side of Christianity, and don't need to be reminded "Hey, people of faith do good things too!" If they thought Christianity was all bad, they wouldn't be there.

Speaking as someone who has seen quite a bit of said dark side, the switch from confession to reassurance would ruin the whole service for me, and Christ on the cross has been used to make me feel guilty one too many times for that to be comforting for me.

Of course, I'm most likely not your target audience and what would work for me might not be the best thing for a Sunday morning crowd and if you follow my advice, you will probably not be invited back for a return engagement.

So you should probably go with your orginal plan, but that's my reaction, FWIW.

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