August 8, 2014

In a Glass, Darkly

When religions of whatever sort have the power of armed forces at their disposal they will go to war with those they hold in contempt, eager to convert or expunge. That goes for Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, as well as most other sects. The larger Christian bodies lost their state-supported armies a few hundred years ago. A few insurgencies lasted until my own lifetime, in, say, Ireland; and there are fringe groups in the Pacific Northwest whose force of arms warrants our concern. 

That there is relative peace among Christians in our day has precious little to do with Christianity as a religion of peace, but more to do with the withering of state and popular support for Christian warfare, a pragmatic response summed up by Elizabeth I in her desire to keep her counselors’ heads upon their shoulders.  

For whenever Christians had the coercive power of arms at their disposal, they were just as likely to use them as anyone else. Imperialism, triumphalism, conquest and intersectarian bloodbaths are all a part of our Christian past — the Gospel notwithstanding. Look to that Christian past and you will see the Muslim present. It is not a pretty reflection, nor is it monolithic: there are islands of sanity amongst the chaos and crisis, but the theme is one of struggle rather than of settlement. Meanwhile, the God of peace weeps over his foolish children.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


John Sims said...

This is just eloquent, Tobias, and presents precisely one of my most serious spiritual difficulties: to our sorrow, we Christians usually behave no differently than any of the rest of our religious brothers and sisters. In my daily prayers, I use the following to address this issue - I call it my "Universalist Prayer". (Yes, I borrowed the first line from the BCP as a 'jumping off' place, but the rest is my own.)

O God, You made of one blood all the peoples of the earth;
You created us in Your image, and You called us good.
Yet all around us we see our human family divided:
driven by greed, fear, pride, and ignorance into endless conflict;
and sundered from one another and from You.
We pray, therefore, for the redemption and reunion of all
Help us to hear Your voice, even when It speaks in words
that are unfamiliar to us;
Help us to feel united by Your Holy Spirit, even with those
who call you by another name;
And help us to see that Your redeeming work is being done
in all people who love God
and show mercy to one another. Amen.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thank you, John, for your kind words and your beautiful prayer. Blessings!