SanctiFusion

Life, the Universe, and Everything, from the Outside In

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Atomic Church

leave a comment »

atomic_bomb_dominic_truckeeFor a change in pace, there is an issue that has been “in the news” now for over 500, maybe a thousand years or so. What, and where, exactly, is the Church? At one time it was seen as a cooperative fellowship of Christian gatherings and communities. Then there came a trend of which bishop, province, or diocese had higher status for solving questions as they arose, and next there was a split between the Western churches “under” Rome and those in the East. About this time the bishop (pope) of Rome sent Norman English king Henry II to invade Ireland (where the Church was closely aligned with the Eastern churches) to make “good, Roman, Catholics of them.” This conflict is still in the news today!

Another five hundred years, and the Pope is excluding Martin Luther for holding to a doctrine which had been part of the Church’s dogma for twelve centuries, and Zwingli in Switzerland was declaring war on the Roman Church in the name of Renaissance humanism and Swiss patriotism. Soon there was bloody war from city to city throughout Europe, and when the smoke finally cleared there were three distinct parties, and no distinct winners.

The Protestant Calvinists held ground in the Netherlands and established a seminary there under none other than John Calvin’s son in law, Teodor Beza. When a Ph.D. Professor at that school questioned a fine point of Beza’s speculative theology (whether God had caused the Fall, yet without causing sin) that professor, and all who thought it was a good question were jailed, tried in absentia, and banished from the city at the cost of homes, property, jobs, and friendships. Fortunately, only one of them died.

Next, England’s Henry VIII decided to make use of the diminishing power of the Papacy by declaring the English Church independent from Rome’s influence. Over the next three hundred years the English Church would produce a string of godly divines who would devote themselves to rediscovering the core faith of the Church and, in the process, move the English Christianity significantly closer to the Eastern tradition. This did not, however, bring any reconciliation with the Irish, who remained loyal to Rome (and resentful of English hegemony) though their religion was still rather closer to the earlier Celtic Faith than to the Roman.

At this time another force was at work in England: The proud independence of Swiss Calvinism was gaining a following which would produce more wars, the “Glorious Revolution” which itself led to the senseless slaughter of whole villages in Ireland in the name of “establishing the Kingdom of God,” In time the English Crown was back on the throne and the Church of England was able to maintain control over the more deliberately, “Protestant” factions. Dissenters, generally “dissenting” over matters of prepared liturgy, the material used in building the altar/communion table (and which words were used), what the clergy wore, and how music was used in services. Many left the country over these questions, and many crossed over to North America to be free of interference with their beliefs (lit., in their own words, their “opinions.”)

Predictably, as this kind of Protestantism was being spread, beliefs and opinions became paramount in defining fellowship, and any difference of opinion was likely to spawn yet another division. Fast-forward this scene a few hundred more years, and we see not only a confusing array of “denominations” of Christianity, but subsets, breakaways, and “independent works” continually spawned off of each of them. Not that the break in fellowship is the whole picture: At every “birthing of a new movement” each party redefines what it believes in terms of its opposition to the other side of whatever the issue du jour happened to be, and rejects their what they understand the opposing party’s position had been on the issue. Of the whole of Christian doctrine “once delivered to the saints,” each successive generation receives a smaller portion. Whereas the early Church spent its energy spreading the Gospel through their towns and across the world, the main order of business today is to redefine the Gospel, and the Church’s energy is largely spent in a constant restructuring operation.

All this forces us to beg for answers: what is the Gospel? What is the Church? What, for Heaven’s sake, is a Christian, and how does one recognise them? There are answers, to be sure. Not necessarily easy ones, though…

Obviously, I have my own “opinions” about these things, but for the moment, what are yours?

Written by Robert Easter

Tuesday, 13 October, 2009 at 22:53

The New Dark Ages

with 5 comments

Two observations about History as taught- as you and I were fed it in school, that is. One, that it is edited, obviously, and, second, that it is deadly boring. Now, Mr. Santayana said once, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” We hear that now and then, usually when the news anchor is trying to make a point for his/her own camp. Example? As much as we hear repeated about Hitler’s atrocities, how much is mentioned about Stalin, Mao, or the present “leaders” in China, the Islamic nations, or other present-day atrocities? Santayana was right, but in more ways than what we generally understand.

Remembering history is more than keeping in mind selected bites from the Evening News. Remembering history means having a clue what we’ve come from, so we can have some idea where we’re going.

One thing about this badly edited, deadly-boring subject that passes as History: The people who are spotlighted are then glossed to the point where all you see is the sheen of the writer’s ink, and nothing of the person him/herself. A lot of “just because.” One phrase I still remember from 7th grade is, “Abraham Lincoln was one of the Nation’s greatest Presidents, even though he was plagued with the great Civil War.” Lovely words- the work of a poet. But what if a student asks, say, how he was “plagued” with a war when he was in command? The Federal armies, understand, were on the offensive, on Southern land, in every battle but Gettysburg, and that was two years into the campaign. If that campaign were a plague to him, would he not have considered Davis’s offers of surrender? (Remember, it took every other American conflict from the Revolution through Viet Nam to approach the loss of life in those four years!)

Not to be selling a partisan pitch, but using that bit of tinder to catch this spark: Historians research history, and find out the details that make up the picture, and they do tend to have opinions which guide what they know or don’t know. Textbook writers make up a gloss from parts of that picture they choose, and package it for boards and committees who generally have little interest in what happened when, or why; and in the end , between Don’t Know and Don’t Care, the students wind up with even less. If we are doomed to repeat the history we have forgotten, then we are headed back to the dark ages: but then, who knows enough history to recognise them?

Written by Robert Easter

Friday, 15 August, 2008 at 9:58

War on Terror, and Faith

with 9 comments

The “War on Terror.” The US has, in the past, declared war on poverty, and on drugs. In both cases little progress was made on those fronts. It’s really hard to wage a negative campaign against a negative concept. In this one we seem to have a war with a few more concrete objectives and photo-ops, but until the Western governments get what, and why, it is they’re fighting they stand to lose a lot more than their confusion lets them see. The war that has embroiled the “Western Powers” is far more far-reaching than a bush operation against a motley bunch of sand bandits, as the American Press would have us believe. What we are looking at is an ideological war- a campaign of values, ethics, and dogma that forges the rival Islamic sects and nations into a de facto coalition, and either joins Liberal Western leaders with them or at least keeps them out of the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Robert Easter

Thursday, 7 August, 2008 at 20:42

How to know God

leave a comment »

There are, basically, two ways we can go to know God- or, we can say, to know ourselves.

First, there is the bottom-up approach. We start off from our own selves, and build from there. That’s all very nice except, as the Orientals discovered a long time ago, we don’t even know ourselves well enough to understand anything from that basis. They meditate, and center themselves in themselves, hoping to clear away the distraction and illusion to see more clearly. And they are wise enough to realise what a huge undertaking this is.
In the West we just presume that we are objective enough to barge right ahead on the basis of our “research.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Robert Easter

Saturday, 1 September, 2007 at 16:37

How to know God

leave a comment »

There are, basically, two ways we can go to know God- or, we can say, to know ourselves.

First, there is the bottom-up approach. We start off from our own selves, and build from there. That’s all very nice except, as the Orientals discovered a long time ago, we don’t even know ourselves well enough to understand anything from that basis. They meditate, and center themselves in themselves, hoping to clear away the distraction and illusion to see more clearly. And they are wise enough to realise what a huge undertaking this is.
In the West we just presume that we are objective enough to barge right ahead on the basis of our “research.” A problem with that is that we don’t have a way of checking the research, or if the sources are right, of knowing the writers well enough to be sure we understand what it is they were actually saying, since much of it dates back hundreds, or thousands, of years.
So, in the end, for all the effort we end up saying either, “Real knowledge is found in not knowing,” or, “We really can’t know anything for sure.” The harder we work at knowing God, the better we understand that we really don’t know what we see in our own mirrors!

Instead of having to  start off with a me-ology and then leap to theology, the good news is that God wants us to know Him. (If He didn’t would we be wondering?) If you’re one of those philosophical types, you’re likely thinking this is about some a priori, circular reasoning idea. Nothing could be farther off. If we see a red-yellowish, waxy, dimpled sphere in a fruitbowl, it is easy enough to say, “that is an orange.” We may not know just how sweet, or dry, or ripe it is, but we know the orange. God shows Himself to us in any number of ways, so that we can know He is there, Since He is there, and He is revealing His existence to us, (and, being God, He already knows about us!) then it follows He is calling us into a relationship with Him. So check it out! He is God, after all, so what do you stand to gain by putting Him off?
To look into this farther, click on  So Many Books? or start reading  Right Here!

Written by Robert Easter

Saturday, 1 September, 2007 at 10:37