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Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

The latest tweet I read this afternoon: “Anyone else outraged by the cathedrals all over Europe, mere feet away from where thousands were torn to pieces by Christian extremists?”

It was posted by ESQPolitics, and I found it via American Papist’s tweets in my feed. To be honest, I’m not sure what events this tweet refers to. But my first response is to wonder whether I, as a Christian, should be “outraged” by the Colosseum, were Christians were literally “torn to pieces” by starving animals and died many other unpleasant deaths? Should I, perhaps, insist that the Italians tear the Colosseum down because of this? Even if I were not a Christian, how many thousands of people have died because of this building, because of the values and attitudes of the culture it represents, a culture that enjoyed violence as a pastime? Is it not an outrage?

Actually, I rather like the Colosseum. I think should be preserved, appreciated, and admired. Why? Because it is a significant cultural and historical landmark, not to mention a thing of beauty. Because the Romans were a remarkable civilization, and you can’t remove them from history without having a huge gaping hole in the world as we know it. Because they did some nasty things, and also some amazing things.

Cathedrals are not exactly the same thing as the Colosseum. For one thing, they don’t represent a single culture or period in history, but many. They do represent one religion, of course; and all religions (like all civilizations), being composed of human beings, have a history attached to them of the horrible things that human beings are capable of doing to each other. If the tweeter of ESQPolitics is offended by cathedrals, surely he should be happy that the Swiss banned minarets, seeing as Muslims have also torn their fair share of people to pieces? Not in Switzerland, but that is beside the point: if the attitude behind this tweet is correct and a religion’s architecture is an outrage because members of that religion have performed gruesome acts, minarets ought to go.

But minarets–and cathedrals–aside from having value as representations of a religion’s cultural identity, have a cultural value beyond belonging to the religion’s members. I’m thinking of Notre Dame, of the Cologne Cathedral, of Chartes, of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, all of which are incredible examples of architecture and craftsmanship, many of which have been named World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The cultural, historical, and aesthetic value of these buildings is inestimable.

And if the Colosseum was used for the worst in Roman culture, cathedrals are surely monuments to the best of Christianity: to the beauty that flourishes within it, to the heights that humanity can reach because of it.

I could go on, particularly about the Church and her hospitals, her contributions to art and science, etc. If anything is outrageous, it is ESQPolitic’s tweets, not cathedrals. I don’t know of any balanced people who walk around Europe getting angry every time they see a church.

Unless they’re just trying to make waves. Cheap waves.

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Taking a break from writing posts and venturing into other territory.

So how about that Pat Robertson.

I’m not going to repeat what he said about Haiti, because everyone knows it, and everyone was horrified by it, and there’s no point in my reiterating what tons of other people have already said. The most recent blog post I saw in reference to it expressed a typical sentiment: “No real Christian would say that sort of thing.”

Is that true?

Here’s my question. Who or what is a “real Christian?” Someone who is never stupid? Someone who never says something nasty? Someone who never sins?

Here’s the thing. The Church exists not because of saints, but because of sinners. If there were no sinners, there would be no need for the Church. In fact, the miracle is that the Church continues to exist and proclaim Christ not only despite the people in it, but through them.

Now note that I am NOT approving or whitewashing anything that Pat Robertson said. Of course it was wrong. It was disturbing. Equally disturbing, though perhaps less surprising, are the way people have jumped on him in a foaming rage, telling him to go to hell and so forth. Even those Christians who aren’t so vehement want to put him far, far away, to disown him as somehow not a “real Christian”–in anger, or in embarrassment.

Well, okay. I distance myself from him too, for many reasons. Have for a long time. So I am not particularly embarrassed, as a Christian, by what he said, since I do not identify with him.

But when it comes down to it, the man is not a moral leper, any more than you and I. Or at least, not for this particular statement. Or let me rephrase that: you and I are just as much moral lepers as he is.

It is much easier to be hard, damned harsh on a mostly good man (or one who tries to be good, who tries to stand for and spread the good) who has fallen than on one who isn’t trying to communicate any high moral expectations and thus isn’t measured up to much. We are very strict judges: we don’t permit anyone to fall.

Oh, we talk about falling and being forgiven and getting up again. But we don’t really think ourselves capable of something nasty, something truly gross and horrible. The Catholic Church distinguishes between venial and mortal sins, and it has a sacrament to deal with both of them–because people who see and acknowledge the truth, who should know better and live better, still commit both of them. They lie. They steal. They sleep with other people’s spouses. They rejoice in the misfortune of others and say they had it coming. (And I think you’d be hard pressed to say Robertson is glad about what happened in Haiti.)

But (thank God) it is not the lack of falling that makes someone a “real Christian.” It is getting up again.

And while Pat Robertson certainly ought to be held accountable for his words, it is better for ourselves if we don’t act in anger.

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