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“But then there are eight or nine small chapels, where people can connect with the god or goddess of their preference—denominationalism objectified in architecture.” (Peter Berger)
Something mildly reminiscent of this exists in the Old City of Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As anyone who has ever visited the Church knows, there are numerous chapels assigned to different Christian denominations and these denominations rarely see eye to eye on how the Church should be operated. Even more ironic is the fact that despite being the site (where tradition has it) Christ was crucified, angry disputes about which denomination controls which part of the Church’s floor space frequently break out. A few years back a brawl broke out when a Coptic Monk moved his chair from it’s traditional spot to a slightly more shady location. This infuriated the Ethiopian Monks who witnesses it; the carnage resulted in more than hurt feelings. Bones were broken and eleven people were taken to the hospital. Recent altercations between Orthodox and Armenian Christians and Roman Catholic and Orthodox clergy. If reports are to be believed, the Franciscans guard their prerogatives jealously and frequently instigate trouble with other denominations. Israeli police (who are almost always Jewish but occasionally Muslim) have been called several times to intervene to prevent a riot even during Christian holidays. Of course the keys to the Church are controlled by a Muslim family, the Nuseibeh family.
I don’t know if acolytes of the different Gods and Goddesses in the Hindu Temple in Texas mentioned by Professor Berger get along but it is pretty clear that the Christian denominations who worship at the site where Christ was crucified do not.
In fact, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has more in common with the roller derby than it does to a sacred space.
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I once lived in a small town which had seven churches on a very short street. Other then the madhouse on Sunday morning, when everybody in town (seemingly) was arriving or leaving at the same time, one might wonder, did they all get along? In a pig’s eye! Several of them believed in an “innerant, infallable, verbal plenary inspited Bible”, and they fought and feuded worse with each other than with the others. Hindu got nothing on America for diversity of (understanding of)God. As the USA confronts challenges to the Protestant orthodoxy, with Catholics and Mormons and Muslims (oh my), not to mention Hindu and Buddhist, who knows, we may actually learn how to give more than lip-synch service to “plurality”, “toleration”, and even “democracy”?
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“…[W]e may actually learn how to give more than lip-synch service to “plurality”, “toleration”, and even “democracy”…”
The problem is that these are values. One either values plurality, toleration, and democracy or one doesn’t. In fact, like the Founders, I consider democracy a dreadful system; I much prefer a Republic. We still have one, although we’re losing it fast due to willful treasonous ignorance and denial of the Constitution. But I digress.
Why bother with toleration? It can be inconvenient and takes effort. In fact the only good reason to do so is because under certain circumstances it’s morally the right thing to do, and morality only makes sense when founded on divine authority. Of course there are some circumstances in which intolerance is the appropriate attitude. E.g, I am intolerant of adherents of Al Qaeda.
It is senseless to sacrifice Truth in the service of ‘getting along’, when the value of ‘getting along’ can only be truly found when one knows the Truth. If we’re the accidental byproducts of a cosmic burp some umpty-billion years ago, then ‘getting along’ is meaningless, like life itself. Might as well go with ‘survival of the fittest’. The lion does not ask the zebra’s permission to have lunch. The big monkey does not ask for the little monkey’s banana; he takes it.
Just because one group of soi-disant Christians disagrees with another does not necessarily mean they’re both wrong, nor does it mean that there’s something inherently wrong with them passionately defending what they consider to be the Truth.
One of my close friends introduced me to his relative who was the head of a major Telecom company in a Muslim country in Asia which had once been part of the British Empire.
During the conversation, he took pains to draw my attention to the following; my recollection of the exact words is failing me. You British he said look disparagingly at your past and your Empire, but we rememeber you well and fondly for the one thing we remember about you is that you respected our Muslim religion.
Whilst I do not want to claim any unique derivation for that praise as particularly from Christianity, I would like to suggest that the Civilization known as Christian, admittedly whatever that means, made a contribution to what was behind that comment. For whatever your other commentators seem to say/imply and we can all make selections of negatives, true tolerance is how you treat the people who differ with you and we Christians have a not indifferent record of commending that way of living (which is assuredly an “inerrant, infallable, verbally inspired” biblical christian principle to be proud of, whatever the delivery of it)and in fact also with others stand out today in offering that concept of tolerance, as compared to the one that seems to want to force everyone into a straightjacket called “toleration only of the tolerant”, or to put it harshly the concept that nothing is true and no one should state that save the self-selected tolerant ones.
We Christians seek only to try to drain ourselves of ill-will towards others and then to persuade, and to argue what we believe and thereby restrain, with the desire however failingly that others should flourish. We do not claim that we are better than anyone else and nor do we claim that we will not and do not fail, of course. We should in an “inerrant, infallible, verbal plenary inspired” biblical context (whatever that means) see ourselves as part of the wretched of the earth, out of which if any good comes it is a miracle!
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