Fight Club in Jerusalem: A Modern Christian Parable

From the BBC, 11/9/08:

“Israeli police have had to restore order at one of Christianity’s holiest sites after a mass brawl broke out between monks in Jerusalem’s Old City.Fighting erupted between Greek Orthodox and Armenian monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of Christ’s crucifixion.”

Here’s a video. Now, “Get Ready to RUUMMMMBBBLLLLEEE….!”

It’s a live action parable of the abysmal silliness that so much of the world’s Institutional brand of Christianity has descended and solidified into.

(Quick note: This is is the kind of blog entry that I will get emails about, and maybe a few comments lamenting my “embrace of secular humanism.” They will prove what I am about to say. If any of those critics would ever share their names, a discussion might be possible; but- alas- they almost always are sent by “A Friend” or “Anon” or “Concerned.” Oh, well..)

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is supposedly built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion. The administration of that shrine has been historically shared by several Christian denominations, the logistics and traditions of which are of no relevance to the following points:

1. These are Christian monks fighting about space in a building. A thing. A humanly crafted and built place which may or may not be directly on top of the landmark that it purports to be.

2. The fight is not about care of the facility or its proper preservation as an historical place. The fight is about rules, egos, doctrine..religious trespassing, I guess we could call it.

3. Jesus is not visible. Which is almost always the case where people are busy buffing idols to a holy sheen.

~~

Now, back to the U.S.of A. Parables are, after all, analogies that mind-changing lessons may be drawn from for those who, as Jesus said, “have ears to hear.”

1. We Christians fight a lot in this country over space in “holy” places, too. Most people would deny that they consider government buildings and various monuments around the country to be semi-sacred, but remember the fight several years ago to remove a wrongfully placed chunk of granite with the Ten Commandments on it from the Alabama Supreme Court building? Or, take a look at these recent “prayer warriors” taking their very public prayers to God about their shrinking 401k’s to Wall Street:

wall street Yes, you are seeing correctly. They are praying, hands pressed on a golden bull. A friend of mine asked, “What could be more ironic than this? Answer: nothing.”

2. And those American fights over Christian “space” are also about rules, egos, doctrines and religious trespassing. There are those Christians among us who have a vested and institutional interest in keeping the lines between Jesus’ person and the rules and doctrines about his teachings, blurred. Very blurred. Otherwise, there is NO WAY one could move from this:

Matthew 5: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

to this:

“Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran”                                                           

Actually, there is a way, because many “Christian” leaders have proved now that it is NOT how you live that makes you a Jesus follower, it IS what you say. If you sprinkle enough Jesus words often enough into what you say, you get a pass, no matter how outrageous what you’re saying is. That’s what gets me in a little trouble here sometimes- I am one of those who would rather see someone living the gospels, than yapping and yammering about them on their way to Christian cruise ships or as they are deciding where to shop because someone said “Season’s Greetings” to them instead of “Merry Christmas.”

3. Our American Christian idols are as shiny and silly as idols are anywhere in the world where they are hiding the God who is larger than our imaginations. (I love, by the way, historical artifacts, religious or secular. They are often beautiful, always worth preserving, and instructive about particular places and cultures.) I see God being personified in all kinds of idolatrous silliness: political platforms, national flags, religious doctrines, and even- amazingly- Bibles! Bibles- full of warning after warning and example after example of people making idols out of things “not-God” and suffering the consequences for doing so- Bibles themselves have become objects of worship for many, many people. (Wondering about that statement? Listen to a preacher who prefaces, often, his statements with the phrase, “The Bible says..” in order to give validity to whatever it is he wants to say. Watch how those same preachers often wield the Bible like a wooden stake, ready to be plunged into a vampire’s heart.)

So, yes, I laugh at the Greek and Armenian monks in their fisticuffs for Jesus. Maybe it’s a Jerusalem version of the movie Fight Club that became visible for awhile yesterday! If so, the monks should remember the words of Tyler Durden in that movie: “The things you own, end up owning you.”

I laugh at those monks, yes; even as I’m cringing at similar attitudes which could easily give rise to similar actions in myself.  So I laugh and I cringe, but I also let myself be reminded, and corrected when necessary, that it is Jesus who I follow, and not words or things or people that masquerade as him.

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