A SWEEPING INDICTMENT OF SECTARIAN STUPIDITY
by Todd Hartley
I have a confession to make: unlike all you good Christians out there, I’ve never actually read the Bible. (You have read it, right?) I am pretty sure, however, that when people say “the Bible,” they’re all referring to the same book. Sure, there may be different translations, but I think it’s safe to assume each version says roughly the same thing: God made the world, Eve ate the wrong apple, the Jews escaped from Egypt, Mary got pregnant, Jesus was born, Jesus died, Jesus came back to life. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea.
With that being the case, I’ve always found it odd that Catholics and Protestants, who ostensibly believe the same thing, so frequently find themselves in bitter confrontation with each other. Northern Ireland is the most obvious example. What is even more astounding to me, though, is that there are, by some counts, more than 33,000 different Protestant denominations in the world. Let me repeat that so you know it’s not a typo: Somehow, against all odds, there more than 33,000 different Protestant denominations.
Wow. How on Earth can there be 33,000 different interpretations of the same book? There are only about 200 or so languages that are spoken by more than a million people, and most of those are spoken by people who don’t believe in Christianity. So let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there are 100 languages spoken by Christians. That would mean that the average language has about 330 different ways of interpreting the Bible. How is that even possible?
The stupidest part of the whole thing is that the differences in the various Protestant denominations probably have less to do with what really happened to Jesus and more to do with what sort of absurd hat should be worn while worshipping Him. Nevertheless, such pointless sectarian divides have festered over the years to the point where Protestants of different denominations – who believe exactly the same thing – go at one another as viciously as Jews and Muslims.
A perfect case in point is the situation that took place earlier this week in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. The 1,700-year-old church, which is one of the holiest sites in all of Christendom, was built on the spot where Jesus was supposedly born. (In Palestine, mind you, lest you think Jesus was born in eastern Pennsylvania.) It’s also the site of near-constant bickering.
Despite its being nowhere near either Greece or Armenia, the church is for some reason administered by Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic priests. The problem is that since they belong to differing Protestant sects, the Greeks and Armenians don’t get along and frequently clash.
Earlier this week, as they were cleaning up the church to get ready for Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on Jan. 7 (don’t ask me why), about 100 priests got into a huge brawl, pummeling one another with brooms and fists in what essentially amounted to a turf war. Things got so out of hand, apparently, that Palestinian police armed with shields and batons had to break the fight up. Yes, that’s right: Palestinians, of all people, had to keep the peace.
Fortunately for the priests involved, nobody was badly injured and no one was arrested. This was due in part to the fact that “all those involved were men of God,” according to the local police chief, but it also stemmed from the fact that this particular disagreement “occurs every year.”
Now, I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s religion here. You go ahead and believe whatever you want to believe. That’s fine by me. But how can each of Protestantism’s 33,000 denominations expect people to take them seriously when the two that have been chosen to maintain the most important spot in all of Christendom fight each year over who gets to clean what part of the church? That seems a tad petty to me.
Even worse, the Church of the Nativity is evidently falling apart, but no repairs have been made to it for years because the priests whose job it is to look after the church can’t decide who should foot the bill. I’m guessing that little disagreement has probably led to fisticuffs too.
The Bible, in whichever translation, claims to teach love, forgiveness and brotherhood, right? Those sound like wonderful things. It’s just too bad that no one bothered to inform the priests in Bethlehem that they have that in common, despite their perceived differences.
Todd Hartley hopes the new year sees the Greeks and Armenians cleaning in harmony. Actually, no he doesn’t. It’s much funnier when they fight.